There is dignity in work. It is essential to human flourishing and critical to the fulfillment of the American experience. Unfortunately, there is a strong current in American society that seeks to cheapen the value and nobility of hard work.
Today our news is filled with talk of “quiet quitting,” “the great resignation” and the desire of the Left to expand welfare, thereby disincentivizing work. But work isn’t just about getting up in the morning and going somewhere to pass the time for a paycheck.
Work is indispensable to the human condition and, lest we forget, its value is Biblical in its origin. Both the Old and New Testaments make clear God’s intention that we should work as a sign of our service to Him and creation. We recall 1 Corinthians 3:8 “… and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”
People by nature are not sedentary beings. Like other animals, we are meant to be physically active, but our advanced minds and God-given souls require the nourishment that comes from being productive.
One of the benefits of the manufacturing and agrarian economies we’ve abandoned to China, India and elsewhere was the physical labor that yielded visible production. You plowed a field or made a widget. Today’s office culture produced by the higher education racket often doesn’t come with that level of satisfaction.
Restoring the dignity of work will restore the promise of an America where people create their own wealth. In our system, no one is guaranteed to be wealthy, but wealth creation in its various degrees is part of what ensures our independence from the government. That is available to everyone.
Wealth transfers of the last fifty years, however, have cut against this basic model for American success and freedom. We artificially inflate the earnings of those who work and deflate those who receive welfare payments. We overtax those who work to fund government programs that provide generous payments that disincentivize earning and growing wealth.
In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Texas Sen. Phil Graham and former Bureau of Labor Statistics official John Early state the harrowing problem clearly. “Given the surge in transfer payments since the war on poverty, it isn’t surprising that the percentage of working-age people in the bottom quintile who actually worked plummeted from 68% in 1967 to 36% in 2017,” they wrote.
Abraham Lincoln warned, “No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive.”
Work doesn’t just protect against statism. It saves lives. In a nation where depression and mental health issues are crippling millions and claiming lives every day, hard work adds to self-worth, confidence and esteem.
Playing video games, scrolling through video clips, and watching porn — pastimes that have become an epidemic of nihilism in the country, sap our desire to work.
A 2018 survey found that almost 60% of respondents admitted to watching online pornography at work, and another noted that 70% of internet porn use happens during work hours. In 2019, Americans consumed more than 5.8 billion hours of porn on just one major website. Those staggering numbers were pre-pandemic and don’t include mindless surfing of the internet, social media, and the impact of clickbait.
All of that wastes time and money to be sure, but it also erodes the human soul and impacts our interpersonal relationships, making work itself less fulfilling. Psychologists call it moral disengagement and dehumanization.
Those who promote, ignore or reinforce societal conditions or behaviors that devalue work tear at the fabric of the nation. That agenda is not ignorance but intended to create a servitude to the state that is anathema to the American way of life.
People who do this ultimately infect the nation with what George Washington called a “pretended patriotism.” It benefits no one.
The notion that, as President Ronald Reagan said, the best social program is a job, cannot be viewed with skepticism by our leaders if this nation is to survive and thrive. All the great dynasties of history collapsed under the weight of entitlement, laziness, or the excesses of authoritarianism.
America will be no different if current trends continue.
This Labor Day let’s recommit ourselves to the dignity of work. The benefits are more than just financial. It will save lives, strengthen our spirits and help bring about a rebirth of American freedom.
• Tom Basile is the host of “America Right Now” on Newsmax Television, an author and a former Bush administration official.