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Defining Work and Rethinking Retirement with David Bahnsen


Does retirement hinder achievement? Host Roger Ream is joined by co-host Dr. Anne Bradley, TFAS Vice President of Academic Affairs, and special guest David Bahnsen, Founder, Managing Partner, & Chief Investment Officer of The Bahnsen Group, for a compelling discussion on the meaning and benefits of work. David challenges conventional notions and offers insights into his belief that individuals should not retire, but instead continue evolving careers into old age. He also discusses the detrimental impact of policies that he believes hinder full labor productivity such as the societal shift towards remote workplaces. With a focus on mentorship, collaboration, and social interaction in the workplace, David advocates for a reimagined approach to work that promotes personal fulfillment and societal well-being.

David is consistently named one of the top financial advisors in America by Barron’s, Forbes and the Financial Times. He is a frequent guest on Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox News, and Fox Business, and is a regular contributor to National Review. Before launching The Bahnsen Group, he held positions as Managing Director at Morgan Stanley and Vice President at UBS. David hosts a popular weekly podcast, Capital Record, dedicated to the defense of free enterprise and capital markets. Last summer, he delivered the annual Neal B. Freeman Lecture on “History, Humanity and Happiness” to TFAS students during the D.C. Summer Programs.

Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.

Roger Ream [00:00:02] Welcome to the Liberty + Leadership Podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni, faculty, and friends who are making an impact today. I’m your host, Roger Ream. On today’s show, my guest will be David Bahnsen, founder, managing partner and chief investment officer of the Bahnsen Group, a renowned wealth management firm. We will mostly be discussing David’s fascinating new book “In Full-Time: Work and the Meaning of Life.” The book was released in February of 2020. I’ve invited Dr. Anne Bradley to join me as co-host for this conversation with David and served as a commenter at the book’s launch in New York City last month. Before we get into things further, let me give quick introductions of both Anne and David. Anne is the George and Sally Meyer Fellow for Economic Education and Vice President of Academic Affairs at TFAS. Throughout work with us, Dr. Bradley enhances the impact of our economic education programs, delivers lectures nationwide and oversees curriculum development. She is the author of several books. For its relevance to our conversation today, I’ll mention just one of her books “Be Fruitful and Multiply: Why Economics is Necessary for Making God-Pleasing Decisions.” Thank you, Anne, for joining me as co-host of this conversation with David Bahnsen.  

Anne Bradley [00:01:36] My pleasure. Thanks for having me again.  

Roger Ream [00:01:39] David Bahnsen has been working in the investment and financial management field for several decades. During that time, he has also written several books and become a respected public intellectual. He’s been consistently named one of the top financial advisors in America by Barron’s, Forbes, and the Financial Times, and he’s a frequent guest on Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox News, and Fox Business. The students attending the TFAS summer programs in D.C. last year had the pleasure of hearing David when he delivered the annual Neal B. Freeman Lecture. As I mentioned at the outset, today we’ll be mostly discussing David’s latest book “Full Time: Work and the Meaning of Life.” Thank you both for being with me here today. Welcome to Liberty and leadership.  

David Bahnsen [00:02:33] Thank you, Roger.  

Roger Ream [00:02:34] Well, David, before we get into the substance of your book “Full Time,” I would like to ask you what was your motivation for writing it? It appears to be something you’ve been thinking about for some time.   

David Bahnsen [00:02:47] I appreciate the question, because it really was sort of a combination of events. I think theologically and practically, I’ve been somewhat motivated, animated by the subject for quite a while. But writing my prior book “There’s No Free Lunch: 250 Economic Truths,” and developing an economics course that I taught to high school students at a private high school that I helped to found in Southern California, going through four semesters of teaching that and the work that went into the economics book that I put together, it crystallized for me this notion of work as the verb of economics that I’ve been a very long time subscriber to the idea of an economic way of thinking. I believe that work should not be implicitly understood. It should not be passively understood that for those of us who want to advocate for a robust understanding of productivity, of economic growth, of human flourishing, we must realize that whether we are saying the word or not, work is at the epicenter of everything we’re advocating. And that crystallization caused me to realize that I can sort of wear two of my favorite hats at once. I can write a book about work and be advocating for an economic way of thinking, while at the same time, connecting it to a sort of theological passion that I think has been missing. So, the book really flowed out of a combination of passions I have, which made it a delight to write it. 

Roger Ream [00:04:33] At the beginning of the book, you write that God created mankind for the purpose of work and therefore you suggest that he tied the very meaning of life to work and that we should treat work as a vocation. Can you kind of outline the theme of the book along those lines as to the difference between a vocation and a job and how we should look at work?  

David Bahnsen [00:04:58] Yes. So, I believe that God made human beings for the purpose of work, and he defined it as such in the very creation account of the Bible that effectively he did something very interesting. He created the world which most of us who live in the world would agree that it is beautiful, that it’s remarkable, that it’s orderly. It is well designed and there is this incredible expanse that we live in: the sun, moon and stars, the day in the night, the land in the sea, the plant kingdom in the animal kingdom. All these things that God made before making mankind that he described day-by-day-by- day, as good. And the reason I say that God made us for the purpose of work is that when he then goes on to describe making us, he points he differentiates us from the rest of creation. First, in our purpose, he said: “I’m making mankind in my image and likeness,” that he made us to be image bearers of God, and repeated it multiple times, and then said that this meant that we would multiply, fill the earth, produce, grow, cultivate. It goes on in Genesis two to talk about us working in the garden creatively and stewarding and protecting and caring for. We were to go build the city of God. He described us at the end of that day as very good. There was an elevated status given to mankind, as the co-creators with God, that we cannot make out of nothing, only he can, but we were not only can, but now were to. It was a mandate that we were to go make out of the things he had given us. So, this was what he made us for, and this was before sin had entered the world, for those who are familiar with Christian theology. So, I have no possible way to interpret that passage other than understanding God is making us for the purpose of work, and then what makes us unique image bearers of God? I know it is not omniscience or omnipotence or omnipresence. Only God is those things. We are not. What we are, are producers, creators, innovators as God is. That is the essence of our image bearing status.   

Roger Ream [00:07:31] I know in your book you draw on this concept of that God creates things out of nothing, but mankind is a co-creator, someone who’s intended to build on that work with what God has created and develop it further. Related to that, I think you talk about how we shouldn’t separate our own identity from the work we do, from the job we have. Can you talk some more about that? I mean, some people would probably argue that there are jobs that seem mundane. I don’t mean to disparage anyone’s work by calling it that, and you treat it very respectfully. Is it possible to put our identity into our work? You have a great quote in there from Dorothy Sayers, which I love about a carpenter. Can you develop that a little?  

David Bahnsen [00:08:21] I would argue, Roger that it’s impossible not to have our work as part of our identity. Now, the caveat and clarification, I’m more than happy to provide that I hope I clearly and charitably provided in the book is I’m not suggesting that our work and our productive endeavors are the entirety of our identity. I’m not saying it’s all our identity. I’m just simply saying it is at bare minimum a part that we cannot separate what we do from who we are. And the notion of that is attaching the logo on the business card to our identity, I think, is a misnomer. It is attaching the productive work that we do. So, at one point in my career, I was a managing director at Morgan Stanley, one of the largest investment banks on Wall Street. I’m no longer a part of Morgan Stanley, so I didn’t lose my identity when I left Morgan Stanley, but in the full ebb and flow of my life, in the entire apparatus, I am here on earth to produce and do things, and I believe that my vocational calling is a significant part of it. And at one point the venue was a company called Morgan Stanley. Right now, the venue is a firm that I have started and founded and so forth. But I don’t believe that we must confuse the venue in which we do this work, from the work that we are doing and our role, our ontological essence, is being connected to who we are. And one of the things I try to make clear in the book, Roger, is it’s not just that I’m saying this is true. I’m saying that everybody knows it’s true that the gymnastics people must go through to deny it are crazy. Everybody believes that when you see somebody who’s producing, achieving, accomplishing, building, and somebody else who’s literally just lying on the couch all the time doing nothing, that those two people are very different, and the difference comes down to a difference of doing, and that’s okay. Now, I also believe that people in one phase of life may be unproductive and that can change. I believe in redemption. I believe in improvement. We’re never enslaved to one station in life. Certainly not. But the idea that our work is not at all part of our identity is a totally foreign concept through most of world history. It is a significant part of who we are and the fact that we also wear other hats in our full creative being. Many of us are also spouses and parents and members of a church, members of a community. There are indeed multiple endeavors we take on, but this this really impassioned effort to strip a work from a part of our identity has been extremely unhealthy.  

Roger Ream [00:11:20] Let me ask Anne to jump in. Anne wears the hat of an economist, but also someone who has devoted much of her work in the area of faith and work, working for, at one point, for the Institute for Faith Work in Economics. I know she participated in the launch of your book at the program in New York, so, Anne, jump in and throw out some harder questions for David.   

Anne Bradley [00:11:43] Okay. Well, David, I really, of course, love this topic, and I appreciate the provocative argument that your book is making. I don’t think for some, as you say, that this is easy and that’s maybe a little bit about what I want to talk about is. It’s just kind of what are the implications, but before we get to that, I want to have you discuss, how do you think cultural attitudes generally, I mean, you can speak to it kind of within the church and theologically, but just cultural attitudes generally have changed towards work over the last half century or so? Do you think there are healthy changes or unhealthy changes?  

David Bahnsen [00:12:24] So, I think that there has been a significant cultural change in attitude towards work in the last 50 years. That is very unhealthy. I think there has been a cultural change within the church that is different and separate and yet also unhealthy. I’ll start quickly with the church, because I believe it was about 100 years ago that there was a paradigmatic shift in American evangelical Christianity whereby, the engagement with the public square became very defensive, very retreated east, and there was an explicit willingness to abandon position in the public square when it came to politics, media, education, and the marketplace. At some point, I put it to roughly 40, 45 years ago, I believe that the church started a process of reengaging in some of those spheres. Primarily, in politics and education. The homeschool movement became very robust. The Moral majority and the kind of Reagan revolution playing defense against a lot of the things that had happened in the culture war, matters of life and marriage. The church has had begun to reengage in matters of the civic sphere and education, and over the years has been various degrees of fruit and improvement from that. Not the marketplace, not in commerce, not in commercial society. What I think happened in the midst of this was a faith and work movement that both you and I have been a part of to some degree, that has struggled to form a proper theological formation that the faith and work movement largely has said: “Okay, how do we get back into this? We’ve kind of abandoned it. A lot of Christians seem to have some career success, a lot seem to be in a position of influence and status and achievement. What do we do about this?” I think it’s largely been transactional, how there can be better opportunities for workplace evangelism, and again, I don’t mean transactional pejoratively here. I believe it is a necessary but not sufficient part of a biblical understanding of faith and work integration. So, the faith work movement to me needs to now go to the next step in seeing the inherent dignity of work, the intrinsic value, the idea of work as a subjective matter, the subject of work being the worker who matters to God that is transitively pointed to an object, the object of work being those whom we serve in our work, in the production of goods and services that inevitably and economically have to be adding value to others. What I want is a self-consciousness in the faith and work integration movement that understands that if God cares about the subject, the worker and the object, he or she who is being worked for, then God obviously cares about the line between those two points. What we are doing in technology and finance and media and manufacturing, and all these different vocational spheres matters to God, not merely for the pragmatic and utilitarian benefits they may generate. So that, to me, has been this evolution of where we are within the church. Ironically, Anne, the world, the society, I think had, just from the American DNA, a very robust view of work. There was a kind of Puritan work ethic, and throughout the 19th century and in the 20th century, it was not acceptable to be anti-work. There was a dignity, there was a pride. During the Great Depression, the national tragedy we went through was not that people had to work and they weren’t finding it, it was that people couldn’t find work and that that was leading to significant, depression economically, spiritually, emotionally, because people craved that purpose. What I think happened over the last 50 years, we became victims of our own success in two key areas mortality and prosperity. People lived longer, which I think is a wonderful thing. We became a more prosperous nation post-World War Two economically. We introduced the idea of a retirement culture, which I think, essentially messaged and idea that work was something you did, so you don’t have to do it anymore, and I think that has been utterly catastrophic in what its message has meant to the millennial generation.  

Anne Bradley [00:17:27] Yeah, it’s interesting because what I was thinking of when you were speaking is this, you know, kind of phrase, TGIF, right? Which the idea is just get through to Friday because the weekend is when the good stuff happens, and then Monday’s a drag, and we do it because we must. So, that’s part of this cultural retreat from embracing work that you’re speaking of.  

David Bahnsen [00:17:47] If we’re going to say that the weeks are a drag and the weekends are what matter, then it’s basically just a timeline difference to say that your 30s and 40s are in drag, but then, at whatever point in your 50s and 60s, you can unplug and get to the golf course and get to the to the sailboat and what have you that that’s kind of what you’re living for. So, it’s almost hedonistic defined the purpose in life as recreation and leisure and I believe recreational leisure are important. I just do not believe the purpose of life. I think they’re a byproduct and an occasional reward that we can extract from life, but that this productive usefulness is where, and what Arthur Brooks refers to as earned success, I think, existentially, we’ve rewired society in a very unhealthy way.   

Roger Ream [00:18:42] If I could follow up on that.  

Anne Bradley [00:18:43] Please.  

Roger Ream [00:18:44] The tremendous efficiency and productivity of our free market economy, of capitalism has reduced the workweek, you know, from seven days to six days to barely five days. From a 40-hour week to an average of like 35 hours a week, at most now. It’s given us, over 150 years, we’ve gone from zero years in retirement to an average, I think, now, of 12 or more years in retirement. So, the innovation is leading to less of a requirement, I guess, that we work if we used to. Is that a good thing?  

David Bahnsen [00:19:21] I do not believe it is. No. Let me explain. I think the idea that we can get things done more efficiently is obviously a good thing. I do not believe that the purpose of greater efficiency is to do less. I believe that you can look to all sorts of enhancements of efficiency and productivity. Out of the Industrial revolution, we did not say: “Now, it will be easier to do this.” We said: “Now will be easier, and we can do more of it.” Out of the digital revolution, we essentially got, the opportunity to do our work easier, and we took advantage of that to produce the same. We didn’t enhance productivity, we just got more measure and recreation baked in. I’m painting with a broad brush there, you may have noticed that about the top 20% of innovators, producers, creators and oftentimes earners, they have not been contenting to just sit back in a four and a half day or three-and-a-half-day workweek. They’re never going to be. And that’s the issue as we talk about income inequality and wealth inequality, as if it’s purely an economic idea and having to do with commas and zeros in a bank account and a paycheck, when I think it’s very connected to output. So, being able to do our jobs easier, being able to do our jobs more safely, and then being able to go do more things, to go produce more goods and services as a byproduct of that margin, I think that ought to be our aim. I certainly accept the miracles of the free market in this great enrichment, but I do not believe that we ought to look at it as a tradeoff. Roger, this is very evidenced in the data. GDP, if you view this as an effective measurement of gross output, has been cut in half. Cut in half over the last 15 years from what it had been for 70 years before that. How is it possible that we are producing less with such greater technological, digital advantages? The deck is stacked in our favor and yet our gross output is declined, our labor participation rate has declined. There is a crisis of productivity, and that’s what I think I’m really speaking to here.  

David Bahnsen [00:21:44] If I can jump in, on that question, because I think it’s important to think about what you’re posing to us here. How does government fit into all of this? So, do you think that government policies, over the same, let’s say, the last 100 years, where we’re talking about all these innovations, we are certainly more productive and that’s something to celebrate. But if we’re getting less from it, does government have a role in that, and if so, what?   

David Bahnsen [00:22:10] Well, I am one who’s permanently biased towards the idea that government takes bad things and makes them worse, as opposed to taking good things and making them bad. I suppose they can be guilty of both, but I primarily believe the policy framework is relevant in the sense that it takes cultural movements that I believe are negative, and it, puts them into a negative feedback loop. So, the policy framework by which they have, put 40 hour workweek requirements as opposed to allowing employers and employees to negotiate, some of these elements, around mandatory overtime pay, some around the difficulty of terminating employees, the lack of tort reform where there is such an incredible amount of fraud and waste and in wrongful termination lawsuits, a lot of these things are elements that the government was responding to different things and I don’t think did so very well. I don’t believe that genie is getting put back in the bottle anytime soon. Ultimately, I believe we must defend this idea that stakeholders in a transaction are the best ones to negotiate the terms of a transaction, not disinterested third parties. I apply that to labor as well. But the greatest example I could think of culturally, is the war on teenage unemployment. I was struck by the panel that you did at my book release event in New York City, where you and Andy Posner, who had been the CEO of Carl’s Junior and a very prominent person, we had three people in a panel that all worked at an ice cream shop. I think in the same chain, Baskin-Robbins, all in high school, and yet are now all distinguished professionals and thinkers and academics and accomplished adults. We can all look back to these teenage jobs that helped form some discipline, some character, some habits that have been very productive and useful in life. The amount of effort that we go through to keep teenagers from working, I think public policy is adding to that problem, and I believe we underestimated to our own peril. The idea that someone’s first job will be a job they go seek when they’re 24 years old is a complete disaster, and that’s really something public policy is as hurt a great deal. California fast food restaurants are requiring a $22 or $23 an hour minimum wage. No one’s going to hire a 16-year-old, for that kind of money. This is meant to be low skill, low wage, part-time type work, and we’ve almost eliminated it from society.  

Anne Bradley [00:25:17] Demand curves for labor, slope downward, right? 

David Bahnsen [00:25:20] That’s right. And it’s also put inflationary pressures on as well, because you end up with labor shortage. You must pay higher to get people, and then you end up having that impact in prices.  

Anne Bradley [00:25:33] So, let’s talk about the other end of the spectrum. I think Roger alluded to it a little bit. I mean, should we never retire? Should we kind of drop dead in our office on our last day, because we were committed to the idea that work is who we are and what we’re made to do? What are the implications of this?  

Roger Ream [00:25:51] I was going to add, as someone Anne and I greatly admired and respected, Walter Williams did, he taught a class and then walked out to his car and died.  

Anne Bradley [00:26:01] And that was his wish that he would be able to teach right up until the end of his life, a remarkable love for his work.  

David Bahnsen [00:26:07] I say this in the book that there’s this adage or kind of cliche about no one ever said on their deathbed: “I wish I spent more time at the office,” and I make the comment, maybe some people should say that, on their deathbed. Now, of course I do not want to be guilty of painting with two broader brushes. I understand there are some professions, where doing what Walter Williams did is not possible. I don’t think that someone who is chasing bad guys down the street as a cop can do the exact same physical work in their 70s and 80s and so forth. There are age and stage restrictions, there are physical and mental faculties and whatnot that must be taken into account, but when you ask the high-level question, should we never retire? My answer is yes. We should never retire. If you define retirement as the cessation of productive activity, what many will do is say: “No, I’ve retired. I no longer go to the office anymore. I had a 40-year career at this company, and now I still do productive activity because I volunteer at my church once a month, I’m on a nonprofit board for a good organization,” like TFAS, National Review or Acton or something like that. And then, there’s a few board meetings a year. And the only point I want to make is that I’m all for people that will volunteer their church and be on a board, but it is perhaps worth considering that the thing people are best at is the thing they spent their entire life doing. And the notion that someone will take 30 or 40 years of experience and expertise and leave it behind to suddenly either do nothing but play or have limited, usefulness and activity with other sort of peripheral projects. I think it’s suboptimal. So, it’s not my intent to sort of judge what everyone chooses to do with the senior years of their life, but it is to point out that there are three parties involved, as I see it. There is the retiree themself who very often is cutting themselves off from usefulness, and it can be very depressing. It can be troubling to people that were in needed because they had a gift, because they were delivering value in the economy that suddenly is removed from that usefulness. Then there are the people, in a macro sense, that are cut off from their productivity, from their usefulness, from what they have to offer in the economy, in a large company. But then there are other people in the micro and the lack of mentorship. A lot of us are very critical of the fact that there seems to be 26-year-olds calling the shots at the New York Times and things like that, but what are we doing forcing the 66-year-olds out of their jobs? Maybe they’re going to work less hours. Maybe they’re going to have more of a supervisory or a kind of senior statesman role. I mean, the particulars matter case by case, but the general approach I’d like us to take both on the buy side and sell side, the worker and the company is to see the value of wisdom, the value of experience, and not see a rush to getting to the walk on the beach with our wife all day, every day. Whereas the TV commercials famously show as the optimal, definition of retirement.  

Anne Bradley [00:29:48] So, is this the most provocative thing when you’re going on your book tour? Do people kind of heckle you at this point? Because I really think that this is what maybe sounds threatening to people, right? Because maybe their plan and maybe not, their plan is to do what the commercials show and that they’re idealizing that as that’s now going to be the good life. So, what is the response you’re getting?   

David Bahnsen [00:30:12] Yeah, I think there’s two forms of criticism so far that have been something I really anticipated and eagerly enjoy interacting with, because if I wasn’t getting it, it would just mean that my point didn’t get across or nobody was reading or nobody cared. One is in that idea about retirement where people say: “Wait a second, I paid my dues. You’re telling me know I still must feel obligated to society?” And my point is: “Yes, I think you do, and by the way, it’s a blessing that that that productivity, that usefulness and but again, and the caveats are so important.” I’m a big fan of people having financial freedom, having the margin, the convenience, the flexibility to redefine some of those things. I think that the pressure that a professional works with at age 70 should be categorically different than the pressure they work with at age 30. And so, once people get an idea of what I am saying and what I’m not saying, I think it’s a little more palatable, but I most certainly am advocating for the idea that the baby boomer aspiration to work so you don’t have to work again and basically take whatever fun things they were doing when they were 18, 19, 20 and bring them back when they’re 63, that that is not the right idea to have how to think about it. The other piece that might be a little bigger has been pushed back on this idea of how to apply these principles when people have jobs that are drudgery, that when they have jobs that do not provide the socio-economic strata, being academic, being, financial professional, being an executive in a nonprofit, being a doctor or a lawyer. I believe it’s a valid question, because I am provocatively stating that a person who a busboy and a person is who is, in a janitorial position has a job that has dignity, is performing an important function. I also understand that there are not just struggling with the issues of low skill, low wage, low education, entry level type opportunities in the economy, but there are also some who may feel: “Look, I got a bachelor’s degree, I went to school, I’ve studied things. I had this job and I just hate it. I go in, go out every day. It doesn’t feel exciting to me. I’m not passionate about it.” I think that’s a legitimate question. So, that’s probably the area where I’m getting most pushback and that I think I’ve been able to formulate, hopefully some constructive answers.  

Roger Ream [00:32:59] Well, certainly the past really decade, and then with Covid, we’ve seen quite a transformation in work in our country. You go through in your book a chapter on labor participation rates in the labor force. You show the graphics at different age group breakdowns. You’ve also spoken out and debated this issue of hybrid work, of places now where people work fully remote or partially remote. You’ve pushed back on that as well. Are you opposed to this new work environment of hybrid?  

David Bahnsen [00:33:32] The keyword of what you just said is new? It’s interesting to me how many will say, you’re critical of work from home. I’ve been working from home for 20 years. What’s the problem? I’ll say, it sounds like there isn’t a problem, because what I’m referring to, primarily, Roger, is the idea that at the Covid moment, something changed. If a person was in an environment pre-COVID that was communal, let’s just use an office example, because all of us are in white collar professions. In my business, there is an inestimable value of us being together, of advisors talking to planners, talking to operations of research and trading, being together. There are old advisors with young advisors. There are clients in the office. There is an energy and an interaction that is pivotal. We cannot be the same business without it. There are plenty of wealth management firms that have tried to be, and I am 100% convinced that they have done so to the detriment of their own business and their own client experience. Now, if someone says, I’m a self-employed architect that just is by myself drafting plans, and for 20 years I’ve been able to do it in a home office and then have more flexibility with picking up the kids and this and that, I’m not speaking to that which already was working, I’m speaking to the notion that there is a tremendous benefit for companies that require collaboration, mentorship, brand community and as a conservative, it’s never been a political term for me. It’s always been an instinct to want to conserve good things from tradition. When you have a chance to change things for the better, I’m all for it, but the notion that in 25-year-olds working in an apartment by themselves, with nobody there to bounce ideas off, no managers that see their work putting zoom calls up where people are in their pajamas and they’re and they’re only working three days a week. I’m sorry, I don’t see that as progress. And the funny thing is that it took about six months for everybody who was saying they were for it to change their mind. All the big tech companies that said they were going to hybrid, they’ve all asked everyone to come back. All these media companies, they all asked everyone to come back. So, we had a reason as to where this office idea came from, and nothing changed at the point of Covid, other than the market miracle that we could like, we could get by for a period because of the cloud and because of other digital tools, delivery services, things like that. But as a sustainable, optimal condition for human flourishing and for promoting economic growth, I have no doubt in my mind that most businesses benefit from people working together.  

Anne Bradley [00:36:39] And don’t you think this is just such a fundamental anthropological point as well, that we’re created to be social now? We are not able to flourish. A word you’ve used several times today, which I think is such an important concept. We can’t do that alone. It seems to me what you’re talking about right now is just, as you leave college or graduate school, you’re really at the beginning of this lifelong journey, and to do that alone in an apartment over a computer, seems to be, that’s the alienating feature, not the workplace itself.  

Anne Bradley [00:37:16] I totally agree. I think it’s really self-centered that so many Gen Xers and Boomers who themselves benefited when they were 25 and 33 from mentorship and hallway conversations and the ability to be in the kind of time and place circumstances of real time interaction that they then, at a point of their career, could kick the ladder over and pretend like they didn’t know how they got up there, and expecting some 26 year old right out of business school to just gather their mentorship benefits from a couple of zoom calls, is depriving others of that anthropological reality of the human person that we are both all at once individuals and social creatures. And that social dynamic not only speaks to how we best and optimally function in the workplace, but also how we serve the customers or clients or end users of the businesses, goods and services.  

Roger Ream [00:38:21] Well, it looks like we’re coming up on our time. It’s flown. I think you did a great job in responding to the questions in a way that give people a good flavor of what the book is about, and I encourage our listeners to buy it. When I was reading something in there, reminded me of an old quote I once heard in church. It’s quoting John Gardner, and maybe you know this one, David, but the society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shadiness and philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy, neither its pipes, nor as theories will hold water. I love that, because it does elevate the importance of work. I think of all kinds, like Dorothy Sayers did about the carpenter who needs to produce the best tables possible. Your discussion in the chapter about Genesis and talking about a person’s work is the object. It’s a form of service. Work is, in this sense of helping others in the in that Adam Smith sense as well.  

David Bahnsen [00:39:30] I wish I had gotten the John Gardner line, before we published the book because that would have made the quotes in the book. It’s a beautiful sentiment. There’s a lot of wisdom in it, but ultimately, I believe what I’m advocating goes far beyond this idea: young people don’t work hard enough, and my day, we used to work extra hours, and our hands used to get dirty. There’s always a little bit of some of this, kind of old schoolwork ethic. That’s not what’s driving me here, Roger. What I want people to get from the book is that I really do believe, with some challenges and obstacles along the way, I’ve had a very fulfilling life and continue to strive for such. I have decades, hopefully, in front of me, to continue doing more, but this notion that work is to be stripped from that or to be, put in a lower place of a priority, in my own life, it would have created a very different outcome. I want everyone to have the opportunity to find joy and meaning in their work, to see their work as God sees it, as a blessing. He gave us to be an image bearer of his that we have not only a tremendous responsibility, but an incredible blessing in front of us because of it. So, this aim of human flourishing, that Anne just spoke about that is what my driver is in the message of this book. I’m not looking to put more burden on people, I’m looking to put more joy and peace.  

Roger Ream [00:41:04] Well said. That’s wonderful way to end this. Thank you so much for joining us today, David Bahnsen. His book is “Full Time.” Thank you, Anne Bradley, for joining in the conversation.  

David Bahnsen [00:41:14] Thank you.  

Roger Ream [00:41:17] Thank you for listening to the Liberty + Leadership Podcast. If you have a comment or question, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org, and be sure to subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app and leave a five-star review. Liberty and leadership is produced at Podville Media. I’m your host, Roger Ream, and until next time, show courage in things large and small.  


TFAS has reached more than 49,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.

Liberty + Leadership is a conversation with TFAS alumni, faculty and friends who are making a real impact. Hosted by TFAS President Roger Ream ’76, the podcast covers guests’ experiences, career stories and leadership journeys. 

If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.

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