Printer Friendly

America takes early retirement: faced with the congressional budget office's determination that Obamacare would cost 2.5 million full-time jobs, the Obama administration has declared that that's not a bug, it's a feature: "full-time jobs"?

Faced with the Congressional Budget Office's determination that Obamacare would cost 2.5 million full-time jobs, the Obama Administration has declared that that's not a bug, it's a feature: "Full-time jobs"? Who needs that? With "free" health care, Americans will also be free to dump the daily grind of a steady job with benefits and finally write that opera they've always wanted to compose. Obamacare is "liberating", declared The New York Times. At last Americans will be free to "choose" whether they want to spend their days working or writing poetry or cooing multicultural dirges to their children. It's all about "choice". I'm pro-choice and I vote lie around the house all day watching TV.

I wouldn't disagree with the new Democrat conventional wisdom that many people would, if they could, choose not to work. In many American families, two adults with college degrees work full-time to live as well as one provider with a high-school diploma did in the 1950s. Nevertheless, the government is not offering "choice" but dependency. To endorse the proposition, Politico hired a near parodic character who "works" as Professor of Leisure Studies at the University of Iowa to pen an editorial headlined, "Why Do Republicans Want Us To Work All The Time?"

So work is now just a partisan obsession: unsatisfied with the war on women and the war on "reproductive choice" and the war on Hispanics and all the rest, Republicans have now opened up a new front with a war on sloth. To take the question more seriously than it merits, here is why I want people to work. This comes from my most recent bestseller, After America, available in hardback, paperback and audio editions, personally autographed copies of which are available right now from the SteynOnline bookstore.

Which I mention only because I'd rather live off my royalties than work. Anyway, here's my answer to that Politico question:

   As the fog of Obama's rhetoric lifted
   and the scale of his debt mountain
   became clear, the President's
   courtiers began to muse about the
   introduction of an EU-style "VAT".
   Americans generally translate that
   as a "national sales tax", but it actually
   stands for "value-added tax",
   because you're taxing the value that
   is added to a product in the course
   of its path to market. Yet what
   Europe needs is to add "value" in a
   more basic sense.

   There are two main objections
   to the wholesale Europeanization
   of America. The easy one is the
   economic argument. But the second
   argument is subtler: The self-extinction
   of Europe is not just a matter of
   economics. Advanced social democracies
   don't need a value-added tax;
   they need a value-added life. "The
   Europe that protects" may protect
   you from the vicissitudes of fate
   but it also disconnects you from the
   primary impulses of life. Government
   security does not in and of itself make
   for a satisfying, purposeful life.


In the futuristic nightmares of yesteryear such as Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), the masses are slaves chained to vast mechanical contraptions they're forced to keep running day and night. But these days the mechanical contraptions mostly run themselves, and the world that beckons presents quite the opposite conundrum from that contemplated by Lang: masses with nothing to do. To quote again from After America:

The basic problem with the western world today is that not enough people do not enough work for not enough of their lives--and yet still expect to lead a First World lifestyle

   Once upon a time, millions of
   Americans worked on farms. Then,
   as agriculture declined, they moved
   into the factories. When manufacturing
   was outsourced, they settled
   into low-paying service jobs or
   better-paying cubicle jobs--so-called
   "professional services" often deriving
   from the ever swelling accounting
   and legal administration that
   now attends almost any activity in
   America. What comes next?
   Or, more to the point, what if there
   is no "next"?


Consciously or otherwise, our rulers seem to accept that thesis. In a world in which "capital" no longer needs "labor", there will still be a "working class" and a "leisured class"; but they'll have changed places: an aristocratic class will do such "work" as is rewarding and fulfilling, while the masses will be "leisured", and hopefully sufficiently distracted by "free" health care and electronic trinkets that they will remain quiescent and compliant.

I would doubt such a society would be peaceable for long. As I wrote two months before the Democrat-media complex began celebrating the liberation of the citizenry from full-time employment:

   Consider Vermont. Unlike my own
   state of New Hampshire, it has a
   bucolic image: Holsteins, dirt roads,
   the Vermont Teddy Bear Company,
   Ben & Jerry's, Howard Dean ...
   And yet the Green Mountain State
   has appalling levels of heroin and
   meth addiction, and the social chaos
   that follows. Geoffrey Norman
   began a recent essay in The Weekly
   Standard with a vignette from a
   town I know very well--St. Johnsbury,
   population 7,600, motto "Very
   Vermont," the capital of the remote
   North-East Kingdom hard by the
   Quebec border and as far from
   urban pathologies as you can get.
   Or so you'd think. But on a recent
   Saturday morning, Norman reports,
   there were more cars parked at the
   needle-exchange clinic than at the
   farmers' market. In Vermont, there's
   no inner-city underclass, because
   there are no cities, inner or outer;
   there's no disadvantaged minorities,
   because there's only three blacks and
   seven Hispanics in the entire state;
   there's no nothing. Which is the real
   problem.

   Large numbers of Vermonters
   have adopted the dysfunctions of
   the urban underclass for no reason
   more compelling than that there's
   not much else to do. Once upon a
   time, St. Johnsbury made Fairbanks
   scales, but now a still handsome
   town is, as Norman puts it, "hollowed
   out by the loss of work and
   purpose." Their grandparents got
   up at four in the morning to work
   the farm and their great-great-great-whatever-parents
   slogged up
   the Connecticut River, cleared the
   land, and built homes and towns
   and a civilization in the wilderness.
   And now? A couple of months back,
   I sat in the cafe in St. Johnsbury,
   and overheard a state official and a
   Chamber of Commerce official discuss
   enthusiastically how the town
   could access some federal funds to
   convert an abandoned building into
   welfare housing.

   "Work" and "purpose" are intimately
   connected: Researchers at the
   University of Michigan, for example,
   found that welfare payments make
   one unhappier than a modest
   income honestly earned and used to
   provide for one's family. "It drains
   too much of the life from life," said
   Charles Murray in a speech in 2009.
   "And that statement applies as much
   to the lives of janitors--even more to
   the lives of janitors--as it does to the
   lives of CEOs." Self-reliance--"work"
   --is intimately connected to human
   dignity--"purpose."


Another quote from After America, from the presiding genius of the British welfare state:

   When William Beveridge laid out
   his blueprint for the modern British
   welfare state in 1942, his goal was
   the "abolition of want," to be accomplished
   by "cooperation between the
   State and the individual." In attempting
   to insulate the citizenry from
   the vicissitudes of fate, Sir William
   succeeded beyond his wildest dreams:
   Want has been all but abolished.
   Today, fewer and fewer Britons want
   to work, want to marry, want to raise
   children, want to lead a life of any
   purpose or dignity. "Cooperation"
   between the State and the individual
   has resulted in a huge expansion of
   the former and the ceaseless withering
   of the latter.


Which is more likely in Obama's world after work? The new golden age of poetry and music foreseen by Nancy Pelosi? Or more heroin, more obesity, more diabetes, more crime, more children raised in transient households that make even elementary character formation all but impossible ... And, if you're one of those who works in the "knowledge economy", how confident are you that you can insulate your life from the pathologies beyond the Green Zone?

The basic problem with the western world today is that not enough people do not enough work for not enough of their lives--and yet still expect to lead a First World lifestyle. One more quote from my sadly prescient After America: As Bernard Shaw asked in Heartbreak House, "Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favor of England because you were born in it?"

"Of course!" say Obama and Pelosi and The New York Times and the Professor of Leisure Studies at the University of Iowa. I think not.
COPYRIGHT 2014 Howling At The Moon Publishing Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Steyn, Mark
Publication:Investigate HIS
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2014
Words:1405
Previous Article:The ravens of Odin.
Next Article:Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |