During the G-20 Summit, I saw a number of protesters carrying signs that read something to the effect of “A Job is a Right.” Often these signs also made reference to Martin Luther King Jr., claiming it was his dream for everyone to be given a job. This leads me to wonder two things.
1) What, exactly, did MLK have to say about the right-to-work concept? I simply don’t know. Everything I’ve learned about him informs me that he sought for people to be treated equally. I am unaware if this sentiment dovetailed with a belief that to be treated equally everyone had to be supplied with a job. Can anyone out there verify that this was his thought process?
2) I am all for employment, but I do not understand how a person can carry a sign such as the one referenced above and take himself seriously. As if jobs just sprout from the ground, like some omnipresent truffle, begging to be picked. If only the powers that be would allow the “regular” people into the truffle garden everything would be fixed and fair. Poof! (Some truffles do go poof.) Just like that!
Realistically, these protesters must know that a job is only useful if a person has the skills to perform it well. That demand for the service a job provides is integral to its existence. That a job can only pay if an organization is creating wealth. That money grown on trees or printed in basements, doesn’t create wealth. That forcefully redistributing wealth is a likely way to render the value of that wealth and those best at producing it impotent. That the more centralized power becomes, the more danger we’re all in.
Perhaps we’d all do well to share more of what we have voluntarily, but that’s a frankfurter for another bun. Right now we’re talking about the illusory assumption that jobs surface as mysteriously as the globe’s abundant fungi population. (Ask your neighborhood mycologist. It’s not true.)
What I champion is not so much the right to a job, but the right to seek a job no matter who you are, as well as the right for an employer to determine who he employs. I’m enamored with the concept of being free to read, learn, and better myself on my own, regardless of how far and for what price I am willing or able to pursue formal education.
Most of all, I like the idea of a person being able to attempt to create a job for himself with as little bureaucratic interference as possible. That person may never be a huge success, financially or otherwise, but his potential to be so always exists. He has the freedom to succeed or fail rather than the experience of having his life dictated to him by an outside authority. He has the satisfaction of knowing he’s truly earning everything he makes. Despite any natural or artificial barriers in his way, he has the chance to grow with instead of out of his chosen occupation.
Look, I’m not here to tell you the playing field on which the world competes is a level one. As long as darker parts of the human soul are susceptible to a lust for power it never will be. We’ve witnessed enough of human history to know this unfortunate quality is something we all have the potential to possess. It isn’t going anywhere. It transcends ideology and has been known to manifest itself in socialistic governments, capitalistic enterprises, and every other societal construct imaginable. People who blame systems with pithy signage or make scapegoats out of high-profile personalities miss the point entirely.
As neatly as it fits on a protester’s sign, the concept of “a job being a right,” is a bogus one. Certainly, though, jobs are valuable resources that command a high level of responsibility. Here’s hoping you have one you like. If not, may you be in a society that freely allows you to forge a new path. A path that inspires you to take a risk and work hard for the sake of venturing down its course, even if it means getting dirty, possibly staying dirty, and making sacrifices along the way. Do not be afraid to fail. Be willing to carry on in the face of adversity. And, of course, if you know someone in a tough spot consider lending him a hand. Most importantly, when it comes to that job you’ve always wanted, go for it, don’t wait for it!