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November 27 2018

The Politics of Work

by Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

“[Oren Cass’s] core principle--a culture of respect for work of all kinds--can help close the gap dividing the two Americas ...."

– William A. Galston, The Brookings Institution

So many well-intended public policies and currently proposed policies seem to amount to a war on work and a devaluing of the dignity of work.

Jason Willick has a terrific piece on this topic today in the Wall Street Journal. Willick relies on Oren Cass' new book “The Once and Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America."  Cass was a policy adviser to presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Willick develops the theme of how injurious it is not to work:

Karl Marx speculated that workers with leisure time would “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner.” He was wrong.

People out of the labor force—especially men—are more likely to be “sleeping and watching TV” than hunting or fishing, Mr. Cass says. Unemployment, more than any of life’s other rough patches, leads to unhappiness and family breakdown.

People want to “know what our obligations are, and feel that we’re fulfilling them,” he adds. When this foundation of society starts to crumble, political upheaval tends to follow.

Those who pin Mr. Trump’s victory on “economic anxiety” often advocate directing more government spending to people the economy has left behind. But, says Mr. Cass, the “further down the income ladder you go, generally speaking, the less enthusiasm there is for redistribution as a solution.

"People will tell you they want to work.” He adds: “It’s when you get to the top of the income distribution that you find a whole lot of people are basically like, ‘Why can’t I just write a check?’ ”

My bolding. It seems that the ordinary American intuitively prefers the dignity of work over the "just write a check" approach. They know that meaningful participation in the workforce enhances their lives, even if the elites just want society to write a check.

The Universal Basic Income (UBI), now very much in vogue among the cognoscenti, is the ultimate form of just writing a check, regardless of how this would affect the recipients.

Other policies espoused by the rich that harm those who want to work but may be having a hard time finding jobs are draconian environmental policies, which are "the result of a cost-benefit analysis that discounts the interests of workers."

Elites like to tell us that automation (which ultimately can lead to new kinds of jobs) and an economy built on knowledge and service reduce the need for manufactured items. Cass and Willick refute this notion, arguing that there will always be a need for physical objects, whether for health care or cars and houses that the affluent buy.

This article is well worth reading.

The dignity of work is an issue near and dear to my heart (here and here).



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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