Regarding the Dec. 28 column “The working class has duties, too”: As a “resident scholar” at the American Enterprise Institute, Michael Strain fashioned a remarkable explanation for high unemployment rates among members of the “working class”: Too many able-bodied men, he concluded, simply do not want to work, preferring instead to play video games and use drugs. They are, he contended, shunning their “moral obligation,” their “sense of duty,” their responsibilities to their wives, to their children, and, indeed, to their community and to the nation at large.
His prescription for remedying the situation consisted, in part, of invoking “social stigma,” to publicly shame such indolent slackers, with the president-elect and the Speaker of the House preferably taking the lead in such “public messaging.” Once properly chastised, they can be expected to positively “shape their lives” and “meet their obligations and fulfill their duties.”
Consider the source of Strain’s draconic vision. The American Enterprise Institute is a think-tank funded by individuals and corporations intent on maximizing their accumulation of wealth, unfettered by government regulation or taxation.
To view unemployed members of the working class as victims of forces beyond their personal control could give rise to demands for expensive new tax-supported public programs, at variance with the entrepreneurial ideal of completely free enterprise. Better, therefore, to focus on the shortcomings to the workers themselves, encouraging the belief that they are responsible for and, thus, could independently alter their plight.
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And so it goes, in our brave new world of “winners and losers.”