Success looks like hard work
Many of us heard Ashton Kutcher’s words on the Teen Choice awards and sat back in awe that such a liberal actor could speak so coherently and accurately about what many of us consider an American virtue – success is achieved from hard work.
For those of you who missed his speech, Kutcher said, “I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a steppingstone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job.”
While CNN contributor Paul Begala attempted to argue today on the CNN Opinion page that Kutcher’s comments were “profoundly liberal,” I would argue that they are not liberal or conservative. He is simply articulating a thought that many Americans have held for generations.
The idea, once a general consensus of Americans, is the “national ethos, or set of ideals which allows everyone the freedom to achieve success and upward social mobility through hard work.” This was a radical idea for many immigrants, many of whom came from Great Britain where social class and circumstances of birth confined them to a specific societal state. But not for Americans who dreamed of a place, a country they could create which allowed everyone to have a richer and fuller life according to their achievements – not their social class.
Do liberals or conservatives value hard work?
Paul Begala continues to argue that liberals reward hard work because they support raising the minimum wage. But what many of us understand is that good intentions may be honorable but often produce bad results, and raising the minimum wage, while a noble ideal, does not work as intended.
One expert notes, “If government could raise the real wages of millions of Americans by merely passing a law announcing that fact, then why stop at $3.35 per hour, or $4.65, or even $107. Isn’t $500 per hour more compassionate than $50? Absurd, you say, and I would agree. But the “logic” is perfectly consistent with the idea of a minimum wage, once you have accepted the premise that political decrees can raise wages.”
Financial experts understand that wages naturally rise in response to certain market forces, i.e. the creation of new wealth through greater productivity. When the government gets involved – regulating, confiscating and consuming – it is at the expense of the private economy.
What does raising the minimum wage really do? It prices certain low wage workers out of the labor market. A man’s worth cannot be dictated by making it illegal for someone to offer him less. In a truly free society the worker should have the right to offer their services in the marketplace for the price they choose, thus maximizing productivity, wage rates, and prosperity. Minimum wage increases unfortunately make it too expensive to hire young and low-skill workers at a time of crisis-level unemployment.
Ashton Kutcher understands the value of hard work. He agrees that he worked a variety of menial jobs, jobs which became a steppingstone to greater achievement and success. But what happens when low skilled workers are priced out of the job market? Kutcher’s notion of opportunity for success is extinguished for many in our society.
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