Now, a1 ethical problem. As a longterm dolebludger, should I:-
A) sell it to a mainstream print publisher with the usual copyright deals, and hopefully get off the dole, or,
B) offer it to people on a Creative Commons licence, in view of the fact that I have been on the dole so long.
What do you think? Meika is a 40 year old (or thereabouts) bloke who lives in Tasmania with his wife and child. He has an MA in Applied Science but has been unemployed for the greater part of the last 20 years. It’s fairly clear that his unemployment for at least the first half of that period was in large part a matter of choice, attitude and lifetyle. But for the last 5 or 6 years at least, there’s no doubt he’s been a serious job-seeker who has failed to get full-time work through a combination of age, lack of experience, being over-qualified, and perhaps a vaguely disquieting fear on the part of potential employers that he’s quite a lot smarter than they are and might conceivably be a workplace troublemaker. Meika wrote about his experiences as a dolebludger almost 3 years ago on Online Opinion.
It seems to me that it’s greatly to meika’s credit that he would even bother to ask the ethical question of what he should do with the copyright from his book. David Tiley is probably correct that it’s unlikely to prove a financial goldmine for meika (although you never know – the much less ethical DBC Pierre struck Booker Prize paydirt with his first novel Vernon God Little). Personally I don’t have any problem with meika keeping the fruits of his own intellectual endeavours, despite surviving at taxpayers’ expense for so long. His life has clearly been a lot more productive and useful than most “dolebludgers” and quite a few in the employed workforce as well.
Moreover, and especially given that meika’s home state Tasmania hasn’t enjoyed anywhere near full employment for a very long time, I don’t think we should view Centrelink benefits solely as a privilege that makes recipients effective indentured slaves to the state until they’re paid back. I support broadly the principle of mutual obligation in relation to welfare benefits, although the extent to which the Commonwealth under the Howard government fulfils its side of the obligation bargain in providing meaningful job retraining programs is questionable to say the least. But there are numerous ways in which an unemployed person can fulfil societal obligations in return for income support, and genuine artistic and intellectual creativity is one of them. Of course there’s a potential problem in guarding against welfare abuse and malingering if we accept that principle without qualification, but I think the extent of the problem can be overstated and it’s clear that meika’s situation (in recent years at least) doesn’t involve either abuse or malingering.
PS – Another article on Online Opinion that is relevant to this question is one by Anna Yeatman entitled Mutual obligation and the ethics of individualised citizenship. And Evatt Foundation has also published a thought-provoking paper by Jeremy Moss titled Ethics, politics & mutual obligation.