A Rant About Volunteerism

Volunteering is core to the American experience. People volunteer to help raise a barn. People volunteer to teach Sunday school. People volunteer to fight wars. People volunteer to elect political candidates. Heck, Tennessee bills itself as the Volunteer State.

Volunteerism is a dangerous, malignant practice, secondary only to involuntary free work, also known as slavery.

Volunteerism devalues the worker and rewards those who excel at conning others into thinking that their “work is its own reward.” This is the American version of the German “Arbeit macht frei” that adorned the entry to concentration camps.

Volunteerism devalues professionalism, preparation, study, and thoughtful action by saying that anyone can volunteer to do anything, and that years of preparation have no additional value.

Volunteerism hollows out the professional and middle classes of America, leaving only the top class, who gain their material wealth through the very act of stealing others’ work, and the bottom class, who barely survive from the crumbs from their masters’ tables.

Volunteerism is institutionalized abuse of everything and everyone in our society.

So don’t ask me for free work. Ask me for a quotation.

2020 Memphis Poverty Fact Sheet

I think that the big takeaway is, although there have been cyclical issues, small ups and downs in poverty in Memphis — 2008 and poverty rises and slightly falls in 2017 and this year — in general it’s pretty flat and resistant to change. It’s small cyclical changes on top of a structural problem. This is not about small or even relatively large changes in the national economy. This about the structure of the Memphis economy.