Harsh Labor Day Advice

The local paper had Labor Day opinion columns from Gina Barreca and Christine Williams. We found them a bit harsh.

Gina’s advice is to get a job:

Let’s stop telling young people to find their passion and start telling them to find a job. The work you do in the world is not supposed to make a fulfilled individual; it’s supposed to make you an employed individual.

We might agree with Gina if she didn’t say this:

We do a disservice to our young people when we encourage them to believe that the world will reward them financially for something that it didn’t ask for and doesn’t want.

We were touting Deidre McCloskey recently and one of the things she said was:

Give masses of ordinary people equality before the law and equality of social dignity, and leave them alone, and it turns out that they become extraordinarily creative and energetic.

These are their lives.  Folks will create Uber and The DeLorean.  Amazon and Cop Rock.  We should help folks understand the risk and rewards but these are their choices.  But the big rewards (and the big failures) come from providing the world something that it didn’t ask for.  We think that getting a job is a good idea because you build human capital.  Rarely does a job stop you from pursuing your dream.  Getting a career is even better advice for most folks.  But for some rare individuals the dream is specific and consuming. Our experience with thousands of students is that they are looking for direction rather than knowing their direction and being distracted by events.

Christine wants to stop you from getting a job:

Fast-food workers need a raise. The labor conditions that may have made sense for my baby boomer generation are completely out of touch with the needs of the millennial generation.

On this Labor Day, let’s remember that all workers deserve a wage that covers the rising costs of education and housing.

As we said above, getting a job is a good idea for most folks because it builds capital.  Preventing folks from working by raising the minimum wage is bad economic strategy.

Sidebar: Christine, a professor at UT-Austin, laments the rising cost of education.  We professors need to look in the mirror to find the culprit in this problem.  See this for example.  Faculty have failed our students by failing to stop administrative bloat.  We have also adopted more and more expensive texts.  End Sidebar.

Working is a good strategy for almost everyone.  We need to encourage folks to work because they learn on the job.  As many an intern has told me, “I learned more on my internship than I have in any college course.”  My rejoinder always was, “If I had you 70 hours a week I could have done much more.”  Any kind of work is good but work that gets closer to the dream is better.  Two cheers for Gina but none for Christine.


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