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Work Ethic Not Unique to South Dakota

South Dakota’s elected officials talk about South Dakotans’ work ethic as if working hard is somehow unique to South Dakota:

In Murdo I learned the character of South Dakotans – the work ethic, the commitment to freedom coupled with a belief in personal responsibility, the sense of responsibility to the broader community.

Agriculture, of course, is the lifeblood of South Dakota. But it is a hard way of life. It’s backbreaking work in all weathers – always with the risk that all your work can be wiped out in moments by a storm. And anyone who grows up on a farm or ranch knows that everybody has to pull their weight, or the farm or ranch just won’t survive. And I think that grounding in agriculture has helped give South Dakotans their reputation for having a strong work ethic and a commitment to getting the job done.

And I’m not kidding about the reputation. As a senator, I’ve traveled to a number of places around the world, and I regularly meet people – often military members – who talk about the work ethic of the South Dakotans they know. I’m pretty sure it’s that work ethic and sense of personal responsibility that is responsible for the fact that South Dakota has always punched above its weight when it comes to military service – as well as the patriotism that runs strongly through the South Dakota character [Senator John Thune, remarks, United States Senate, 2022.05.26].

I consider myself lucky to have been raised in a town like Murdo – shout-out to the Jones County Coyotes – where South Dakota values like a strong work ethic, a firm belief in personal responsibility, and a sense of responsibility to the broader community run deep [Sen. John Thune, op-ed, 2022.11.11].

Jim Abdnor grew up in the small West River town of Kennebec. Working in his father’s general store, he learned the values that are embodied in so many South Dakota towns: our strong work ethic, sense of personal responsibility, and belief in responsibility to the broader community [Sen. John Thune, op-ed, 2023.02.17].

Some South Dakotans assume we moved to Washington, DC, after the election two years ago. We didn’t, and never really considered it. My wife has a successful business in Mitchell, but we also wanted our boys to grow up in South Dakota. There is a work ethic, kindness, and unassuming demeanor in our state that I didn’t want my sons to miss out on [Rep. Dusty Johnson, op-ed, 2021.01.01].

I am very pleased that Qwest has chosen Sioux Falls as the site for a new customer sales and service operation…. Qwest could have put the operation anywhere, but they chose South Dakota because they understand the value of hiring our citizens, who have great skills and a great work ethic [Gov. M. Michael Rounds, press release, 2005.03.02].

South Dakotans are known for their character, strong work ethic and common sense…. When I ran for this job in 2014, I promised to take those values to Washington, and they continue to be at the heart of every decision I make. We are also known for our resilience, determination and strength. Those South Dakota values are too often lacking in Washington. Bureaucrats and self-promoting politicians are focused on the political whims of the day, instead of the important issues that directly impact hardworking families [Sen. M. Michael Rounds, campaign announcement, 2020.02.06].

There is just no work ethic like a South Dakota work ethic [Rep. Kristi Noem, interview, Tri-State Livestock News, 2018.10.09].

South Dakota’s work ethic is legendary, and so is our sense of community [Gov.-Elect Kristi Noem, op-ed, 2018.11.29].

South Dakota’s work ethic is second to none. Today, we recognize all the people who work so hard to keep our economy strong and businesses thriving [Gov. Kristi Noem, Labor Day FB post, 2021.09.06].

South Dakotans get up every day and go to work. They know what it means to put food on the table for their families. Their work ethic is incredible — it’s something the rest of the nation can follow.

It has led to the lowest unemployment rate in American history [Gov. Kristi Noem, tweet, 2023.04.27].

Saying South Dakotans work harder than anyone else requires not getting out much. Minnesotans get up every day and go to work. So do New Yorkers. So do Californians. So do Hawaiians. So do Canadians, Greeks, and Ugandans. Hard work is part of the human experience, in every state and every nation, from Lake Kampeska to the Finland Station.

My working experience suggests that neither industry nor sloth are uniquely apportioned to any one state. I’ve met hard-working South Dakotans (exhibit #1: my dad). I’ve also met a few lazy South Dakotans (exhibit #1: Chad Haber). I’ve met a similar mix of people—mostly responsible workers who want to do their jobs and get home to live their lives, with a few moochers—everywhere else that I’ve been.

There’s nothing with taking pride in working hard. I take pride in my sweat and the daily bread arising therefrom. But I don’t let my laboring pride bloat into the misconception that I am somehow better than all the other folks around me who are busting their chops for a paycheck—not to mention all the folks, mostly women, who are doing all sorts of housework for no paycheck.

But we shouldn’t forget that the “work ethic” is a theologically problematic concept with roots in racist, sexist, and economic oppression. In a way, this “work ethic” that keeps cropping up in our elected officials’ propaganda sounds like the work ethic of the galley slave, a whip wielded to keep the subjugated masses rowing hard.

Work is good. Using our bodies and minds is healthy and necessary for ourselves and our communities. But it is unhealthy and unnecessary to think that working hard or any other meritorious act makes us special. Many South Dakotans work hard; some do not. Many Minnesotans and Mexicans work hard; some do not. South Dakotans do not have a unique work ethic.


  1. grudznick 2023-04-28 06:30

    Whine less and work harder. That’s how you get ahead in this world. Applies to teachers and fatcat administrators, too.

  2. Jenny 2023-04-28 07:10

    Minnesotans work just as hard but smarter with higher wages and Unions.
    Grudz is old school .

  3. Bill Poppen 2023-04-28 07:12

    What about “playing hard?” Do South Dakotans also play hard? I wonder what the politicians would have to say about that?

  4. O 2023-04-28 08:04

    How about fair recognition and compensation for hard work? Why are SD employers uniquely deaf to that or blind to the relationship between work and pay?
    Grudz is NO school.

  5. e platypus onion 2023-04-28 08:19

    Noem’s work ethic includes grifting and nepotism. Living off the fat of the gubmint her adult life and passing that along to her daughters and son in law.

    Grudzilla is “Olde Fool.”

  6. Loren 2023-04-28 08:51

    I’m a little leery of “ethics” learned in Murdo. When you watch little Johnny follow old Mitch like a puppy dog and forgive behavior like sexual assault, obstruction of justice, abuse of power, inciting an insurrection…, not to mention the games played to “adjust” the Supreme court to his liking, well, “ethics” is NOT a word I would associate with John Thune!

  7. grudznick 2023-04-28 10:39

    All your goats are belong to grudznick.

  8. O 2023-04-28 11:29

    Unfortunately, goats may be all that is left in SD as the workforce and brainpower continue to flee grudznick’s conservatives with exploitive motives SD.

  9. All Mammal 2023-04-28 11:47

    Some people get sick satisfaction making people grovel and pretty much debase themselves just to get the crumbs they are owed. They feel powerful and popular being pursued by their employees. I recall many a time chasing down a scab boss in order to be paid in full. They act like you should bow down. They are experiencing the adverse side effect of being hung like a light switch.

  10. Mark Anderson 2023-04-28 11:53

    Well the work ethic is like the Black knight in Monte Python. Tis but a scratch. It’s obviously used as a roose to keep workers from asking for what they deserve. Praise them while preying on them so to speak. Republican’s talk about it at the golf course bar after their hard day’s work. That’s where Dusty learned his life lessons. Oppose unions and any minimum wage it’s the work ethic that allows you to raise your head but not much else.

  11. sx123 2023-04-28 12:01

    I know plenty of South Dakotans that are on the golf course almost every day. Working hard at hitting a ball.

  12. P. Aitch 2023-04-28 12:06

    SD is still ten years behind. Your leaders still need to invent reasons why it’s a good place to live and the majority still eats it up like lefsa at Christmas. Smart kids can’t get out quick enough and here’s why.
    – Young people today value work-life balance more than previous generations. They want to pursue their passions, enjoy their hobbies, and spend time with their families and friends, in addition to working. They view work as a means to an end that provides the necessary income and resources to support their desired lifestyle.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2023-04-28 12:36

    The mythological “work ethic” of South Dakotans is mostly a response to having to work like a dog to keep from starving. You bet, it’s exploitation of workers but, the fact is, lots of small business men are one brake job away from financial ruin. Everyone in the South Dakota “Middle Class” , meaning in that state that you have an actual job, is operating on a thin margin. It’s a tough place to make a living.

  14. O 2023-04-28 13:05

    And if I work all day for the Blue Sky Mine
    There’ll be food on the table tonight.

  15. P. Aitch 2023-04-28 13:58

    Ah … Midnight Oil.

  16. Donald Pay 2023-04-28 15:07

    What is “work ethic?” Politicians and many others talk about it as if it’s a real thing, and it’s really not one thing, if it is anything at all, If it is anything it’s a combination of skills and traits, some probably innate and some acquired. Various ways to quantify “work ethic” have been developed, and then used to predict who will be a good hire. There are a number of self-reporting bubble tests that are used to try to quantify various aspects of what is called a potential employee’s “work ethic.” Lots of larger retail operations use these tests, but they have become much more sophisticated than simple “work ethic” scores. Being strongly attentive to a task might be good for some jobs, but not for others jobs which require multi-tasking, or switching tasks very quickly. Aspects of “work ethic” are good for some jobs, and not good for others.

    Sometimes work ethic is reduced down to soft skills, such as being prompt, being able to easily work in a team, being able to take supervision or correction easily, being adaptable. Or it’s willingness to fill in for a sick co-worker, or a thousand other things.

    Everyone possesses a good “work ethic” for some jobs, and a poor “work ethic” for other jobs. Ssometimes a poor “work ethic” is created by employers who treat people poorly or who don’t pay them well. I always told my clients that the most important thing was to show up every day you are scheduled, and do the best job you can. For jobs you like, that’s pretty easy.

  17. P. Aitch 2023-04-28 15:13

    Good work ethic is not getting s**t faced drunk the night before the last day of the legislative session and having to be removed from the group and censured.

  18. grudznick 2023-04-28 15:30

    A good work ethic is not being a slackard. There are too many fellows who just coast and don’t pull their own weight. They should all be fired and banned from being on welfare. Teach them to work harder. Especially in the governments and schools.

  19. M 2023-04-28 15:46

    Grudz, does it apply to the gluttonous, sexist, uneducated fools with bloated egos?

  20. Mark Anderson 2023-04-28 16:28

    Grudz your just too hard on Republicans.

  21. larry kurtz 2023-04-28 16:54

    The term was introduced by German sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920), who drew a celebrated correlation between the emergence of such an ethic in 16th-century Protestant thought and the origins of European capitalism.

    Go figure.

  22. Arlo Blundt 2023-04-28 17:23

    Mark..Boy, you hit that one out of the park. I’ve known a good number of “rock ribbed, conservative, Republicans,” who weren’t worth a dime as employees or as a co-worker. Know it all, pontificating, entitled, caustic, corner cutters, with an extreme avoidance of focusing energy and attention on the job at hand. “Let the other guy do it and take the credit later” kind of guys.

  23. Donald Pay 2023-04-28 17:26

    Grudz, “pulling your own weight” comes to us from rowing. Rowing was a sport, not work. People who were “pulling their own weight” were not working. I would consider, and I think you agree, that Noem is an example of someone who pulls her own weight in the rowing sense. She engages in activity that has little, if anything, to do with being a Governor. She’s out their doggy paddling in Florida, Texas and Fox News, in between liaisons with Lewandowsk. She’s a slackard as far as her actual position.

  24. larry kurtz 2023-04-28 17:52

    Food and reproduction
    Praise dog and serve the luncheon
    Pass the ammunition.

  25. jakc 2023-04-28 21:59

    I knew someone out on the west coast who worked for a big retailer. Always happy to hire South Dakotans who had relocated. Why? Unlike the kids who grew up on the west coast, they were willing to work hard for low wages and bad hours and not quit whereas the locals knew there was always another McJob out there. What else are you going to do in Murdo except keep working at a crappy job or get out? That’s what John Thune did

  26. P. Aitch 2023-04-28 23:01

    Latin American workers are incredibly hard workers especially at repetitive tasks. No white co-worker ever outworked me but every Latino y Latina did. My only way to save face was to be more innovative and figure out a way to do the task in a more efficient way.
    Innovation is what makes the American workforce great. It’s sad that SD ranks so low in innovation skills.

  27. ABC 2023-04-29 05:55

    Ponos is the Greek god of hard labor and toil. Look it up on

    So ponography is the blind worship of hard labor! The Republicans support Ponography!

    Would you rather have an economy of very high wages, people working peacefully in software, solar energy,
    Great projects involving science, math and coding, everyonecworks maybe 20 to 30 hours a week at very high wages, a Scandinavian style social safety net, free college, free medical care for everyone, like Canada, instead of what the Republicans and many Democrats whine about—- hard work, work, work, work, talking like true Ponographers!

    It’s not, let’s prosper everyone with non polluting expanding people friendly businesses. It’s always, oh hard work always!

    Ponography. Porn is legal. Ponos or hard work is legal. But is that humanity’s destiny?

  28. ABC 2023-04-29 06:01

    John Thune is a pornographer, talking about his hard work in Murdo?

    Do you see him working the afternoon shift at the Subway in Murdo? That used to be a 24 hour fully staffed Subway.

    Don’t listen to Ponographers like Thunio, Dirty Johnson and Marion Rounds!!!

    Build a better economy! Then Ponographer dinosaurs won’t know what happened.

  29. ABC 2023-04-29 06:02

    Correction. Thune is a ponographer.

    Apple auto correct

  30. Richard Schriever 2023-04-30 09:32

    A few years ago thew company I am employed by hired a fellow, whom everyone made comments about what a “hard worker” he is. After having worked with and supervised and trained him on a couple jobs I cam eot the same opinion. BUT, my opinion also considered that he HAD TO work “hard”, because he was incapable of working “smart”. Just sayin’.

    And grudz, I have actually made a study of highly successful and greatly wealthy people in the US, and the vast majority of them (90%) attribute most of their success to LUCK – being in the right place, knowing the right people, doing those things at a fortuitous time – and NOT “hard work”. A few more attribute it all to “the grace of God” (a religious take on luck) and not their hard work. People who are highly successful and greatly wealthy, KNOW how they got to where they are. You, on the other hand obviously know nothing of the kind, but you are quite fond of old-fashioned propagandistic attributions of success designed to keep ’em down on the farm.

  31. Richard Schriever 2023-04-30 09:51

    jackC – “I knew someone out on the west coast who worked for a big retailer. Always happy to hire South Dakotans who had relocated. Why? Unlike the kids who grew up on the west coast, they were willing to work hard for low wages and bad hours and not quit whereas the locals knew there was always another McJob out there.”

    This is the same story I have been hearing since I was 12 years old (1963). It is a memorized bit of propaganda designed to make poor people feel good about the underpaid job they have in SD and other backward places, and demonize California. I moved to CA in 1988 and lived and worked there for 15 years, including some as a hiring manager. The story is pure BS, and I doubt you know anyone who is or was a hiring manager for a “major retailer” on the “west cost” at all, aside from this encounter right here – with me. I hired people based on their education, experience and possession of the necessary KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities), not what geography they were “from”. I had a couple workers from NE and IL (those hard-working midwestern states by reputation) who were quite capable at what they did, but they would NEVER come into the office a minute before 9:00 and NEVER stay a minute after 5:00 – no matter what. On the other hand, I had workers from Nova Scotia, California, South Caroline, Peru, and other “lazy” places who were equally as capable and would come in as early or stay as late as needed to get done whatever needed doing. Anecdotal, I know, but it’s sa real experience, not some garbage I memorized from my youth and like to repeat because it ties in with my cultural identity.

  32. Richard Schriever 2023-04-30 09:54

    jackC – BTW – do you know how I know you don’t know anyone on the West coast? It’s this – “work hard for low wages and bad hours” don’t exist in the West Coast “big retail” industry.

  33. jakc 2023-04-30 22:10

    Good God Richard Schriever, four letters and you can’t even spell my name right. And then, when I thought you couldn’t write anything stupider, you add a postscript.

    I can’t help with what you don’t know and the things you imagine you know. I can’t even be offended because I don’t value your opinion enough to be offended.

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