Renewing Labor’s Moral Sense

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave a speech Tuesday expressing concern about Americans’ shifting attitudes toward work and government.

“We’re turning into a paternalistic entitlement society,” he said. “That will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally….We’ll have a bunch of people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check.”

The workforce participation rate for men 16-24 has dropped from 80% in the 1970’s to about 58% today. Young men, especially with less education, are increasingly opting out of the workforce, and not just due to a weak economy. An enabling factor is that with all the government entitlements available, work doesn’t seem to pay.

If young people, especially at the point of entry to work, lose the belief that earning a paycheck is better than drawing a benefit check, the human cost will be significant.

The value of human labor is deeper than its cash value. Work is an extension of the human personality. Through labor we exercise talent, creativity, and initiative. We don’t merely exchange one thing for another, we develop as persons. We participate in the act of creation.

None of that happens with a welfare check. For a healthy society, we must renew our moral sense of the value of labor. We must stop asking government to provide quick cash and remember that raw purchasing power isn’t the measure of man.


Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Posted by at 04:30 | Posted in Economy, Federal Budget, Food Stamps, Health & Human Services, Individual Responsiblity, Taxes, Unemployment | Tagged , , , | 38 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Laidback

    I think he might be right. I have been unemployed for three years now and get almost everything I need for free. Food stamps, housing, health care, job search counseling, dental, vision, transportation (free Max pass to look for work) and many other freebies that I seem to have no trouble finding. Thus, why would I work? It would be much harder. Much.

    • 3H

      That is, of course, based upon some misconceptions.  Most of the poor do not get their housing for free.  Some get subsidized in part, and a very few get all their rent subsidized.  As for free health care, dental and vision — there is a waiting list for OHP. Children receive those benefits, but adults.. especially the work poor, get nothing.

      However, keep on with the ignorance, that you are good at.

      • Laidback

        Like I said. I got it. And I do. I can’t help it if others are too stupid to game the system.

        • 3H

          uh huh

  • 3H

    And what we need to do as well, is not just renew, but create a moral sense for management and capital.   Thinking that only one side needs improvement is grossly distorted.  The fact is, American workers are among the most productive in the world.  What is the reward for years of being loyal?   Sadly sometimes seeing your job outsourced overseas.  

    • JoelinPDX

      Jobs are only outsourced overseas when the workers here refuse to do good work at a reasonable price. American workers seem to think it’s still the 50s when unions could demand and get outlandish wages and benefits, when American workers called all of the shots, when “Made in Japan” was an ongoing joke.

      American workers needs to move into the 21st century and learn that today’s market is a worldwide market, that competition doesn’t come from just down the street but from places like The Philippines, Viet Nam and even China. So long as there are workers in these countries willing to do a job on a par with American workers for a lot (A LOT) less, the work is going to go overseas.

      Sorry American workers but your days of living high on the hog while doing a sloppy, union job are long gone. Come live in the 21st century.

      • 3H

        American workers are among the most productive in the world.  There is nothing wrong with either their productivity or the quality of their work (I’m sure there are exceptions).  What companies who move overseas want, is to pay less and maximize profits. 

        The irony, of course, is that if they succeed in driving down wages, then workers will not be able to afford to buy as much.  It is short-sighted thinking.

        • JoelinPDX

          But you see 3, these are businesses. Their job is to make as much money as they can…except obviously in your perverted liberal way of thinking. Anyway, it’s only natural for them to want to pay less and maximize profits.

          The other thing you foolishly refuse to consider si that if American companies pay less in wages the cost of their products just may go down making them more affordable to the lower paid worker. I know that’s a stretch for your liberal mind but try it on anyway.

          • 3H

            Except, those companies that have already exported won’t see a savings in the cost of production – lowering prices will lower profit as well.  Once that happens, there could be more downward pressure on wages.  Again, short-sighted thinking.

            Remember the post we’re commenting on… only workers are expected to have a moral sense?  I think you’re attitude reflects nearly perfectly the hypocrisy of much of American business.

          • JoelinPDX

            Your arguments all make great sense…from a left-wing, liberal perspective. From a freedom loving, pro-business point-of-view, not so much.

          • 3H

            If you mean by freedom loving, that employers have all the advantages, then that does makes sense.  If you’re trying to look at it from the employees, taking away as much as possible their right to unionize and negotiate, then doesn’t seem to be quite so freedom-loving in nature. 

          • Ardbeg

            You assume one has to either be “pro business” or “pro worker” Why can’t you be both?

        • JoelinPDX

          By the by, American workers haven’t necessarily been the highest quality workers. Why do you think Japanese cars caught on so quickly. In case you’re wondering, it is because Japanese cars ran and ran, then ran some more. Meanwhile, the wheels were falling off Detroit made cars.

          Same thing with cameras and audio gear. “Made in Japan” had ceased to be such a joke. And the Japanese products today lead the world market and the American products…well, just talk to GM or Kodak or Zenith.

          • 3H

            Was that because of shoddy workmanship.. or poor engineering.  I think you’re blaming the problems at the final assembly and not at the design phase where the issue was created.

          • Ardbeg

            Both of you are wack, I own 3 Fords. 230,000 miles, 198,000 and a  60’s mustang.  All are running fine 🙂 Love ’em all.

          • Lonewolf

            I have a Volvo (Ford) with 456,345 and she is still running strong!!!!

      • 3H

        If anything, you’ve probably made the strongest case for unionization that I’ve seen in a long time.  If employers are expected, or even required, to squeeze the most labor out of their employees at the lowest cost possible, then employees need unions in order to bargain from a position of equality  with their employer.   Since, as I’m sure you’d admit, the employer probably doesn’t have their interests in mind, much less their best interests, workers need to speak up and advocate for themselves.   Unions would be the most effective way of doing that.

      • Ardbeg

        American companies will always choose to pay China wages (about $300 a month).  It has nothing to do with unions or anything else. It’s basic economics. Maybe you should start living on $300 a month to show your support for the “world economy”. It’s more profitable to pay people who are used to having nothing, a meager wage, than to pay American workers a living wage.  That attitude will be the downfall of the US.  Wait until your job is shipped overseas and then tell me that it’s o.k.

        • JoelinPDX

          Well, I run an Internet company — my own — so I’m not terribly worried about anyone shipping my job overseas. And I also employ a staff of workers in the Philippines.

          You can ignore the world economy if you want but I hope you have a job that can’t be conveniently outsourced. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when your boss tells you your job is being sent to Malaysia.

          • Ardbeg

            I’m not ignoring the world economy.  I think its great that the economies of China, the Philippines and S. Korea are doing well.  I’m happy to see the standard of living improving for other people.  At some point I hope their wages will rise so they can afford to actually buy the products they produce.  At some point China may have enough of it’s own consumers that they will sell mostly in their own county and we will have to start manufacturing our own goods again.  What concerns me is

             “– so I’m not terribly worried about anyone shipping my job overseas.”

            Obviously your mindset is only concerned about yourself and not your country. Your o.k. so screw everyone else. That is not what this country was founded on and it is very selfish. Sounds like ‘you got yours’ Joel. And honestly, I got mine. I’m not worried about you or me. I’m worried for the next generation. You come across as you couldn’t give a s&^T about anyone but yourself. Yes, we pay more for labor than the Philippines. The average in the Philippines is a little over $300 a month after taxes. Is that what you want for American workers? Then no one could afford your “I run an Internet company” company. Sounds like your for classes Joel, I got mine and everyone else should be happy to make minimum wage.

        • Lonewolf

          Seems to work for the Chinese….just saying…

          • Ardbeg

            The government would say yes, I don’t know about the workers.

  • valley person

    Young males don’t get much of anything in the way of “entitlements,” so the entire premise of this article is mistaken.

    “Entitlements” go to old duffers who go golfing. Even single moms are cut off of welfare after 5 years. What “entitlements” is Ms Hickok referring to? 

    • Kathryn Hickok

      Hi, Valley Person. “Entitlements” does not refer to pensions and retirement benefits. By “entitlements” I am referring to public assistance programs, such as Section 8 housing and the SNAP program (food stamps), and to unemployment compensation when used (I would say, abused) to facilitate a lifestyle of intentional, cyclical employment/unemployment (that is, one works for enough months to qualify, then collects UI, then works another season, etc.).

      Of course, safety nets are used by many people who legitimately need them for extraordinary circumstances. Unfortunately, reliance on these programs can and has become a lifestyle for many young adults.

      It can be extremely difficult to get out of this lifestyle. One reason is that entry-level jobs, after taxes, may not pay well enough to make working seem “worth it” to the young person, compared with collecting various combinations of benefits. It takes time and hard work to get promotions and raises beyond the entry-level position, and this requires either a healthy work ethic and pride in one’s honest efforts, or else a person has to have another incentive to forego the entitlements available in favor of work.

      I included the PSU website link under “with all the government entitlements available” to show how PSU students are actively encouraged to apply for the SNAP program. The language on the page is an excellent example of the “entitlement” mentality.

      Thanks for your comment.

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