What builds character? A job in a capitalist economy, or campus “safe spaces”?

Dennis Prager liked this article so much that he discussed it on Friday AND Monday. A lot.

I read the article, too. And I think there is a lot to learn from it. Let’s take a look at some of it, and then I’ll make a point.


During Customs week, in PAF sessions, and in everyday discourse here at Haverford, we are taught to ask for help when we feel we need it, speak up when we feel uncomfortable, and prioritize our own well being over most other things. At McDonald’s, acting in this way could have cost me my job, a job I needed to afford college. There, I, as an individual, was insignificant: The most important thing was that the customer walks away satisfied, and it didn’t matter what I had to go through to make that happen. There is something ironic about this: In order to do what was necessary to be a Haverford student, I had to act in un-Haverford-like way.

Because I worked the front counter, whenever there was a problem with an order — even though I never made the food — I was the one who was verbally abused. “One must never interrupt the customer,” and “The customer is always right,” so I would stand and listen to the entirety of elaborate rants, trying to put aside the attacks on myself, on McDonald’s, on America, and on capitalism, so that I could report the relevant details to those who actually had the power to correct the problem. These issues were usually simple, like a missing piece of cheese from a McDouble, or whipped cream on a milkshake when they hadn’t wanted any.

The customer is always right, and how you feel about the “injustice of it all” doesn’t matter. In fact, if you put your personal feelings about the need of the business owner to grow his business, you’ll probably get a talking to about how the customer is always right and to toughen up and take it.

She concludes:

I’m grateful to have worked at McDonald’s: It taught me how better to handle my anxiety and how to put myself last in the name of efficiency and a common goal. McDonald’s strengthened my character, my work ethic, and expanded my capacity for resilience, valuable lessons which could not be learned in the “safe spaces” of Haverford’s campus. We must remember that putting oneself first is the essence of privilege, and that, in order to grow, we must leave this selfish mindset behind.

So what can we say about this?

In a free market, you can't make money by greed alone
In a free market, you can’t get rich by greed alone

I don’t know if most young people really understand that the essence of the free market / free enterprise / capitalist system is that in order for you to make money, you have to make something or do something for someone else that they find valuable. You cannot greed your way to a fortune. There is no filthy capitalist dog in a top hat, twirling his long mustache and laughing evilly as money magically appears. In a free market, you have to give something to someone to get their money. And you have to give them more value for less cost than all the other competitors they can choose from. So, people in businesses have to be nice to you. That’s why Amazon and Costco don’t ask questions when you return stuff. They want a relationship with you for life, and questioning you would make you go somewhere else. And all their employees are taught that – the customer is always right.

The opposite of free market competition is monopoly. Monopolies do exist in the world, but not usually in the free market. Where do monopolies exist? Well, they exist in the government. Think of what the service is like at the department of motor vehicles, or immigration office, or the social security office, etc. The customer service is lousy, the lines are long, the unionized government workers are uneducated and rude, and they get too many benefits and too much salary for the value they offer. How are they allowed to do that? Simple. You can’t go anywhere else to get the stuff you need from them. That’s why they can underperform, and you can’t do a thing about it.

Anyway, the main point is that you should always encourage your children to take the most demanding job in the private sector they can handle. And by the way, if you know an irresponsible college student who insists on having fun, thrills and travel, the best thing you can do is encourage them to get a job that they hate. It will help them to grow their character and build their finances at the same time – making them ready for the responsibilities and obligations they will face from marriage and parenting. Working in a capitalist system is magic for your character. Even if you didn’t have the best parents, you can still grow up right just by showing up for work every day.

3 thoughts on “What builds character? A job in a capitalist economy, or campus “safe spaces”?”

  1. Hear hear, but my biggest takeaway from articles like this is wondering why you’d ever yell and scream at a register jockey who can’t do anything about anything and more importantly why you’d EVER antagonize anyone who handles your food.

  2. Where do pathways such as monasticism, vocations to the priesthood and similar religious callings fit into this?

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