Two lazy cliché posts on Dakota War College make clear the continuing disconnect between Republican dogma and South Dakota’s youth.
Pat Powers leads off May Day reprinting Governor Dennis Daugaard’s tired graduation wishes to South Dakota’s 2016 high school graduates. He gives three main reasons young people should stay in South Dakota: low unemployment, low taxes, and a load of fuzzy math that makes our low wages look good. Realizing he can’t rely completely on crass materialism as the justification for his state’s existence, the Governor throws in one line about “seeing the stars at night, enjoying the wide open spaces and having the company of friendly, down-to-earth people.” Almost poetry, right? But the structure of the essay—one sentence reciting the soulful advantages of living in South Dakota (advantages that friendly people in all 49 other states will gladly tell you are not unique) tacked onto a detailed development of the economic argument—reflects Governor Daugaard’s long-running development philosophy that business matters over everything else.
Powers then spends his May Day droning on about capitalism. Responding to a poll that finds 51% of adults between 18 and 29 do not support capitalism, Powers invokes his dear deceased mother, who worked her fingers to the bone through her dying days:
Two weeks before she died from cancer, she was giving her all at her auction business with back to back Saturday/Sunday sales, because she believed in our system of capitalism. She was doing it because she loved her business, and she wanted it to produce a profit [Pat Powers, “About Capitalism, and the Statistic That Should Worry Us More than Any Other,” Dakota Free Press, 2016.05.01].
Get a job! shout Powers and Daugaard. Make money! Work until you die! Powers and Daugaard apparently think they are speaking to the Ferengi youth.
The poll to which Powers responds deals with vaguely defined terms, but it seems to represent rejection of the profit-seeking absolutism that led to the global financial crisis that has shaped young people’s worldview:
John Della Volpe, the polling director at Harvard, went on to personally interview a small group of young people about their attitudes toward capitalism to try to learn more. They told him that capitalism was unfair and left people out despite their hard work.
“They’re not rejecting the concept,” Della Volpe said. “The way in which capitalism is practiced today, in the minds of young people — that’s what they’re rejecting” [Max Ehrenfreund, “A Majority of Millennials Now Reject Capitalism, Poll Shows,” Washington Post, 2016.04.26].
Young Americans aren’t saying they won’t work. They aren’t saying they want everything handed to them. They are saying that there is much more to life than working until ten p.m. and shorting your local government of the money it needs to pay teachers and pave roads. They are saying that friendly, down-to-earth people need some control over the rabid capitalism of multinational corporations who would blot out the stars and dirty the wide open spaces with their environmental predations.
They are saying that a Governor whose best argument for staying in South Dakota is that you can make some money here probably isn’t going to win that argument.
Work is a necessary condition for a good life. It is not a sufficient condition. Powers and Daugaard miss that fact. South Dakota’s friendly, down-to-earth young people do not. They know that a single-minded drive for profit leads to physical and spiritual poverty.