What’s a Job Good For?

Read a great article today regarding work ethic, or the lack thereof, in the West:

Most people say that a job is good for making money. So, if you don’t need money, what’s the point? The fabled English aristocratic class of the late 19th and early 20th century apparently thought that way, if the caricatures painted by Jeeves and Wooster, Brideshead, and the like have any truth to them. Their main job was getting dressed and undressed. It seems like young Americans are thinking the same way.

Doug French drew my attention to some statistics from the Wall Street Journal on teenage employment that knocked me out. In 2000, slightly more than a third of 16- and 17-year-olds had jobs. Today, in 2011, it is 14 and 15 percent. These are shocking numbers. But in retrospect, I’ve seen enough anecdotal evidence to back them up.

I was speaking to a group of 200-plus high-school students (location I will not disclose) and I casually asked how many of them have worked in a retail environment, working directly with customers. Not a single hand went up. Shocked, I asked the question more broadly: how many have had a job that yielded a paycheck? Not a hand went up.

In talking to parents, it seems that a new attitude has taken hold among them. Their kids don’t work. They are in school. They should spend their extra time doing sports and studying. Work is for the lower classes. What’s to be gained? Putting the kids to work implies that the breadwinners in the household can’t provide for their offspring. What are they going to do with the money they earn anyway? Buy more iPhone apps?

And there’s also the problem of legal restrictions. Hardly any 16-year-old is worth the prevailing minimum wage, which has risen dramatically over the last five years. No employer would choose a teen over an adult willing to do the same job for $7.25 an hour. Also, schools require all kinds of permission slips — because of ghastly “child” labor laws — and what employer wants to jump through those hoops? And it is ever harder to fire people you hire so few are willing to take the risk of hiring kids in the first place.

There are vast opportunities today for independent contracting in the digital world, where no one cares about nonsense like age and minimum wage and the like. Ideally a kid would jump right in. But, without the character formation that leads people to acquire and profitably use skills, this isn’t going to happen in most cases. Becoming a digital self-starter is something that happens only once work habits are ingrained.

Faced with all these barriers, the culture has adapted. Since, as we know, no parent has ever made a bad choice for the life of their own beloved offspring, parents have just decided that working is for other people’s kids, not theirs.

And so fewer and fewer people know anything about the workplace. They will sit in desks and run around on fields until they are 24 years old and then present themselves, fully formed, to waiting employers who will proceed to cough up as a reward for staying in school.

Well, what’s the loss? Let’s talk about the loss by talking about what might be learned from a job that will go unlearned.

Source

Follow the link to read more.

This is a great article, and it brings up several good points.  To me, however, the primary one is that working in the private sector conditions the human mind for a life of service.  Rarely do you find a hard working person who, when faced with a true need for charity, will not seek to provide at least some level of help.

With the human mind being most easily conditioned through positive reinforcement, the act of providing a service for a future gain trains us that doing for others is a rewarding experience.

It is a great read, as is just about everything on that site.  You can receive updates from them via their Twitter feed:

http://twitter.com/#!/mises

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