Friday, April 01, 2011


Some years ago, I read an interesting book by Barbara Ehrenreich called Nickel and Dimed about the difficulties of surviving on a low-wage job in America. The book was a direct attack on the "work will make you free" ideology underlying US welfare reform, and illustrated how many of the basic dignities of life were increasingly beyond the working poor (some due to the inadequacy of wages, and some due to the Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice).

And now there's a webgame going round, Spent, which illustrates this perfectly. You're a jobless single mother, and you have $1,000 to get through the month. I managed - but only by losing my job, my dignity, and my pet.

While it is very American, and things are a bit different in New Zealand (e.g. your boss can't fire you for joining a union, unless you're in a 90 day trial period), its still a potent illustration of just how tough things are at the bottom, and how poverty can trap people into having no good options at all.

Play it, and remember it next time John Key - a man worth $50 million - complains about those on benefits making "poor choices".