Sunday, December 11, 2011


"...the Occident's attitude toward work, so far from being natural and normal, is strange and unprecedented. It was the relatively recent emergence of this attitude which, as much as anything else, gave modern Western civilization its unique character and marked it off from all its predecessors.
In practically all civilizations we know of, and in the Occident too for many centuries, work was viewed as a curse, a mark of bondage, or, at best, a necessary evil. That free men should be willing to work day after day, even after their vital needs are satisfied, and that work should be seen as a mark of uprightness and manly worth, is not only unparalleled in history but remains more or less incomprehensible to many people outside the Occident."

This passage is from Eric Hoffer's tour de force, "The Ordeal of Change". Although the work is filled with nuggets of insight, this particular observation is important because it applies so directly to the aims of the welfare state. The concept of "working" and having a "job" is not a universal one, even in the Occident. There are many westerners that are quite satisfied to live at lower level of consumption if they can do so with a minimum of effort. Who is to say that they are wrong? And, at the same time, who is to say that the rest of society should subsidize their values? "Progressives" maintain that the "poor", whoever they might be, are victims in some Darwinian contest for economic supremacy, losers, through no fault of their own, in the game of life. The reality is that they're not playing the game and that the game's rules shouldn't apply to them.

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