Here it is, Labor Day weekend 2019. Most take it for granted that without the labor movement, we would all be slaves working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
It’s naive and ignorant to assume such a thing. Think about it. What makes life easier, both in and out of the workplace? Technology and innovation. Does government pass laws commanding innovation? Did the labor movement cajole and legislate improved standards of human living into existence? Or did those things come about because (1) certain people choose to think/invent and (2) the profit motive in the free market makes it worthwhile for people to do so?
Take child labor laws. We’re led to believe that without child labor laws, young children would still be working in factories and retail stores today, even if all our other economic and technological expansion had occurred. Absurd! Does it occur to anyone that people who made their children labor did so only because it was required for the whole family to survive? And that once the standard of living improved enough, and once capitalism had made the economy grow enough, that no reasonable parent would want his 10-year-old in the work force? Government child labor laws get the credit for what only a free, innovative and expanding marketplace could ever have done. Ditto for other labor laws.
Are people really ignorant and naive enough to assume that parents in 1850 or 1880 wanted their little children to work any more than parents in 2019? And that without an order from the government, such activity would never have stopped?
I don’t like to celebrate “Labor Day” because it’s really just a way to celebrate socialism-lite and the labor movement. But by celebrating the coercion of the labor movement, you’re really saying it’s a good thing for government to intervene in the economy. Unfortunately, anything arguably “good” done by the government would have happened anyway, and anything else the government does only hampers, stifles or decimates economic growth.
If it’s workers and ordinary people you really care about, then it’s free markets and capitalism you ought to celebrate. Why? Because these are the only things that lead to innovation, economic growth and improvement in the standard of living for all. Even charity thrives much better under capitalism. Contrast the situation in Venezuela with any semi-free market country and you’ll see what I mean. Capitalism leads to human happiness. The socialism of the labor movement, in all its forms, leads to stagnation, misery and ultimately despair.
The deeper issue is that labor does not lead to economic growth. Human thinking does. Thinking gives rise to action and it’s the only thing that makes activity rational, purposeful and productive. Mindless action is random mental illness. Purposeful, accountable and productive labor is only made possible by the free, innovative markets of capitalism. It’s the precise opposite of what we’re taught, but it’s true.
It’s human thought and innovation by the business geniuses of the world who give people engaged in labor something to do. It’s true that labor is very important. But it will never be as important as the thought that gives rise to it.
We shouldn’t celebrate Labor Day. We should celebrate Human Mind Day. And the only system that fosters the development of the human mind — through science and free enterprise — is freedom, which includes both economic and political liberty. No matter how much we’re told otherwise, it will always be the case.
Michael J. Hurd