Sunday, September 06, 2009

Toil and Trouble- A Labor Day Post

We don't value work.

We value money. That's not the same thing. We disdain those who make less than us and worship those who make more than us, but we don't value the actual labor of people.

We value investment, which is not work. We value finance, which is not work. We value interest, also not work. We value the people who does these kinds of jobs, the pushing of money from one place to another, not because of the work but because of the money. If those same men were pushing something less important around, like a broom on a dirty floor, they would not be valued so highly.

So here's a little econ 101 lesson for you. There are 3 segments of society: business, government, and the rest of us who are both consumers and laborers. Economists will tell you that all three are inter-dependent, (well libertarians will tell you that government is superfluous, but they are idiots so we will ignore them) and that you need all three sections for a society to work.

But they are wrong.

Both government and business need us, the laboring consumers. Without us nothing gets made or bought, no taxes get paid or votes get cast. Armies don't exist, business meetings aren't made. When we don't work, the economy fails and governments tumble. When we can't buy, the economy fails and businesses falter.

But we still exist. Even unemployed and broke. We are the thing that the entire system is dependent on. We can, and have lived, without trade, without rulers. We need them less than they need us.

That is what Labor day should be about.

People have died to prove that point. We don't remember, and we are not taught in school, but neither business or government has ever gone gently into labor reform. People usually have to die first. They died so that we aren't locked into unsafe buildings. They died so that we could work only 40 hours a week instead of 72. Children died (and still do) doing horrible tasks for tiny pay that no adult would ever agree to.

Our labor is important. And there is no reason why a full days work shouldn't be enough to provide for the basics, when a full days labor now provides 20% more productivity than it did 30 years ago.

We did that. But wages don't keep up and when times are hard we pay the price. We are not the ones being bailed out with massive government funds and getting bonuses for failed ideas. We get pink slips. We can't get our government to provide for the basic health and safety of us laboring consumers by instituting single payer healthcare. We are asked to make the sacrifices of our time, our health, our families, but we do not reap the benefits of those sacrifices. That is for the business class alone.

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