Political Papist: The sins of socialism, part two: Is work wicked or worthwhile?

A. Montes


A. MontesWhen I studied abroad, I travelled to Galway, Ireland, for a couple days with two close friends, staying at a bed-and-breakfast run by an abrasive old Irish man who greeted us by calling us “Yanks.”  

At first, I did not think highly of him; he elaborated extensively on his love of Russia and distaste for the U.S. He even showed us, with great pride, his framed picture of a bare-chested, bear-riding Vladimir Putin.  

However, he eventually clarified that he did love the American Dream; he had lived in America for some years and loved waking up early every morning to work hard to earn his wages in full.  

This sentiment is not something I hear very often outside my immediate familyThe idea that someone might actually love working hard to earn their living seems so foreign. Fewer and fewer Americans in our generation, it seems, value labor and thus desire to eliminate work as much as they can. This is where Socialism plays its malicious hand.  

Hot take number two: Socialism promotes injustice. 

The second underlying principle upon which the ideology depends is that work is evil and undesirable. Socialism runs on the idea that people should not have to work hard for their living, and that work is, as Dr. Taylor Marshall rephrases, “always an exploitation of one class serving another class.” Unhappy, envious people appropriate wages from the working class, disguising this under the pretense of charity, and funnel it into government-run programs. Thus, we hear of “free” — taxpayerfunded — opportunities.  

Several arguments can be made against the supposed wickedness of work and “free” programs. 

Point one: work is not evil! It is the God-given duty of man. In Genesis 2:15, the Lord “took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” Adam’s first role was to take care of the garden, cultivating it.  

Even post-fall, humanity has this duty, though it is much more difficult. As detailed in Genesis 3:17, “In toil you shall eat of (the ground) all the days of your life.”  

Saints have affirmed this as well, in case more evidence than sacred Scripture is needed; Thomas Aquinas declared, “To live well is to work well, to show a good activity.” Work is intrinsically tied to humanity and is not wicked. If it was, God would not have assigned it. 

Point two: “Free” programs remove incentives to work well and offer injustice instead.  

In “Rerum Novarum,” Pope Pius XIII claims that “the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry.” Why? Perhaps it is because there is no incentive, such as providing for yourself or your family or the poor, to labor diligently.  

With “free” programs, the populace is no longer responsible for achieving its end goals, for exercising its industries; the government is. If the responsibility of materially caring for yourself, your family, your siblings-in-Christ is removed through “free” stuff, what is left for which to work? What use is there to try? 

Point three: We discussed last week how the duty of being a good Samaritan is twisted into a false charity that hides envy. Continuing that idea, socialism, under the guise of false charity, seeks once again to level the playing field with the diminishment of work. Logically following, the right of an individual to improve his economic state through labor is eradicated. He no longer has the opportunity to improve his circumstances, which we’ll discuss in part three, while existing off government salaries.  

Point four: Work is a matter of justice.  

Is it just for a neurosurgeon to be paid the same as someone who doesn’t work at all? Or rather, should someone who doesn’t want to work at all be paid the same as a neurosurgeon? Is it just for a persevering student to receive the same opportunities as one who dismisses his education? Justice demands not.  

Not everyone has the same aptitude for work as others, and salary should reflect that. It is natural — not evil — for this to be so, for God loves variety. We are not robots that perform the same functions; we are unique and have God-given gifts that enable us to contribute to our communities. Working hard with your talents, rather than living off government money, is what causes achievement, a decent salary and a stable living. 

Thus, I challenge my fellow Catholics to not only examine their view of work but also to consider how they think about “free” programs.  

Are we honestly working hard to sustain ourselves, others and the mission to which we are called? Are we living our vocations as students, employees or employers to the best of our diligence? Are we offering our talent in service to others and to the Lord?