Pondering a Carrot

Via the Blogfathercomes a particularly asinine piece of writing by a “Professor of Leisure Studies,” Benjamin Kline Hunnicut, who seems to think that the idea of a forty-hour workweek is a corporatist conspiracy.  In a mess of an essay entitled “Why Do Republicans Want Us to Work All the Time?”, Hunnicut examines working hours over the last two hundred years (never before, but we will get to that in a moment) and determines that there is some moral right to sit on your butt and have a good life.

Contemplate a carrot: an item straight from nature, healthy, and utterly delicious when dipped in hummus.  Or rather, contemplate how said carrot (assuming not homegrown) arrived in your kitchen.

Obviously, some farmer somewhere grew the carrot.  But it didn’t grow itself: he paid for the seed, machinery to till and irrigate the soil, fertilise the farm, and harvest the crop. Other people did boring, unglamourous jobs to get that seed, machinery, and fertiliser to him: they built machines; developed new seed technologies; ran a store that sells the machines, seed, and fertiliser; worked as a cashier, bookkeeper, roof-repairer, welder, electrician, or plumber in those stores; made the factory that makes fertiliser; or drove a truck that brought all of those various goods to their respective places. Oh, and people paved the roads, fixed potholes, worked at gas stations, worked in oil refineries, drilled for oil, etc., to develop a transportation system.  And then people have to make trucks.

Hey, bridget, we get your point about the carrot.  Enough already.  Forgive me, gentle reader, but you might have noticed that it has taken this much effort to get the carrot out of the ground.  It’s still on the farm a thousand miles away from the erstwhile Prof. Hunnicut.

Now we have to get the carrot to the professor.  Someone bags up the veggies, mills the carrot (I’m assuming a baby carrot here), sticks it in a bag with an appropriate amount of other baby carrots, and sells it to a grocery store.  It gets trucked over there (see above for transportation/trucking.)  Some person made those plastic bags; someone else’s livelihood is selling baby carrot plastic bags to baby carrot companies.  Some refrigeration system comes into play throughout this process, which means people to design, build, test, and sell refrigeration systems and their components. Then the grocery store apparatus comes into play: cashiers, janitors, accountants, stock room clerks, truck drivers, people to unload the trucks, financial analysts, buyers, people who build grocery stores, people who build cars or subway cars to get to the stores, and people who make everything from store shelves to shopping carts.

Sorry if I’ve missed anyone, but the “thank you for making this carrot possible” portion of tonight’s blog post was already running long.

Now you’ve finally gotten a carrot into the hand of a Professor of Leisure Studies.  But for all his academic credentials, he can’t figure out that the only way he gets his carrot – or any other totally natural product that he doesn’t want to farm himself – is for people to work.

And the “farm himself” part is important.  Prof. Hunnicut mentions several eras in his writing, but never the era before the Industrial Revolution, which can still be seen in third world countries: a time in which almost everyone had no choice but to constantly do backbreaking labour to avoid starvation.  There are still places wherein people walk five miles each way, every day, for water, then proceed to continue to work as hard as possible so that they and their children can eat.


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Filed under Economics, Food

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