Learn And Labor

I’ve been listening to Patricia Wentworth while I clean and twice in an audio book I’ve come across a character remembering her days of religious instruction, and a particular bit of instruction that I know I never got, and perhaps it was an Anglican thing, and an Anglican thing in the early twentieth century.

Apparently the beginning of the answer to “What is my duty to my neighbor” is to “To learn and labor truly to get my living.”

The idea – and the idea in the books that everyone had been taught this, that it was a fundamental, underlying, basic idea everyone that – that this was the duty of every human being TO THE OTHER HUMANS AROUND HIM/HER. “To learn and labor truly to get my living.”

Imagine that you thought that was your basic, underlying duty to humanity, and so did most people around you? Your religious duty. Something you did as you hoped for heaven?

The idea is almost mind-breaking in our current day, when people demonstrate because they can’t find a job despite their degrees in Women’s Studies or Puppetry. (Or at least can’t get a job that pays enough for them to live in the way they hope to become accustomed to.)

Because it is not the duty of society to provide you with a job in something you enjoy and find fun to learn/do. It is your duty to “learn and labor truly to earn your living.”

Another thing that wouldn’t happen would be politicos announcing that they just freed you from the tyranny of work, by either rendering your job very sincerely dead, or by making it possible for you to get all your ills taken care of. Because you’re not supposed to depend on other people unless you truly aren’t able to “learn and labor”.

No wonder people possessed of that idea built and extended a civilization that spawned the world and made daily life far more pleasant, healthier and longer for the average person.

One of the things in those books is that – though the class structure makes me insane – I’ve noticed that every good worker is considered important. So, if you have someone who is making up your fire, but they’re good at it, the girl (usually. Young) receives a sort of respect from those who hired her. She’s doing a good job, and so she is fulfilling what she’s supposed to do.

I think that’s part of what we lost when we lost the idea that learning/adapting/working is our duty. We lost the respect for our fellow men, no matter how menial their labor, who are doing it well enough to support themselves; well enough to remain employed. We lost the boundary between honest labor – and how many feel obliged to snicker at that? – and faking it. We’ve learned to respect people who do a shoddy job, but get to the top through tricks, seduction or misbehavior.

All because we lost the idea that it’s each person’s job to support himself – not society’s, not his friends’, not his parents, not his neighbor’s, but the individual’s himself.

Understand me. I’m not speaking out against charity. I’m not speaking out against giving someone a hand when they need it. And I’m certainly not speaking out against parents helping their children. One of the seeming motivations of being a parent is to try to make our children’s lives better than our own. (Not necessarily easier, but better.) We want them to be able to reach their dreams and get where they want to go.

But it is the children’s duty for each to learn and labor to get their own living. And it is our duty to be compassionate and look after those who can’t. We’ve come a long way since grandma in the ice floe. I’m not advocating going back there. The infirm and the old deserve our care just as we’d hope to get cared for in their situation. Trust me, I know (and if I didn’t I’d have learned it last year) that regardless of how much will power you have, there are physical and mental states in which you can’t perform even that which you’ve learned satisfactorily well enough to get your own living.

But the charity recipient should aim to return to making his own living as soon as possible. The idea of taking charity forever should rankle.

In the same way, if someone labors his entire life, doing very well at a humble job, never getting promoted or going anywhere in particular, but making enough to support himself, he’s performing his basic “duty to his neighbors.” But if he’s out there flipping houses with shoddy repairs, or making money in crooked deals, no matter how big, how important, how rich, he’s not worthy of our respect because he didn’t “labor truly.”

In that one precept is the cure for the lack of “meaning” in modern life. You don’t need to be striving for the pinnacle, and you don’t need to create anything astounding. The only thing you owe your “neighbors” is to do the best you can and not be a burden.

And in that precept is the cure for the illusions of our would-be aristos who think that to whom they were born, their contacts, the colleges they entered by virtue of influence and contacts, make them special. Since it’s less likely they’re learning and laboring TRULY, they’re worthy of less respect than those who attend humbler schools or work manual jobs but give it their all.

In this is the cure for the continuously extended hand and the whine of the would be artist. “I am making good art. People just don’t pay me.” Well, fine, then learn and labor to get your own living and do your art on the side. In this is the cure to the entire inversion where people expect society to provide for them, instead of trying to do their duty.

In this simple precept is pride and dignity. My grandmother used to talk about “the pride of honest work.” I think that’s what she meant. Once you get to night time, and you know you did the best you could, worked hard, and you got enough to keep you another day, you can sleep in peace.

You labored truly.

And you won’t be swayed by the siren call of those who tell you that someone else having more is somehow a crime against you; and you won’t even laugh – because it’s too weird for laughter – when a presidential spokesman says the loss of jobs due to an awful law will “free people to be poets.” I have nothing against poets. Poets who learn and labor and earn their own living can be admirable people. (Even if some are really bad poets.) But no one is entitled to be a poet, or an artist, or a cruise director, or a wedding planner, or for that matter a barista.

You need to earn your living – you need to do it, because otherwise you will be failing your duty to society – and it is on you to learn and labor to do it.

Now I know our job market has got twisted by all sorts of influences, and sometimes you can’t get a job at any price or in any way. If I stop making my living from writing, I’ll be up a creek as the last twenty years have nuked my resume. BUT if you find yourself in that situation, it is your duty to figure out a way to learn something that will allow you to at least try to support yourself. If nothing else, as Jerry Pournelle put it at the beginning of this mess, if you can’t find a job, and you can’t do anything else, make your surroundings really clean. It will give you a purpose, and who knows, maybe you’ll end up with something you can do.

Look – I’m not preaching. I’m the last person to. I’m talking to me as much as to the rest of you, because I’m prone to despondency and to seeing no way out of my predicament.

And sometimes there isn’t a solution. But if in our minds we think it is our duty to find a way; to keep trying to find a way, at the very least we’ll keep at bay the awful despondency that can rob us (me) of months or years when we could have been doing something.

Besides, one thing I’ve learned which is not quite “G-d helps those who help themselves” is that the more irons you have in the fire, the more likely one will get hot. Or as Kevin J. Anderson puts it – in his “popcorn theory of success” – if you put a lot of kernels in oil and turn up the heat under them, some are going to pop – and perhaps a lot will pop.

And if nothing does, at least we did our duty. We tried to fulfil our duty to our neighbor.

To learn and labor truly to get our living.

232 thoughts on “Learn And Labor

  1. Thank you for writing this post. I worked retail after I left school. I didn’t make enough to support myself but I made with help from my family. I’d been feeling low lately because I never was a pinnacle sort of person at work. However I worked my absolute hardest at work, even winning a couple of company awards. Since I’ve been married I haven’t worked outside the home, because I have been blessed to marry a man who can support us both . I have tried my hardest to support my husband and to take care of our home, as much as I can.

    Your post made feel that I am worthwhile because I am laboring truly, even though it isn’t in a monetary fashion.

    1. And your husband loves you and appreciates you for it. You have supported me even through the toughest times.

      “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain.…”
      Proverbs 3:10-11.

        1. Sad how seldom such is actually true, and sadder yet how no one seems able to teach the young how to make a relationship work over the long haul.

          1. One of my friends has been married over thirty years. Her son who is on his third wife asked her how she stayed married. She told him that lust fades with life, but friendship was forever. I know that my hubby is my best friend.

          2. The trick– is learning how love works at a young enough age to truly internalize it. I was always motivated to make long term relationships work, because I knew what love truly was. I was ahead of the game in friendship for the same reason. It saved my life, and though my path was a rocky one, I would not be where I am today had I not had that gift. All too often, love is a thing that happens, not a thing that is worked for.

            1. I married late but I had a good model of marriage in my parents. Also I had thought about marriage in those days when I was single.

              1. I knew from the beginning that marriage was to a person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. I guess not fitting in to NYC’s glamour culture was a blessing in disguise. It made me think of who I was and who I wanted to marry. I always knew that marriage was something you worked at.

                I tend to give up easily on projects but Steve wouldn’t let me give up our marriage. So now we have worked our way through things, and we hope to be together as long we shall both live.

  2. Amen and amen and amen. I’ve had some truly awful jobs in the past, will probably have a few more before I die, but while I have the strength and ability to work, I will not take charity if I can work for my bread and basic needs. That much self respect I have and hope I always will.

  3. Great post. I have also worked some truly awful jobs, basically being a human robot while often being the smartest person on the work site. My father taught me at an early age to work hard and do a go job, that accepting a job is a contract. And you can always look for something else while working. It’s a lot easier on you psyche than looking for a job while you’re unemployed and the bills are piling up, as is the threat of eviction. I saw last year where there were hundreds of thousands (or was it millions?) or good paying technical jobs in this country that go unfilled because everyone is looking for a college degree and a sit down job. Because people in this country look down on so called manual labor. I know once when I worked as a counselor in a mental health center, a so called professional position, one of my clients, a Schizophrenic, worked as a welder and made twice as much as I did. He definitely had nothing to be ashamed of.

    1. Sean Hannity has been bringing employers from the oil fields on his radio show, looking for workers. Very few of those jobs require formal education (some require experience, or pay better for experienced workers), but the pay is good and workers are in demand.

      1. That’s the complaint I’m hearing from job seekers is that yes, there are manufacturing and/or computer jobs available – if you have enough training and certifications that you are probably already employed. (Don’t get me started on the companies that won’t accept applications from those who are not currently a full-time employee elsewhere.)

        1. I have spent some hours poking around in ads looking for that kind of work — not for me, but trying to help a Korean immigrant I know who used to do ad layout for one of the many Korean-language local newspapers that were common here in Dallas (and AIUI in LA and elsewhere), ended up working retail when newspaper ad revenue (and newspapers) dried up, and ought to be able to do better. Companies seldom make it very easy to come in from the outside and figure out what’s important about the job; few companies even make it clear which jobs are well paid. I don’t know how much of this is cluelessness or insincerity on the companies’ part and how much is clueful companies trying to thread a maze of written employment law and of employment-lawsuit caselaw, but it is considerably trickier than it sounds for someone who’s smart and motivated to work to find work of this sort.

          The reason I raise insincerity as a possibility is that current employment law creates a bunch of strange incentives, both directly on the hiring companies and also indirectly through its effects on things they used to depend on, like recommendations from previous employers. It wouldn’t surprise me much to find that many companies end up disproportionately hiring people who already have informal contacts among their employees, perhaps so disproportionately that they aren’t very motivated to make the formal process more than a clumsy afterthought. They could realize that this choice is expensive (paying a premium and accepting hiring delays and other friction by doing so) and still rationally choose to continue, because without the old institutional arrangements (true employment at will, letters of recommendation, etc.) the costs of taking chances on people that aren’t preselected and vetted informally can easily be even higher than the costs of fishing only from a small pool. I don’t know enough about the situation to guess how common this is, or how rational it might be, but it seems like a relatively plausible reason why coping with company hiring websites generally doesn’t feel anything like going to the website of a company that is unconflicted about selling something.

          1. As far as “finding new people” goes, the main job of the Human Resources Department is to “weed out” people not to “bring in” people. Sadly, from what I’ve heard, HR weeds out people who can do the job but don’t have the proper “buzz words”.

              1. You also get ads asking for five years experience with Program v. 5.0 — that version having been released three months ago.

                1. Some of those come from companies setting up H1-B visa filings by claiming no one applied with qualifications for a job.

                  1. I’d modify that to a LOT of this being H1B driven – I’ve watched this from the hiring manager side in high tech, and it’s pretty much rampant.

                2. Or worse yet, where the applicant knows about what is needed for the job, the employer asks for those requirements, BUT when the rubber meets the road, they *do not* want the job done, but for the worker to PRETEND to do the job. Tech support is like that. I love helping people, and explaining technical things to laypeople. That’s no good reason to become tech support, because what they want you to do is make people go away as quickly as possible, whether the problem is solved or not. Solving problems truly, and getting someone to understand– takes a certain amount of time. But cherry pickers get all the glory, and real customer service is shunned for inefficiency.

                  1. Some of those companies’ customers end up becoming my family’s customers because of that (we do small business and consumer technology). We make it a point to do the job right, to make sure that their problems are taken care of, and to do our best to anticipate what might come up.
                    It makes me CRAZY to see the kind of slipshod work that some people do. I found out today that a significant bug in one customer’s website back end was a known issue. Apparently the customer had already brought it up to the vendor who built the software, and that scum-sucker responded “You didn’t think you’d get free support forever did you?” That was his screw up that needed to be fixed, and he thought the customer was expecting too much! *rages incoherently for a moment* Now we’re being hired to fix the screw ups and add missing functionality. I’m grateful to have the customers that such people lose, but it’s infuriating to see their idiocy.

                  2. Right you are, fontofworlds. I used to work for a large company in which Customer Service division had a problem with call center workers just concentrating on their “numbers” rather than actually solving the customer’s problems. The company eventually had to introduce a new metric which would triple penalize the operator if a customer came back with the same (or similar) problem within a certain period (sliding scale depending on the type of problem). That didn’t completely solve the problem, but it sure helped a lot. Incentive, you know.

                  3. As others have said, depends on the motivation. I work for a fairly large company – the internal IT help desk is like that, will close a help request ticket as soon as possible, or a little sooner. But our particular local division has a tech support group that works directly with customers, and our division has always been extremely customer-focused – you’re unlikely to get away from them until they’re sure you have a solution AND a better understanding!

            1. This, on top of putting more than is necessary in the list of job requirements, which turns any number of people away who are actually qualified, and lets the B.S.-ers who talk a good game through, and they find out later that the person they hired couldn’t find their butt with both hands in real-world work.

              1. The advantage of working for a startup is that we don’t have an HR department who will put roadblocks in place. In particular I don’t think there is much we do that needs a degree and one current candidate we are looking at hiring doesn’t have one. He looks to be far better qualified than the guy we hired (briefly) who had a piece of paper stating he had a degree in an apparently relevant subject.

                I will say that while we may (and do) advertise for jobs, the people we have successfully hired have all been people who we know (or who people we know/trust) recommend.

                1. I’ve also heard that some companies have an HR department that puts out “job ads” but the actual hiring isn’t done through the HR department. The resumes received by HR are more for the government snoops than for actual hiring.

                  1. What should someone do who does not know well how to meet people, and can mainly fill out HR applications do?

                    1. Don’t ask me. That was part of my problem in job hunting. [Sad Smile]

                2. Ah, but what happens when a disparate impact suit comes down the pike?

                  Naturally, the degreed have exempted degrees from impact requirements, so employers use them as proxies, however imperfect.

                  What we need is a new educational requirement: no lawyer, judge, legislator, president, or governor can serve without having passed Statistics 101.

                  1. What we need is a new educational requirement: no lawyer, judge, legislator, president, or governor can serve without having passed Statistics 101.
                    Ah, a dreamer.

            2. I am not much of a fan of HR either, but I don’t think HR consistently having too much organizational power explains the difficulty of chasing down the reported entry-level jobs which pay well enough to make it worth moving to an area like where the Eagle Ford shale is. Occasionally I see entry-level and moderate-pay-lots-of-travel-required jobs advertised by accident (in fast food restaurants, on the backs of long-haul trucks) and a fair fraction of those seem to be serious about telling the candidate what the candidate wants to know. Taco Bell certainly has a significant HR organization, and almost certainly trucking companies do too (or at least have some more-arms-length outsourcing arrangement). My impression was that the oilfield job information tended to be less useful — little to reliably put my finger on, especially working from year-old memories, but enough to make me feel that these companies are curiously bad at hiring people off the street compared to Taco Bell hiring unskilled staff or J. Random Trucking Co. hiring new commercial drivers.

              1. Nod, it likely varies depending on what sort of job you’re looking for. From my experience (and from conversations with co-workers) HR does an extremely poor job recruiting Data Processing people.

                I’m sure Kate Paulk could give some recent horror stories involving HR and Data Processing. Her “day job” is as a DP tester.

        2. Where I work, it’s extremely costly to hire someone who doesn’t work out. HR knows this and insists on all the paper qualifications. But we know it, too, and it’s rare we hire someone we haven’t throughly vetted through the old boys’ network. Fortunately, we’ve been able to do this while maintaining a workforce composition with the proper percentages of women and minorities — another gotcha.

          Well, sort of able. My team is actually shorthanded. Do y’all know any experts in radiation transport who are also proficient at programming massively parallel computers? No? Shucks.

          1. I don’t know. Do you want a summer intern? Don’t irradiate him too much. He’s 19, he is a born engineer and (important) he’s good at improvising cr*p… And sometimes good stuff too.

          2. My husband knows lots of IT folks but I don’t think that any of them know radiation handling. I presume that they must be willing to relocate to CO?

          3. Ah, that “radiation transport” would be the physics of radiation working its way out of sun’s core … and other high energy physics “events”, would it not?

              1. Heh. No experience in transport, but ex steam plant nuke for the navy, so some relevant training and reactor space experience. No massive cluster experience, but handy with Linux and a few other OS’s, networking experience, AD experience, VM experience, and years as a small biz consultant.

                Been a bit busy to keep up on IT-related certs, or similar “BS” degrees…. so working for anyplace with an HR department dedicated to certs is unlikely.

    2. I saw last year where there were hundreds of thousands (or was it millions?) or good paying technical jobs in this country that go unfilled because everyone is looking for a college degree and a sit down job.

      One thing to keep in mind with the “empty job” statistics is that they are frequently messed up by folks who don’t want to hire Americans– I don’t know why, I just know that I really wish I could find where I posted my research into a big “we need illegals” article where some place in Northern California fulfilled their required “we advertised and nobody showed up, let us import workers” requirement by advertising in San Diego.
      For seasonal jobs.
      With no housing.
      With no transport up.

      Yeah… let’s see how many people are going to move to the far end of the state to pick strawberries!

      If they do something that obvious in a piece displayed as a shining example, what happens in the ones that even supporters think are kinda shady?

  4. Having paid my student loans working fast food, and then having been a house husband for the last eighteen years, I often wonder if I live up to this standard.

      1. I’m stuck halfway through the other articles you “ordered” me to write up– you want I should start one on the economic value of running a household? With and without kids?

    1. Somebody has to be at home and do the domestic stuff. If your wife earns more and you stay home and take care of her and the house(kids if any), you measure up.

      1. Yes, one person staying home and taking care of home and children is far more stable than a two-income household, and a better place for children to be. While this position has traditionally been held mostly by women, it’s not any kind of hard and fast rule.

        In fact, had I not been dating someone at the time, I would have probably answered a personal ad looking for a house-husband that showed up in the local paper.

        1. Thanks for all the kind words. Intellectually, I know you are correct, but I sometimes have a hard time believing it.

    2. I was one once, a _lot_ of years ago. Took care of the house, the children, and the cooking while my wife was off at her second shift (3 pm – 11 pm) job. Never felt “lessened” by the experience, and don’t think I’d trade it in for anything else, either.

  5. I don’t know that I lost that idea, in theory. In practice…

    Not leaving grandma on an ice floe is partly a matter of surplus wealth, calories available to feed those that who cannot get a positive caloric ROI.

    We still have much surplus now, but it is not clear to me that this always must be the case.

    It certainly isn’t clear while there are so many chipping away industriously at the margins.

    1. If you want to know the wealth of a society, look at the pet food aisle. Poor societies don’t have pets, their animals are all working ones. Our society, on the other hand, not only has enough surplus wealth to support pets, we actually have obese pets. In fact, we have enough surplus wealth to afford special, more expensive, foods for our obese pets.

      There is a lot of ruin left in this nation.

      1. In my town not only do we have pet salons, we even have a bakery just for dogs or as they term it: a barkery.

        1. That’s why I agree with Sarah that we aren’t going to see a Mad Max style breakdown of society. That level of subsitence savagery requires the destruction of far too much wealth. Absent a nuclear exchange it can’t happen before people notice and start doing something different.

          1. It will probably something how my dad’s experiences in the Depression, I think if we have a social breakdown/really bad financial situation experiences will vary greatly throughout the country.

      2. I did a poorer jobs of writing that then I’d thought. The first sentence and a fraction is intended intended to be about the main thrust of the article, with the rest covering a separate topic. (I decided that expanding the first bit properly meant discussing more of my poor choices than I felt comfortable with.)

        I’m not saying there isn’t a fair amount of ruin left.

        I think wealth is volatile to some degree. To continue to exist in the future, there must be people making a profit by their efforts. If nothing else, even with a good means of storage, a worthless generation will squander some of it.

        The key is the future generations. Using a functional society as a framework to poison the minds of the younger cohort long enough to cause a fair amount of wealth destruction seems quite feasible. See, USSR, or Kipling’s The Dykes.

        It’d be very interesting if something caused lesions that interfered with ‘noticing’ and ‘doing something different’, while leaving a person to casual examination apparently mentally competent and fit to vote.

        Those kids I’ve personally known seem all right. That said, I don’t exactly meet an even distribution across all society. If the next generations are raised with a clear enough distinction between squandering populations and productive populations, perhaps the formation of factions could be bad enough for a really destructive civil war.

        When comes to forecasting this sort of thing, I think my official position is ‘I dunno’.

  6. I see the USA over the last few decades devolving into an increasingly class-stratified society. Those Harvard law school and politically connected types are the new aristocracy. The local and state government types, and wealthy business people who seek to hobnob with and donate to the aristos, are the new middle class — given lip service as quite necessary and publicly treated quite politely, yet quietly scorned by the aristos. The people who actually make the world work — from burger flippers to plumbers (a holy calling if there is any such) to engineers to entrepreneurs, some of them quite extensively credentialed, some not — are the new servant class, and are treated as though to acknowledge their necessity in the world is shameful. The people of the welfare culture are the pets of the aristos, sometimes given attention and baby-talk “love” and ignored when inconvenient.

    I’ve been watching the old TV series Upstairs Downstairs. There is the occasional scene in which a servant is interacting with a middle-class person and the shame laid upon the servant is palpable and infuriating. I find myself feeling that way more frequently lately about things I see around me in the here-and-now.

    1. And they all have degrees. Which is why it is illegal to test your prospective employees if it has “disparate impact” in the eyes of someone who never took statistics, but perfectly legal to require a degree as an imperfect proxy.

  7. Actually, it’s near the end of a Catechism question:

    Question. What is thy duty towards thy Neighbour?
    Answer. My duty towards my Neighbour is To love him as myself, and to do to all men as I would they should do unto me: To love, honour, and succour my father and mother: To honour and obey the civil authority: To submit myself to all my governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and masters: To order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters: To hurt nobody by word or deed: To be true and just in all my dealings: To bear no malice nor hatred in my heart: To keep my hands from picking and stealing, and my tongue from evil speaking, lying, and slandering: To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and chastity: Not to covet nor desire other men’s goods; But to learn and labour truly to get mine own living, And to do my duty in that state of life unto which it shall please God to call me.


    1. Okay — the way Wentworth quoted it, it made me feel it was at the beginning because in one case “to hurt nobody by word or deed” came after, and in another “To bear no malice or hatred in my heart” but since the character was either dreaming or remembering, it’s easy for it to be out of order.

      1. A lot of leftists get huffy about it. This is partly because they misquote the last line as “And to do my duty in that state of life unto which it HAS PLEASED God to call me.” Indeed, a lot of people do.

        Sophy of Kravonia is not a patch on Prisoner of Zenda, but it does have one marvelous scene, when the kitchen girl is reciting to the young master of the house how she had learned her catechism, and the cook had misquoted it to her, so the young master corrects her, she goes and looks it up — for the first time reading for herself rather than accepting the cook’s recitation — and then recites it correctly.

        Would it surprise anyone to learn she doesn’t remain a kitchen girl?

    2. Whether or not you believe in God, that seems to be most excellent advice on the best way to live ones life. The one thing it doesn’t have is responsibility for ones “inferiors” except as an implied part of “do my duty in that state of life which it shall please God to call me”. Admittedly the catechism is primarily intended for children/teenagers who can be assumed to not have any inferiors but it’s an interesting lack.

  8. Hard work is undervalued these days. Most folks are looking for the path of least resistance.

    Before he died, my father told me a story of the Great Depression. The family had sold the farm in Iowa and moved to Los Angeles, but there were no jobs. So, one day he went and stood in line with the day laborers to go pick crops. When the truck that picked them up got to the farm, the foreman told him to get back on the truck because he wasn’t going to be able to do the work – it was too hard and he’d be too slow. My dad refused to leave and so they put him to work. He wasn’t as fast as the rest, but he worked as hard as he could. By the middle of the day, he had earned some respect from the other workers to the point that they were showing him tips to go faster. At the end of the day, the foreman shook his hand and told him he could come back the next day.

    By the end of the picking season, he was made foreman and thus began a 40+ year career in agriculture. I guess it is no surprise that I was raised with those same values and have done my best to pass those on to my children. Working hard is not restricted to just your dream job.

    1. As a teenager I worked on a truck farm picking vegetables. While the owners were happy to hire any of the local kids, and a few of the kids would come change irrigation, I was the only non-Mexican that worked every day picking vegetables. If you look in the dictionary under back-breaking labor there will be a picture of a guy bending over picking crook-neck squash. But I was doing honest work and making honest money. When I wanted something I could buy it with my money (or decide it wasn’t worth that much of my hard-earned money), not go ask my parents for it.

    2. And there are times when even your dream job isn’t. I always wanted to be a writer and I love writing, but during one of the absolute low points in my career/our finances, I took in work for hire writing other people’s proposals for them — some of which went on to sell for more than I’ve ever made in this business — and I wrote treatments of people’s memoirs, and I wrote… seventeen proposals, some of which for things I really didn’t want to write. And when one of those — plain Jane, the story of Jane Seymour, third queen of Henry VIII — sold, I wrote it (in three days.) I also wrote short stories for every antho that asked, enough to make 5k in short stories, at an average of 250 a story.
      Even your dream job is not a dream when you’re cranking out wordage by the yard. BUT we paid on two houses; we didn’t go under and things got better — and I was if not supporting my family, contributing to it. There is satisfaction in that.

      1. Not all “dream jobs” are as dreamt to be. Most people don’t dream of cowboys having piles, ballerinas with sore feet or firefighters with hay fever.

        1. Or that developing “cool tech” involves staying up until 3 am to find the bug that keeps the “cool tech” from actually delivering something useful….

          1. And “being a writer” involves writing books about dead English Queens, even when you don’t want to… And even while you’re sick, and even while you still have to do most stuff around the house because you don’t make enough to pay someone to.

      2. Also, someone once astutely observed that when your hobby becomes your job, you need a new hobby. He had gotten into comics, and as a consequence, could not read comics with the same innocent, uncritical eye as he once had.

        1. My issue is that I’m weak. No, really weak. I will start reading a different genre for fun when I start writing that one for work… and then I get an idea….

  9. I don’t recall it being religious teaching (protestant, so no catechism) but I was definitely raised to believe this. To respect a man who does an honest days work for an honest days pay, and not to respect the man who looks for a handout rather than a job.

    1. My understanding is that this was the difference between a bum and a hobo; the bum wanted something for nothing, but the hobo was offering to work in exchange for food and shelter. Before the age of tractors, farming involved a lot of weeding, as in “chopping cotton” with a hoe. Since tools were scarce, it was easier to get employment if one had one’s own hoe. That’s why in the 1930’s cartoon hobos ( a contraction of “hoe boys”) were shown to be carrying their possessions in a bundle hung from a stick carried over their shoulder; the stick was a hoe, and it proclaimed their willingness to work for their supper.

      Here at Windward, we use a similar analytic tool to sort out those who want to work from those who are merely “interested in sustainable community”; a shovel : )

  10. Amen and amen.

    This is a problem on both ends – the problem of those who consider themselves the elites looking down in condescension, pity, and a bit of vain satisfaction, and the problem of those who are on the bottom looking up with envy and coveting. And the messages society is sending don’t help a whole lot.

    But honest labor… that’s something I’ve been working hard on, trying to give good value to my employer, to my family, and to my community. Not that I think I’m anywhere close to achieving it, but at least I’m working on it.

  11. The quote seems to be from Sir F. Bacon:
    “Men seem neither to understand their riches nor their strength; of the former they believe greater things than they should; of the latter much less. Self-reliance and self-denial will teach a man to drink out of his own cistern, and eat his own sweet bread, and to learn and labor truly to get his living, and carefully to expend the good things committed to his trust.”

    Also, Patrick Henry quoted it as something his dad and uncles (Anglican officials– good call) taught him.

    1. He’s quoting from the catechism of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Your search failed because the original is “mine own living” not “his living”

      1. I didn’t use that part– I figured the phrase “to learn and labor” would be the least likely to get fiddled with, because of the poetry of it…and because I know that Bing! will add or remove a U or E for olde spelling. 😀

        Looks like the Bacon quote isn’t him quoting the BoCP, although he is doing a riff on it; I only found two or three searchable versions with the phrase even with variations on the proper name– thank you for the source.


        Isn’t the internet awesome?!? Folks can get curious, find centuries old quotes that allude to something folks then would’ve gotten, and then find out what was alluded to while *jumps up to save kid computer from yearling son* doing household work! (Never mind actually having TIME to fiddle around while still getting household work done, or “household work” being limited to comfortable inside work plus shopping. I love my time!)

      2. I found it by the “station in life” stuff, since I suspect it was originally from the catechism. 0:)

  12. Let us, then, be up and doing,
    With a heart for any fate ;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
    Learn to labor and to wait.

    But not wait with folded hands for someone to hand us the winning lottery ticket. (Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life”. The rest has been tapped by one too many motivational posters for my taste, but I always remember the last stanza.) Or as one of my favorite “dichos” or proverbs translates: “Praying devoutly while hammering stoutly.”

    1. Let me strive, every moment of my life, to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, that all may profit by it.
      Let me think of the right, and lend all my assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice.
      Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage.
      Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens and my associates in everything I say and do.
      Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.

  13. I understand this post was NOT pointed at people who cannot take care of themselves or have diseases that keep them housebound like myself. So here goes–

    Before my illness I had worked in the home business, cleaning, restaurant business (money went to the parents), and then when I left home I worked typesetting, retail, and then the Navy. There was no time in my life until I became ill that I wasn’t working and paying my way. When I realized after two years of the disease, several infusions, infections, and doctors that if I worked in a normal job around other people, I would die much earlier because of my immune suppressed system. I did work a forty-hour job for about six months (loans) while taking chemo and I went downhill rapidly while I was working. Others with my disease have been able to work sometimes. The problem is we look healthy so it is assumed that we are lazy. I have dealt with that for the last ten years. When I finally told my doctor that my self-esteem was tied up in working, he told me that my self-esteem (and the need to provide money) would kill me.

    So I was going to work while my hubby retired, thankfully he decided to keep working– and we have not had to take charity except for the time when I had to be watched 24 hours a day during my first year.

    So this duty to care for yourself is a particular sting for me because I have had to learn to be dependent. It makes me pretty angry when I watch 20 year olds being taken care of by the government (HUD housing, food stamps, etc) because they chose to be drug addicts. They don’t work and they are disrespectful to those who have worked and are older. They think we are chumps.

    Writing has been a hobby of mine for years. I do want to make a little money with it– I do make enough to pay for my meds. I am still on chemo btw and will be the rest of my life. It does a number on the brain. Plus I don’t have the energy to keep the house clean except for a few chores. My hubby knows this– so we do the best we can. I wish– how I wish I could go back to the days when I could still do my duty.

    1. I’d say you ARE doing your duty by doing what you can (writing, what chores you have energy for) as you are able. And you husband knows that. It’s like a friend of mine’s husband, who fell and shattered his leg, then had to have the repair repaired. He couldn’t work, or do chores, or cook because of how he’d been casted. What he could do was go through “mumbelty mumbelty years” (his words, not mine) of household and family paperwork, sorting, thinning, and getting their papers up to date. He says that shredding old (20+ year) tax returns by hand is therapeutic.

        1. Thank you– I have tried to write technical manuals (in fact I did), but the certain organizations that took them refused to pay. They made it sound like I donated my work (why would I do that?) so I had no recourse (other problems as well). So I don’t do that anymore… Show me the money has been my mantra to other organizations and they won’t so I don’t. 😉 I get bitten twice– if I get bitten again then I need to have my head examined.

          1. Cyn, do you have *anything* that shows even an implied promise of payment. If you do, you do have recourse, under State and Federal Wage Hour laws.

            1. Well, they had a lawyer and a group of people who made everything disappear– plus my husband worked for the division– I could have gotten the person who asked to work to be my witness, but at the time she would have lost her job too. I chalked it up to NEVER write for the State again without a contract written and signed. I started the work before the contract was signed because it needed to be done. Never again.

          2. There are some online outlets that will guarantee you get paid (they take a small cut). The one I have experience working with is Elance, but I’ve heard good things about Odesk as well. Not to put pressure on you, of course – do as you like, naturally! Just throwing that out there in case it’s something you want to do but feel unsafe pursuing.

            1. Thanks — I haven’t tried Elance and Odesk. I have written on a couple of online sites that turned into content farms. Yes, wasn’t the greatest experience and the money was good at first and then went downhill from there.

    2. None of this is aimed at you. You aren’t healthy enough to work, or as you say, working with others will kill you.

    3. For the concept of duty to have meaning, it must be doable. There can be no duty to do the impossible. I doubt that you have failed in your duty in any major way, although your conception of duty may be too rigourous.

      1. Yes– I come from a rigorous family that expected the impossible and were impossible. I have actually relaxed those standards a lot– 😉

  14. I think this resonates with what Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) is about very well.

    For myself, I’m not a person who fares very well in manual labor jobs, though I did them for 15 years before I could get a technical job. I won’t claim to have been the hardest worker in many of them, because they were simply mind-numbing, but I certainly made a good effort to do my job and do it well and completely.

    1. I’m a big fan of Mike. In addition to Dirty Jobs he does the voice overs for that Alaskan crab fishing show and I think several others. He’s been traveling the country giving talks on the value of careers in the trades, skilled work outside of college degrees.
      Personally speaking, I hold my AAR welding certification in every bit as high regard as my BS and MS in engineering. Maybe more so as 90% of the degree work was simply regurgitating back what the professors wanted to hear. Welding quarter inch steel plate in the four standard orientations and having them tested to destruction for penetration and uniformity, now passing that was something to take pride in.

      1. Another big Mike fan here.

        There’s a youtube interview with Reason magazine where he actually utters the “heresy” that perhaps we’re too focused on college degrees – especially for the many needed jobs that simply don’t need that – and that we’re saddling kids with too much debt for too little return.

        I loathe HR. The listing of requirements to get a job these days often includes the impossible (the aforementioned 5 years of experience in something that’s been out 5 months). Or the unlikely – as in anyone with those credentials was making 5 times that elsewhere. Certification creep is an abomination.

        Can you work? Are you willing to work? Are you willing to take initiative but not be a asshole egotist about it when questioned on your choices?

        Hell, we wrote up a list of job requirements for a new hire (for us, personally). College degree, or “IT” certs like MCSE/etc. weren’t on the list. Things like “learned a programming language because I thought it would be interesting” and “put together my own computer” were.

  15. If I were asked, I’d say that the entire concept of “duty” is pretty much gone, as a cultural value. It’s not taught, it’s not enforced, and there’s limited or no social penalty paid for not fulfilling it.

    What conception of “duty” there is left seems to be primarily focused on what others owe you, as opposed to what you owe them. Entitlement is taught the way duty used to be, and the catechism most kids are brought up with seems to focus solely on what they’re “owed” by society, as opposed to what they owe society.

    This seems to be a feature of left-wing ideology. They start out with the idea of “social duty”, and the first generation of socialists usually includes some concept of the Stakhanovite. Subsequent generations lack that “owes others” thing, and focus more on what we could term “owed to me” issues. Which, I fear, is why most socialist experiments fail in the later generations.

    1. I hate the use of entitlement as it is being used today. It combines the “I bought this pension plan/insurance/medical plan/whatever, and by contract I am entitled to . . . ” with “I hate work, got a baby, I’m entitled to government money” usage. Just because the biggest pension plan is mandated by the government doesn’t mean that the people who pay in are not entitled to the promised pay out at retirement. We need a new word for one situation or the other, to keep the arguments clear, and keep the Progressive from muddying the waters by playing with words.

      Duty has also been twisted. We now have a duty to support others, not ourselves. Who knows what twist “responsiblity” will get in the next few years. The concept of “personal responsibility” is already alien to too many people.

    2. The concept of “Duty” remains in the culture, if slightly mutated. There is your “duty” to comply with government requirements of the “bend-over-and-spread-’em” sort, there is your “duty” to “take it like a man” so shut your mouth and there remains your “duty” to atone for all the sins of Creation.

      Primarily, “duty” is now your obligation to the State and its pets.

  16. Sarah, I think that you and the quotation you are basing the point on, are sort of skirting past the main point here… you have stumbled upon an important distinction. Yes, it is important to learn to labor truly to support yourself. That conveys well the idea that you are not to rely upon your neighbors (or your nation, which is only your neighbors in aggregate) to support your basic needs, that you have to contribute your own labor to society.

    That’s a near-universal principle. Even Marxists believe it (“from each according to their ability…”), though their socialist descendents have found it is easier to buy votes if you don’t require people to work.

    The problem is value. The women’s studies major who can’t find a job is, at least in theory, willing to work. She’s looking for a job, after all. The problem is, she studied something in college that interested her personally but is utterly useless to the vast majority of people. She thinks that being willing to work is enough. It’s not.

    It is necessary to be willing to work at something valued by others. It doesn’t matter how personally fulfilling it is spend all day thinking shouting about the oppression of the patriarchy; if no one is willing to pay for you to do it, you may have “learned to labor truly” but your labor is still worthless.

    In order to fully support yourself, you have to either live as a hermit, meeting all your own needs without relying on charity… or pay attention to the needs of others, so that the labor you perform has value.

    1. And part of it — what I tried to say, is that if you start from “I want to do something that fulfills me” you’re not “learning to get your own living.”
      Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to combine what you like to do — unless what you like to do is something like vandalize property and even then, there’s a local guy who advertises he will graffiti dull walls, and seems to be making a living — and what you’re good at with what others will pay for. It’s that you have to think about what others will pay for.
      Maybe what I really would like to do – it’s not, but it could be – is write poetry that combines five languages. But if it were I’d look at it, see there was no market outside government support and — if I’d been raised with this principle — realize that wasn’t “laboring to get my own living” and sidestep into something that might, like writing stories.

      1. One of the reasons that I started writing stories is that I couldn’t see anyway to support myself through poetry– I can’t quit writing it though– it sneaks up on my and hits me over the head when I am writing something else.

              1. Ah! So, unlike smoking which will give you cancer if you don’t quit, writing will give you … other harms… if you do quit!

                1. I believe writing is much like tobacco addiction, the greatest harms are usually those dealt to the people who have the misfortune of having to associate with the withdrawing addict.

      2. Mike Rowe gave one of the Few TED talks really worth a damn on the devaluation of work. One core item that came up (paraphrased) was that “follow your dreams” was some of the worst advice he’d ever gotten.

        1. I saw that talk on youtube. Work isn’t a great adventure or they wouldn’t call it work. It’s a way to earn your living and keep body and soul together.

      3. By “I want to do something that fulfills me” I mean “something that fills my banking account with $ and my pantry with food.” Spiritual fulfillment, intellectual fulfillment, emotional fulfillment are not critical parts of the equation, they are optional elements which you can achieve outside of your work.

    2. Another way of putting it is that to truly earn one’s living, one has to be able and willing to serve others. Too much focus on what one is owed blinds you to the needs of others and keeps you from seeing where you can help (even if it’s to provide an entertaining read that doesn’t make you want to throw a book against a wall).

  17. Our society has moved away from adult concepts like duty and honor because those involve doing things that are unpleasant, or at least don’t feel good. We have instead embraced childish values like fairness because being a child is easy and Easy is Holy. Children also need caretakers, and that dovetails nicely with the desires of those who live to tell other people what to do.

    It cannot go on, and when it comes to an end there will be the world’s largest (and bloodiest) temper tantrum. The only question is if there are enough adults around to clean up the mess at the end.

    1. Child only so long as it’s fun. If we decided, for instance, that the children have to live where they’re told, eat what they’re told, and do what they’re told, then the tantrum starts.

      1. Between Obamacare, government dietary advice (which is probably largly responsible for the obesity epidemic), and other government regulations, we’ve pretty much his the latter two, and I think we’re a couple of large scale natural disasters away from the first one.

        But I think the trigger for the tantrum will be when Daddy Government finally says he can’t afford to buy the pony.

        1. Daddy Government will never say that. Daddy Government will say, “Those people over there refuse to help you. They forced you to work for their riches, and now they won’t give back your fair share. Make them hand it over.”

          And after things get worse, “those people” will be another group. Then another.

  18. I miss laboring truly. Alas, my employer transferred me into a niche where I’m churning out BS instead of producing actual value. It pays better than doing engineering, and my wife and kids don’t deserve the suffering that walking away would inflict on them. So I’m marking time while I keep an eye out for better options.

  19. Should the muse ever desert you Sarah you might consider taking back up technical translating to tide you over. I know you say you’ve lost a lot of your language skills, but I suspect they would return with a little brushing up.
    An old friend since passed on retired from NASA contract work and opened up a little company doing exactly that. Was very successful at it too, to the point of turning work down due to being constantly over worked. His ongoing complaint was finding those rare individuals with the right combination of technical knowledge, ability to write legibly, and facility with both English and the target language. Or for that matter another language into English.
    Very useful and lucrative skill, at least in a few places like Huntsville.
    Did I mention the high today is forecast to reach 78 degrees F?
    Or that we have open carry, shall issue CCW, and are considering allowing legal carry of loaded firearms in vehicles?
    And that Libertycon is a two hour drive from my doorstep?
    Leaving Sillynoise 30 years ago was a very good decision on my part if I do say so myself.

    1. Stop! You’re making me homesick for Alabama. I do like Plano much better than Montgomery.

      1. Plano, TX, to be clear – since the gentleperson had just mentioned Sillynoise…

        Raining here just east of Plano this morning. Not enough to break the lawn-watering restrictions, but enough to make for a nice morning.

        Texas has problems, sure, but they are bearable with a little “true” attention. 12F winter mornings, 110F summer days — really no biggie, they average out. Really! Right-to-work state, no state income tax, actively resistant at the State Government level when it comes to Federal Government over-reaching. Reduced classroom time for CCF permits, and we’ve got folks working on open-carry.

        BUT one has to learn some degree of toleration for other idiocies (Rick Perry and cronies resistance to actual investment in infrastructure such as a RATIONAL water management plan currently high on my personal radar…) It helps if all y’all who move down this way learn to speak Southern if not Texan (mine happens to carry an Okie accent, but my old choral teacher said my whole class sang Latin with an Okie accent, so…).

        And DFW has at least a decent share of pretty good fannish cons.

        1. Thanks for making my statement clear. I didn’t know that we lived so close. Which town are you in if you care to say?

          1. Emily, I’m just across the town line in Murphy. And yup, somebody has offered one of the last horse ranches for sale there along FM544, off toward the SuperTarget and all that retail space …

  20. Part of the problem these days is that the “help your fellow man” precept has been twisted to become “support government, which will help your fellow man”. Not only does that create many of the problems that we’re all too aware of, but it helps to devalue the value of personal involvement (as in, showing up and helping out instead of just writing a check). During the 2012 election campaign, I saw at least one comment posted on-line deriding Romney because he personally showed up to help with something (for instance, the wasp nest that he dealt with for one family) instead of using his fortune to hire someone else to do it. And over at the comments section at Ace of Spades, a few months ago someone related how one of his co-workers insisted that the only benefit to personally being involved in performing service (as the commented did) versus writing a check to a charity (as the co-worker limited himself to) was a sense of smugness from the former.

    1. Thus demonstrating that the person so commenting had never tried personally serving others. Seriously, when I’m in a really bad funk, helping someone else is a sure fire way to get out if it, and the satisfaction afterwards is something that only a person with no heart (men without chests, indeed) could refer to as “smugness”.

    2. At least he’s writing a check. There are those who insist the liberals really are more generous even though they give less to charity as well as donate less food to food bank, volunteer less, and give less blood.

    3. Funny how the modern elites manage to echo Ebenezeer Scrooge’s words “Are there no prisons? … And the union workhouses – are they still in operation?… I help to support the establishments I have named; those who are badly off must go there.”

  21. It seems to me that, amongst other things, people recently have confused a job with a vocation. A job pays the bills, feeds, clothes etc. It may or may not be rewarding in a spiritual sense, interesting etc etc. A vocation is what you are “called to do”, it may or may not pay the bills. If it doesn’t pay the bills, or doesn’t pay enough of them then you need a job to supplement the vocation.

    I blame the educational establishment for failing to make this distinction in what they teach children and how they provide career advice.

    1. yes. Exactly. I’m still doing the job I did before my vocation started to pay: clean, cook, fix up. The fact I’m not doing it very well anymore, is what necessitates a move to a smaller place, because the vocation doesn’t pay enough to fire me from that job by hiring someone else.

      1. Interestingly, there was an interview with Weber on a gaming podcast that, despite my respect for the man and the stories I’d enjoyed, and his obvious historical acumen, made me wonder if he had a huge hole in his common-sense meter somewhere. ESPECIALLY since he recognized that technical progress was what enabled women to work – especially in his books – in a number of fields where strength/etc. issues would have made it effectively “men only” in the past.

        What really floored me though was the readiness with which he implicitly dismissed the value of home-making. “If a society doesn’t want to take advantage of half their workforce, they’ll be subjects of the society my daughters will be part of” or something like that.

        What in the nine circles of hell does he think women did a few hundred years ago? Sit around and eat bonbons while the men slaved away? (in which case – where is this patriarchal oppression?) Would we even HAVE a civilization if we didn’t have someone taking the time tending to heath and home, feeding kids, cooking dinners while crops were planted and gathered?

        And when parents go off to work these days, the kids are left in the care of a school (which look more and more like prisons every year…. the steps to get into my kids schools get progressively more and more onerous), a nanny, a day-care center, or such.

        In short, if a society will survive and replace itself, SOMEONE is still taking care of the kids, whether it’s a man or a woman. It’s not a job that scales well to be done effectively, nor can it be well automated. Somebody has to do it, and be focused on it primarily to do it well.

        So I found that profoundly insulting to the support work done by generations of my ancestors that allowed me to be where I am, that the ladies in my lineage did nothing of value to get me where I am today, and that the only thing of value in the future is warriors and factory workers and artists – not homemakers.

        1. I stayed home to write because after 6 years of infertility, my kids weren’t going to be raised by strangers, but also because it was cheaper. No, look, we almost went broke when I was doing the corporate thing pre-kids. I was usually to tired to cook. Job expected 12 hour days, as all juniors in technical positions in the eighties. By the time Dan and I got home the last thing we wanted to do was cook or clean. There were times I HAD to stop by the store and get clothes because we hadn’t had the time to do laundry.
          We were going broke. Then I stayed home and cooked for us, and fixed used furniture, and made curtains and stuff. The first few years weren’t easy, because… move across country, and kid born on COBRA and… but working wouldn’t have helped. I was objectively contributing more to the family by staying home — and writing on the side.

            1. COBRA — the insurance coverage when you’re between jobs. We’d not have bothered, only I was massively pregnant. The premiums were insane and delivery from heck (three days hard labor, plus emergency Caesarean) cost us — after bargaining and serious talking down — 20k. Took five years to pay him off. We kept threatening to let him get repossessed when he was bad.

                1. Nobody would want to keep Sarah’s boys. Ever read “Ransom of Red Chief”? [Evil Grin]

            2. Have you seen the cobras in Hindu art? Those things are big enough to hold up part of the world! Glad all I have to deal with is rattlesnakes. They never get bigger than six feet long. Unless they’re eight feet long.

    2. No, it’s a lack of jobs. Really, that’s the problem. Even if every single job opening were filled, it would only fix roughly two-fifths of the problem. This situation is currently (a) the best it’s been in five years, and (b) probably distorted by people leaving the job market entirely because of the aforementioned lack of jobs.

      If entitlement and lack-of-pluck are problems, they’re distant runners-up.

      1. If a bunch of people are motivated, they’re going to create their own jobs. No, not perfectly. Especially not if there’s 50000 miles of red tape and regulations in the way, but jobs, no more than any other economic resource, are not a finite pie. The get created when people make them.

        1. That’s an interesting way to look at it, but why did people suddenly stop making their own jobs around the fall of 2008? Has everyone been infected by some sort of malaise that wasn’t affecting them during, say, the late 1990s?

          1. Hmm . . . I must have missed the post that said this appeared suddenly in 2008.

            On Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 8:07 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

            > grendelkhan commented: “That’s an interesting way to look at it, but > why did people suddenly stop making their own jobs around the fall of 2008? > Has everyone been infected by some sort of malaise that wasn’t affecting > them during, say, the late 1990s?” >

            1. IMO “his” assumption is that we’re really blaming it on Obama.

              1. No. Obama is a symptom not a cause. (I mean, he’s a cause of unemployment too — what kind of fracking idiot thinks burdening a dying economy with all out regulation and a take over of healthcare is a good idea? — Only one who heartilly believes marxism and magic economics, but… He’s not the cause of the “gimme, because I was born and the world owes me” — that goes back to the “counterculture” starting in the twenties or so. When it became the culture is when we got screwed.)

                1. I know that, you know that, but “he” doesn’t know that. [Wink]

                  1. Well, I think you’re being too kind to him. First, I’ve banned “Grendel” x before. Only it was Grendelmother, last time. Second, he quotes Paul Krugman. you have to be a lunatic, dumb as rocks, or a troll to quote Paul Krugman.

                    1. “Second, he quotes Paul Krugman. you have to be a lunatic, dumb as rocks, or a troll to quote Paul Krugman.”

                      I don’t think those are mutually exclusive. :-p

                      On Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 8:24 AM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                      > accordingtohoyt commented: “Well, I think you’re being too kind to > him. First, I’ve banned “Grendel” x before. Only it was Grendelmother, last > time. Second, he quotes Paul Krugman. you have to be a lunatic, dumb as > rocks, or a troll to quote Paul Krugman.” >

              2. In fairness, I do have a dataset specific to post 2008, but it isn’t particularly tied to Obama.

                In fairness, not everyone is cut out for self employment and running their own business. The stress of liability and managing risk related to being directly subject to regulation can be prohibitive. When regulation is subject to whim and deeming to a greater degree, said stress becomes higher.

                Labor regulations like minimum wage also restrict things. I do some things well and some things poorly. Some things I do well enough that it might be worthwhile to go through all the red tape of hiring me. Some things I know I do so poorly that it simply would not be worth the employer’s costs. If I can’t find someone who wants what I’m good at, I cannot lawfully cut a deal with somebody to do something I’m bad at for what the work is worth.

      2. Yes there is some lack of jobs and certainly an excess of red tape (to which Obamacare has added a significant chunk) that inhibits hiring, but if there really were people desperate to do jobs we’d see a lot more complaint about illegal immigrants because the illegals do all the crappy jobs at pay rates the native-born won’t consider. I do in fact know a caucasian nanny and a caucasian student who does car-detailing but both have joked that people expect them to be shorter and browner.

    3. When someone shows up in some discussion group to ask what to major in to be a writer, I’m the one who advises: something you can make your living at so you can write on the side without resorting to hackwork.

      A lot of other writers don’t urge that.

      1. Well, I did that, by taking the education option on my major. Then I moved across the ocean. Then I established myself as a technical translator, but this was the dark ages and they wanted a local one. Then we moved across the country. At this point I started suspecting Himself was hitting me with the 2×4 with the nails in it, and even though we REALLY couldn’t afford to, we decided I’d stay home and “just” raise kids, clean, cook, teach them to read, make clothes, fix furniture, rehabilitate houses (the last one was rough) AND write. Eh. I still have had to do hack work, usually contract, short term, pay, and I’m not allowed to talk about it. When you run into an emergency, you do. That’s all.

  22. Totally OT for this article but harking back to a recurring theme.

    “The people in the room think he is not an American, but he is more American than almost any of them. He has discovered America and his spirit is the spirit of the pioneers.”

    It’s from a 1941 Harper’s article “Who Goes Nazi?”.

  23. Some years ago, I had a story passed on to me of a woman who’d done everything correctly, working in a manual-labor job with wages enough to sustain her, but which provided a pension for her old age. She’d retired after some decades in the role.

    This was during the Enron debacle; through some set of machinations which I hadn’t understood at the time, and probably still don’t, her pension was looted, and her plans were brought to nothing; she was left homeless and explaining this to a friend of mine working at the local community health center. Her reaction to this was simply to be sad and worried about how she’d manage.

    I couldn’t understand why her reaction wasn’t boiling, furious, murderous rage. And I certainly can’t understand how a just reaction to this situation is to tell her that nobody owed her a living, and that her labor should be its own reward. Or how a just reaction to the incomprehensible human tragedy of out-of-work people is to assume that they simply are insufficiently humble–that if they would stop insisting on being poets and rockstars (did you know that the most popular college major is business?), they would all be happily employed. Even though this is plainly not true. It’s not a moral debate; it’s a fact that there are, at present, enough jobs for less than half of the unemployed.

    The thing is, valuing honest labor for itself is a good thing. And indeed, no one owes you a living for doing what you love. But the current raft of problems we’re seeing won’t be fixed by greater humility or more people taking menial jobs. You’re striving to fix a problem which is not the primary cause of job-related misery today.

    The nation didn’t suddenly become afflicted with mass laziness in late 2008. Taking responsibility for yourself is a vital skill for an adult, but believing that all problems can be solved with pluck and personal responsibility is a mistake, one that’s in the process of hurting many, many people.

    1. I don’t recall saying that people who were unemployed were so due to their own fault or because they were insufficiently humble. I also said nothing about retirement.
      I was talking FAR more generally than our current crisis.
      I’m not sure Enron compares to what’s about to happen when the nation hits the wall — also known as “we can’t keep printing money forever.”

      1. Indeed, one cannot keep printing money forever, but inflation isn’t really a problem at the moment; it’s a potential problem. Talking about how bad inflation could be (but keeps on not being) to the exclusion of doing anything else is like taking a donut away from a starving man, because donuts are bad for you.

        The “we are going to ‘hit the wall’ if we don’t cut spending in a recession” idea is testable. Runaway inflation has been predicted for some time. It has failed to materialize. We have other, non-imaginary problems which are hurting people right now. And talking generally about moral failings as they relate to employability is kind of tone-deaf when the nation is awash in people who’ve done everything right by those lights and yet are still unable to get work.

        1. Oh, please — is it? When people are looking at things backward and ruining themselves with student debt for useless degrees.

          As for imaginary problems — inflation has failed to materialize IF YOU BELIEVE GOVERNMENT FIGURES. Do you? If so why? Don’t you shop for groceries? Fill your gas tank?

          I will also note you posted under three names. Paid troll?

          1. He/she/it said “The nation didn’t suddenly become afflicted with mass laziness in late 2008. ”

            I believe this nails it for a troll. The precise dating reveals myriad assumptions …

          2. I will also note you posted under three names. Paid troll?

            I only saw him/her posting under “grendelkahn”, plus one (1) post where the name had gotten mangled into an MD5 hash (thirty-two hex digits).

            My best guess, at the moment, isn’t “paid troll”, it’s “has drunk the ink,” e.g. genuinely believes the government inflation figures are accurate, despite the evidence of his/her lying eyes.

        2. Also, whatever is or isn’t hurting people, the concept of “I”m owed for living” IS at the basis of a lot of bad policies which ARE hurting people.
          You know, as someone said the constitution only protects negative liberties, like people’s right to be left alone, while he wants to give us POSITIVE liberties: ie. things with other people’s money. I.e., he wants us to try what has done SO well in the USSR, Cuba, China, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, etc. etc. etc. Yay, right?

        3. If you think that inflation is not “really” a problem at the moment, I’d like to invite you to try supporting a family that was getting by OK five years ago on the same salary. Heck, try just buying gas.

          I’d rather you re-read the article and respond to it, though, instead of dumping something that’s obviously on your mind but not really related.

          The crew here (thanks to The Hostess) don’t usually have an issue with jumping off in random direcitons, it’s just that folks usually mention that they’re going off on a tangent instead of seeming to respond to the post without doing so. I don’t recognize your name, although the icon looks familiar so you’ve probably been around….

          1. Yes. thank you. I’m slowly going in the hole. First we cut the fun, then we cut the “special occasions” and now we’re done to cutting essentials. And the scary part? I’m making double what I made five years ago. Of course, my income isn’t the main one in the household and we’re still not keeping pace with inflation.
            We’re now down to praying the car doesn’t break down.

            1. I too am making more than I was a few years ago – and having a harder time making ends meet. Health insurance alone has doubled in the last four years.

              1. yes. And gas. And food is… Particularly cleaners, of all things. I’m considering buying one of those “natural cleaning” things, simply to see if it’s cheaper. I’ve been using the fancier ones because they’re gentler and it’s quicker to clean, but I used to do with soap, ammonia and bleach (not together, those last two.)

                1. We’ve found great success with white vinegar for most of our cleaning, with bleach for when we need serious germ killing. Found a great recipe for homemade laundry detergent, too. I need to make some castille soap this spring or summer to use in that so we can have detergent that’s safe for friends with fragrance allergies.

                  1. I would be quite interested in hearing about how you use white vinegar for cleaning, and the home made laundry detergent, if it’s alright. We’re getting by right now, but it would be nice to be able to put more away to savings / emergency funds as opposed to every last bit goes to grocery.

                    1. Use white vinegar pretty much like you use ammonia. Oh and rubbing alcohol mixed with water makes an excellent substitute for Windex, in my opinion it cuts the film car windshields develop even better.

                    2. I use it– just fill spray bottles with the cheapest vinegar you can find– sometimes you can get “cleaning vinegar” in the cleaning isle, check which is cheaper– and use that instead of a soapy rag or commercial cleaner. I especially like it around the kitchen.

                      Just last week I tried a “no oven cleaner” method of getting the baked on nasty out of our rental’s oven– soaked the stains in the oven, then mopped it out, rubbed baking soda over EVERYTHING, and added vinegar. It worked amazingly well, without turning the oven to “clean.”

                      We’re able to get detergent cheaper than making it on base, although I’ve noticed the sizes going down as well. It took us two years to get through the first one, and we’ve used two in the last year and a half! There aren’t that many more clothes.

                    3. Wall ‘o Text Warning!

                      The Oyster Wife found an article recently that outlined various dilutions of vinegar for various uses, but I don’t remember them. I’ll ask her and email it to you later. I do know that our basic cleaning solution is 1 part water to 1 part vinegar with a little bit of dish detergent (I think a few drops per spray bottle) for grease-cutting. Tangentially, a technique that she and I each independently reinvented for getting off stuck on or very greasy stuff (like gummy oil on stoves *shudder*) is to soak a sponge in your cleaner and let it sit on the mess for a few hours, then wipe up. Repeat as necessary. It keeps the cleaner from evaporating before it has penetrated the grodiness.

                      On the laundry detergent, we base it on this recipe*, though we process it a little differently. First of all, leave the bar soap out to dry for at least a day, so that it will shred properly. Otherwise it sticks together and makes an unholy mess. We use a food processor to shred the bar soap as fine as possible, then dump out the soap, switch in the blade instead of the shredder, put in all the ingredients, and run it until everything is a fine powder. The recipe as written will settle and separate because of the difference in granularity between the ingredients. Also, it takes very little of this stuff to wash a load – we’ve found about 1/2 to 1/4 as much as the commercial stuff calls for. I can send you the cost analysis I did** as well, but your prices are going to be quite different.

                      This has been your domestic minute with the Oyster. Now back to your regularly scheduled cultural commentary!

                      *Note: most of the recipes on that site are awesome. Endorsement of the recipes does not imply endorsement of the scientifically-ignorant hippie fear-mongering that accompanies some of them.
                      ** Yes, I’m a dork. I have a bookkeeping and business planning background, and we often have more time than money. Deal.

                    4. Yeah, I’m starting to look at possible alternatives and doing research as to whether it would be cheaper to make some stuff on my own. The local groceries are very good with their homebrand stuff being affordable (the bottled concentrate dish soap is 99c to the liter bottle and works very well, for example) so I’ll have to research if it’s worth it for me to try the vinegar solutions. Especially for our oven and stovetop. I’ve been teaching the kiddlies to cook, and there’ve been a few spills and accidents, as expected. That said, it’s doing wonders for their confidence.

          2. Inflation! Oh yes. Every year we’re poorer. Our income stays the same and the costs of our groceries and gas and health care and utilities (need I go on?) go higher. Maybe the price of the box of cereal stays the same but the size of the box gets smaller. I’m not fooled. I don’t care what the government numbers supposedly say. It’ll be a miracle if we can keep our kids fed and clothed until adulthood if this keeps up.

            Every time I hear someone say there is no problem with inflation right now, I want to spit nails.

            1. You and me. Even the bottles of detergent have shrunk in the wash. For years I had this rule that meat for a meal had to be under $5 for our family (4). I managed it, by buying on sale/strategic buying/buying in bulk. Now? If I can keep it under $10 it’s a miracle… I used to not even look at a package of meat over $10. Now…

              1. The toilet paper has shrunk too. It’s narrower than it was a year ago. I was down to the last package of 4 and when I put the new package next to it, the new one was noticeably shorter.

                1. yep. And even though we almost don’t go out to eat, we still go once a month or so, when in Denver, on business, to our favorite greek diner. Dan was toting up expenses and said “How come we went out less and spent more.” I pointed out our favorite meal there (a sort of all-together sampler) has gone from $12 to $15.99. And that was after increasing from $10 five years ago…

        4. “The “we are going to ‘hit the wall’ if we don’t cut spending in a recession” idea is testable.”

          We are not in a recession. We are in a stagnant recovery. Arguably that recovery is stagnant because of the market distorting effects of the massive amount of “inflated” money that the Federal Reserve is pumping into the economy – much of which has been sucked right up by the Federal government’s massive deficit spending.

        5. The problem with run away inflation is that by the time that does hit the economy is completely screwed. Run away inflation is the economic equivalent of a heart attack. What we need is the equivalent of changing one’s diet and exercise regime to stop the heart attack from happening. What we’ve got is more like stents and statins

        6. I’m paying double for chicken compared to 5 years ago. No inflation, really? Double for apples, too, unless they’re on sale. No inflation. You have a bridge to sell, too?

        7. Citing a crank piece that depends on unindicted Enron advisor Paul Krugman is not persuasive.

          Inflation is real. The official figures specifically exclude the most inflated items — fuel and food.

        8. Go feed someone else your line about inflation not being a problem. As someone who works mainly seasonally and has to live for several months at a time between ‘paychecks’ I can tell you that money I put away six months ago buys significantly less now than it did then. Remember in their infinite wisdom government chose to remove fuel and food from the inflation index, you know, the two things people have to have to live and travel to work.

        9. You do realize, sirrah, that we stopped calculating inflation, and indeed unemployment the way it had traditionally been done some years ago?

          That if we actually calculated both the way we did during the Carter administration (which was the last time we used the traditional metrics) unemployment would be more like 15 percent, and inflation would be on the order of 8%.

          The reason, sir, we have not seen runaway inflation is because the fed is currently monetizing our debt. I.E. They are buying back bonds, sold to other nations with money which does not actually exist, except they say it does.

          This is merely kicking the can down the road a bit. This is precisely the same method used to control inflation under the Wiemar Republic, or to use a more recent example, in Zimbabwe. You can hold off the collapse for a while that way, but not forever. The current occupant of the White House (I do not say administration, they’re not administering shit) is hoping that he can stave off the collapse long enough for the economy to kick back in and save his ass. There is a technical term for this, it’s called “jacking off.”

          The reality, sir, is that no one owes you a living. It’s your responsibility to find one. Now while I sympathize with the woman who lost her pension, you personally admit you don’t understand what happened, so perhaps you should get more information before making pronouncements.

          (Besides, it’s quite apparent you know two things about economics — jack and shit.)

          1. Yes. I’d be more upset about Enron and the Apocryphal Victim if they weren’t doing the same that supposedly happened to her pension with my kids’ future earnings… and probably at this point my grandkids’ too.

            1. Well keep in mind that most of the people who lost their shirts in the Enron debacle pretty much deserved it. You do not, I repeat DO-FUCKING-NOT put all of your retirement money in one stock. It’s bloody stupid. I don’t care how good the returns are, I don’t care HOW stable they say they are, you have to be an idiot to do it.

              When you are an idiot, you earn what you get.

              And yes, for the record, I’ve been an idiot on a few occasions, and have taken my lumps with a minimal of whining, because that’s what a man does.

        10. If “inflation really isn’t a problem at the moment,” why are food and fuel now eating three times as much of my budget as they did in 2008? I sure ain’t eating or driving more.

          1. Yep, I’ve taken to pulling a trailer over to Montana when I’m working over there, and staying in it rather than driving back and forth every day. Sure it’s a headache to have to have somebody talk care of my dogs and stuff, but a hundred bucks a day in fuel costs takes a serious bite out of profits.

    2. Several points.

      One – when you enter a contract with someone, you ARE entitled.

      Two – when investing, people are repeatedly warned not to invest money they can’t afford to lose. Even when managed by people who aren’t out to screw you over, you can still take a hit.

      Three. The problem with Enron wasn’t that a bunch of people lost their money, it’s because a bunch of people lost their money because a bunch of people they trusted, who were contractually obligated to look out for their money, investment, and interests, did no such thing. Despite all the laws on the books against it.

      1. And the thieves got away with it for so long because they were so tightly connected to government.

        Hint: not the administration that saw Enron fall, but the one that saw its bubble inflate.

    3. There are several instances of horse manure in your beliefs and that which you are linking to. The great amount of unemployment and underemployment we have right now are in part because of a lack of jobs (because of job killing government policies that have increased unemployment) but there is indeed also a lot of funemployment.

      Infuriatingly, Democrats are actually endorsing the “ease” of unemployment as part of the bizarre propaganda for Obamacare. They are literally saying that the job killing aspects and the rise in part time employment are a boon from their brilliant policy. I’ve seen more coherent defenses of Mao’s Great Leap Forward policies.

      But the incentivizing of unemployment by unemployment benefits does make the unemployed more reluctant to look for work and more reluctant to accept employment that isn’t as lucrative or pleasant as desired. As a concrete example, North Carolina cut long term unemployment benefits and employment actually rose and employers saw an increase in applications for work.

      So I find your flawed assumptions, together with several strawmen and outright misrepresentations of what Sarah is saying to be leading me to calling “BS”.

    4. By the way, the Enron “story” keeps getting repeated as second hand … and is always so similar … that I call “BS” on that too.

      The people who lost “retirement” money in Enron were the ones that fell for the scammers calls for them to pull their retirement money out of legitimate retirement investments and put it into Enron stock as part of the “get rich quick” Enron mentality.

    5. I couldn’t understand why her reaction wasn’t boiling, furious, murderous rage. And I certainly can’t understand how a just reaction to this situation is to tell her that nobody owed her a living, and that her labor should be its own reward.
      I don’t believe there’s anyone here who would not also have been boiling furious rage. For example, thanks to the the cowboys at the top of Nortel I lost (in addition to a job I loved and was good at) close to $1 million in paper profits on stock in Bay Networks that Nortel bought. Now I admit part of that was tech-bubble hype but there was (or should have been) a real value at the bottom of it. The gaping hole in their finances was disguised for years because the CFO at Nortel was knowingly cooking the books and apparently a lot of the other people at the top of the company were complicit or at the very least deliberately incurious.

      The nation didn’t suddenly become afflicted with mass laziness in late 2008. Taking responsibility for yourself is a vital skill for an adult, but believing that all problems can be solved with pluck and personal responsibility is a mistake, one that’s in the process of hurting many, many people.
      There is no clear start date to this. It didn’t start in 2008, it didn’t start in 2000 or even 1980. It has, however, been a gradual process where, thanks to a variety of causes (and I blame unrealistic educational career advice for some of it, along with growing affluence and a bunch of feely good advice in the media) people have increasingly come to believe they are entitled to a fullfilling job at good pay even if they decide they don’t want to do certain parts of it.

      An example: the company I work for was looking for someone to do some web design and layout and the like. One person we interviewed quite literally said “I don’t do HTML or Drupal” and then was upset when we didn’t hire her to do the design part of the job and find someone else to do the nitty gritty coding parts. Note she said “I don’t do”, not “I can’t do” or “I don’t know how to” and in fact she showed absolutely no desire to learn. Her follow up comment was “I’m a web designer, not a web developer”. We’ve engaged the services of people who said “I don’t know how to” do a portion of the job because they’ve also said “but I can learn”. I expect we’ll continue to hire those sorts of people when we can find them.

      1. Credit where due: the most recent recession actually started in 2007, when Pelosi’s Democrats riding a wave of “culture of corruption” propaganda took control of the House and its budgetary authority.

  24. Some years ago, I had a story passed on to me of a woman who’d done everything correctly, working in a manual-labor job with wages enough to sustain her, but which provided a pension for her old age. She’d retired after some decades in the role.

    This was during the Enron debacle; through some set of machinations which I hadn’t understood at the time, and probably still don’t, her pension was looted, and her plans were brought to nothing; she was left homeless and explaining this to a friend of mine working at the local community health center. Her reaction to this was simply to be sad and worried about how she’d manage.

    I couldn’t understand why her reaction wasn’t boiling, furious, murderous rage. And I certainly can’t understand how a just reaction to this situation is to tell her that nobody owed her a living, and that her labor should be its own reward. Or how a just reaction to the incomprehensible human tragedy of out-of-work people is to assume that they simply are insufficiently humble–that if they would stop insisting on being poets and rockstars (did you know that the most popular college major is business?), they would all be happily employed. Even though this is plainly not true. It’s not a moral debate; it’s a fact that there are, at present, enough jobs for less than half of the unemployed.

    The thing is, valuing honest labor for itself is a good thing. And indeed, no one owes you a living for doing what you love. But the current raft of problems we’re seeing won’t be fixed by greater humility or more people taking menial jobs. You’re striving to fix a problem which is not the primary cause of job-related misery today. It’s like telling a cancer patient to clean their room. Yes, having a clean room is important and all, but it won’t really help with the cancer.

    The nation didn’t suddenly become afflicted with mass laziness in late 2008. Taking responsibility for yourself is a vital skill for an adult, but believing that all problems can be solved with pluck and personal responsibility is a mistake, one that’s in the process of hurting many, many people.

      1. WordPress goes all wonky if you do that, so it’ll probalby stay.

        Like, randomly removes other comments from their threads type wonky.

    1. Some years ago, I had a story passed on to me of a …” is pretty much the standard form opening of nearly every urban myth that does not start “this actually happened to a relative of a friend of mine …”

      1. This actually happened to my brother-in-law’s, second cousin’s, uncle’s, wife’s, sister’s, nephew; is the start of a rural myth.

  25. Great post, thanks Sarah. I’ve worked for now over 50 years, and will be retiring SOON because I’ve lived within my means, and saved…

    1. Ever notice how many stories there are of janitor-type persons bequeathing a few million dollars because they “lived modestly”?

      Far more people have read “The Millionaire Mind” than have adopted its precepts, even though they’ve been public knowledge for centuries.

      “My other piece of advice, Copperfield,” said Mr. Micawber, “you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

  26. A minor nit, Sarah – in your article, it seems to me you conflate duty to “neighbor” with duty to “society”. I know who is my neighbor – but society is a collection that includes a lot of people who actively don’t want to be my neighbor! I somehow don’t feel quite the same duty to them…

    1. Well, society is a slippery concept. Your duty is to look after yourself period. If that’s good for society — I think so — so much the better.

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