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Fun on Friday: Celebrating Work By Not Working


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Labor day is a weird holiday. We celebrate working people by — not working.

If labor is so great, shouldn’t we celebrate by doing more of it?

I know — Labor Day isn’t really celebrating working. It’s to acknowledge the contribution of laborers to the economy.

Not to be a killjoy, but 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 – and I will

Also, I’m a big fan of grilling meat.

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 Day 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.

If you did a little deeper, Labor Day is rooted in Marxism. Marx wasn’t fond of “capitalists” – the people who take risks and invests money in the capital that makes workers more productive. You know, the guys who actually “create” jobs. No — that’s not Joe Biden or Donald Trump.

Well, Marxists contend capitalists are stealing part of the fruits of the laborers’ labor. It’s superficially plausible. The capitalist pays people to make stuff, then they sell that stuff and make a profit. The theory is that the stuff derives all of its value from the labor used to make it. If the capitalist is selling the thing for more than he’s paying his workers, he’s stealing some of the “value” they put into the product.

This Marxist “labor theory of value” persists in socialist circles today. But 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. We all need to work. It’s all necessary. We have to work to live.

You know, I think a lot of people have lost sight of that reality. Work has become seemingly disconnected from our daily survival. We go to work, come home, sit in front of the TV, relax, and collect a paycheck at the end of the week. Then we go to the store and buy stuff. We don’t really fathom that if we don’t work, we don’t eat.

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?

Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of respect for plumbers and roofers and factory workers and welders. I have a lot more respect for those men and women than pretty much any government bureaucrat! But they aren’t any more integral than other types of workers or entrepreneurs. We all have to work.

So, enjoy your day off. And then get back to work!

Fun on Friday is a weekly SchiffGold feature. I dig up some of the off-the-wall and off-beat stories relating to precious metals (however loosely) and share them with you – with tongue firmly planted in cheek. The opinions expressed are my own. They are 100% correct – but not necessarily shared by anybody else here – including Peter Schiff. Click here to read other posts in this series.

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