In Part V the concepts of cognitive complexity, personal control, and self-esteem developed in Parts II and III serve as criteria for assessing the role of work in a market economy. On the one hand, that role may be said to be the scandal of the market. In the world of work, we find uncertainty, anxiety, authoritarianism, waste of talent, and many lost opportunities that could have made work more fruitful. On the other hand, even now work is the market's principal contributor to both happiness and human development.
It is in work, not in consumption and, as research reports show, not even in leisure, where most people engage in the activities that they find most satisfying, where they learn to cope with their human and natural environments, and where they learn about themselves. The economists' ideas that work is the sacrifice or disutility that earns for workers the benefits or utilities of consumption is, I believe, quite false. But the idea that market forces systematically degrade work to increase profits is also false. What is true is that market forces systematically undermine worker satisfactions and learning in order to advance the interest, not so much of owners but of consumers. Consumers may not represent a ruling class, but they are sovereign and those who work are their subjects.
In the name of “efficiency,” consumer benefits are purchased by the burdens laid on workers. It is a “purchase” without a purchaser. The implied tradeoff between consumer welfare and worker well-being is not chosen. One reason is that the market cannot weigh many of these sacrifices because they are unpriced.