The three great religions of the world all accept the Ten Commandments the fourth of which reads ,”Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord .” [Ex. 20:9] All three of these religions set aside one day out of every 7 to observe their religious duties and ceremonies. The ‘work’ half of the Commandment is almost always ignored by everyone when reciting it.

The three great religions of the world all accept the Ten Commandments the fourth of which reads ,”Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord .” [Ex. 20:9] All three of these religions set aside one day out of every 7 to observe their religious duties and ceremonies. The ‘work’ half of the Commandment is almost always ignored by everyone when reciting it.

From the time of the creation of the Garden of Eden man was given food plants and animals to ‘tend’ i.e. work. We not only should work, we need work. The unwillingly unemployed are usually miserable, likely poor, deprived, possibly hungry, and in a family that is all of the preceding. Research has firmly established that humans psychologically need to work to eat. Of all persons who are miserable it is one who wants a job but can’t find one. Although less than 2% of us actually are involved in producing food per se, through exchange in markets over 63% of eligible members of the population were in the work force last year. We are commanded to work, we were meant to work for our sustenance, and we need to work for our mental health.

‘Work’ is impossible to define to every persons’ satisfaction because a task that is work for one may not be work for another. The easiest definition is ‘compensated labor.’ The difficulty is that money wages are not the only form of valued compensation. Art may be sold, but it may have been a leisure-time activity for the artist. Hence, it is difficult to mandate certain tasks as ‘work’, but we can agree that SOME actions repeated with scheduled regularity producing some type of ‘product’ valued by others is mandated of each person in the work force. [There is a long list of persons exempted for such reasons as age, infirmity, mental age, etc.]

A major Biblical command is to care and share with those in need. Some of Jesus’s miracles involved feeding the hungry. Western Culture is based on these Judeo-Christian precepts which we take care of largely through governmental programs and local acts of philanthropy such as meals by the Salvation Army and churches, and other free food from NGO’s. These programs are so ubiquitous they support an entire underclass.

There are far more folks who aren’t working because of the absence of suitable jobs than their unwillingness to work. Economists agree that the Great Depression was caused by inadequate consumer demand because of closed factories and the depression in farming. The Great Depression [1929-1941] coincides with dates of the dip in farm incomes. Southern tenant and sharecropper farmers had long been exploited , and the devastating effects on farm exports.

By 1933 the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Acts of 1930 had reduced imports 66% and exports by 61% . International trade decreased 33% overall—imposing an effective tax rate of 60% on more than 3,200 products. Unemployment rose from 8% in 1930 to 25% in 1933. Demand for crops and farm labor led to an exodus of southern farm labor to California. Introductory texts in Economics exts now cite this act as a major cause of the Great Depression.

One-fourth of the work force was unemployed at the height of the Great Depression. Taught that unemployment was a fault in the worker’s character, workers blamed themselves when it was obvious the problem was not national, not individual in nature. Hence, voters turned embraced New Deal and Progressive politics in 1932. Architect of the New Deal Programs, Rexford Tugwell prior to his death in 1974 admitted “Herbert Hoover originated the New Deal. Practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs that Hoover started.” [1]

In 1932 private charity was at an all-time high but woefully inadequate to meet the needs of 30 million Americans whose families who were without income. Private charity was at an historic high of $1.67 per resident but woefully inadequate. Federal relief was the only possible answer. The solution that worked well was for the federal government to create useful jobs working in forests and national parks [CCC] and construction of civic infrastructure projects like bridges, armories, etc.,[WPA] The many participants in those programs I’ve spoken to uniformly and strongly supported these programs.

Most of my generation support some sort of similar program of compulsory national service for all young people. The national forests and Boulder [Hoover] dam are the showcase achievements of the New Deal programs. A period of hard work together would help unify our young people. “Conservatives roundly denounced these bills as ‘socialism, but the view of most members of Congress was that State and private measures had proven their inadequacy.”[1]

When I taught in Michigan I had to explain, “Root hog or die.” The apostle Paul likewise had to explain it to church members in Thessalonica. “Keep away from every brother who is idle…we did not eat anyone’s food without paying for it. We gave you this rule, If a man will not work, he shall not eat. We heard that some among you are idle. Such people we command and urge to in the Lord Jesus Christ to earn the bread they eat. [2 Thess.3: 6,10-12] Only the hogs who root eat.

Happily, both parties in Congress are working together on an infrastructure bill that would create jobs and increase the ability of the parties to compromise and work together..

[1] Mc Elvaine, R. S., The Great Depression, America 1929-1941, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1983, 70,150.

Bob Allison is a Shawnee resident who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, where he taught and was Associate to the Director of University Hospitals. He and wife Elaine and he have three children, 11 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. He can be contacted at rfallison100@gmail.com.