The “Work Hard” vs. “Handout” Debate, & Why Sometimes, I’m Embarrassed to Work in Tech
Jay Acunzo

Mr. Acunzo:

Social scientists have long called this phenomenon, “Middle Class Complacency.” The spirit of it is: “I got my act together, why can’t those less fortunate people?” (And as a member of the tech scene, I agree 100% this mentality is common.)

While I am very concerned about the size and cost of today’s American welfare state (we have one the size of Spain’s!) I think that attacking the less fortunate for being lazy is toxic to our politics, and doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. (I’m OK with economists using the makers-vs-takers framing on a very limited basis, as long as they do it sparingly and specifically in the context of production versus government transfer payments.)

I think the best thing you wrote was for people to educate others on how work gets them ahead. A lot of people can’t connect potential efforts to a better life. Someone needs to show them how that might work, and the path might not be obvious at all.

Lastly, one thing I preach among kids is to try to be a creator more than a consumer. We have a consumer-focused culture in America and it’s way out of balance. I don’t care whether someone is cooking a meal, writing an essay, composing a song, or writing code. The desire to create rather than consume makes it more likely they can succeed in our economy and more likely they can start their own thing one day. It gives them something to work hard at, rather than just telling them to work hard.

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