Tag Archives: Dignity

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.

Excerpt:

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.

What kinds of anti-poverty programs really work?

Christians ought to be concerned about poverty. Is there a way to help the poor without making them dependent on the government?

Yes! In this article, the American Enterprise Institute discusses a great program called the Doe Fund, which is run in New York City.

Excerpt:

[…][F]or more than 25 years, the organization run by George and Harriet McDonald has helped homeless men. The program they run is based on a clear contract between the shelter managers and the homeless men. “You get up every day and go to work and stay drug free-and we will pay you and house you and feed you. It’s as simple as that,” Mr. McDonald said at his shelter on 155th street in Harlem. Doe Fund facilities are funded by revenue generation from their maintenance and cleaning business, government funding for homeless services, and private donations. The breakdown is roughly one-third each.

Anyone who enters one of the four Doe Fund facilities in New York City is handed a paper entitled: “Some of the Rules that You Will hear ALL the time.” Among the regulations are Rule No. 4: No standing or loitering in front of the building at any time of the day. Rule No. 10: You must not drink or drug while you are in the program. Rule No. 11: No cellular phones are allowed while you are working.

In return for a roof over their heads and a salary, residents of the Doe Fund shelters clean and maintain commercial strips all over New York City-real jobs, with real demands and shifts that start at 6 a.m. The Doe Fund crews add an extra touch not provided by the sanitation and park employees of New York City, and every day workers face real customers who include not only local business groups who pay for their services but also residents and pedestrians who benefit from the improved quality of life.

Hourly wages start at $8.15, which gives shelter residents a chance to save, as room and board are provided. Some men accumulate as much as $5,000 while they are in the six- to nine-month program.

According to the McDonalds, over the past three years 57% of the men who completed the six-month program got jobs at an average wage of $10.86 an hour. And 65% of those retained the job for at least six months. A 2010 Harvard University evaluation found similar results. For a program that works with homeless men, many of whom have served prison sentences, those are solid results.

In addition to a strong work and drug-free requirement (enforced by random drug tests), the Doe Fund also requires the men who are fathers to provide financial support to their children and to identify themselves to the city’s child-support enforcement office to be sure they comply with their child-support orders.

What is important about the Doe Fund is that it explicitly links aid with a strong enforcement of the rules. Doe Fund managers enforce the rules by restricting noncompliant residents to the shelter, reducing benefits or referring them to another city shelter where these opportunities are not offered. The Doe Fund is not alone in its approach-there are similar setups across the country, but in most such programs it’s still rare to tie behavior to consequences.

Now, this is the kind of anti-poverty program that I support. It’s not just handing out money with no strings attached. It’s easing people into the work force in a structured environment. I think that deep down, poor people really want to work, and this program is exactly how we should be getting them started at that.

But there is one thing that might hurt this program, and the article mentions it. Can you guess what it is? Look at the hourly wages these entry-level workers are being paid.

Here’s what it is:

It is troubling that at the same time the president has announced a new focus on helping young minority men, one of his administration’s top legislative priorities is a substantial hike in the federal minimum wage-a mandate on employers that is likely to reduce job opportunities for the very young men the president wants to help with My Brother’s Keeper.

If we really wanted to help the poor, we should be LOWERING the minimum wage, and then maybe the government can make up the difference. I would much rather have the government subsidizing work by topping off lower salaries than subsidizing bad behaviors.

We must make the moral argument against dependence on government

Consider this article by Jackie Gingrich Cushman.

Full text:

The Obama administration’s policies are bad. Bad in the sense that the policies are morally corrupting. They take money and control away from people and give them to government bureaucrats, who then decide what should be done. The policies encourage people to be less responsible personally and to rely more on the government.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher argued that “socialism itself — in all its incarnations, wherever and however it was applied — was morally corrupting,” Claire Berlinski wrote in “There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters” (Basic Books, 2008). “Socialism turned good citizens into bad ones; it turned strong nations into weak ones; it promoted vice and discouraged virtue … transformed formerly hardworking and self-reliant men and women into whining, weak and flabby loafers.”

Sound familiar?

Republicans are currently debating the surface arguments about the Obama administration’s programs — they cost too much, they are not paid for and there is too much government intervention.

The core of the matter is the same today as it was in Great Britain in the 1970s.

The system President Obama is championing is morally wrong.

In order to win in November, Republican nominee Mitt Romney must win the argument, and thereby win the vote.

The argument is that the system Obama is promoting is bad and that it creates a weak society. Romney needs to articulate what it is to be an American; why we must defend America’s core values; why they are good values.

Romney’s speech this week at the Clinton Global Initiative reverberated with these themes.

He talked about “the incomparable dignity of work.”

“Free enterprise,” he said, “has done more to bless humanity than any other economic system not only because it is the only system that creates a prosperous middle class, but also because it is the only system where the individual enjoys the freedom to guide and build his or her own life. Free enterprise cannot only make us better off financially, it can make us better people.”

Romney recounted the story of Muhammed Bouazizi of Tunisia. “He was just 26 years old. He had provided for his family since he was a young boy. He worked a small fruit stand, selling to passers-by. The regular harassment by corrupt bureaucrats was elevated one day when they took crates of his fruit and his weighing scales away from him.

“On the day of his protest, witnesses say that an officer slapped Bouazizi and he cried out: ‘Why are you doing this to me? I’m a simple person, and I just want to work.'”

“I just want to work,” Romney repeated.

“Work. That must be at the heart of our effort to help people build economies that can create jobs for people, young and old alike. Work builds self-esteem,” he continued. “It transforms minds from fantasy and fanaticism to reality and grounding. Work will not long tolerate corruption nor quietly endure the brazen theft by government of the product of hardworking men and women.”

He linked free enterprise to freedom. “The most successful countries shared something in common,” he said. “They were the freest. They protected the rights of the individual. They enforced the rule of law. And they encouraged free enterprise. They understood that economic freedom is the only force in history that has consistently lifted people out of poverty — and kept people out of poverty.”

The next step is for Romney to lay out this argument not only for other countries, but for our own. It works here as well as abroad. There are 12.5 million unemployed Americans; 8 million more are working part-time when they want to work full time; 2.6 million people are so discouraged that they have given up looking for work and are no longer counted as unemployed.

More than 23 million Americans understand the statement, “I just want to work.”

These people and those around them understand that there is great dignity in work, and want to work — but cannot find a job.

In order to win the vote in November, we must first win the argument. America works best when Americans are working. The way to get more Americans to work is to promote freedom, ingenuity and free enterprise. While government programs and subsidies might provide temporary relief, the only proven way to long-term prosperity is to create more jobs, thereby allowing people to lift themselves up, providing not only their monetary needs, but also dignity of purpose.

My biggest concern about socialism is how it makes it harder for men to be providers, and easier for women to do without a man – even having children without a man. I really oppose that – fatherlessness is not good for children.

Voting for Democrats means voting for bigger government which means voting for higher taxes to pay for it all. Higher taxes means that there is less money in the pockets of job creators, and that means fewer jobs. But it also that a married man can no longer retain enough of his earnings to support a family. And that means his wife has to work and won’t be able to take care of young children or her husband. Instead of learning the values of the parents, children will learn what the government schools decide they should learn. It’s a disaster. And it’s immoral. It’s immoral to take the provider role away from men and give it to a parasitical secular government. It destroys marriage and it destroys family.

Melanie Phillips explains how feminism impacted the nursing profession

Dina sent me this article by Melanie Phillips from the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

Last week, a devastating report detailing what can only be described as the widespread collapse of the ethic of nursing was produced by the Care Quality Commission.

This revealed that more than half of all hospitals in England do not meet standards for the dignity and nutrition of elderly people. One in five hospitals were found to be failing the elderly so badly that they were breaking the law.

In hospitals where essential standards were not met, inspectors found that patients’ call bells had been placed out of reach or were not responded to quickly enough, or staff were talking to patients in a condescending or dismissive way.

In one hospital, inspectors witnessed a patient being made to go to the lavatory in full view of the rest of the ward. In another, doctors had to prescribe water to make sure that patients did not  become dehydrated.

These horrifying revelations do not signify merely incompetence nor — that perennial excuse — the effect of ‘the cuts’.

No, they illustrate instead something infinitely grimmer: the replacement of altruism by indifference, and compassion by cruelty.

[…]Nursing was effectively created by that 19th-century feminist pioneer, Florence Nightingale. To her, nursing was in essence a moral act. In her book Notes On Nursing, published in 1860, she wrote that ‘the greater part of nursing consists in preserving cleanliness’.

That wasn’t just because hygiene was essential for recovery and health. It was because keeping both hospital and patients clean meant the nurse needed to be motivated by the most high-minded concern for the care and dignity of the patient.

Accordingly, lowly functions such as washing, dressing and administering bedpans were functions that were invested with the highest possible significance.

[…][D]uring the Eighties, nursing underwent a revolution. Under the influence of feminist thinking, its leaders decided that ‘caring’ was demeaning because it meant that nurses — who were overwhelmingly women — were treated like skivvies by doctors, who were mostly men.

To achieve equality, therefore, nursing had to gain the same status as medicine. This directly contradicted an explicit warning given by Florence Nightingale that nurses should steer clear of the ‘jargon’ about the ‘rights’ of women ‘which urges women to do all that men do, including the medical and other professions, merely because men do it, and without regard to whether this is the best that women can do’.

That prescient warning has been ignored by the modern nursing establishment. To achieve professional equality with doctors, nurse training was taken away from the hospitals and turned into an academic university subject.

Since caring for patients was demeaning to women, it could no longer be the cardinal principle of nursing. Instead, the primary goal became to realise the potential of the nurse to achieve equality with men. (The great irony is that more women than men are now training to be doctors in British medical schools, thus making this ideology out of date.)

In an important book on the nursing profession, Ann Bradshaw, a specialist in palliative care, described how this agenda removed caring, kindness, compassion and dedication from nurse training.

Student nurses now studied sociology, politics, psychology, microbiology and management, and were assessed for their communication, management and analytical skills. ‘Specific clinical nursing skills were not mentioned,’ she wrote.

In short, nursing ditched its core vocation to care. Bedbaths and feeding those who are helpless are tasks vital to the care of patients — but are now considered beneath the dignity of too many nurses.

Dame Joan Bakewell, the former government-appointed Voice of Older People, has suggested nurses be given ‘empathy training’. But, of course, you can’t train people in compassion.

Dame Joan was much nearer the mark when she observed that the decline in kindness and sympathy was linked to the decline in religious observance. In other words, the crisis in nursing is part of a far broader and deeper spiritual malaise.

Duty to others and respect for the innate humanity of every person have been eroded by the ‘me society’ of ruthless,  self-centred individualism.

This is something I have often thought about… what it would be like to go to a hospital filled with non-Christians who had no rational basis for morality and virtue. Especially in a single-payer system, where you couldn’t withhold payment if care was not of a good enough quality. When you put together secularism (removes the rational basis for acts of self-sactifice and the dignity of the individual) together with socialism (where the individual pays mandatory taxes and must seek products and services from a politicized, unionized government monopoly) then it becomes a scary situation indeed.

Feminism affects nurses in other ways, too

I think I’ll just paste some more about these British nurses here, from Theodore Dalrymple’s book “Life at the Bottom” – even though it’s a little off topic.

All the more surprising is it to me, therefore, that the nurses perceive things differently. They do not see a man’s violence in his face, his gestures, his deportment, and his bodily adornments, even though they have the same experience of the patients as I. They hear the same stories, they see the same signs, but they do not make the same judgments. What’s more, they seem never to learn; for experience—like chance, in the famous dictum of Louis Pasteur—favors only the mind prepared. And when I guess at a glance that a man is an inveterate wife beater (I use the term “wife” loosely), they are appalled at the harshness of my judgment, even when it proves right once more.

This is not a matter of merely theoretical interest to the nurses, for many of them in their private lives have themselves been the compliant victims of violent men. For example, the lover of one of the senior nurses, an attractive and lively young woman, recently held her at gunpoint and threatened her with death, after having repeatedly blacked her eye during the previous months. I met him once when he came looking for her in the hospital: he was just the kind of ferocious young egotist to whom I would give a wide berth in the broadest daylight.

Why are the nurses so reluctant to come to the most inescapable of conclusions? Their training tells them, quite rightly, that it is their duty to care for everyone without regard for personal merit or deserts; but for them, there is no difference between suspending judgment for certain restricted purposes and making no judgment at all in any circumstances whatsoever. It is as if they were more afraid of passing an adverse verdict on someone than of getting a punch in the face—a likely enough consequence, incidentally, of their failure of discernment. Since it is scarcely possible to recognize a wife beater without inwardly condemning him, it is safer not to recognize him as one in the first place.

This failure of recognition is almost universal among my violently abused women patients, but its function for them is somewhat different from what it is for the nurses. The nurses need to retain a certain positive regard for their patients in order to do their job. But for the abused women, the failure to perceive in advance the violence of their chosen men serves to absolve them of all responsibility for whatever happens thereafter, allowing them to think of themselves as victims alone rather than the victims and accomplices they are. Moreover, it licenses them to obey their impulses and whims, allowing them to suppose that sexual attractiveness is the measure of all things and that prudence in the selection of a male companion is neither possible nor desirable.

Often, their imprudence would be laughable, were it not tragic: many times in my ward I’ve watched liaisons form between an abused female patient and an abusing male patient within half an hour of their striking up an acquaintance. By now, I can often predict the formation of such a liaison—and predict that it will as certainly end in violence as that the sun will rise tomorrow.

At first, of course, my female patients deny that the violence of their men was foreseeable. But when I ask them whether they think I would have recognized it in advance, the great majority—nine out of ten—reply, yes, of course. And when asked howthey think I would have done so, they enumerate precisely the factors that would have led me to that conclusion. So their blindness is willful.

You see, feminism also has the effects of telling women that there are no special roles that men are meant to perform, like provider, protector, moral leaders, spiritual leader. And when more and more women grow up in fatherless homes where money comes in from the government, and morality and spirituality are taught in public schools, it becomes harder and harder for women to have the wisdom to choose good men. Instead, they end up choosing men who are attractive and entertaining, using the 180-second rule.

You can read the entire Dalrymple book on moral relativism online. I posted links to the full text of Theodore Dalrymple’s “Life at the Bottom”.