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What if no one worked?

"What if no one worked?" I asked my old pal Ratchethead Ledbottom the other day.

In between sips of his lukewarm PBR, Ratchethead thought about the question for a moment, and then responded.

"What if no one worked?" he asked rhetorically.

"That's my question," I said, and repeated it for emphasis: "What if no one worked? That's a question that many leftist extremists cannot answer."

"Well," RH said, "If no one worked, I guess they'd get on the relief."

"What relief?" I asked.

"You know, the government relief," Ratchethead answered.

"You're still missing the point, my friend," I said. "What if no one worked? Where would the 'government relief' come from?"

"The government would take care of it. The state or the national government would provide for the general welfare," Ratchethead said.

"OK. Let's try a different approach," I told my longtime friend. "What if no one worked in either the private sector or in government positions? Then what?"

"If no one worked, we'd all be on welfare," Ratch quickly responded, before opening another PBR.

"Not so fast," I countered. "How can any of us be on welfare if no one works? If no one works, no one pays taxes. And if no one pays taxes, no one's on welfare."

"Whaddya mean?" RH asked. "The government has to provide for the general welfare, that's written in the pre-rambler to the Declaration or something."

"Or something," I said. "Like, maybe in the 'preamble' to the Constitution? How about this: Have you ever considered the unlikely possibility of all the people in these United States not working? And I mean everyone. Private-sector employers and employees, public-sector employers and employees (who really are employers and employees of the private sector). What if no one worked?"

"That'll never happen," Ratch said, with PBR-fueled confidence.

"For once, you're probably right," I replied. "But remember, there was a saying among the oppressed populace in the Communist Soviet Union that went something like this: 'They (the Communist government) can never pay us less than we will do.' In other words, as long as they pretend to pay the people, the people will pretend to work. But what if they didn't?"

"OK," Ratchethead decided. "You tell me. What would happen?"

"Glad you asked. For starters, if no one worked, we would not be having this conversation, and I would not be sharing it with tens of thousands of readers. If no one worked, there'd be no media. Much, much more importantly, if no one worked, there'd be no farms, farmers or food. Last time I checked, people like to eat."

"But we could raise our own food," Ratchethead protested.

"Not so fast. Raising your own food requires work. If no one works, no one eats. If no one works, no one has food, clothing, housing, transportation, education, medicine, police, fire, emergency medical services, hospitals, soldiers, highways, infrastructure, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, you name it. If no one works, we have none of that. In addition, things like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, private and public pensions don't happen. Food stamps are gone in a SNAP."

"Well, we'll still have NFL football and NASCAR, you didn't mention them," Ratchethead corrected me.

"OK, RH," I said, "Maybe we'll still have some games left. But we won't have football or auto racing or baseball or basketball or water polo. Without workers, these forms of entertainment cease to exist."

"So, what are you saying?"

"I'm saying all of us should acknowledge employers and employees for their respective work. And we ought to be very happy because of those who choose to work – particularly in the private sector – but also in the public sector. (Again, without the former, we would not have the latter. That animal cannot sustain itself.) If anything should unite all of us – in spite of our differences – perhaps it is the value of work. Lastly, and on an even more personal level, without someone – somewhere – working, you would not be receiving a check at the first of the month, nor would you be taking another pull from that swill from Old Milwaukee."

"You done gone too far, now. Them's fightin' words," Ratchethead replied.

"You're beginning to get the idea. The value of work, while often unappreciated, is crucial to our very existence. Work may not be a virtue in some minds, but without it – without someone actually working – those myopic minds won't have all their idle time to debate each and every discussion, ad nauseam, about 'big box stores,' 'evil corporations' and any other convenient target.

"Those who actually work afford those who don't this luxury. You'd think they'd at least show some appreciation. Today, thank someone – anyone – who works."

Rory Ryan is Senior Editor, North American Desk, at Paperitalo Publications and the owner of The Highland County Press in Hillsboro, Ohio. He can be reached by email at or

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