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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16311/whats-a-job-good-for/

What’s a Job Good For?

April 1, 2011 by

The statistics are shocking: teens no longer have jobs. This is new. And this is a disaster. Here’s why. FULL ARTICLE by Jeffrey A. Tucker


Savannah Liston April 1, 2011 at 7:29 am

Thanks so much for this article. I started my first official job a month ago and I have found it as challenging and rewarding as your article describes. The main purpose of my job is to make the customers happy and make the process of production more efficient and up-to-date by utilizing more technology. It is an amazing job and it makes me think hard and work even harder, but I’m happy to have such a job at the age of 17. Thank you for helping me to put my job into the grander perspective.

JohnOfEnfield April 1, 2011 at 7:39 am

Having launched six children into independent adulthood, the moment in their first job that delighted me most was when they were first made to understand that they had to TURN UP TO WORK ON TIME.

Joe April 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm

The next shock was how much taxes were taken out leaving a net pay of something they had not imaged.

Anon April 1, 2011 at 7:52 am

You need to link or better cite the sources of your data. I can’t find the statistics or any external publication on teenage work hours, or the number of college graduates under 25 that are in jobs which require college.

This is a disservice to your friends, and a credit to your enemies.

KK April 1, 2011 at 8:12 am

When I was in high school, I never had a job. It was mostly because I wasn’t really a kid who needed his own supply of money. As it was, by the time I graduated, I wasn’t worth even minimum wage to anyone, so I decided to go to college. There, classes and coursework kept me busy enough, and federal student loans made it so I, again, didn’t need the money from a job to support myself. Fast forward to the present, and I’ve dropped out of college, because I couldn’t see spending thousands more dollars on a degree which is becoming more worthless by the day.

I wish I could go back to 16- and 18-year-old me and tell them how wrong they were. When I was 18, there were so many young people looking for work, no business would take a chance on hiring one without experience. Sadly, a lot of my ‘experienced’ peers who were hired were those who frequently changed jobs and had poor attitudes about work. Now, after the Great Recession, in addition to the young people, there are a lot of unemployed middle-aged workers applying for the lower-level service jobs traditionally reserved for young people. As you say, it’s almost impossible for a young person to be worth what companies are forced to pay. I wish I could work for a few dollars per hour to establish myself. Hell, I’d even work for free during a probationary period, but I’m not allowed to.

I guess my admittedly-rambling point is that it’s so difficult for young adults in this country to find work today if they don’t get experience during their high school years. Every parent should make their children work, if they can. [I'd say that since labor is always the scarcest resource, it really shouldn't be difficult for anyone to find a job, but that's a different discussion.]

BuckeyeChuck April 1, 2011 at 9:13 am

Try calling cleaning companies, the kind that clean commercial and medical facilities after-hours. The turnover in those outfits is enormous, so you might find one or more of them willing to give you a shot. (I’ve done this work.) If you are punctual, fast, and thorough you might even find yourself in a management position before too long.

Freedom Fighter April 1, 2011 at 10:46 am

“Hell, I’d even work for free during a probationary period, but I’m not allowed to.”

I understand that you must find work, but must you trample upon your dignity ?

This is a dilemma that I find impossible to solve.

Anthony April 1, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Why is it an affront to your dignity to help other people and do useful work?

Daniel Coleman April 2, 2011 at 8:20 am

Offering to work for free is a great way to get your foot in the door. My first job was a near-minimum wage maintenance job during high school. During my final two years of college, I arranged for a summer internship with a business owner I knew, and the experience from that job was crucial for landing my first full-time, salaried job.

Mr. Tucker has a fine article on working for free: http://mises.org/daily/4547

Jonathan M. F. Catalán April 2, 2011 at 11:26 am

I hate to go against the tide, but a college education is not as “worthless” as you think it might be, even if a substantial percentage of what you learn is absolutely useless towards your career. Going to college is as much an entrepreneurial decision as starting a business, because you have to train yourself in a field in which you think you can compete in the future. In any case, I rather have a college degree than no college degree.

On the other hand, if you are entrepreneurial in nature, you might think about starting a business down the road. I don’t have that quality, I don’t think, which is why I prefer going to college.

Andy April 4, 2011 at 2:15 am

You can mow my lawn for a dollar. I won’t tell anyone.

Shay April 1, 2011 at 8:34 am

To answer the title question, a job is good for securing a steady stream of purchases of one’s labor, and as this article covers, forcing oneself to become disciplined enough to be able to supply the promised labor at a consistent quality. Without a job, one would have to find a buyer each day, and as a result have less time to do actual work.

BuckeyeChuck April 1, 2011 at 9:08 am

When I turned 16, my parents said “You will get a job in the summer.” After my sophomore year ended in early June, 1987, my mother drove me up and down restaurant row in the steel town in which we lived, and I filled a job application at all of them. It took all day. No one interviewed me, but a couple said they might call.

The last place we went was the last restaurant on the row, called Lee’s Famous Recipe Counry Fried Chicken, a competitor of the KFC just down the street. I filled out the applicaiton, and a red-faced swarthy man named Roger came out to interview me. At the time I was about 5′ 8″ tall and weighed about 120 pounds. He asked me questions, and I told him I would work hard and why. He asked me, “Do you think you can lift a 70 pound crate of chicken?” I said, “No” because I knew I couldn’t, supposing that by lift he meant “up to my shoulders” or something. He said, “Come with me.” He walked me back through the restaurant’s kitchen (itself an experience I will never forget because I’d never seen any restaurant’s kitchen) to the walk in freezer. There he grabbed a 70 pound case of chicken, threw it on the floor and said, “Pick it up.” I bent down, and lifted it to my waist, which took no inconsiderable amount of my strength. He said, “You’ll do. Be here at 4:30 this afternoon.”

Know what? I fried chicken and washed dishes in the back of that restaurant for the summers of 1987, 1988, and 1989, plus Christmas and spring breaks, and during the spring of 1989, weekends. I worked hard and it was hard work. Everything in a fried chicken restaurant is heavy: the chicken, the cole slaw, the mashed potatoes, the 50 pound bags in which the breading flour is delivered, the 300 pound electric pressure fryers, the 20 pound stainless steel trays on which you place the cooked chicken, and the chicken itself. It was greasy, slippery, wet, dangerous work and I did it for three summers. I even got a systemic staph infection that resulted in cellulitus, a pre-gangrene condition that nearly landed me in the hospital. And how much did I make for this? $3.35/hour, the prevailing minimum wage at the time. It was a mutually beneficial relationship. I was near the top of the list when they needed to “call somebody in” so I got a lot of overtime. I even worked at a hamburger joint next door during their lunch rush every week day, and then went next door to work “4 – close” at Lee’s.

The summer of 1990, after my freshman year in college, I worked at McDonald’s. It was a much faster cooking cycle than fried chicken, but the work was much easier because everything weighed a fraction of what it did in Lee’s kitchen. I have worked at a Subway restaurant, a steel mill as a laborer, an engineering co-op, a commercial nightly cleaner, and an IT guy (my current occupation), and none of that work was so tough as was frying chicken.

So, Bob Burick, if you ever read this, thanks for your entrepreneurial spirit. Thanks for investing your capital into a new Lee’s on Verity Parkway in the mid-80′s. And thanks for hiring a scrawny, spindly kid to produce the product for which your customers paid. Thanks for letting me burn myself on 350 degree shortening, for falling down on wet floors, for unloading the supply truck, for rotating stock, for scrubbing the floor with a brush, and for washing dishes. I paid for three quarters of college with the money I earned, and I learned about hard work, customers, and coworkers. I learned that I made very little but you made a lot more, so my goal should be to become like you, to better myself. I have taken these lessons with me, and while I am not a restaurateur, I make a good living because I am motivated to learn and produce, lest I end up frying chicken again!

Joe April 1, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Great story. Thanks for shareing.

yahya April 1, 2011 at 7:54 pm

i agree with Joe. great story

HL April 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Awesome story.

newson April 3, 2011 at 1:19 am


nate-m April 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm

One of the most important lessons youth can learn from working a summer job is:

“Oh, fuck. If I don’t put effort into bettering myself and getting a decent job then I will end up like that 40 year old alcoholic dickhead that still washes dishes for a living!”

Andy April 4, 2011 at 2:36 am

I am a 40 year old pizza boy. I’ve been delivering pizza for 16 years now. Started 4 years after I graduated with a 2 year Accounting degree. I don’t drink or smoke and I deeply resent your comment.

I got tired of waiting in line with thousands of other people applying for the same three or four jobs and decided instead to make the best of what I have. Thank you minimum wage and Federal Pell Grants.

I have purchased a home which is on track to be paid off 10 years early. I have three automobiles that never go to the shop because I have amassed a great deal of mechanical experience and a wealth of tools to do just about any repair that is needed.

Andy April 4, 2011 at 2:51 am

I have taken on second jobs and, at times, roommates (married now) when I wanted “extras.” I work opposite shift from my wife so that we do not need to pay a babysitter. I have become very independent and self-sufficient.

I think 40 year old alcoholic dishwashers and 20 year old alcoholic rockstars must have something in common. I hope that you are better capable of handling setbacks in your life than either of them.

Barry Linetsky April 1, 2011 at 9:14 am


I love this article. There is so much articulated wisdom in it.
I recall working at a stock car race track at age 11 hauling soft drinks up and down the stands. I sold soft drinks and programs at sporting events when I was 12. I had a couple of paper routes delivering a Sunday paper when I was an early teen. I worked as a carney at a big summer fair for about five years starting at age 14. I helped my uncle install draperies on weekends and during the summers when he needed help. Work was work. It was never fun at the time, but it held value beyond the money earned.

My 15 year old daughter is begging us to find her work. Today, all of these types of jobs are gone not because there is no work to be done and no youth gladly willing to work, and not just because middle-class parents think work is for someone else’s kids. As you know, and state, it’s because some people believe that engaging youth in work is a criminal activity. Too bad the opposite isn’t true: that preventing people from working be a criminal activity.

Adam Morgan April 1, 2011 at 9:15 am

Well said, Mr. Tucker.

As much as I hated having a job while I was in high school, I look back and appreciate the push my parents gave me. It gave me the work ethic that I have today and I have been able to apply that drive towards my studies.

I’m now a junior in college and it’s surprising to me how few of my fellow students have actually worked a job. Out of curiosity, I’d like to see a comparison in GPAs between students who have worked jobs and those who haven’t. Who knows what the data may show?

BuckeyeChuck April 1, 2011 at 10:34 am

Equally interesting would be a comparison between students who hold jobs while they attend school and those who don’t. But it would only be interesting, because GPA has no relevence in the real world. The only people concerned with GPA are those who only have a GPA; once you gain experience and a network of people who trust your work, you will wonder why anybody thought it was important.

Jim P. April 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Indeed. GPA tells you how well you do in school. Doing well in school is irrelevant to how well you do in the world. No employer of mine had ever asked me what my grades were, either in school or in college. They just cared about what I brought to the table at work. It wasn’t long before I wondered why I even went to school.

augusto April 3, 2011 at 12:20 am

Funny fact: I’m 30, I have a PhD, but very little work experience (I had a 1 year full-time job after I graduated from university and before I went for the Master’s and PhD). I’ve filled out over a hundred job applications so far. Every single one wanted to know in what month (sometimes in what day) I got my diplomas, and they all asked for my GPA.

Nate April 3, 2011 at 12:31 am

That makes some sense. Absent experience, all potential employers have to evaluate you on is your academic credentials. It would also make sense if these are jobs in academia, where those academic credentials are very important.

augusto April 3, 2011 at 7:48 am

Exactly. GPA matters.

Simon Grey April 1, 2011 at 10:01 am

I got my first “real” job when I was sixteen, and worked in fast food. After I left for college, I got a job in retail, and was promptly laid off three months later. Then I started freelancing in IT, automotive repair, and sundry other trades that I had picked up. I’ve continued freelancing to this day, in part because I prefer the freedom, and in part because I can avoid taxes.

What’s sad is how I don’t feel like hiring any of my peers whenever I need extra help on, say, a large paint job or a roofing job. None of the kids I know have an inclination for manual labor, and no one wants to learn. Hilariously, these kids are operating on the assumption that they will be able to get good jobs once they graduate from college.

Daniel Hewitt April 1, 2011 at 10:04 am

Well done Jeff. We are all born wanting to consume without producing – that is human nature. For an adolescent, a job is a great way to begin the process of shaking off this attitude and growing up. Delaying this process is indeed a disaster, and I think one of many contributors to the infantilization of society.

Barry Loberfeld April 1, 2011 at 10:18 am

“I’ve never understood the celebration of ‘volunteering’ for a soup kitchen or whatever. Most of the ‘customers’ are not grateful and the employees are mostly self-congratulatory about their wonderful pious deeds. Far better would be, for example, a fast-food restaurant where people pay and where workers are truly serving others — in their own self-interest. This is the ideal. This is the setting where true virtues are learned.”

Is it because statists try to impose charity that some libertarians feel the need to denigrate charity per se?

“Most of the ‘customers’ are not grateful …” How did Mr. Tucker determine this?

“[T]he employees are mostly self-congratulatory about their wonderful pious deeds.” Why is it wrong to be “self-congratulatory” about what an individual himself has decided are his “true virtues”?

Freely chosen charity is as libertarian as freely chosen commerce. The latter is no more the political “ideal” than the former.

Nathan Beal April 1, 2011 at 10:34 am

While I agree with you that “Freely chosen charity is as libertarian as freely chosen commerce.” one must be careful when being charitable that doing so does not destroy the very thing one is trying to fix. If the acts of charity make people more dependent upon further acts of charity it hardly seems charitable. Hence the old proverb, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” It seems to me that it would be better in the long run to have the people who eat at the soup kitchens come in to cook and serve meals to each other. This would provide vital skills to people that could allow them to pursue gainful employment. I also acknowledge that there are people who are physically or mentally incapable of caring for themselves, and in that case, charity of any sort is beneficial, but for the majority of people it likely better to be charitable without causing dependence.

Nate April 1, 2011 at 10:06 pm

I dunno, that was certainly my experience. I volunteered for several years at a free after-school program for children of refugees and immigrants and let me tell you, it was awful. The bratty, entitled kids hated it and hated us, and the parents, having paid nothing, were all to happy to pawn their kids off on us with no gratitude at all. Given that there was no revenue stream, the program was constantly underfunded and reduced to begging for chump change from church centers and the local government. And with no profit motive, there was no incentive to improve our services because we lost nothing if some of the kids stopped coming and we gained nothing if we got better at occupying and stimulating the kids.

bobobberson April 1, 2011 at 10:28 am

Great article. Loved it!

First job was @ 5.15 at 16 years of age… and I worked hard and showed up on time. Within like 4 months I got bumped a whole quarter to 5.40 because I had proved my worth. That’s progress for ya.

Freedom Fighter April 1, 2011 at 10:42 am

Even adults don’t have a job, I’m 34 and I’m unemployed since June 2010 !!!

After all the taxes you pay and all the things you’re not allowed to spend your net income on and the way your bosses patronize you around because they too must make it up for their taxes and regulations, I wonder if a job is good for anything anymore.

Employee income is the most taxed source of income.

Maybe it would be better without a job: 10 reasons you should never get a job:

Jim P. April 1, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Why not mow lawns?

Philip M April 1, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Just a few years ago there were lot’s of people willing to “pay under the table” so to speak. Of course living in a more rural area means that’s probably a lot more common. (plus I’m in a different country so not sure how the experience would translate)

André April 1, 2011 at 10:46 am

Well said! Sometimes I think all the contemporary focus on education is but a way to deflate unemployment statistics. If you are at school, technically speaking, you’re not really unemployed – just training for a future occupation, already booked for you.
It also true anyway that really advanced education cannot be achieved while working outside the field. Almost all the bright minds of the past, those who brought substantial advancements to science, philosophy, and technology, did not have to earn their possibility to study. They were lazy, privileged intellectuals. Their theoretical work was the only occupation absorbing all their physical strength. Einstein himself could put together his theories thanks to his “spare time” at the patent office. If he had to run after costumers, at the speed of light, I don’t think he would have managed to change physics the way he did. But this does imply that everyone should feel entitled to try to become the next Newton with the financial support of everyone else.
Education is not a right. The contemporary inflation of incredibly qualified and unemployed young men and women depends, in my opinion, on the constantly increasingly accessibility of highest education. It does not make sense. You don’t need ten clerks to supervise two manual workers. Of course, everybody would like their kids to be in charge in some important office. But it just cannot happen to each and every kid. This brings discomfort. Therefore, democratic pressure lowers standards of university degrees – since, typically, unsuccessful individuals attribute their misfortune to adverse environmental conditions (like poor education), instead of focusing on their incapacities. So, at the end, we have places like China where now there is a sustainable ratio between intellectual and manual workers, and others – like most western countries – where the bubble is going to pop, sooner or later.

Freedom Fighter April 1, 2011 at 11:01 am

“After about 30 minutes, I thought I was going to die.”

After experiencing how degrading and demeaning the job world is. It’s not the hard work and the efforts that stump me, it’s the subordination and how you’re treated by your superiors like a dumb worthless animal even though you are knowledgeable. They don’t want to recognize your capacities.

Also, your coworkers, there is like a power struggle in the office, corporate world to crush people in order to make yourself look good and get advancement.

I experienced intimidation, harassment, violence and invalidation. I realize that work, the way it is organized, is not for me.

Mark Davis April 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I can see why you are unemployed. But you did remind me of one virtue not mentioned in the article that comes from honest work: humility. Especially that first job. Perhaps your experience was due to your attitude?

AnnaChristoff April 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Yes to all of this, but many blogs ago you were singing the praises of “Facebook” and its billion dollar (oh, please) ilk, and what a great cultural and scientific advancement it is. Such time-wasting nonsense (no, I am not an old lady) is making kids sedentary zombies; they lack motivation, initiative, and most of all–concentration. (Spare me the “Egyptian Revolution” theories). It all adds up. One’s cultural environment is exceedingly important and to live hours a day in a pseudo cyber world talking about trivialities with other loners makes for bleak, spoiled attitudes. Others may not see the connection between the declining work ethic of “the young” as depicted in this blog and what I am saying here–but that, unfortunately, is their problem, one that will only worsen.

Jim P. April 1, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Let’s say that you’re the dictatress of the world for a few years. How would you propose to solve the problems that you identify?

victor April 1, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Started shining shoes at the court house at 7 or 8 for $.25 a shine, but regularly received tips of a dollar, and one judge dropped me a $20.00 in the late 70′s. Once the cutiness faded, and the statist regime demanded, “where is your license and business permit… No solicitation on PUBLIC PROPERY!” I moved on to mowing lawns, and also made above average wages from folks who approved of a Tween working. Started imprudent speculation in the stock market by 12.

At 16, I was expelled from school, and was told to work a McJob. Worked, as a prep. cook from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 10 or 11 p.m. six days a week. Wake-up, work, and hit my trailer’s bed immediately following work. After six months of that, I was ready to return to school with a positive attitude, and finished in the top ten of graduates. Thanks to my former principal, who was happy to fire me(…but later shot himself); and my parents; and my bosses…I learned to work hard, but more importantly–to work smart.

If a young person is reading this, don’t give in to the statist brainwash…of joblessness. Make work!
Even if you have to skate the envelope of licensure and bureaucrasy, put you ideas and wares in the marketplace. Umemployment is a state of mind… just as “illegal” doesn’t prevent millions of workers from around the world to create their American reality in our country.

newson April 3, 2011 at 1:33 am

another great story. thanks.

Steve Reed April 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm

You admit to how government regulations, insane taxes, minimum wages, and the obstacles heaped on entrepreneurs all serve to suppress the possibilities for teenage and young-adult employment. Then you excoriate those same teenagers (and their parents) for taking the path of least resistance, given the State’s artificial incentives for “education,” and continuing the path of schooling. Make up your mind!

Have you considered that many teenagers desperately want to work, and often need to in order to support their families, but are shut out at every turn? That was true 35 years ago when I was in high school, and it’s been true with the children of relatives and friends ever since. (I have no children. Seeing the burdens heaped on new human beings at birth by the State, it’s discouraged me.)

Inquisitor April 1, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I don’t think he’s excoriating the parents or teenagers in particular but a society which supports the continued infantalisation of teenagers. Though I agree with you, a lot of free-market advocates (mostly not those on this blog) need to get their heads out of their rears and realise the current market is hugely hampered.

Leon April 1, 2011 at 1:30 pm

This article is veritably brilliant in its plain commonsense. But there is one enormous, complicating lacuna, at least wrt the issue of teen unemployment, and that is the deleterious effects of mass immigration (and re the teens, especially illegal immigration). Today’s immigration destroys American jobs. Theoretically, immigration could be good for the economy, if the people we allowed in were all highly successful entrepreneurs, or scientists, or just motivated persons of high mean IQ.

This is not the case for the majority of immigrants today, who are mostly poor, uneducated, and of low mean IQ. Thus, even the ones who come here to work and not merely collect welfare (they all come here to vote socialist), are mostly unskilled, and therefore directly compete with (by definition) unskilled teens. There were lots of jobs for teens before the full effects of the immigration invasion’s artificially pumping up of the supply of labor came to be felt.

All the other points (minimum wage, overscheduling parents, poor work ethic, etc) Jeff makes are valid. But changing all that will not have the desired effect if we keep giving employers the option of hiring adult immigrants.

Inquisitor April 1, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Abolish the welfare state, privatise everything and then teenagers and immigrants will compete on a marginally more even footing (I say this because the past interventions of the state disequilibriating competition between East and West are far-reaching.)

Leon April 1, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Agreed, but this is the purest political fantasy imaginable. Ask overpaid unionized public employees to contribute 2% to their ‘platinum’ pension plans, and they stage street protests, if not revolts. “Privatize everything”? How, exactly?

Moreover, why exactly should teens have to compete on an even footing with foreigners? Why nto just keep the foreigners OUT?

Inquisitor April 1, 2011 at 9:33 pm

““Privatize everything”? How, exactly?”

Is this a serious question? There’s loads of libertarian plans for privatisation. it isn’t a matter of “how” but if (i.e. whether it’s done before the total collapse of modern states.) They can protest all they fucking like, economic fundamentals are going to assert themselves in a very hard way soon enough.

Why should people be kept out based on which arbitrary line’s side they’re on…?

Leon April 2, 2011 at 5:45 am

I did not suggest that it was economically impossible to privatize everything, but my clear implication was that it was politically impossible to do so (and maybe even to reduce the state at all; we don’t know yet) at this time. Check out Wisconsin, and smell the reality.

Inquisitor April 2, 2011 at 7:40 am

How much longer has the US got to go? Its debt burden is insane and there are unprecedented amounts of reserves sitting in its banks, waiting to pour out in the system, with no China to come to the rescue this time. Soon it won’t be able to deliver upon the goodies it has promised to millions of entitled brats, who will have to face the grim reality that there simply is no money to fund their entitlements and never will be enough.

nate-m April 2, 2011 at 7:49 am

How much longer has the US got to go?

Tough to say. I estimate about another 50-75 years. But it can go into meltdown in about 20 if things don’t work out well. A few more natural disasters or the inevitable economic self-destruction of China will push things along a lot quicker.

Don’t expect people will understand the core issues here either. They will probably decide that what is needed is more nationalist socialism and then plunge this country into WW3. One of the biggest dangers we face is that ‘big liberalism’ will cause this country to falter, which would lay the ground work for a fascist revolution.

Leon April 2, 2011 at 10:07 am

US is now a dying nation, but its socialistic economy (thanks to nonwhites in no small part; white liberals, once so numerous – 1930s-60s – are a distinct minority of whites, but their numbers are constantly refreshed by welfare seeking immigrants), is only part of the cause. Mainly, we are dying because a nation built by and for whites is artificially being transformed into Third World rathole. Third World people = Third World country.

Incidentally, what in the world does bringing masses of alien colonists into an already heavily statist society, welfare parasites, hospital bankrupters (as in CA), affirmative action beneficiaries, ‘civil rights’ litigants against American businesses, etc. have to do with protecting the precious and hard won liberty of AMERICANS?! How stupid are you people? Do you actually think nonwhites possess an equivalent love of liberty as whites? Where have they exhibited such? As Mises put, the idea of liberty is Western. So is love of liberty. Your views are facilitating the foreign conquest of the USA. I believe that is called ‘treason’.

Anthony April 1, 2011 at 2:46 pm


When my parents were growing up they worked on farms picking produce in the hot sun for (even in nominal terms) very little money. It is true that those types of jobs are generally occupied by migrant workers now, but do you know many teenagers who would be willing to do this type of work? I don’t.

Leon April 1, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I was not thinking of farm work, which most teens would not do due to geographic reasons, as well as school schedules. I was thinking of paper deliverymen (what I did for a bit as a kid), fast food worker, summer construction, lawn mowing, etc (babysitting is still open to native-born girls, because you usually want someone you know, not off the street). In CA today, those positions are all overwhelmingly filled by adult Mexicans, often illegal.

This is a very deep issue, one in which libertarianism is inadequate, at least given the political state of things. Radical free markets will tend to equalize wage rates everywhere. Mises makes that point in HUMAN ACTION. If we had open immigration, or even just open free trade and outsourcing, eventually wage rates for average Americans will fall to a global norm, while capitalists will become ever wealthier, as they can reap the profits of thus holding down or driving down the price of labor. This is what is destroying the middle and working classes in America, and no amount of libertarian theory can change that fact.

Is this what people want, especially given the ubiquitous presence of the state in so many areas of our lives – so much of which could be abolished? It’s not what I want, nor I think most Americans. I say, let’s have a radically free internal market – but with strict state controls on both immigration and foreign trade. For the long term political health of the nation, we need a more equitable distribution of wealth, while ramping up economic growth through a domestic privatization and deregulation agenda, including Fed abolition. If we don’t do something like this, America will go down the road of an angry electorate turning to massive redistributionary taxation, whose prime beneficiary will not be private sector workers, but the state itself.

nate-m April 2, 2011 at 8:03 am

, while capitalists will become ever wealthier, as they can reap the profits of thus holding down or driving down the price of labor.


You know so little… The ‘capitalists’ getting wealthier depends entirely on the ability of the general public to purchase their goods. Without customer everything they do is pointless. Nobody is just going to give them money.. they actually have to have products to sell and people to buy them.

And immigration is key to this countries success. We want the doctors, the laborers, the scientists, programmers, and everybody else to come to this country and be successful. They are a asset, not a liability. Otherwise they are going to just stay in their own countries and then compete against us, instead of being with us. Instead of people building factories here, they will just go and build factories there.

but with strict state controls on both immigration and foreign trade.

All your doing is just repeating the same mantras that have been used over and over and over again to dispute the potential of true capitalism in favor of economic interventionism… which is the exact thinking that got us into this state in the first place!

What we need is MORE immigration and MORE foreign trade. Break down the barriers between our countries. Let the immigrants get the money working feilds, factories, slaughterhouses, and then return that money back to Mexico or wherever.

Our goal as a nation should be to export capitalism and make the rest of the world as wealthy as possible. We need customers!

Leon April 2, 2011 at 9:58 am

I mean this. You are too stupid and brainwashed for words. It would take me ten pages of text to deconstruct your nonsense. Not worth it.

Jim P. April 1, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Now couldn’t you make exactly the same argument for keeping teenagers out of the workforce? Teenagers are low skill, low wage workers. They are badly or non-educated. They are poor. Many barely speak english and are socially retarded. Don’t they have most of the characteristics of immigrant workers? Except one thing – unlike immigrants, they’re completely inexperienced to boot. In both cases, their only potential asset to an employer is their low priced labor.

And theoretically, wouldn’t scientists and engineers and professors, phone operators and dry cleaners and convenience store owners (ie, entrepreneurs) complain that the Indians are taking all their jobs? Oh wait, they already do say that.

As you yourself identified, the only reason there is an immigration “problem” is that we have government vote buying programs (ie, welfare). That is a problem with government – not immigrants. There is nothing wrong with low priced labor for low skill jobs. That is exactly why kids find work at restaurants and mall stores, except that they are usually too lazy and timid to do the real hard work that Mexicans will do for the same price (lawn care, minor construction, farming, etc).

Immigrants, whether legal or illegal since either is nothing but an arbitrary quota and a bureaucratic contrivance, are a great benefit to the economy overall. Good work at a low price. But only as long as they are supported on the free market. If I think a teenager or a Mexican does good lawn mowing, it doesn’t mean a damn thing to me if either of them has their proper paperwork in order. As a customer, not a politician, why on earth should I care where the mower is from? Either scenario is earned income for a job well done.

If taxpayers are made to pay for immigrant kids, their medical care, and their food stamps, that is indeed a problem. But again, this is no different than native born Americans on welfare programs. Both are a burden by being on the public payroll, not because they are from here or there, or because they have a green card or a learners permit or a passport. It makes no difference where a person is born. Again, public welfare and political entitlement is the real problem.

Lastly, If you support government telling employers who they should hire and why, you implicitly support minimum wage and keeping kids out of the workforce. A government that can limit immigrants can (and will) limit your own native-born kids for the same reasons. And this, neverminding the fact that government can’t possibly know what the “right” limits are for anything. Anything not based on actual need in the market, is simply a made up number by well paid “experts.” That is the road to central planning and socialism.

Leon April 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Nonsense. The road to socialism has already been paved with nonwhite immigration. CA used to be fairly conservative, but is now the “bluest of blue” states. What changed was the electoral demography, due to massive immigration. If you study politics even rudimentarily, you quickly recognize that every nonwhite group in America votes heavily democrat/socialist (hence the liberty oriented Tea Party rallies were overwhelmingly white, as I saw firsthand – despite the ones I attended being in heavily majority-minority CA).

You are living in a fantasyland of pure theory, forgetting that such a place does not describe America or any other actual country. We have a political system, and it’s not going away. Therefore, any improvements we would wish for must be made within that system. As it gets more dominated by artificially more numerous foreigners, it gets more leftist (including socialist). That domestic blacks and Jews are also socialist is irrelevant. Why add to the number of leftist voters already here? That is insane.

Moreover, immigrants can, praxeologically, only be good for the economy if they are superior in economic quality to the native-born – as I implicitly noted originally. Otherwise, they are either a wash, or possibly an outright drain. Today’s immigrants are inferior to the native-born – in wealth, skills, education, and IQ. They don’t have to be- we could cherry pick immigrants, as many other Western countries do (not that I want any nonwhite immigrants, but if we’re going to let them into a nation they did not build, surely we can take the highest quality ones?!). But we don’t. We are being colonized and conquered by Mexico (and the Third World generally). And we the native born whites are paying for this colonization.

Jim P. April 1, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Now Leon, stick to what you actually know about the conversation here. You don’t know if I live in a “fantasyland of pure theory.” You made that part up the bolster your position, which I apparently disagree with.

You blame immigrants for increasingly controlling the government that, frankly, you want others to control. You’re an authoritarian and you just want your gang to be in charge. Honestly, I don’t see the difference between you and the “nonwhite” immigrants. Call me colorblind – blue and red states are all the same thing to me. I think your position encourages Statism, which is the fight to control others using the power of the State. If you supported freedom, you wouldn’t try to use State power to get it.

Cop-outs like “we have a political system, and it’s not going away” only apologizes for the inconsistency of thinking that you can use politics and voting to force freedom upon the nation. If that sounds extreme or “theoretical fantasyland” to you: you’ll never kill the weed without pulling up the root. The actual problem here is that we are each voting to try our best to control the other. Accepting political solutions as “what we have so there” will blind you to the limits of power. It is also not an appropriate counter to an argument that rejects politics a priori. Call me crazy, but I do not believe in the religion that the State can be used to solve problems by pointing a gun until it happens. That includes jobs and immigration – try as you might, you will never control it in your wildest dreams in “fantasyland.”

And as for your bit about cherry picking, I addressed it already. But again: Leon doesn’t get to do the cherry picking. Leon doesn’t know whether we need more or less doctors or lawn mowers. But you’re assuming that politicians and experts know that. Again, which is the path of socialism and which is not?

The market can choose who is valuable and who is not without overlords.

Heather April 1, 2011 at 11:48 pm

What a garbage post. Take your collectivism elsewhere.

Daniel Coleman April 2, 2011 at 8:30 am

Leon, you write: “The road to socialism has already been paved with nonwhite immigration. CA used to be fairly conservative, but is now the ‘bluest of blue’ states.”

Interesting that you think American political conservatism is a way to avoid socialism. It seems clear to me that the War on Drugs, a strong police state, the Federal Reserve system, corporatism, state-backed agri-business, and endless foreign wars are much more conducive to the rise of socialism than letting Juan come to California with his family to find work — even if he votes Democrat (again, as if that’s any worse than voting Republican).

Leon April 2, 2011 at 9:55 am

Real conservatives support private property and free markets – we just don’t fetishize them. But your view is, like all the others here who learned nothing from the paleolibertarian awakening of the 90s, esp wrt the supreme dangers to liberty from immigration, just plain wrong. I’ve made my case already. Immigration is the enemy of liberty (ie, of the native born), because of the socialist voting patterns of nonwhites. CA politics proves it. The GOP out here is not too bad, but it has been utterly swamped by Democrats, who are put into power in such overwhelming numbers by nonwhite immigrants. This is a very mainstream understanding of the facts of politics. Indeed, the leftist voting habits of nonwhites in America is not deniable by anyone familiar with the data.

Here are two questions for you race leftists (what does race leftism have to do with defending the specific liberty of Americans, btw?): why do we have to have immigration (ie the acquisition of citizenship in another State)? why not just migration?

F. Beard April 1, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Oh, what’s all this talk about jobs! Isn’t the dream of gold-bugs to lend out a tightly controlled money supply for usury or hoard it for undeserved appreciation?

“Libertarians” who are for a government enforced gold standard are hypocrites; there are no two ways about that.

So what is it Austrians, are you libertarians or in favor of a government enforced gold standard?

If the later, then know that you are fascists instead, despite all moral pretensions to the contrary.

Matthew Swaringen April 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm

You’re so odd. You know that many Austrians are anarchists right?

And I don’t know a single person here who has said they want a “government enforced gold standard.” There might be someone who has stated that I haven’t seen, but I think you are projecting what you want to hear. Whenever someone has spoken of “gold standard” in keeping with the 1800s/etc. it has always been as a preference to what exists now, not a preference to free currency.

I know you have written quite a bit about using common stock/etc. as currency and if you think that will happen fine. But if I recall you also said all debts should basically be disregarded in this switch of yours, and that will not require government enforcement? Doubtful.

F. Beard April 1, 2011 at 2:25 pm

You know that many Austrians are anarchists right? Matthew Swaringen

If only! And so I once thought. But Gary North shocked me into reality when he said that the government may requires taxes to be paid in gold. Pure hypocrisy if he claims to be a libertarian.

I know you have written quite a bit about using common stock/etc. as currency and if you think that will happen fine. But if I recall you also said all debts should basically be disregarded in this switch of yours, and that will not require government enforcement? Doubtful. Matthew Swaringen

Debt forgiveness or a bailout of the entire population is morally justified and by government too since that is how the current unjust wealth distribution occurred. How else shall it occur? Will the thieves volunteer to give back their ill-gotten gains? Shall government now be dissolved since it has served its purpose for the looters?

However, that is a separate issue from monetary reform. Proper monetary reform would eventually lead to proper wealth distribution. But we may not have the luxury of patient forbearance. There are socialists and worse waiting in the wings. And no, “purging the malinvestments” does not interest them particularly when those “malinvestments” are their jobs.

The problem with the Austrians is they think only savers are cheated and borrowers be damned but, in fact, both are cheated by fractional reserves.

Matthew Swaringen April 2, 2011 at 12:43 am

“The problem with the Austrians is they think only savers are cheated and borrowers be damned but, in fact, both are cheated by fractional reserves.”

I think you infer this from the fact that no one agrees with you completely. I am going to doubt you’ve had anyone say this directly. But if you have a source by all means?

I’ve never thought your position was 100% off the mark, but I don’t think debt forgiveness for the entire population is workable. I guess that you would say the majority of debts are invalid, while I would disagree with that. I think the majority of debt is valid.

The reason I believe this is that even though we hardly have a free market today we still have productivity increases and advancement and new technology/etc. We don’t show the signs of complete stagnation and even reversion…. yet. We are getting there, but I don’t think we are quite there yet.

And so I think most people in debt should owe at least a portion of the debts. They did get the benefits.

I say this as someone who has debt myself. It would be wrong of me morally not to pay for the years I went to school even though I’m not using that degree. It wasn’t the lenders fault. The house I live in was purchased at a reasonable rate before the bubble. Most houses were purchased before the bubble, and so most house debt is valid to some degree at least.

I guess I just haven’t found a lot of these people who were screwed by banks and who I’ve reviewed the details of their situation and come to the conclusion that they shouldn’t owe a dime.

F. Beard April 2, 2011 at 3:05 am

. I guess that you would say the majority of debts are invalid, while I would disagree with that. I think the majority of debt is valid. Matthew Swaringen

Certainly, to the extent that homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, they have been cheated.

The reason I believe this is that even though we hardly have a free market today we still have productivity increases and advancement and new technology/etc. … Matthew Swaringen

The implicit social contract between the government enforced counterfeiting cartel, the FR bankers, and the rest of society is that the bankers will use the population’s own stolen purchasing power to finance productivity increases and to provide jobs. However, in the process, it drives the population into unserviceable debt since usury itself, (much less fractional reserves + usury!) requires exponential growth to pay for it.

We don’t show the signs of complete stagnation and even reversion…. yet. We are getting there, but I don’t think we are quite there yet. Matthew Swaringen

Even without fractional reserves, debt forgiveness is commanded every 7 years in Deuteronomy 15. How much more then when the money lent (known as “credit”) does not even exist in the first place?!

nate-m April 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Isn’t the dream of gold-bugs to lend out a tightly controlled money supply for usury or hoard it for undeserved appreciation?

No, I do not think that is a correct statement.

F. Beard April 1, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Indeed it is a correct statement if gold bugs seek government privilege for their shiny metal and by extension for usury since PMs REQUIRE usury.

nate-m April 1, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Indeed it is a correct statement if gold bugs seek government privilege for their shiny metal and by extension for usury since PMs REQUIRE usury.

Yeah something like that probably would make what you said a correct statement. Go figure.

Now you know better. Isn’t it nice?

F. Beard April 1, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Now you know better. Isn’t it nice? nate-m

No. I feel betrayed by people I thought I could trust.

F. Beard April 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm

But OTOH, I’ve learned things about true liberty and money and to trust Moses over Mises and his followers.

Inquisitor April 1, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Right why follow clarity of judgement? Instead, a deluded idiot who thought he got “God’s” commands on some stones is much more worthy of an ear, as opposed to someone who – whether right or wrong – worked out his arguments with painstaking logic and clear reasoning.

El Tonno April 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Go troll on 4chan or something.

F. Beard April 1, 2011 at 6:18 pm

I would if any of you could refute my arguments. But you can’t.

nate-m April 2, 2011 at 6:34 am

You never made a argument. Just accusations.

Hack April 1, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Is this an April fools’ joke?

F. Beard April 1, 2011 at 6:22 pm

It’s no joke. I’ve discovered the libertarian movement has been infiltrated by fascist gold bugs.

Jim P. April 1, 2011 at 6:28 pm

You may be a little aggressive here, but frankly I agree with you. I think you may be exaggerating about the fascist part. I think you do have a point about the hypocrisy bit, but again somewhat exaggerated.

I believe that most here would agree that the government should not be in the money creation or moderation business at all, which would certainly include the actual enforcement of some sort of gold standard. Many libertarians, reasonably enough, believe that a gold standard would be a step in the right direction toward a money that cannot be easily manipulated politically. Many libertarians tend to believe that a possible legitimate role of government is to merely define weights and measures (I don’t agree that this is necessary). But that is simply because gold has been chosen time and time again by the free market. It is a historical standard. If the free market ultimately chose to use Ritz crackers instead of gold, then crackers would become money. Also, there is no reason that there could not be very many different forms of money. But again, the market tends to like metal for obvious practical reasons.

The bottom line is that the market, not politicians or even history, must choose. Most libertarians in the Austrian tradition would probably agree that money should not ever be government defined and controlled and enforced. It should be whatever the market prefers to use as a medium of exchange.

Also, I have no idea how this is relevant to the topic at hand.

F. Beard April 1, 2011 at 7:15 pm

The bottom line is that the market, not politicians or even history, must choose. Jim P

It is an old trick of bankers to get the government to recognize their private money by, for instance, accepting it for taxes. That thereby adds exchange value to what ever money or money form is chosen. For that reason, in order to favor no private money and no private money form, then government must recognize either all monies and money forms (eg. PMs, common stock, store coupons, futures contracts, etc. ) equally (which is impossible) or none at all.

It then follows that government must ONLY recognize its own fiat as money. However, that fiat should only be legal tender for taxes and fees, not private debts.

Also, I have no idea how this is relevant to the topic at hand. Jim P

The hypocrisy of extolling the benefits of working while hoping to sit back and reap usury (and undeserved monetary appreciation) in a government privileged money form (PMs) is galling. It reminds me of the current crop of usurers.

Also, the idea of separate government and private money supplied is from Scripture, Matthew 22:16-22.

Jim P. April 1, 2011 at 7:34 pm

“It is an old trick of bankers to get the government to recognize their private money by, for instance, accepting it for taxes.”


“It then follows that government must ONLY recognize its own fiat as money. However, that fiat should only be legal tender for taxes and fees, not private debts.”

Again, I totally agree. You can see why Austrians, at the very least, lean heavily toward anarchism. A little government force is simply a lot of government force, but in transition. I think you might be surprised at how many Austrians are only mildly (or not at all) sympathetic to a government enforced gold standard.

Also, I believe the main argument in favor of usury is the fact that it compensates the lender for the time that he is without his assets. Since the lender supposedly earned the asset in the first place, it is only fair that he charge for the time he is without it. Otherwise, why should he share his capital? Is charging interest any different than rent? I don’t see how that is unearned income, any more than a landlord earns income by putting up the risk of ownership of the building he rents. Do I misunderstand?

That’s a favorite line of mine from Matthew. It sums up the value of government money quite nicely.

F. Beard April 1, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Also, I believe the main argument in favor of usury is the fact that it compensates the lender for the time that he is without his assets. Since the lender supposedly earned the asset in the first place, it is only fair that he charge for the time he is without it. Otherwise, why should he share his capital? Is charging interest any different than rent? I don’t see how that is unearned income, any more than a landlord earns income by putting up the risk of ownership of the building he rents. Do I misunderstand? Jim P

Like many people you conflate capital with money. In fact they are distinct. Capital is such things as factories, human skills, land, energy resources, etc. Conventional money, because of the privilege it is accorded by government, is a nearly unavoidable medium of exchange between different capital owners for which the bankers charge rent.

As for usury, I would never outlaw it. However, all government privileges for it, including a government enforced or privileged private money standard should be denied.

Jim P. April 1, 2011 at 9:19 pm

You’re right about the word capital – that does mischaracterize money. I meant capital, generally, as what could have been bought and produced had someone not borrowed the money. It is easy to swap “money” for the “thing” to be exchanged for it since exchange is the purpose of money. But it is not really correct.

F. Beard April 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm

A little government force is simply a lot of government force, but in transition. Jim P

I note the US governemnt did not grow monstrously large till after the government enforced counterfeiting cartel, the FR bankers, wrecked the economy in the 1920′s and 1930′s.

F. Beard April 2, 2011 at 5:43 am

It sums up the value of government money quite nicely. Jim P

Yes, government money is quite valuable. It enables ones to pay his fuel tax, for instance, should he desire to drive on government roads.

And before anyone screams we should not even have government roads, government is a fact of life currently. The question then is how it might be properly shrunk not how we might use it ourselves to loot our fellow citizens.

Which brings up “privatization”. Should public assets be sold for more money-from-thin-air from the counterfeiting cartel that caused our problems in the first place? The obvious answer is no, but when has an Austrian ever said that?

sirthinkalot April 2, 2011 at 2:48 am

im not “in favor” of a government rnforced gold standard. although i do think it would be preferable to what we have now

F. Beard April 2, 2011 at 3:38 am

although i do think it would be preferable to what we have now

The solution to tyranny is liberty not another form of tyranny.

King George April 2, 2011 at 11:28 pm

100% agreed to this. If anything a government-run gold standard would be a clever form of subterfuge; once it fails, again, it would be so easy to blame the gold standard and Austrian economics for any hardship suffered.

F. Beard April 3, 2011 at 10:31 am

It would fail, with or without government support. PMs are a primitive money form that also require usury. But with usury the debt grows exponentially while the real economy cannot.

Thanks for the support. Truth can be painful to hear and I sometimes get attacked for presenting it.

Randy April 1, 2011 at 2:35 pm

What saddens me is there are no longer paper routes available for kids. I had a route for about 5 years starting when I was 11. A paper route is a wonderful lesson in the world of entrepreneurship. Having to deal with and collect from customers (the hardest part of the job) was a great lesson in human relations. This lunched me on a lifetime of self-employment and a relative amount of freedom. At 16 I worked for a cleaning service after school. I had a buffing route, and although I was an employee I worked without any supervision. I did not like the cleaning job, but it taught me that I didn’t want to spend my life working a crappy job, and that I would be better off working for myself.

Wuggles April 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Preach it brother!

Joe April 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I really enjoyed the stories presented of peoples employment histories. It made me smile because I has similar experiences. It actually was refreshing to hear of the wages paid and the working conditions were not always the best, but through perserverance and hard work it somehow worked out.
My first job I was paid $1.00 per hour for weeding onions. I had a problem. I was pulling the onions and leaving the weeds. To say the least I lost that job. When I was in high school I would haul hay in the summer. We had three people working together and we would get 6 cents per bale. So I got my 2 cents per bale and after all summer I made the sum total of $80 (4,000 bales hauled). I gave $60 of it to my mother. I kept my $20 to buy a transistor radio. Although the pay was little I had many great experiences. Many years later after college and the military I was a manager in a large banking institution with two shifts, 4 managers and 125 employees. See what can happen with a little luck and a lot of hard work and education.
Jeffery thanks for this article. Keep up the good work.

Jake_nonphixion April 1, 2011 at 5:26 pm

As a soon to be graduating student I can also attest to the negative skills learned in school:

Procrastination, tardiness, plagiarism, and mindless regurgitation

It really is incredibly easy to get a 3.0 in college, all you have to do is show up. But most people do the bare minimum to get by with a 2.0

I am grateful of my experience in the “real world”

I got kicked out of high school for being a trouble maker, but after a few years working and learning the lessons alluded to in this article I had a recalibration of purpose and am about to graduate at the top of my class in engineering school.

I’m just glad I didn’t have a trust fund to fall back on because eating ramen and peanut butter and doing door to door sales is the fastest way to mature there is

Seattle April 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm

So, having to go through difficulty is a good thing because it builds character?

I thought the thing that was so great about the market was that it makes people’s lives easier! I suppose that’s a bad thing now.

Why not sing the praises of socialism? Living under a socialist regime is one of the most difficult, unpleasant, and horrifying things a person can ever come to experience. If we had world socialism, people would be so much better!

Or perhaps our aversion to difficulty is an instinct because it’s right. The purpose of work is not the labor. The purpose of work is the reward. If the reward can be obtained without the labor then it should be. And if the absence of hardship really does lead to declines in health then maybe the market will find a way around that too.

Jim P. April 1, 2011 at 6:50 pm

You are right that the market won’t live your life for you. In fact, the market is simply people living their lives. Life is difficult by nature.

“So, having to go through difficulty is a good thing because it builds character?”

So, would you refute this, then? Is building character through difficulty (or, experience) not a good thing? Is difficulty bad?

“I thought the thing that was so great about the market was that it makes people’s lives easier!”

So skip the insinuation and do the heavy lifting here. Would you disagree? Does the market not make people’s lives easer? Don’t even the poor have cars and refrigerators and electricity? Don’t they have housing, pet dogs, and food? And what did they have only a hundred years ago?

“If we had world socialism, people would be so much better!”

But would they have food? Would they have self-driven purpose in life? Is this misguided sarcasm, or what?

“The purpose of work is not the labor. The purpose of work is the reward.”

Indeed, but while the market may allow a better life for less effort – you surely know that nothing is simply free. Even the sun will burn out. It sounds like you are essentially proposing a thermodynamic “free perpetual energy” version of the world, where everything is provided to you at no additional effort. It’s a little half-baked.

Seattle April 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm

So, would you refute this, then? Is building character through difficulty (or, experience) not a good thing? Is difficulty bad?

Yes. It can be traded off against other ills but it’s never a good thing in and of itself.

Anthony April 2, 2011 at 12:03 am

I think the root of the issue is time preference… to say “difficulty is bad” is, I believe, simply stating that there is disutility of labor. I don’t think that Jeffery disagrees with that (or at least I hope not).

What I believe Jeffery is getting at is that when teenagers don’t work they are giving up huge benefits in the medium and long-term future in favor of transient and short term benefits. The problem with this is that capital accumulation and the creation of wealth depends on an ideally progressive lowering of time preference.

When government and/or parents tell kids not to get jobs they are impairing the future satisfactions of wants both for the kids not working and for society as a whole. If people don’t learn to postpone satisfaction when they are kids they are much less likely to do so as adults. If enough people are taught that it is better to consume goods immediately than to save and invest (including “investing” time to build valuable skills) then the rapid improvement in standards of living over of the last few hundred years could quickly come to a stop.

(sorry about the rambling…)

Seattle April 2, 2011 at 5:33 am

I agree with you, but this is not the point Mr. Tucker was making.

There is the “work ethic,” a phrase that is batted around all the time, but what does it really mean? You have to actually work to acquire one. As innumerable titans of the Gilded Age attempted to tell us, no young person is born wanting to work. How do you learn to come to thrive on it?

To have a “work ethic” means the willingness to experience discomfort on the way toward the completion of a job done with excellence. This doesn’t come naturally. The “natural” thing is to stop doing what you are doing when it begins to be something discomforting or when more is expected than you want to give. But this approach goes nowhere. In fact, if this is your approach, you trim more and more until the point that you become a sofa slug, which pretty much describes — a whole generation.

With a job in commerce, you have your finger on the pulse of life itself, the thing that is active, moving, growing, and reflective of changing social values and interests. You have something that becomes you, something that gives you bragging rights, something that connects you to others. You become defined, skilled, useful, experienced. You have stories. You are in some measure liberated from the authority structures you inherit from birth and from growing up, and you adopt new ones of your own choosing.

Do we really want to deny all of this to an entire generation and then expect these people to just leap into the “real world” at the age of 24 or so, fully formed? They will not be formed. They will not be ready. They will be less useful, less skilled, less productive, less shaped in their character, less ready to be free and responsible.

Perhaps he simply felt the point did not need emphasizing, but nowhere does he mention time preference or capital accumulation. All the benefits of working that he talks about are purely character-related. And I say: Screw character! It is only a means, not an end. Embrace it where it is useful and discard it where it is not. And we are increasingly living in a world where, for better or worse, work ethic simply doesn’t matter.

Jack April 4, 2011 at 3:40 am

The mind of a person with no work ethic will tend, when he sets himself to work, to obsess over painful thoughts, concerning either the intrinsic disutility of his work, or the opportunity cost (cf. time preference) it represents. One cultivates a healthy work ethic by learning to suppress and dispell these painful thoughts, and in doing so, one also learns a portentous lesson about the malleability of human experience. And that lesson matters in any world.

Walt D. April 2, 2011 at 12:55 am

We have a president who never had a real job so-to-speak outside of politics. My advice to unemployed teenagers – take up golf – it may come in useful later.

Gil April 3, 2011 at 12:35 am

That reminds of another thing against Obama – to become a general in the military is a slow and tedious process it you get there at all. On the other hand, as soon as you’re voted in as President you are immediately Commander & Chief of all the armed forces – no military experience requried.

F. Beard April 2, 2011 at 2:48 am

Right why follow clarity of judgement? Instead, a deluded idiot who thought he got “God’s” commands on some stones is much more worthy of an ear, … Inquisitor

Oh please continue. Moses is revered (for good reason) by both Jews and Christians. Let your fellow Austrians, many of whom are Jewish or Christian, hear your slight of him and be alarmed.

… as opposed to someone who – whether right or wrong – worked out his arguments with painstaking logic and clear reasoning. Inquisitor

I’ve the suspicion that Mises worked backwards. He started with a mystic belief in gold as money and reasoned backwards to justify that belief.

I certainly sympathize with the motivation. Full legal tender fiat is an abomination. However, the solution is not to change the material the fiat is made from (fiat gold?!) but to change the laws that force us to use government fiat for private debts. not just for its proper use, taxes and fees.

nate-m April 2, 2011 at 6:39 am

The only thing that I was curious about how anything you were going on about had anything to do with the article.

Jeffrey Tucker April 2, 2011 at 8:57 am

A reader pointed out to me that many parents worry about the cost of education and so push their kids in sports and academics in hopes of some financial help. Time on the job earning low pay doesn’t help that.

This is a good point. The problem is that the “work ethic” is essential for success in any area of life, even school but especially after school. Denying that to kids isn’t really doing them any favor. In fact, it is extremely short sighted. Also, kids aren’t really very busy, despite appearances. Piling a job on top of everything else will help them learn to use their time better – and also help them prioritize.

F. Beard April 2, 2011 at 10:05 am

<i… to face the grim reality that there simply is no money to fund their entitlements and never will be enough. Inquisitor

The government CANNOT run out of money since it does not have to buy it from gold miners. Also it’s typical of the Austrians to attack the old and helpless so the usury class can be paid their usury. “Austerity” it is called. But actually it is theft in the case of SS recipients since they contributed ~13 percent of their income to the SS fund all their working life.

Here’s a solution:

1) Put the banks out of the counterfeiting business via capital and/or reserve requirements.
2) Bailout the entire population (including savers) with new, debt and interest free US Notes.
3) Proceed with genuine monetary reform including genuine separation of government and private money supplies.

F. Beard April 2, 2011 at 10:58 am

But if you think the usurers are entitle to their usury, then how much of US National Debt was bought via money-from-thin-air via fractional reserves or with new money from the Fed? And if that debt was later resold does it suddenly become legitimate or is that purchase equivalent to buying stolen goods?

The US Government should never have borrowed money in the first place.

As Thomas Edison said:

“If our nation can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good, makes the bill good, also. The difference between the bond and the bill is that the bond lets money brokers collect twice the amount of the bond and an additional 20%, whereas the currency pays nobody but those who contribute directly in some useful way. It is absurd to say that our country can issue $30 million in bonds and not $30 million in currency. Both are promises to pay, but one promise fattens the usurers and the other helps the people.” from http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/path-to-a-new-economy/revive-lincoln2019s-monetary-policy-an-open-letter-to-president-obama

Dan April 2, 2011 at 12:06 pm

OMG people are incapable of sticking to the subject on the comment portion of the blog. I read through half of the nonsense and flame wars above and just gave up (I was scrolling down to the bottom to comment). If you have new ideas, please articulate them in a clear, organized fashion in a section of the website designed for it. Otherwise, stick to the subject please (rant over).

Anyway, Jeff’s article was really enlightening for me. I can say from my experience as a college student and from my experience working in the private sector, that he is spot on with his observations. The experience of working is probably one of the most important ways young people learn about life. As someone who has spent five years in school, I can say that working is probably more important overall then school (though there are exceptions).

F. Beard April 2, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Otherwise, stick to the subject please (rant over). Dan

If you think the money system is irrelevant to working then you are basically saying that debt slavery is irrelevant too. The carrot the usury class dangles before us is “Be a good little slave, work hard, save up our government enforced monopoly money, and you too can join us one day.”

No thanks. Instead we should lobby to eliminate the money monopoly and not seek to replace it with one of our own such as a government enforced or privileged gold standard.

Work is indeed beneficial, even for slaves. But justice is something we should work for too.

And now unemployment is high and rising. One can blame minimum wage laws, unions and earned “entitlements” as the Austrians do but usury itself, (not to mention usury + fractional reserves) is mathematically unsustainable since the debt grows exponentially but the real economy cannot.

HL April 2, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I think for my eledest’s 12th bday I will get her a shoe shining kit, knee pads and a county permit to shine shoes on the street. I can set her up at the court house. At $2.50 per pair of shoes, with a realistic four customers per hour, times ten hours, she can make $100 per day. After my 20% parental support deduction, that’s $80 per day! Excellent. And that doesn’t include tips! Winning.

Matt Parke April 3, 2011 at 7:03 am

Great article. I only wish you had asked the students if any of them had even looked for a job that resulted in a paycheck. With the current economic situation, it would be nice to know if jobs just weren’t available, and that is why none of them could answer positively to the 2nd question.

victor April 3, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Take away the food stamps, utilities subsidies, Section 8, and 90% of people will work. I thought Mises was about free markets and open borders? Sadly, many racists abound on this site. I think it is wrong for so many people to attack immigrants, when it is the system that entices people of all creeds and ethnicities, born in and outside of the U.S. to join the welfare roles. I lived in a country that had land ownership and poll tax-type requirements for enfranchisement. It was very difficult for the majority of African citizens to qualify to vote outside of 8 or 9 seats reserved in parliment–it needed to change, but not into the pseudo-socialist state it became. So what are we doing to get rid all of these entitlements and corporate give-aways?

F. Beard April 3, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Take away the food stamps, utilities subsidies, Section 8, and 90% of people will work. victor

Yeah, ignore the fact that the government enforced counterfeiting cartel drove the population into debt-slavery and punish the victims, why don’t you? How about eliminating their unjust debt and abolishing the counterfeiting cartel first?

I thought Mises was about free markets and open borders? victor

Not if he was in favor of a government enforced gold standard. In that case he was a fascist not a libertarian.

F. Beard April 3, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Well, I can remove the “if.” LV Mises was a fascist according to this:

Ludwig von Mises is well-known for his uncompromising defense of the gold standard during a period when that standard was being denounced by most other prominent economists. from http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj19n2/cj19n2-4.pdf

F. Beard April 4, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Here’s a sweet little quote from yalls hero, LV Mises, to Ayn Rand.

You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the efforts of men who are better than you. L. V. Mises

Hey Ludvig, how much of your “superiority” was bought with government enforced usury from the “masses”?

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