One of the first things that pleasantly surprised me about Americans upon my arrival in 1978 was the strong work ethic, “the belief in work as a moral good.” The Webster’s Dictionary claims that the word “work ethic” was first used in 1951. I was contrasting it with the socialist workers’ paradise work ethic I saw in my twenty years of life under the communist party regime – “we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”
Daddy used to tell us stories about his young team of misfit apprentices who hid as soon as they arrived at work to continue their morning sleep. Dad had to look for them in new nooks and hideouts every day. It was a challenge and an irritation to get people to work because they could never be fired, no matter how bad they were. The communist party dictated that, in order to keep the masses quiet, everybody had to have a job and a meager salary. In their pursuit of a better hiding place, some hapless greenhorns crawled into dangerous areas with toxic fumes and liquids. Dad worked in a large refinery that had supplied oil to the German Army during World War II under another misguided regime.
The employment card each worker carried only showed a stamp with the place and time of employment – no room for work performance evaluation or any such capitalist “exploitation.”
I was in awe at the long hours Americans worked, their dedication to the work place, productivity, personal responsibility for errors, much better remuneration based on merit, and pride in a job well done. I soon understood why – people could get fired for non-performance and inability to do the job in a timely manner. This is something that socialist countries like France, Italy, and Greece are not allowed to do by law.
Unfortunately, things have changed in the 35 years since I arrived in the United States. Half of the population subscribes to socialist welfare, work ethic long forgotten. Why try so hard to work when welfare, food stamps (EBT cards), disability, out of wedlock babies, and 99 weeks unemployment are so much more lucrative? Let the other 50 percent idiots go to work and earn distributive welfare income for the rest. Government taxation and income redistribution are very generous. All welfare recipients have to do is keep voting Democrat and the bonanza follows.
I am not sure if Americans arrived at this attitude because of our government largesse, with the help of the Democrats who promise more social justice, or because they have followed the lead of the European socialists. Surely they cannot believe that it is morally and socially just to steal from the labor of those who work and give it to those who prefer sloth.
The Greeks, for example, have exercised for years their political options based on self-interest. In codependent complicity with the political class, the welfare class changes their votes to the party that offers most goodies. If statistics are to be believed, 70 percent of the population receives some sort of benefit payment for partial or total handicap.
An old man lamented that “Greeks have forgotten how to work.” Therefore a new mantra emerged, “Politicians pretend to govern and Greeks pretend to protest.” Anarchy stoked from the far right and the far left gains more converts by using the mantra of pretend, nobody puts forth any real effort. Greeks seem to love anarchy because it is so financially profitable.
Tax cheats abound at the local and government levels. People don’t like taxation and some successfully avoid paying taxes. The railroad borrows 700 million euros for daily operations and winds up with a 600 million deficit. The sink hole of the Greek economy is caused by collective duplicity, politicians, society, citizens without a work ethic, unions, business owners, and the European Union who turns a blind eye to all the corruption.
Greece is a good example of the deliberate demise of a country caused by the depreciating work ethic. Greece, once famous for its art, architecture, and military genius, is now infamous for its social, political, and economic bankruptcy.
The French work ethic was at the center of a recent spat between Titan International and the left-wing minister of industry, Arnaud Montebourg. Maurice Taylor, the CEO of Titan, sent a letter on February 8, which was made public in the Parisian press, to Montebourg, in which he told him why Titan had no interest in buying a doomed Goodyear’s Amiens Nord tire factory. “The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three.”
Industry minister Montebourg replied that Taylor’s comments were “extremist and insulting,” particularly since French products are superior. “Mr. Taylor, saying he will pay a euro an hour to Chinese workers to give us crappy products, excuse my language, is unacceptable to our French farmers.”
The chief of the French employers’ union MEDEF, Laurence Parisot, injected his opinion in the debacle; Mr. Taylor’s letter was “unacceptable.” He admitted that there “were some irregularities in the French way of working, but generalizing it to the whole of France was ‘shocking.’”
The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. of Amiens Nord faces closure because of disagreements between the union representing 1,250 workers and the management – employees must work more shifts or accept layoffs. http://wtvr.com/2013/02/28/good-year-ceos-letter-about-french-work-ethic-sparks-fury/
The case of Fiat illustrates the work ethic of Italians, at least those in the southern part of Italy. After having “rescued” Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne of Fiat was hoping to convince workers to be more devoted to their jobs, to cut down on bad working habits such as calling in sick while working on another job in order to double their pay, or skip work with a fake doctor’s excuse on the day a favorite soccer team plays a game.
Pormigliano d’Arco is the lowest performing plant of the Fiat Empire – it has operated at 32 percent capacity 2008-2010. The 5,200 employees produce Alpha Romeos. Fiat did not close the plant because it would have destroyed almost 50 percent of the region’s economy and the livelihood of 15,000 families in a very poor area with the highest unemployment in Italy, 20 percent less productivity, and prominent organized crime. “As Fiat goes, so goes Italy,” and Italians like their “humane working life.”
Nello Niglio, a factory worker, was quoted in the New York Times, criticizing Mr. Marchionne’s requirements for longer work hours and less absenteeism. “He wants to impose American-style standards. But too much work is going to kill our workers.” (Liz Alderman, Fiat Pushes Work Ethic at Italian Plant, July 22, 2010)
The socialist workers of Italy, Greece, or France are not giving up their life-long secured employment perks in order to adopt an American work ethic of responsibility, accountability, and decency. God forbid, they may die from overwork. Instead, Americans are adopting by the millions the socialist work ethic.
“A 57-year old well-educated alcoholic receives Social Security, free rent, free utilities, and free healthcare. He refuses to work. As soon as his check comes in, he goes straight to the liquor store.”
“A share-cropper from Georgia, retired from Ford, still works at 77 and has a tremendous work ethic. His son, a strong, healthy young man of 44 only takes odd jobs for cash in the underground economy. He does not want an official paycheck because he has amassed a $75,000 college loan debt which he has no intention of paying back.”
Men with welfare-mom girlfriends are well financed – they wear expensive clothes and drive nice cars. The “bread winner” in the family is often the young woman who keeps getting pregnant and having babies by different men who disappear into society, leaving the taxpayer-supported welfare system to care for their offspring. “This is the Democrat-voting constituency whose entitlement spending the current administration refuses to cut.”
But then we should not call them entitlements, they are welfare, taxpayer-funded handouts. Social Security and Veterans benefits are entitlements because they were “earned and paid for by the recipients” or their immediate families.
I have worked 12- hour days my entire adult life and still do. I have not gotten sick from hard work, on the contrary, there was a sense of pride and accomplishment for a job well done, and I felt good to be able to pay my bills and take care of my family.
My friend David, a scientist and Ph.D., has worked since he was six years old, delivering papers on a five mile long route, crossing the busy Lincoln Highway two times. He also worked at the corner gas station during high school. The quintessential entrepreneur, David started his own lab at age 55 and made it a resounding success through hard work; he still labors 80 hours a week, including some bookkeeping, and has not been sick a day in 45 years. His European friends tell him that he could not start such a business in Europe because of regulations, bureaucracy, and the European mindset. Europeans do not want to work more than eight hours per day, no weekend work, prefer five-week vacations, national holidays off, a thirteenth salary, and other deserved and undeserved perks. Many EU countries have switched to a 30-hour workweek.
American work ethic based on values of hard work and diligence has enhanced the moral character of millions. Americans with a strong work ethic are reliable, entrepreneurial, take initiative, and always pursue new skills and ventures. Traditionally, Americans with a good work ethic have been selected for better positions of responsibility and promoted more often.
In the last decades, however, a degradation of the moral character has resulted in a diminished work ethic. Promotions not based on merit but on ethnic, racial, and gender quotas further exacerbate the problem. The entitlement mentality that is now promoted by the MSM and the government is pervasive in the country, has driven more nails into the work ethic coffin, promoting the European socialism mindset and a dubious work ethic, alien to our American values. Our anemic economic recovery is the result of this mentality.