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Making the world a worse place

The NYT economix blog has a post about how people view their jobs. Specifically, whether they think their job is making the world a worse place.

Speaking as a guy who’s spent years in drug advertising, which ranges from (in my opinion) occasionally useful to sometimes harmful (mostly it’s just a waste of resources that does no good but keeps me off the streets), this is a question I’ve been interested in for a while.

What’s impressive is that, while only 1% of respondents said their jobs may make the world a worse place, the rate was much higher in exactly the professions I think should die in a fire: Fast food, advertising, banking, and fashion.

It was also higher in law, which makes sense (although I think law is necessary and at least potentially can be used for good). Also among bartenders, who I like and want to keep around, although I might think differently if I had to serve overpriced drinks with stupid names to wasted Jersey Shore rejects every night.

The incredible number of fast-food workers who think their job makes the world worse–almost half–was a surprise; I guess part of that is just having such a crappy job.

When they broke down the results by industry, again, it’s exactly the industries you would expect: Tobacco, gasoline, alcohol, advertising, fast food, and legal. And jewelry and leather goods (one category), which I agree with, but it was a pleasant surprise that they agree with me.

It would be nice if this were the beginning of a national debate to the effect of: Before we decide that we “can’t afford” to take care of our old people, or to deliver mail, or to take care of our sick, maybe there are other things we can not afford first, like fast food, or tobacco, or advertising?

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