THE RIGHT TO WORK.
BY AMBROSE BIERCE.
What shall a sturdy man do who has not the price of a meal? Clearly, he must go to work and earn it. But, if none will give him work Right here we impose the death penalty for his failure. We sentence him to starvation.
He can escape this punishment in no way that is lawful. We have had the foresight to see to that, by laws against robbery, theft and mendicancy. Mere vagrancy, too, is a crime; if without visible means of support a man may be sent to jail. If, like the Son of Man, he hath not where to lay his head,” he will be safer from the rest of us if he pack it about with him, remaining awake or sleeping a foot, He might sleep in the park or on a wharf or in some other unconsidered place. That would be no great hardship to society, but it would him good and we have provided against it.
Laws against robbery and theft are just and necessary, those against begging are necessary and unjust; what makes them unjust is that we do not assure work to those able and will ing to work. To say to a penniless and hungry man, “You may ask for employment, but it is refused you shall not ask for bread’- that is a monstrous and shameful tyranny.
There is only one way out of this moral impasse. Since the State cannot permit the individual to rob or steal and will not permit him to beg, it should provide him with employment; there is no other way to preserve his life and his self-respect.
So plain is the duty of society to the individual that it is no less than astonishing that it could ever have been overlooked or questioned when pointed out. The employment should not, of course, carry a wage that would tempt the recipient to with draw himself from private industries, but it should be sufficient to keep the wolf outside his door-to tide him over the period of his sharpest need.
This is not an anarchistic proposal; no proposal can be that if it aim to move an imperative compulsion to lawlessness. If it is Socialistic, then Socialism may claim the glory of advocating an indisputable reform; the adding to the Ten Thousand Commandments thundered from the Political Sinai, one with a negative that is not prohibitive but benevolent carrying not a threat, but a promise-“THOU SHALT NOT STARVE.”