Is the Protestant Work Ethic dead?

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by montyfowler, Feb 25, 2004.

  1. montyfowler
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    montyfowler Member

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    Premise: (Based on a quote from another thread by rtwngAvngr) I fully believe the Protestant work ethic, which built up this country through history, is now becoming a liability to those who learn a trade, work hard, but then find their jobs disappearing. Being from middle america, I understand this all too well. Many midwesterners grow up being taught to work hard and that all will be well. Starting a business is still seen a little bit as something that greedy, bad, people who don't want to work do.

    In a globalized environment, our dumb repetitive labor is too expensive. All we have left is our brains. We must work smarter, not harder. According to the Protestant work ethic, this is something a little bit shady, a shortcut, if you will. We must evolve past the limitations of christianity. Though christianity is still very valuable in many of it's pro social, profamily, pro-accountability messages.

    What do you think?
     
  2. jon_forward
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    jon_forward Active Member

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    excuse me...I didnt know my mid-western work ethic was based on the Protestant faith..it is too bad that ALL folks arent taught from a young age to work hard, we would have the mess we have now. since when was starting a business bad? far as I am concerned that is always the goal. Profit from the honest work of others isnt greedy, its smart. as for Christianity, I fail to see the link between working and worshiping. The only limits a person has on theirself are those that are self-imposed...
     
  3. MtnBiker
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    MtnBiker Senior Member

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    That doesn't make sense. I have 2 family members who own their own business and I do business with mostly business owners and they all work their asses off.
     
  4. rtwngAvngr
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    rtwngAvngr Guest

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    Don't misunderstand me, I think the Protestant work ethic still applies; we need to work hard AND smarter. I know that's the reality. Maybe I'm just from a bitter family. Maybe that's the key to my hatred of liberals, it's a reaction against family negativity.
    :eek2:


    Wow. I've just evolved before everyone's eyes. You can all I say "I knew RWA when...". Lucky you.


    But still I think there's something here about villainization of profit through trade. Maybe it's a lefty influence on christianity, something akin to "Liberation Theology".
     
  5. Bry
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    Bry Member

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    I think you're right that the far left does tend to be suspicious of big business, profit motives, etc., though most will put it this way: profit should not be the only consideration. Things like the rights of the workers (to not be unfairly exploited), environmental impact, fair competition, among others, are all important. I think to a certain extent the stock exchange takes ethical considerations out of the hands of Corporations. When investors who have no contact with nor interest in the procedures of the corporation, but insist only on the maximization of their profits, problems start to occure. On the other hand, I think some corporation heads are just plain greedy. So, in short, while sometimes we use hyperbolic simplifications in presenting our arguments, the bottom line is that trade and economy are very important facets of the society as a whole.

    As for the protestant work ethic, per se, I don't know. I think it's over rated. There are people everywhere who work hard, and not all are protestants, of course. In Europe, however, the American "live to work" is inverted to "work to live", and people are more interested in securing and enjoying their time outside of the workplace than accumulating for the sake of accumulation. In general and IMHO, of course.
     
  6. montyfowler
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    montyfowler Member

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    A Historic Perspective

    The "American Work Ethic" definitely has its roots in the Puritan movement of the late 16th century in Europe. As we all know, it was exported to the New World via the Puritan settlers of the Massachussetts colony in the early 17th century.

    The American Work Ethic is a simple IF > THEN > ELSE proposition. IF you work hard, THEN you will reap the benefits of such work, ELSE you will go hungry and have an unhappy life. This was the foundation upon which the colonies were founded, and it was wildly successful, especially when slave labor entered the equation and allowed it to grow exponentially.

    When the industrial revolution began workers had many more choices in where to spend their hours at labor. You did not necessarily have to be a farmer, a tradesman, or a merchant. Now you could work in a factory processing the raw materials from some other area of the economy, thus spurring even faster and greater economic potential for the individual.

    Throughout the latter part of the 20th century, the American economy began another quantum shift. The Information Age has transformed the world economy and created further stratification, both depth and width, in the concentration of wealth throughout the world. The U.S still reigns supreme in every category of domestic production, whether it be agriculture, textiles, manufacturing, high technology, communications, or mining. But our historic death grip on some markets is being loosened by developing countries.

    As the Third World becomes more and more democratic, their people will be better educated, their markets will develop, jobs will be created, and more wealth will be generated. This is all good.

    The downside is that some industries will naturally gravitate toward those countries and their cheaper labor pools. But still, this can be a good thing if managed properly. Globalization is the term given to this natural shift in production and consumption. It is Keyensian economics at work!

    Globalization has had a tremendous impact on the U.S. economy in the past 25 years. One would expect this as the greatest change would naturally be felt by the largest economy, since much of the initial shift in production has come from our economy. This has placed a new challenge before the American worker. Quite simply -- adapt or die.

    Some areas of our economy have adapted brilliantly while others have lagged behind. A good example is argriculture. As the American farmer became more and more effecient in his methods for producing food, this caused the price of food (in general) to decline dramatically as a percentage of income. This meant the farmer produced more, but made less profit. Not good.

    So instead of looking to the government to subsidize every sector of the agricultural economy, we began exporting the technology which allowed us to become so efficient. Now, what the agricultural economy lost in price on the world market for food, we gained on the world market in technology.

    This analogy was applied to scores of industries over the past quarter century. Where before we were the biggest and best producer, now we are the biggest and best innovator.

    The information age has also created entire new industries that employ millions of Americans -- computer hardware and software, telecommunications, and defense to name a few.

    Over time manufacturing or processing of raw amterials into basic products or building blocks for products will eventually shift to the developing nations. Our economy will depend more and more on the innovation of technology, creation of new industries, new energy sources, and the financing of the developing countries.

    Our workers will have to be the best educated and the smartest-working labor force on the planet for us to continue to be the dominant force in the global economy. So in summary, we will need to work smarter, not necessarily harder to meet the challenges of the future.

    The Role of Religion

    Religion and its place in our culture is a very complex topic. But with regard to this thread, I do not believe that any one faith perspective has a monopoly on the American Work Ethic. Clearly our work ethic is rooted in Puritanism, as mentioned earlier, but it has taken on a uniquely American cultural aspect over the intervening 400 years.

    Likewise, a person's attitude toward "making money" or profiting has as much to do with his life experience as it does with his religious perspective, if any. Poor people who have always been poor and are likely to continue in that condition will generally have a negative attitude toward those who are perceived as rich or even comfortable. It is simply a function of a very basic human emotion -- envy. Envy has a very nasty cousin called greed that is many times assumed to be the mechanism by which the rich get richer.

    Now any serious and thoughful person knows this to be completely without merit. But, it is the basic irrational battlefield upon which the Liberals conduct their class warfare. Year after year, the Libs decry the rich as being greedy as if all successful people somehow came to their wealth by unscrupulous means.

    This belief rises almost to the status of doctrine in some populations in America. For example, most poor inner-city Blacks believe that a rich person must have cheated or been given some unfair advantage to reach his/her level of financial success. This poisonous doctrine has enslaved generations of African-Americans, and provided the Liberals with a built-in dependent class of voters. Sickening!

    Most religious traditions are careful to separate the value of honest labor (in the spiritual sense) from the reward for labor (in the economic sense). There is nothing wrong with working hard and expecting to profit from that effort. But when the reward becomes the overarching reason for putting forth the effort (greed), most faith traditions would encourage one to carefully examine his motives.
     
  7. William Joyce
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    William Joyce Chemotherapy for PC

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    The Protestant Work Ethic isn't dead, but Protestants are. Whatever happened to Jonathan Edwards and "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"? Nowadays, Protestants are a bunch of watered-down-theology multiracial marxist mushheads driving around in Toyota Avalons and wearing cardigan sweaters and trying not to offend anyone and trying to find a liturgical place for "50 Cent." Why do you think Protestants are dropping off in membership?
     
  8. montyfowler
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    montyfowler Member

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    Geez, Bill...Did ya have a bad experience at a Methodist church, or what?!

    I will have to respectfully disagree with you as I a member of a Protestant Christian denomination that is by no means dead. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is very conservative both in doctrine and in practice. Although we do not discuss politics during the liturgy, the vast majority of our members would likely identify themselves as politically conservative. We are a growing, and vibrant church and would welcome you any day of the week.
     
  9. Avatar4321
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    Avatar4321 Diamond Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Obviously you dont understand the so called "Protestant" Work Ethic. (I say so called because i have the same work ethic and am not protestant). You see, someone who has a PWE, will not simply stop working because some aspects or maybe their entire job is outsourced elsewhere (of course this begs the question that if they are working so hard and doing their job masterfully why is it being outsourced in the first place but thats a topic more for the education threads). One who has a good work ethic will continue working, even if he had to adapt himself to a different area of work. If he has to learn more to be better, he will do it, if he has to work more hours he will. ETC. Jobs come and go, but if you have the work ethic you can qualify yourself for most anything.

    On a side note its interesting to note that its the liberal protestant groups that are declining and the conservative protestant groups which stand for ceratin morals that are growing.
     
  10. William Joyce
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    William Joyce Chemotherapy for PC

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    "The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is very conservative both in doctrine and in practice."

    This exception -- and a few others -- duly noted. The rest of my post stands.
     

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