How to Help Discouraged Working-Age Men

What if we could find ways to revive the tradition of mutual-aid societies?

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More blue-collar American men aged 25–54 than ever are no longer employed and seeking work. That sad trend started in the late 1960s, coinciding with President Johnson’s “Great Society” welfare policies, and has strengthened ever since. Today, more than half of “Not in Labor Force” prime-age men are on some form of government disability and not working. 

Five decades of welfare dependency seems to have led to the demoralization of these men, and that represents a tragic loss to them, to their families, and to the economy. What can we do to help these men succeed again?

Could it be that one thing they are missing is camaraderie? What if we could find ways to revive the pre–Great Society tradition of mutual-aid societies, which were fraternal organizations aimed at furthering virtuous behavior and helping out when troubles arose?

In the 21st century, we tend to forget about the importance of civil society, the role that businesses and private associations play in allowing us to come together to further our interests. Rather than seeing civil society as a place to turn to for help, Americans tend to look to the state to address social issues.

However, it wasn’t always this way. Mutual-aid societies were pivotal in American society during the first half of the 20th century; historians estimate a third of all adult males were members of one in 1910.

These organizations were diverse in their membership and benefits. Some focused on providing the sick with care in hospitals, while other societies provided burial services and orphanages for the children of members. They were a key part of the fabric of civil society. 

Read the full article at National Review.