Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is there a "Work Ethic" in today's America?

Was talking with friends recently and the subject turned to motivation to work and just what constituted and supported a work ethic, particularly in today's America.  What follows is my shot at identifying and evaluating it.

There are two major elements to the maintenance of any semblance of a "work ethic": one is Internal, and the others are external. Internal motivation is essentially DNA and the way you were raised. There can be modifications in the intensity but rarely are there great changes in the internal elements. External, however are a different story.

External motivation is a combination of Fear and Praise coming from those around us, and our immediate superior in the workplace as the major element. The fear of being fired, the praise and advancement from working hard all affect future and ongoing motivation. And it is essential to factor in the need for health care and funds on which to live in retirement.

Unfortunately, with the very first Social Security program, followed by Medicare and Medicaid, the Fear factor has been all but eliminated as an external motivator. I remember my parents' mortal fear of not being able to put aside enough to cover costs when they could no longer work (and they never ever considered retirement...they were worried about failing health and strength, no going to the beach or the golf course). Social Security make that almost go away for most people. Maybe you couldn't live as well, but you were not going to starve. The need to save every dollar went away, and the need to work as hard for as long as you could manage also went away.

And all generations since mine have seen government step in and remove the consequences of NOT working hard. Just look at this past two years: Bought a house you couldn't afford? No problem, the government will step in and stop the nasty bank from trying to make you live up to your obligations. No Job? No problem, the government will provide you with a paid 2 1/2 year quiet time before you have to take whatever is available in order not to starve or live on the street. Thought you would be healthy forever and didn't buy any health coverage? No problem...the government will provide coverage.

What earthly reason is there to have a work ethic? It only puts you in the class that the President insults and you get to pay for everybody else's perks.

Work ethic indeed. I am surprised that it even remains in the dictionary.

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