Hard Workers in the Land of the Free Lunch


Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC recently cautioned fellow commentators to be “very careful” about using the phrase “hard worker.” Many conservatives and Republicans took exception to that, saying that the statement was proof that political correctness has gone too far. However, the fact is that Harris-Perry, who, ironically, has multiple jobs and appears to be a hard worker, did not go nearly far enough.

Work itself is a four letter word that should be used with great care. The word has been used for centuries by the successful to oppress those who do not work. Establishment types use the word as a dividing line between themselves and those who are less fortunate. The beneficiaries of “work privilege” take for granted the many benefits they receive due to their status as workers.

  • On the job, people who work associate almost exclusively with other people who work.
  • People who work can usually count on most of their neighbors being other people who work.
  • In social situations, people who work primarily associate with other people who work.
  • People who work tend to have better interactions with the police who, like them, have jobs.

Our culture revolves around people who work. It’s nearly impossible to purchase anything without encountering someone who works. You cannot go to the doctor, eat at a restaurant, or purchase anything at any store without interacting with someone who has a job. Also, most of the history we learn in school is about people who had jobs.

Movies and television shows are by people who work, for people who work, and mostly about people who work. Throughout the media, reporters, editors, and producers all have jobs. This gives them a better understanding of people who work and a natural affinity for them. The end result is sympathetic media coverage for people who work and critical coverage of those who don’t.

The U.S. government has a Department of Labor with many employees. The Labor Department’s mission is:

“To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”

We have a national holiday to honor people who work. It’s called Labor Day and there’s nothing remotely similar to recognize the important contributions non-workers make to society. Non-workers don’t get promotions, raises, or or any form of positive societal recognition. Ironically, people who are not employed never get a vacation or a day off. Day after day, week after week, and month after month, they toil at their non-livelihoods.

People with jobs fail to comprehend that those who are not employed in the traditional sense frequently work every bit as hard as those who work. Making a living without working for it can be the hardest  work of all! It requires skill, perseverance, and an ability to make something from almost nothing. Anyone who doesn’t believe that should try panhandling on a street corner with a cardboard sign.

The challenges faced by non-workers on a daily basis are tougher than anything faced by people who work. And yet, non-workers are stigmatized for using food stamps, living in public housing, getting free health care, and for receiving a variety of other so-called handouts from the government. People with jobs routinely disparage people who are not employed.

Although non-workers do not pay out of pocket for the benefits they receive, it’s ridiculous to think that anything is given to them freely. There are applications that have to be completed and submitted to government agencies. Meetings have to be arranged with social workers, who, by the way, have jobs. Non-workers spend a lot of time standing in lines.

One of the greatest disparities between workers and non-workers is that people can get education and training to pursue jobs and careers. However, no similar training exists to show people how to pursue a non-career. The only training that non-workers get is on the non-job training where they have to learn as they go.

People who work say that if you put your nose to the grindstone, you’ll find success. Those who don’t work are people who have found out the hard way that when you put your nose to a grindstone, you sometimes get a nasty abrasion. Non-workers know that a little hard work can lead to a serious injury. Meanwhile, people with jobs refuse to acknowledge that there are perfectly legitimate reasons why some people choose not to work.

Some people simply don’t have the skills or experience required to perform an entry level job. Also, the benefits that come with entry level opportunities, if there are any, are generally less than the benefits non-workers receive for doing nothing. The unemployed cannot be blamed for not pursuing work when getting jobs will have a negative effect on their livelihoods. 

People who work frequently say that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. In today’s United States,  shouldn’t there be? The Bill of Rights  guarantees Freedom of Religion, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Speech, and several other important freedoms. The time for Freedom of Lunch is upon us. The Declaration of Independence speaks of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. In a country that calls itself the Land of the Free, why shouldn’t people who don’t work have the freedom to pursue happiness their own way?


Danny Murphy is the author of Murphy’s Law Breaker: Positive Thinking for Pessimists and Humor 101: How To Tell Jokes.  He blogs at www.witprivilege.com.