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Nelson Mandela and Volunteerism

Written By: Bob Murphy  |  Posted: Thursday, September 15th, 2011

            This week Nelson Mandela celebrates his 93rd birthday. In honor of the event, the Nelson Mandela Foundation is asking people to donate 67 minutes of their time to public service. Although the foundation and the media reporting on it undoubtedly mean well, the entire discussion perpetuates the myth that paid work is somehow useless to society.

            But the truth is just the opposite: If someone is actually getting paid to do work, he or she knows that at least one person values it. In contrast, volunteer work may or may not be useful, because it lacks the feedback of market prices. My point in this article isn't to denigrate volunteer work, but rather to rehabilitate paid work.

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