Hard Work: Why No Welfare May Be The Most Generous Gift Of All

I am, like a growing number of 30-something Millennial-era business people, an international person foremost, without belonging or identity tugging at my heart. Indeed, for the past decade I’ve spent most of my life in America and Asia. Over the past year however, circumstances have forced me to focus my efforts to an overwhelming degree on what has been a brutal and tireless innovation schedule against the clock pretty much 24/7. As a consequence, I chose to settle for the year back in my country of origin, Britain. Partly, I confess, this was out of a consciousness that when under excruciatingly difficult circumstances, flying closer to the nest often makes practical sense.

Nevertheless, on balance, I find myself after nearly a year now, quite appalled by British — and by extension — European society and values. Ironically, it is because the place in which I chose to resign myself to a year of miserably hard work doesn’t value in any way whatsoever the process of what that entails, and merely the result. Let me clarify this statement.

Part of the problem to be sure is down to high taxes and poor economic opportunity in Britain. The other part of the country’s lack of global competitiveness is that British people simply give too much voice to those with little or no achievements, rewarding mediocrity in every way substantially more so than almost all others. Over the long term, this is simply not a suitable environment for a creative-minded business-owner to stake his claim in the world. And so the best people leave.

I am referring in particular to the notion of rewarding “hard work.” Seeing government opposition parties openly sneer regularly at the notion of “hard work” equating to a better life, driven by higher pay, is downright embarrassing. Yet travel anywhere throughout the country and very often you will find that such ill-conceived reverse social derision is the common sense of the average man.

What’s It Worth?

If hard work does not equal higher pay and a better life, then why bother working at all? Life will be more stressful, and yet just as mediocre as it is today. And so it is in Britain.

My personal experience tells me that very few people in Britain today actually work that hard, but many suffer from its worst side-effects. In our quest for fairness, everyone is getting a raw deal.

Much of what we truly admire in life comes down to foresight and bravery, which are products born much more of an independence of spirit than the ability to process. (Imagine a biography packed with stories of the subject being liked and loved rather than fighting their way upwards, and instead of some sort of outsize achievement, he or she went shopping in town for the latest Heat magazine on Saturday?)

In every society, having a certain number of more institutionally-minded comrades and local neighborhood watch interest groups looking out for the disadvantaged has proven to have a stabilizing effect.

But when it comes to making political decisions of real global magnitude, one must ask oneself: how productive is it to place those people in the top spot? Most would say that’s really silly, and yet that’s exactly what happens today — too often with devastating results. We get the showman, but not the substance. And yet life teaches us that results in the real world demand acts of bravery. In the Chinese language, Britain is called Ying Guo — Brave Land. Somehow I doubt the ancient Mongols had modern Britain in mind when denoting the country with that moniker thousands of years ago.

Strength in Independence

Welfare is weakness, but Britain doesn’t want to acknowledge any of this. While government subsidies are indeed born out of human compassion, but they ultimately serve no other purpose than that of a hindrance that kills the creativity of spirit. This is especially true today, where the British public must surely realize at some point that cutting the poor loose from the constraints of welfare (and by implication drastically reducing taxes and other penalties on high earners) is the only way to produce an economy anywhere near as competitive as Asia’s or those of the emerging markets? If you’re not interested in Britain’s competitive place in the world, then give that issue a re-think. We owe it to all the kids in the country today to do so, because that will matter way more than welfare. It always does — after all, where does welfare come from, if not from the rich?

The immediate social impacts of abolishing welfare will be harsh for some (and will kill not a few for sure), but how much cultural, creative, intellectual and yes, material value do those individuals contribute to our society in the first place? Most are too afraid to answer the only truthful response to that question, which is “almost none”.

Likewise, people don’t often consider the enormous potential long-term benefits of getting rid of all government hand-outs. It’s no secret that in a society with enlarged governments, family unity comes somewhere middle of the list. Solidarity is created by a cause. There is no cause for a proper family in today’s Britain.

Most exciting is the potential for the currently dumbed down geniuses of society to emerge under such a roof. If government spending is cut altogether, instead of opting for indecision, people will be forced to invent their own work. That means that instead of being robbed of their intellectual dignity as they are today by working humdrum counter jobs and pursuing pointless, time-and-money-wasting University Degrees in vain, they will instead end up innovating where formerly they were scouring ads for non-existent jobs.

Almost inevitably, a drastic or even total cut in all welfare schemes will drive competition as the newly-poor are forced into starting businesses of their own to support themselves and their families. All these new ventures will be easily funded by the newly mega-rich as well, who will find themselves unburdened by low tax rates and whose wealth will be instantly freed by all sorts of schemes designed to stimulate income rather than asset values. In many cases, those businesses will be technological or artistic in nature, spurning not just cheaper costs but perhaps even a kind of renaissance of sorts.

For those jobs where only very basic human skills are required, such as answering phones at call centers, there are plenty of 13 year-old kids that would love the evening cash and are more than able to perform the tasks involved adequately (let’s not pretend any more that education is required to perform monotonous routines). Working from such a young age will give those children a sense of financial education, independence and a real responsibility early on in life, while also having the added advantage of making them more socially aware and considerate as they find themselves being asked to choose between spending on themselves or a single parent, uncle, or sister in financial need.

Risk Aversion, Reward Avoidance

In many cases, Britons never pursue a dream today as they are encouraged to avoid risky decisions and play it safe. A lot of that is down to being trapped in the middle of a set of undesirable and uninspiring career and entertainment choices brought about by a sluggish sense of adventure. People will ultimately find that while not as many can afford trendy new phones or handbags, or maybe even a mere text message to vote for their favorite pop show idol, that they never needed all these things anyway. Their lives will take on a significantly increased meaning as they start their own ventures and pursue their own dreams earlier on.

The reality is that the very rich or very ambitious are moving away from Britain exponentially, and continue to do so in most part because they cannot bear to suffer the voices any more of the poor and uneducated. This is not how it should be. In Asia, the very rich listen to the voices of the lower classes because they care about what is a genuinely hard plight, or because they are always aware of the benefits these classes provide them back in service. But that doesn’t mean that the servants get to decide what the top-end tax rate should be, or even gripe about it. On the contrary, it’s not relevant to them, so why should they?

We teach our children not to answer us back because they haven’t yet earned the experience in life to do so meaningfully. (Once they become adults, we entertain their retorts.) Likewise should it be when it comes to society. People need to understand that having your voice heard by the establishment, getting a hospital bed when you get sick, or getting an education, even, is not a human right — it’s a human luxury.

If someone is richer and thus that person’s children enjoy all these luxuries where others do not then that should only serve to increase the desire of the rest to work hard and smart to provide the same privileges for their own children one day. It doesn’t matter how rich a society is: in a commercially intelligent and truly compassionate society, people want more for themselves but also for the ones they love.

Modern Asia: A Land of Achievement

China’s massive populace today goes out of its way to expend energy on the futurist present — which is to say, to give the next generation everything of their the productive periods of their lives they can turn out.

Most of all, China’s people recognize that this means learning at how to apply their skills to making a lot of money, even if that involves making some, or in many cases a lot, of compromises.

Similarly, the rich of the past and the present organize their priorities likewise because they recognize that an abundance of wealth is always a key factor in determining the relative level of their child’s health, intelligence, and later opportunities.

While wealth creation — the process of individual productivity meeting its maximum monetary output — has marked the process of evolution since the start, the truth could not be more different for welfare creation, which has reversed that trend.

If you don’t believe it, just look Eastbound, and ask yourself why it is that when your great-grandparents lived like Kings compared to the average 18th century woman from Goa, you are now more likely to be on par, economically, educationally and in every sense, or below that woman’s fourth generation progeny?

The lower classes in the increasingly-intelligent and still-compassionate Asian societies I live among look up to and support the upper ranks, precisely because they see how the parents of these families are able to give their children the kind of life that others may only dream of.

They know the truth — that the magnificent destiny the very rich find themselves arriving at today was not born out of yesterday’s hand out. It took a superhuman degree of hard work.

Daniel Mark Harrison

Daniel Mark Harrison is founder and chief executive of Financial Arts innovator DMH&CO.

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