THE WORK ETHIC: A GREAT GIFT
But what if you don't let him fish when he is ready to fish. He will probably try to steal your fish or your life.
If you teach one self-respect, you affirm him for a day. Teach him the work ethic, you affirm him for a lifetime.
But what if you don't let him work when he is ready to work: Violence in schools, homes, cars and retirement.
Do you bemoan the vanishing work ethic? Save your moans for when you are too feeble to work in a world of young who won't work. What good is a golden 401(k) with a Midas touch if you are marooned on an island without a willing worker? The fault? Misguided parents, the Federal Reserve Bank, and habitual politicians. Is it reversible? Yes, by better democracy.
WHAT IS THE WORK ETHIC?
Work is solving problems. The work ethic is more than drawing a paycheck. The work ethic is solving problems with a positive attitude. It is also saving for retirement, obeying a superior's instructions and knowing when silence is the best policy.
How is the work ethic taught?
"If we don't teach the work ethic, first and foremost, then all other teaching is wasted." The thought is well-intended but the wording is wrong. The work ethic cannot be taught, only learned. The important questions are (1) when can a person best learn the work ethic and (2) how can society foster the work ethic?
Who loses when the work ethic is not learned?
First and foremost, the unworking individual is condemned to a problem-filled, unhappy life. Condemned to a life in which lying to self and others becomes a necessity to survive. Condemned to a life in which lies become crimes. Secondly, for its weak work ethic, society suffers crimes and criminals. Literally and figuratively, social security fades.
Window of opportunity
When is the best time to start learning the work ethic? Simple. When children want to work. When children become aware of their individuality and want to take charge of their lives. This window of opportunity opens for learning a positive attitude to solve problems: work. If denied the chance to work, this energy flows into the counter-productivity of an anti-work attitude, a.k.a. a play ethic.
The greatest gift to give another is the work ethic. Like a Barbie doll, there is an ideal gift age: the adolescent window of opportunity. Each later year is a harder year for the person to learn the work ethic. Many don't. Our prisons are full of people who did not learn to fish or weren't given a spot at the fishing hole.
How parents closed the work ethic window
The sacred 40-hour workweek has many parents overworked with little time for child-raising and family. By choice or from guilt, parents substitute material gifts for quality time. Allowances become bribe money. Neither materialism nor bribes create productive citizens imbued with the work ethic. When it comes to gifting kids with the work ethic, some parents intentionally deny their offspring the opportunity to learn it: "I had to work and swore my kids would not work!" They and we got what they wished for: kids that won't work with each passing year.
Is it fair, practical or logical to expect a work ethicless child to suddenly and successfully face 40 hours of work after graduation? Would it not be safer and easier for all concerned (individual and society) to allow kids to work a few hours after school. Of course, like teaching one to fish, we need to create fishing opportunities. The easiest and best way is to share the work, not bloated politicized bureaucracies devouring tax-dollars and young people's work ethic.
Ironically, parents fret over keeping their kids busy, spending time and money often on things the kids don't like. If the kids were working a few hours, the parents wouldn't have to work as much. The parents would not have to worry about kids having free time for drugs, sex, violence and crime. And, if the kids worked, the parents would have more money in their own pockets and pensions. The kids would be happier.
If employment laws were changed so young people could work a few hours, this sharing of the available work would give parents more free time. They would gain time for parenting, for raising young, and for safer neighborhoods.
My kids won't have to take care of me; I've got my retirement funds.
In earlier times, kids were part of the parents retirement system. Now, one hears parents boasting that their kids are not going to take care of them in their old age. If one does not raise a child to take care of the parent, the parent should not be surprised when the child either rips off the aging parent or warehouses the parent in a cheap nursing home. Like society as a whole, what good is your money if you don't have a child or a generation that wants to work and to take care of you?
If your kids won't take care of you, how will they feel about taking care of other elderly parents, directly through community service or indirectly through taxes? Said another way, in the way of your own retirement: If other parents have not raised their kids to take care of them, will these parent-ignoring kids take care of you? Or, are you Midas to murder for gold? Working lets a child see firsthand the short-coming of life as one grows older, nurturing a healthy respect for life. Gifting your child with the work ethic is a gift to many, especially yourself.
"You're fired!" "You can't learn the work ethic!" That is what the Federal Reserve Bank has been doing each time it fights its fears of inflation by raising interest rates. With higher interest rates businesses stop hiring (You can't learn the work ethic.) and layoff people (You're fired.) A 1% rise in unemployment causes 33,000 suicides. Who knows how much stress arises that becomes abuse of spouses, offspring, substances and roadways? Chainsaw Al Dunlap has a broken chain compared to Chainsaw Allan Greenspan.
Does this not, in effect, indirectly reduce the average workweek, for the number of workers has not changed, but the total number of work hours has been reduced. Would it not be better to have the Federal Reserve directly reduce the workweek by starting overtime at less than 40 hours? Would this not reduce the amount of money chasing the goods (i.e., reduce inflationary pressure?) Would this not cool the economy? Would this not share the inflationary worry among all Americans rather than devastate the lives of a few? Would this not be a soft landing for an economy overheating? Would this not avoid the tax programs which raising interest rates causes to support the unemployed? Would this not reduce the people turning to crime when unemployment runs out? And, would this not keep interest rates low rather than inflationarily high?
If the Federal Reserve had reduced the workweek each time the bogeyman of inflation appeared, we would have 1% to 2% loan interest rates and a 24 hour workweek. We would not have crime. We would have budget surpluses but trade surpluses. The Fedogenic unemployment policies have caused a whole slew of tax-supported programs by the habitual politicians. And, every product in America carries a higher price tag on the world market because of the artificially high interest rates and the misemployment tax component.
How have habitual politicians made the problem worse?
Politicians are aware of employment problems. Their solutions have been to tax the workers to support the non-workers. Habitual politicians love tax-supported programs, for that is how they reward the campaign workers who help them get re-elected. Wouldn't it be smarter just to reduce the workweek so that everyone could work, so that taxes would be less, so that crime would be less?
If, in the 1930's, the workweek had been reduced by 25% to reflect the 25% unemployment, the economy would have come back faster under freemarket drive than the deficit financed public work projects. Everyone would have been working, and we would have had a balanced economy.
Well, the habitual politicians have had their chance. To expect change from them is like expecting fossils to come to life, "Jurassic Park" notwithstanding. Time for new faces with new ideas for old problems: What would happen if we shortened the workweek? The expensive, chronic problems of misemployment would end with more money and time being available for self, family and community.
Underemployment: Wasted talent
Our employment laws waste a lot of human talent, real and potential. If kids aren't allowed to learn the work ethic, their potential is lost. Thirty-five percent (35%) of college students won't ever get a job in their career field. What a waste of talent. A reduction in the workweek will create many openings on career ladders. Most workers are underemployed relative to their talents as they wait for a promotion. A 40% reduction in the workweek means a 40% promotion rate. Senior workers being squeezed out of the workforce .... an even greater waste of talent. Changes in employment laws would stop this waste.
HISTORICAL REVIEW AND OTHER VIEWS
At the turn of the century, people worked around 70 hours a week. Our ancestors took advantage of the time savings of their industrial and agricultural revolution to reduce the workweek to 40 hours by the 1930's. Unfortunately, the workweek has been stuck at 40 hours, or worse. In 1990's, the American worker is setting record post-WWII overtime.
What does all of this mean? Since 1930, we have not been translating the time-savings of new technology into a shorter workweek. Rather, it has been translated into unemployment, underemployment and discouragement. More and more prison cells. Summarized, the lack of sharing good jobs by a reduced workweek yields higher rates of taxes, crime, violence, stress and interest. Freezing the workweek at 40 hours has frozen out many people who could have learned the work ethic if work had been shared by a declining workweek length.
In reality, the real workweek has been declining as workers spend more of each week's time paying taxes to house the misemployed, in and out of jail. Taxes have gone from taking a few minutes of a workers time to 40% of the time. Which is your real workweek? The one you work for yourself or the one you work for taxes and yourself? Why not work less so others can work for themselves and learn the work ethic? You will have more time and money for self, family and community by sharing the work. You could use your new free time to learn how to work smarter or start a business.
If you could reduce your tax load by the equivalent of ten hours of work, would you be willing to work ten hours less? If you could cut your insurance costs by the equivalent of four hours, would you be willing to work four hours less? If you could cut the interest on your loans by five hours of work time, would you be willing to work five hours less? If you could get a promotion paying more per hour by working fewer hours, would you? Would you rather work 40 hours at your current wage or 24 hours at 40% more? Would you rather work 40 hours with nine wagehours of disposable income or 24 hours with 15 hours of disposable income? This is what the Federal Reserve Bank and habitual politicians have denied us.
Democracy and the workplace.
Is it smart to work and be taxed to support able-bodied, unemployed people? Is it democratic to let some people monopolize the available work? So that some families can indulge in the latest materialistic fad, other families are denied the right and dignity of earning their daily bread by the sweat of their brow. The failure to share work is the antithesis of democracy if one fully appreciates the word's political origin in the daily sweat of one's brow.
Just what is democracy? After all, many dictatorships have hidden their despotic nature with the cake icing of democracy. Well, well. Some people say democracy is "people rule." But the etymology and history of this word means a little more: "divisions of people rule." Ancient Greece, the golden cradle of democracy, originated this political institution by dividing up the people to rule on their common lives and problems. And, if you ask what they focused on in most of their rulings, you will realize the true origin and meaning of democracy: Dividing people to work, for one rules on one's problems through work.
Have not all political institutions focused on who has a right to work and own the fruits of their labors? Why has democracy been the best institution of last resort? Because it better apportions the work among those who can work. THIS IS THE KEY TO OUR VIOLENT WORLD. It is why the work ethic is a great gift. Better democracy is more than on the ballot, it is more fundamentally on the job. How do we divide up the work? Simple. Start overtime earlier than 40 hours.
In 1998 America, we are experiencing the longest economic expansion in history. But it has been an anti-democratic, decapitalistic boom. The time savings of technology has not been converted into a shorter workweek so that all equally benefit. Rather a fewer few are able to work overtime at higher earnings while a growing mass have less and less.
The universality of work underlying law can be seen in the common Latin root of both logic and legal: legein. Legein means to gather. It is also the Latin root of the most basic food that primitive man began to cultivate, legumes. One can imagine a gatherer admonishing a thief with "Gather your own legumes, it's logical and should be legal." The point is that our high institutions arose out of and for basic work.
Dividing up the work so that everyone can have a comfortable piece of the action is not without prior political blessing: crop allotments in America. Ironically, the origin of our democratic institutions in both the Cradle of Democracy and the Roman Republican have parallels today. If we can allot the time of farmers so they have meaningful jobs and income, why not do it with the whole workforce?
How does the timist view the workweek?
Should work be a matter of first come, first monopoly? Bathrooms are a lot like work. Should the first person in have the right to deny others their needed time allotment? For a given population, there is an ideal workweek length. In parallel, for a given household, there's an ideal bathroom allotment. Clearly, those who work less have less. Clearly, those denied access to the bathroom, stink. Less clear is how those who work overtime have less and end up stinking.
Consider the well-known fishing analogy. If you teach someone to fish but don't let them fish, they will probably steal your fish or your life. Your overfishing made you, in essence, Aesop's jack rabbit who didn't finish the race. More specifically, look at the inflationary bubble of Asia and Japan. Their reward for overworking is a collapsing economy. Ill-understood, inflationary bubbles are a repeated part of history-tulips? Here in America, those hogging employment and bubbling the stock market will have worthless 401(k)s.
Biologically, cancers have rapid rates of self-growth until they kill the infrastructure on which they depend. If you are working overtime, that is, more than 24 hours, you are toxifying up your social security. In taking workhours from the younger workforce, you are denying yourself a workforce to take care of you when you are older. You are catalyzing the stress, abuses and violence you deplore ... and raising your victim potential.
A given entity cannot exceed a certain rate of time creation without shortening
its overall time. Timistically, our current failure to convert the exponentially
expanding time savings of technology into a shorter workweek is creating
a cancerous economic imbalance. If you like the unprecedented boom of the
1990's, you will like what follows.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE: Hello, My Name Is Sue
Johnny Cash sang a song about an abandoned son whom he named Sue. Why Sue? So that early on the girly named boy would encounter challenges that would develop character. Well, hello, my name is work. If you stick a child successfully with this challenge, you will develop work ethic character, the greatest gift of all. Odd how some parents spend thousands of dollars sending their children to military academies to learn self-discipline, respect and the work ethic when if we changed our employment laws, more young people could have this personality enriching experience. The work ethic, the greatest gift of all.
No matter how you look at it, except for unenlightened greed, we need to share the work which the habitual politicians and Federal Reserve bank have reserved for a fewer few. The simplest way to re-captured the lost workweek reduction is to reduce the workweek by an hour each quarter, that is, overtime starts at 39 hours. Three months later, overtime would start at 38 hours. In 16 quarters, or 4 years, we would have a real, direct 24 hour workweek instead of the present indirect 24 hour workweek. Slogan for this goal? 24 in 4.
A booming economy with a worker shortage?
Some will say that we can't go to a 24 hour workweek because of the worker shortage in the booming economy. Of course, the economy collapsed when it went from 70 hours to 40 hours. And, business has no problem with working employees upwards of 30 hours overtime. (Many of the business issues are addressed in an essay on business ramificatons e.g., benefits.)
Two thoughts about a 24-hour workweek. One, we are already indirectly working a 24-hour workweek or less for ourselves because of payouts from our misemployment policies. Two, we are going to reduce the workweek by eliminating the tax consuming bureaucracies, bureaucrats and bureau-payees. Instead of pushing paper paid for by workers' on-the-job tax-time, the bureau-dependees can work this time themselves in private industry. More importantly, the shift to 24 hour workweek will keep the boom going as we reduce waste.
Ideal workweek and worklife
As is, the workweek is a sudden 40 hour obligation with little or no prior
learning of the work ethic. A better work life would be an early start with
a gradual rise peaking in the middle and then declining. By letting young
people work a few yours, we will have fewer problems with our young. We will
have a better work force. We will have a better, safer retirement. (Note:
The author left home at age 8 and supported himself by shining shoes 40/50
hours per week.) See ???
If we don't save the children by helping them learn the work ethic then it does not matter where we save our money, for we won't have the needed workforce to serve and support us in our old age. If the habitual politicians privatize Social Security, their campaign donors will make a lot of money.
As the workweek is reduced, a social contact should be levied in which Americans use half of the time savings for community service and education. The benefits are obvious, especially the further reduction of costly public problems which will allow cutting the workweek further and easier.
Inmates should be trained in maintaining the infrastructure of America and the elderly. Let them repay their debt to society by rebuilding the roads and schools of America as well as helping the elderly remain in their homes.
Pros and Cons
Below are objections and rebuttals to the proposed workweek changes.
Kids shouldn't work
Too often, a non-working childhood produces an adult-tried child hood. How many teenage pregnancies, school shootings and adolescent drug deaths were there when kids worked 70 hours at the turn of the century? If you are a parent, would you rather have your child work 70 hours a week or be dead in a morgue from shooting a gun or a drug?
In response to the 70 hour sweat shop, we have gone to other extreme: Kids should not work. The result. Workshops of the devil that we can't imagine. Kids live in a different world than the one their working parents inhabited growing up. If we want them to join our world, we should have them work. If we don't let kids do a little adult worktime, we end up letting them do adult time for adult crimes. Young people can either channel their erupting self-awareness into learning the work ethos or doing the devil's pathos.
The problems of youth cannot be solved by parents or schools. Give the workplace a chance. What have we to lose? In work, one learns to respect oneself and others. This regularly reinforced self-esteem should fortify the youth in the face of peer pressure. Does learning the joy of doing a good job in solving a problem increase or decrease the need for drugs to get high? Maybe the joy of being high on life can reduce drug use.
But if we had programs for kids they would not get into trouble.
Something for nothing welfare always fails. Welfare did not keep welfare mothers from having more babies. Irrelevant welfare programs for kids will not stop the violence. As a taxpayer, do you like having to work to babysit kids in expensive programs that end up in vandalized buildings frequented by politicians' friends echoing platitudes?
Kids live in a different world with different values than the well-intentioned tax-spenders do who are paving the kids' road to the devil's workshop. If we want them to have our values then they need to be where we learn and maintain ours: work. Workfare has been shown to be a success with teenage mothers. Work ethic opportunities will help stop the violence of young people.
About the time kids become teenagers, the parental influence is waning. A void in constructive values arises for many kids as they have a lot of free time before they leave home and school. Most do not work. And, yet, it is the workplace where all the values that society wants in a person can be reinforced. And, based on newspaper headlines, workplaces are safer than schools or street corners.
Won't it cost a lot of tax dollars to create work jobs for kids?
How do we create meaningful, rewarding work for young people? Soft money tax programs are a joke which teach the opposite of the work ethic--the avoid-work ethic. The participants know it. Such programs are political bromides for re-election campaigns of the habitual politicians.
The solution? Democratize the available jobs. The solution? Divide up the work among all who are able and need to work. Kids need to work. Where is the work going to come from? If we create tax supported jobs, then the current taxpayers will be working less for themselves as more time is spent paying taxes for phony teenage jobs. Why not cut the workweek so kids can work directly for themselves?
Kids will still get into trouble whether they work or play.
Like people formerly on welfare now on workfare, working kids cannot be making babies as often, shooting drugs or engaging in violence. That is a simple fact of time. A person cannot be in two different places at the same time. And do you think you kids are safer on street corners, at schools on in bedrooms rather than on a job? If changing our employment laws cuts youth problems by 10% it will be worth it. And it doesn't cost a tax dollar.
You have no right to tell me how much I can work.
Well, each hour you work over 24 hours you are taking an hour from an unemployed or underemployed person. By this action, you have given the denied workers a license to imitate your actions by limiting your workhours as you have limited theirs. If you work more than 24 hours a week, you have no right to criticize those who do not work, for you are stealing their right to the work ethic and their self-respect. It's like criticizing a parent for having baudy children when we are the deflowering agent.
How can we have more income by working less?
By solving the longstanding politically tolerated problems that have and continue to cost us a lot of money. Solve the problems, save the money. Take the savings in a reduced workweek.
So, if you think kids would benefit from working a few hours, what do we do? Well, if they are working, you won't have to pay them an allowance. Wow! You could work a few hours less because you don't have to pay an allowance. Gosh, you could have more time for self, family and community. Golly, you could instill the need to work in your offspring and teach them the greatest gift that you can give anyone: the work ethic.
My kids don't need the money. Why should they work?
Why? To give them the best gift, the work ethic. Let them learn the real meaning of "No." Let them gradually learn real failure and how to deal with it. Let them learn the connection between solving problems and earning rewards.
Morally, can you think of a greater gift to give another than the work ethic? A million dollars? Look at all the K-kids who were do-no-goods because of their trust funds. Of course, it would be great if you could give someone both the work ethic and the lottery winnings. Interestingly, the timistic more of keeping kids working is also the timistic morality of better human beings. Happiness is a work ethic thing.
I won't be able to afford childcare if I don't work overtime.
With a 24 hour workweek, parents will be able to juggle their schedules to reduce or eliminate the need for childcare. The national debate over childcare won't be needed or the various proposed tax-grabbing solutions. Why not let parents take care of kids rather than create a tax-supported bureaucracy that has over-paid, politically connected bureaucrats supervising minimum wage workers.
I won't be able to afford health insurance.
Another reform involves the Federal Reserve Bank investing its money expansion funds into health care costs of citizens who volunteer in the community. With a reduction in the workweek, people will have more time for self, family and community. More importantly, the health problems from the stress of being overworked or unworked will decrease.
Benefits of 24 in 4: By better employing our human resources, we can have a 24-hour workweek in 4 years with more time and money for self, family and community.
What you can do.
Please share these ideas with others.
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