Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Buckminster Fuller on not earning a living

with 10 comments

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

—R. Buckminster Fuller, in New York magazine

Written by nevalalee

May 8, 2011 at 12:03 am

10 Responses

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  1. Thanks for reminding me of this quote – I first came across it a couple of decades ago and thought it made a lot of sense then; it probably makes even more sense these days, though I can’t see states and politicians wanting to change the current drudgery-based system.

    Jon Vagg

    May 8, 2011 at 5:48 am

  2. What were you doing at a Chinese wedding?

    — looking for fortune cookies?


    May 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm

  3. “A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking”

    “One is not sleeping, does not mean they are awake”

    “We are born naked, wet, and hungry, and get slapped on our butt … then things get worse”

    “oops, wrong cookie”


    May 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm

  4. @Jon: Luckily, it’s still possible for individuals, if not states, to try and follow Fuller’s example.

    @Arthur: Chinese weddings are a lot of fun, although the dancing, to put it mildly, isn’t great.


    May 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm

  5. Send a monkey up a pole…


    May 18, 2016 at 5:14 am

  6. The trouble is one has to depend on those earning a living to be yourself for a living!!! It is thinking outside the box nonetheless.

    Savina Redpath

    June 7, 2016 at 6:00 am

  7. Although fundamentally agreeing with Bucky’s thought, it does depend on The other 9,999 people (or at least a good proportion of them) to think – as he says. Then it would be a self perpetuating system. Do we think that humanity is ready for that yet?

    Barry Copeland

    October 13, 2016 at 5:20 am

  8. @Barry Copeland: I’m just not sure that humanity necessarily wants it.


    October 15, 2016 at 8:48 pm

  9. Yes I recognize hoe easily we are conditioned , but other than that I notice there was no alternative suggested as a way for guaranteeing how to exist in a world where everything comes at a $ sign and although I passionately believe in The Divine and his Angels, I have never seen them competing with mere mortals to deliver groceries, clothes and school books to every person on earth or giving you $ to hand to conscientious Landlords and Banks. The list goes on ……we operate in a Third dimensional environment but there is tones of hope, as thousands of us realize there are important things to know about. Are we lifting our vibration? I believe yes, but st the same time we have to be S realist as well.

    Serenity Keeling

    April 30, 2017 at 12:03 pm

  10. “one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest.”

    Interesting that a number of middle-class-communes were operating when this was published – but most folded soon after. Most of their members (eventually) grew up and became “drudges” – by Fuller’s own implied definition (9,999 of 10,000)

    This kind of “idealism” may be borne from being one of the 1-of-10,000, but does little for most of us.

    I wonder what he would have said if asked for one example of that “breakthrough”?

    I look forward to reading your Fuller bio – three years hence – and see if Fuller ever did grow up.

    Jim Susky

    January 2, 2019 at 5:07 pm

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