If we were to learn about enthusiasm, self-reliance and work ethic from Washington Post op-ed columnist David Brooks, we’d come to understand that American men are lazy due to no fault of their own – it’s because the government hasn’t done enough to energize them.
Brook’s opening assertion is that Americans are, by nature, energetic:
Americans have always been known for their manic dynamism. Some condemned this ambition as a grubby scrambling after money. Others saw it in loftier terms. But energy has always been the country’s saving feature.
Hard working Americans all over this great land would likely agree with this statement. Most would work themselves into the ground if the opportunity arose – as long as the reward was there. According to a statistic cited by the author, that work-ethic has been on the decline:
..in 1954, about 96 percent of American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today that number is around 80 percent. One-fifth of all men in their prime working ages are not getting up and going to work.
For some reason, 20% of working-age, able-bodied males aren’t going to work.
The article continues guessing that the problem is that American men don’t have the skills necessary to work.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 35 percent of those without a high school diploma are out of the labor force, compared with less than 10 percent of those with a college degree.
Erroneous thinking perpetuated from the liberal ideology. Mr. Brooks has his cause and effect relationships backwards. First, a college degree is not the reason for the difference in worker participation numbers. Anyone that would work through high school and college is motivated and would most-likely be motivated to find a job – whether or not in the field of his degree. Someone that didn’t finish high school may have dropped out due to being entirely unmotivated. If that’s the case, he probably won’t try very hard to get a job – especially if there are sufficient government safety nets to allow him to be worthless.
The author’s solution to the problem: a vast array of government policies:
It will probably require a broad menu of policies attacking the problem all at once: expanding community colleges and online learning; changing the corporate tax code and labor market rules to stimulate investment; adopting German-style labor market practices like apprenticeship programs, wage subsidies and programs that extend benefits to the unemployed for six months as they start small businesses
Several of those ideas look good on the surface, but is government spending really the answer? Based on the study that Mr. Brooks cited, 96% of working-age males were working in 1954, well before the slew of government intrusions took control of so many facets of American life. Given this empirical evidence, one might instead see government hand-outs and programs as the cause of the unwillingness to work.
Quite plainly, when there was no other way to make a living other than to work, men worked. Now that Social Security disability and two years worth of unemployment are available, 20% of those that should be productive citizens have no need to be. Let’s turn off the government hand outs and see if that 96% number isn’t achieved miraculously and nearly overnight.