Fun on Friday: Labor Day
Can you believe it’s already Labor Day weekend?
In some ways, 2020’s stay has dragged on seemingly forever — like an unwanted aunt visiting “for a while.” But in other ways, 2020 has just flown by. I mean, it’s already fall — although I live in north Florida so it feels like anything but fall.
Anyway, even if 90-degree temperatures say otherwise, fall is here as Labor Day weekend ushers out summer. So, a lot of you will probably take a day off Monday — which quite frankly doesn’t make sense.
I mean, it’s “labor” day, right? Shouldn’t we celebrate by laboring? But no. We celebrate working by not working. It’s kind of backward, isn’t it?
I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of Labor Day. Don’t get me wrong — I like taking a day off as much as the next guy. I am a fan of grilling meat and there is nothing wrong with a last long weekend at the lake. But the actual meaning behind Labor Day – meh.
According to the US Department of Labor (because of course, you need a government agency to direct going to work) Labor Daw was the “creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.”
So basically, we’re celebrating going to work.
I honestly don’t think going to work is any great achievement. It’s like celebrating eating dinner. Or going to bed. Work is something we have to do to survive. I’m not sure I deserve a pat on the back for getting up and doing my job.
I think the modern economy with its division of labor has masked the reality of work. We don’t really see the direct connection between our job and our literal survival. If you went back to the 1700s and told a farmer we should celebrate his work with a day off, he would probably look at you like you’d lost your mind. If he didn’t go out and dig in the dirt every day, there would be no food to eat. He had to build his own house. Often he had to make his own tools. Work was clearly connected to survival. Today, a lot of us just sit in front of a computer. It’s easy to forget that tapping out some words on a screen is life or death. But in a sense, it is. Work is a fundamental aspect of human life. It’s vital whether you’re hammering nails all day or doing some office job.
Since we’ve lost the connection between work and eating, we’ve become pretty entitled when it comes to work. I think a lot of people believe the world owes them a job and a given day – let’s pull $15 out of the air. That’s the whole basis of the labor movement. “If it wasn’t for labor, there wouldn’t be anything. We’re so valuable, there should be a law to pay us more.” But it’s also true that if it weren’t for the guy providing capital – tools and buildings – workers wouldn’t be able to work. Every division in the division of labor is important. So why single out “labor” and celebrate it? Aren’t we all laboring in one way or another?
Another thing that drives the labor movement is the crazy “labor theory of value” that persists in socialist circles. Basically, the idea is that the amount of labor that goes into something determines its value. It’s easy to see how silly this is. I could spend an hour making a beautiful mud pie. But no matter how hard I labored, the value of the mud pie is still zero. If you don’t believe me, try it. Make a mud pie and then try to sell it at your mud-pie stand. Labor doesn’t create value. Human wants and needs do.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not here to bad mouth blue-collar workers. I respect work – no matter what kind of work it is. It’s all necessary. I have a lot of respect for plumbers and roofers and factory workers and welders. But they aren’t any more integral than other types of workers or entrepreneurs.
But hey, we have a long weekend coming up! I’m not going to complain about that! Grill some meat! Go to the lake! Or play in a hockey tournament — that’s my plan. Enjoy it.
Fun on Friday is a weekly SchiffGold feature. We dig up some of the off-the-wall and off-beat stories relating to precious metals and share them with you – with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Click here to read other posts in this series.