In 1925, right in the middle of a massive economic boom, President Calvin Coolidge gave a speech in which he created a memorable quote:
The chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of people will always find these the moving impulses of our life.
Indeed, America has long been famous as a place where people want to do business - that's what the American Dream is all about. Americans want to better themselves, to work hard, to be rewarded for their efforts, to create something other people want to buy.
There is business in Europe as well, but the popular attitude is different. Historically, "tradesmen" were looked down upon as a lower class by the noble elites who were noble and elite precisely because they did no work. A rich man who'd earned his money through establishing factories and producing useful goods would always be somehow a lesser breed than some lord who did nothing beyond hunting, cricket, and perhaps government service of some kind.
Of course, Europeans want a comfortable life just like anybody else; if you didn't happen to be born a lord, becoming a rich tradesman wasn't a bad second-best. In the Napoleonic era, England was derided as "a nation of shopkeepers," but it was the economic activity of those derisory shopkeepers that paid for the military forces that allowed England to defeat Napoleon.
Since World War II, though, Europe has moved away from the world of hard work, as every European country has established a comfy welfare state and oppressively large bureaucracy to fund and enforce it. We've written extensively about the problems that arise when multiple generations of a family have no experience of work, no concept or what it means to do anything useful or productive, and no need to learn how. The citizens of Greece have been so coddled by their welfare state that they're rioting in the streets as it collapses - never mind that there is no money, it's the government's job to provide my pension / welfare check / free education / featherbedded salary regardless!
What happens when the individuals who make up a society lose their grasp on the concept that you must produce more than you take out or the whole system will collapse? Instead of having dreams of inventions and startups, they pursue cushy government make-work jobs.
None other than Michelle Obama explained her belief that non-jobs are the best jobs, in a graduation speech telling America's young what they ought to do with their lives:
I became the executive director of Public Allies, a nonprofit organization that trained young people to pursue careers in public service. Oh, I was earning a fraction of my law firm salary, and I added years to my student loan repayment process. But let me tell you, I woke up every morning feeling engaged and inspired in ways that I had never felt before. (Applause.) I spent every day feeling like I was doing something that truly made a difference in people’s lives.
What "truly makes a difference in people's lives"? Training them to go to work for the government!
It could be argued that Michelle's law-firm job was a non-job too; certainly most legal work doesn't add to the economy and she was an affirmative action hire anyway. In 2008, then-Senator Obama made the argument even more plainly in a commencement address of his own at Wesleyan University:
You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and the other things that our money culture says you should buy. You can choose to narrow your concerns and live life in a way that tries to keep your story separate from America's. But I hope you don't.
He went on to extol the virtues, not just of working for the goverment as a teacher, but of "serving the community" as an environmental protestor or other agitator. Now, there's nothing wrong with exercising your right to free speech, but is spending lives in "jobs" that are by their nature nonproductive really the way to improve America's economy?
Yet for so many graduates, particularly of elite colleges, they'd sooner move back into Mom's basement than accept a job at a <gasp!> company that <horrors!> actually Does Something beyond moving paper around. Is it any wonder we've hollowed out America's industrial base, when our best and brightest are being brought up to believe actual productive work is beneath both them and the country? The fact that there aren't any real jobs available for them certainly doesn't help either.
Instead, they're raised to do something not just unproductive, but actually destructive. We'll look at what's coming in the realm of regulation in the next article in this series.