The One Thing That Keeps Our Economy Going

|May 30, 2023
Lonely sad woman

A Note From Amanda: Joel has a stark warning today. Forget about inflation, bankruptcies and the debt ceiling. If we don’t get this one thing right… our economy and our society will fail. Read on below… and let us know your thoughts at

The societal cost of floundering young adults is staggering.

From suicide and Fentanyl abuse to failure to launch, the human expense of failure far outweighs the economic expense.

If we don’t get our kids heading in the right direction, nothing else will go in the right direction.

When I say the “right direction,” I’m not talking about voting the right way.

I’m talking about living to see the voting booth. And then being able to find it. And thinking yourself worthy to participate.

I’m not a psychologist, but I know several. Each one is deeply concerned about the dysfunctional trajectory of our youth and our young adults.

What gives a child self-worth? In a phrase, accomplishing needful tasks.

Each one of those words is significant.

Notice I didn’t say “talking about things.” Focus groups don’t bestow self-worth or affirmation. Carrying signs, protesting and even screaming don’t develop self-worth.

Nor does busyness. Top-quality tasks must be needful.

In physics, the work-energy theorem dictates that there must be both energy and movement. This means that you can push on a wall all day but haven’t accomplished anything unless it moves.

You can grunt, work up a sweat and expend a huge amount of energy, but if the wall doesn’t move, you haven’t done any work.

Work has to do with measurable completion. Open-ended things don’t offer closure.

The best tasks are ones that have a clear beginning and a clear ending.

Being able to step back, take a breath and appreciate a job well done is one of the most soul-satiating activities a person can undertake.

Work It Out

With this in mind, I suggest we’ve abused at least one generation of children by denying them the ability to actively participate in the adult work world.

Notice I qualified the adult world by including the word “work.”

Back when we began home-schooling our children nearly 40 years ago (when it was still prohibited), the unorthodox child development gurus we followed said children tend to want to grow up like their parents and the adults around them.

That’s natural.

Children going in the opposite direction from the adults they grow up around is unnatural. Problem children, therefore, are aberrant, not normal.

If that’s the case, what kind of platform reduces the risk of a dud launch?

A significant part of the platform is vision and purpose in life. Curiosity, imagination and service are also part of it.

But I suggest a greater part is accomplishing needful tasks. Another way of saying that is simply doing work.

Unfortunately, modern society prohibits adults from offering this launchpad to our youngsters.

Our farm offers stewardships (internships) to 11 aspiring farmers per year. When we started this program nearly 30 years ago, we took 16-year-olds. In fact, once we took a 14-year-old whose parents wanted each of their boys to spend a summer on a farm in order to instill character and work ethic.

But then the child labor laws changed. It became illegal for anyone under 18 to operate a power tool. We use a lot of power tools here, like cordless drills. In the wisdom of our nation, we’ve decided that a 16-year-old can legally sit behind the wheel of a 4,000-pound chunk of steel and hurtle it 70 miles an hour down the interstate. But a cordless drill? Far too dangerous.

We don’t have to create a Dickensian society to offer our young people a launchpad. If I may be so bold, I would suggest that Dickens’ childhood abuses were instrumental in making him the prolific writer he became.

I can think of many things worse than working kids. Many, many things can be done by youngsters that overprotective child labor laws currently deny them the opportunity to do.

Meaningful Work

When I was a kid, we had to split wood, milk the cow, gather eggs, churn butter and pull weeds in the garden.

Urbanization and technology have made these skills unnecessary.

Deprived of these character-building chores, modern youth never develop self-worth because they seldom do anything worthwhile.

Being the top points-getter in a video game does not qualify. Sports try to substitute, but sports are not necessary projects. Plus, teams are age-segregated, limiting interaction with the adult world.

Young people grow up not knowing who they are because they’ve never been in the real world. Meaningful work is how we learn what we’re made of. Without that measuring stick, we don’t know who we are or what we can do.

The result is an unmoored, floundering soul, blind to the sea of opportunity. At the risk of sounding like an ogre, I would rather see some child labor abuse than generations coddled to the point of despair.

The discovery of self-worth starts early… extremely early. Gardening, keeping some chickens, cooking – all those mundane chores – are investments in human equity. If we want worthwhile adults, we need to start by creating worthwhile kids.

We don’t instill self-worth by telling our kids “you’re a good boy” or “you’re a good girl.”

Good for what?

Kids know if they’re good for something. Or good for nothing. It’s time we adults stopped coddling and started assigning meaningful chores and providing side-by-side work opportunities.

That’s the way to salvage our next generation from suicide and Fentanyl.

Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. Others who like him call him the most famous farmer in the world, the high priest of the pasture, and the most eclectic thinker from Virginia since Thomas Jefferson. Those who don’t like him call him a bioterrorist, Typhoid Mary, a charlatan, and a starvation advocate. With a room full of debate trophies from high school and college days, 12 published books, and a thriving multigenerational family farm, he draws on a lifetime of food, farming and fantasy to entertain and inspire audiences around the world.