“Old habits die hard,” you say? Maybe not so hard these days. In the long history of human endeavor, it has been taken for granted that “an honest day’s labor” was the norm for “earning a living.” Yet, virtually overnight, attitudes toward work have radically changed. Good luck finding people willing to get their hands dirty doing menial tasks, or working with their hands at all, unless it’s hands on a keyboard, and even that might be too demanding for today’s sluggards.
Whether we’re talking supply-chain problems, empty baby-formula shelves, staggering inflation, or a shortage of skilled labor, lurking in the background is a full-out, unabashed aversion to work, period. Everywhere you look are signs reading: “Now hiring, all shifts.” Or worse: “Limited hours, due to staff shortages.” Gone are the days when signs read: “Will work for food.” Why should anybody work these days, when food, clothing, and shelter are provided by government largesse? If you can “get by” on handouts, why work? Work is, like, so yesterday!
Forget Bernie Sanders and AOC. It’s COVID that has made socialists of us all. “Stay home, don’t work, we’ll send you (big) checks.” Just like that, we were hooked!
Even before COVID, of course, the groundwork was already being laid. Remember all the talk about guaranteed minimum incomes and forgiving student loans? And there was Obamacare, letting young adults tag along on their parents’ insurance, as well as the swelling droves of young folks choosing to live with their parents rent-free long after they should have flown the coop.
Have you checked out social media lately? Try Reddit’s r/antiwork group (touting “unemployment for all, not just the rich!”). And how about TikTok’s videos of users quitting their jobs in so-called “Quit-Toks.” Some are only leaving jobs they hate, while others are celebrating not working at all. Anti-work is no longer simply the attitude of a few lazy souls, but now a full-throated, growing movement.
To top it all off, the revolutionary idea of not working has now been elevated to the status of a doctrinal tenet among the evangelistic environmentalists held in such awe by an idealistic generation. Living on an “overpopulated” planet, it is our moral duty to practice economic abstinence and self-denial, with hard-working “capitalists” being the bad guys. To save the planet, we need to disincentivize the work that leads to economic success and the wasteful materialism it spawns. Far from being virtuous, work is now the unforgivable sin!
For any parents feeling the pinch of spiraling prices amid a shrinking economy, it has to be asked whether they ever read to their children Aesop’s fable of the goose that laid the golden eggs. It’s a lesson about greed, of course, but it’s also an easily-missed lesson about socialism, which inexorably destroys a culture’s productive work ethic. For everyone to enjoy the good life, somebody has to be laying all those golden eggs! Perhaps with the coming recession, we’ll finally get the point that is becoming painfully clearer by the day: Not working is not working!
Beyond the economic realities, the absence of work is dehumanizing, robbing souls of the fulfillment and meaning which honest labor provides, and the grace that comes in sharing with those who are unable to work. So, “Shirkers of the world unite!” is it? Only if you don’t care what God himself has to say: “If a man won’t work, neither let him eat!”
F. LaGard Smith is a retired law school professor (principally at Pepperdine University), and is the author of some 35 books, touching on law, faith, and social issues. He is the compiler and narrator of The Daily Bible (the NIV and NLT arranged in chronological order).