9 years ago: Rights & responsibilities

March 31, 2004, on this blog: Rights & responsibilities

“For even when we were with you we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”

This passage entails a clear responsibility to work. With that responsibility comes the corresponding right to work. This is why unemployment — the idling of those willing, indeed desperate, to work — has long been regarded by Christian social teaching as among the most grievous economic injustices. (In Laborem exercens, mentioned above, John Paul 2 refers to the “scourge of unemployment” and says that it is “in all cases an evil.”)

  • LoneWolf343

    This is semi-related, but I find it funny how certain parties claim that socialism encourages laziness. How many socialist countries are there actually known for laziness?

  • smrnda

    On ‘socialist countries’ it’s not sure whether there’s ever actually been one. If you’re thinking of places like Western Europe and Scandinavia, in a few workers average fewer hours per week than Americans, but are more productive when they are working. The problem is once you embrace work as goodness in and of itself, hearing about people pulling 12 hours days and 60 hour weeks becomes a sign of good things, regardless of its actual economic or social impact.

    I’ve normally heard this verse used as a clobber against giving any sort of aid to the unemployed, and it’s usually cited along with the idea that finding a job is *your problem* if you are unemployed. This is the first time I have ever heard this linked to the notion that people must be given an opportunity to work.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Most things are good, but only in moderation. Taken to excess, they’re no longer good. Work is one of them.

    And if we are obligated to do a thing, the opportunity to fulfill the obligation had damn well better be available.

  • LoneWolf343

    Or they are shuffling really crap jobs on other people.

  • smrnda

    I think this is likely true though I’ve never had enough information on how say, immigrants fare in Western Europe in terms of the types of jobs they do and the sort of hours/wages they get. The other problem is once you’re connected with the global economy, it’s unlikely you’ve done much but outsource some of the exploitation elsewhere.

  • LoneWolf343

    Yes, but it is worth pointing out that those who most loudly extol the values of “hard work” are the first ones to defer the really hard work to someone else without properly compensating them.

  • gpike

    even if you only work 4 days a week 12 hour shifts are just HEINOUS and will burn you out to where you have no energy to actually LIVE. I can’t even begin to imagine how people can work that long 5 or 6 days a week AND have kids and social life and stuff. : (

  • JustoneK

    ALL OF THEM. Gaw, don’t you watch the FoxNews?

  • smrnda

    True. Most of them extol the virtue because it keeps their underlings working hard without realizing its exploitation.


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