Political Editors / January 24, 2022

In Brief: Don’t Work for a Living?

Ending the expectation for adults to work erases human dignity.

Democrats have long been the party of the so-called “safety net.” Ever since FDR and the New Deal, they’ve fostered the notion that government should benevolently provide. And ever since the “Great Society,” they’ve devalued work itself.

Patrick Garry, professor of law at the University of South Dakota, says that’s a deep problem.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the most crippling form of poverty was seen as the poverty of dignity. To read all the letters and diaries and recollections of the time is to see that the severe economic hardship caused by the loss of a job was often considered temporary and survivable. But what destroyed the human spirit — what petrified people the most — was a loss of dignity caused by the loss of work.

The generation of the Great Depression demonstrated that economic poverty did not permanently cripple, as long as human dignity survived. That kept alive a spirit of hope and will. When a person lost dignity, however, he lost everything. A loss of money is recoverable; a loss of dignity often is not.

The word dignity seems to have gone out of favor. Politicians, educators, and media commentators rarely use that word very much. They talk about income and rights and inequality and discrimination, but almost never dignity.

Work and dignity have historically gone together. Yet Democrats are undermining both.

Once seen as the party of working people, the Democratic Party has evolved into a party that considers work to be a burden, inconvenient, and even degrading. Such attitudes come out in the party’s shifted economic and social agendas.

That agenda includes the universal child tax credit payments last year that Democrats want to continue in perpetuity, untethered to work.

[Democrats’] dismissive attitude toward work perhaps explains why Democrats now struggle with the blue-collar and working-class vote. Democrats of course claim that these voters have become racist, but perhaps a more accurate reason they have left the party is because of Democrats’ degrading view of work.

The current leftist view of work has been solidifying for decades. Expanding the opportunities for work has increasingly taken a back seat to finding new protected categories of people and undermining social traditions. Indeed, the left’s focus seems to be on government benefit programs rather than job creation.

Perhaps, Garry says, that’s because Democrats want more and more people “ultimately dependent on government.” He concludes:

What is most troubling about the Democratic agenda and the liberal outlook is not the price tag of their social and economic programs. What is most troubling is how the left continually seeks to fundamentally transform American society and culture.

At the very center of society is the individual, but the left wants to remove the individual from that role; the left wants government at the center. One way to do that is to remove the ability of the individual to serve as an independent foundation of government and society.

Degrading the dignity of work will certainly achieve that goal. Then, once dignity is removed, and then work degraded, all individuals will indeed be alike — they will all be dependent on the government to tell them what “rights” they have and what “benefits” they will receive. Once that occurs, will there even be any questions as to how those government beneficiaries are to vote?

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