TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, September 2, 2013

Peggy Noonan's Labor Day Reflections

Happy Labor DayWall Street Journal op-ed:  Work and the American Character, by Peggy Noonan:

Mike Huckabee [said] on his Fox show a few weeks ago ... that we see joblessness as an economic fact, we talk about the financial implications of widespread high unemployment, and that isn't wrong but it misses the central point. Joblessness is a personal crisis because work is a spiritual event.

A job isn't only a means to a paycheck, it's more. "To work is to pray," the old priests used to say. God made us as many things, including as workers. When you work you serve and take part. To work is to be integrated into the daily life of the nation. There is pride and satisfaction in doing work well, in working with others and learning a discipline or a craft or an art. To work is to grow and to find out who you are.

In return for performing your duties, whatever they are, you receive money that you can use freely and in accordance with your highest desire. A job allows you the satisfaction of supporting yourself or your family, or starting a family. Work allows you to renew your life, which is part of the renewing of civilization.

Work gives us purpose, stability, integration, shared mission. And so to be unable to work—unable to find or hold a job—is a kind of catastrophe for a human being.

There are an estimated 11.5 million unemployed people in America now, and those who do not have sufficient work or who've left the workforce altogether inflate that number further.

This is the real reason jobs and employment are the No. 1 issue in America's domestic life. And what I have been thinking in the weeks leading up to this weekend is very simple: "Thank you, God, that I have a job." May more of us be able to say those words on Labor Day 2014.

And may more political leaders come up who can help jobs happen, who can advance and support the kind of national policies that can encourage American genius. One of the things missing in the current political scene is zest—a feeling that can radiate from the political sphere that everything is possible, the market is wide open.

In the midst of the economic malaise of the 1970s the TV anchormen spoke in sonorous tones about the dreadful economic indicators—inflation, high interest rates, "the misery index." But Steve Jobs, in his parents' garage, was quietly working on circuit boards. And strange young Bill Gates was creating a company called Microsoft. All that work burst forth under the favorable economic conditions and policies in the 1980s and '90s.

What is needed now is a political leader on fire about all the possibilities, not one who tries to sound optimistic because polls show optimism is popular but someone with real passion about the idea of new businesses, new inventions, growth, productivity, breakthroughs and jobs, jobs, jobs. Someone in love with the romance of the marketplace. We've lost that feeling among our political leaders, who mostly walk around looking like they have headaches. But American genius is still there, in our garages. It's been there since before Ben Franklin and the key and the kite and the bolt of lightning.

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