All Commentary
Monday, June 1, 1964

Siesta: A Lesson from Uruguay


Dr. Kershner is President of the Christian Freedom Foundation. This article is from his weekly column, “It’s Up to You,” November 18, 1963.

When I last visited Uruguay 15 years ago, welfare state ideology was already gaining ascendancy in that formerly prosperous and happy little country. Nevertheless, a considerable measure of well-be­ing still prevailed. Since then the descent into slothfulness and wastefulness which always accom­panies welfarism has been sharp and disastrous.

Victor Riesel tells us that some Uruguayan workers retire as early as age 37, that female civil serv­ice workers get lifetime pensions at 47, that males working for the government retire at 54, that many government offices do not open until 1:00 in the afternoon and that some close as early as 5:30 P.M. For every 12 workers there are six standbys. The lat­ter do nothing unless one of the 12 becomes ill. The government-owned airline operating four planes has 700 persons on the payroll. Other government-oper­ated industries are equally over­staffed.

If one works at a disagreeable job, he can retire at age 40. The normal retirement age is 45 to 50. After retirement one contin­ues to draw full pay for life and the pay goes up with the cost of living. More is added at age 65.

If a woman has worked for 10 years and has a child, she may retire on a lifetime pension even though not more than 28 years of age. Packing-house workers are entitled to take home free almost five pounds of meat a day. They sell what they don’t eat.

Such is the extreme to which welfarism leads. If one group gets something, other groups demand a fair equivalent. Pressure groups jockey the privileges, perquisites, and payments higher and higher. Once admit that the state has the right to take money from some and give it to others and there is no stopping the process short of bankruptcy. Inflation and hard times are descending upon Uru­guay just as they are on all coun­tries which substitute the belief in something for nothing for the moral law which teaches that all men are entitled to what they themselves earn, but not to any part of wealth created by others.