OPINION: Democrats Have Proposed A ‘Right’ Not To Work — And It’s At Odds With American Tradition

Joanne Butler | Contributor

In the now-infamous fact sheet produced by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (AOC) office explaining her “Green New Deal,” there was a promise that the government would provide an income for those “unwilling to work,” an old socialist ideal. In light of other AOC proposals, it’s no surprise the idea was included in the draft.

Providing a government income for people unwilling to work is, in effect, creating a “right not to work.” Why would socialists want this?

An obvious answer is wealth redistribution — the driving force behind the socialist idea. But more subtly, there’s the concept that if a person decides not to participate in the (inherently bad) capitalist system, he or she should have the ability to opt out.

At this point, socialism borrows from Marxist philosophy. Capitalism is inherently bad because the worker creates value for the owners of capital, who capture it from the worker in the form of profits. Work becomes a punishment, a vehicle for theft by the owners of capital.

To avoid participating in the capitalist system, a person chooses not work. Therefore, the owners of capital never gain what would have been his/her added-value/profit.

However, under our current economic system, capitalism is needed to provide the money to the government, which, in turn, would pay individuals unwilling to work. Returning to that Marxist paradigm, paying the “unwilling” requires other workers to create added-value/profits, which the government taxes.

Some might cite the Amish as a group that does not participate in the capitalist system. They do not pay Social Security taxes, nor do their children attend high school due to their religious beliefs. However, many of them are keen capitalists even if they don’t realize it.

For example, Amish beliefs prohibit farmers from accepting subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2004, USDA was given $10.1 billion in federal funding to encourage tobacco growers to switch to other crops. But Amish growers refused USDA funding. Today they are making good money from tobacco. A 2017 report (on Amish tobacco farming) stated an acre of tobacco can gross about $5,000, but corn only $700 to $800. The Amish might not know about Adam Smith, economics, or capitalism, but they know how to get the most out of every acre.

Must every person work? The answer is no, as some individuals cannot work due to physical or mental limitations.

However, in a growing economy (as we have now) with its tighter labor market, firms are more willing to make accommodations to bring disabled people on their payrolls. The firms benefit and so do the workers. As James Hudgins, a worker (with autism) for Ernst & Young described his solution to a computer coding problem: “That’s my pride and joy right there.”

Pride and joy: that’s how Mr. Hudgins views his work. Contrast this with the hard-leftie stance that income redistribution (including paying the able-bodied who don’t want to work) is the answer to all ills.

It’s a cheerless prospect. Imagine thousands or millions of Americans living on the edge, relying on a “basic income” from the government in exchange for not working.

Mr. Hudgins has it right: work is not a punishment; it can give a person pride, joy and increased self-esteem. It’s a powerful combination not only for the individual, but for one’s community and all of America.

Joanne Butler was an international trade specialist at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and at the Foreign Agricultural Service at USDA in the George H.W. Bush administration. In the George W. Bush administration, she was a senior adviser and speechwriter at the Department of Labor.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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