by Mike Kapic
With another Labor Day upon us, it might be a good idea to reflect on what the holiday really means besides signaling the end of summer or back to school sales. Labor Day was declared a national holiday by Congress in the late 19th century mostly at the insistence of trade unions. It had a nefarious beginning that centered around burgeoning unions and its beginning included bloodshed with the federal government.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution,  most of humanity was consigned to live under autocratic rulers, monarchs and nobles etc. Lives were spent just trying to find food for that day and many children didn’t live past five years of age and adult life spans averaged to the late-thirties. Then the doors of the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution opened.
The Industrial Revolution opened new windows of opportunity for anyone who wanted to survive, which meant eating. It began slow at first, but the pace increased as ideas and innovations in power, machinery, transportation, markets, and communications evolved. There was a clamor for jobs by all. Families, including children, earned enough to not only eat every day, but to also move up the income ladder. The early conditions were not the best nor the safest, but innovation increased productivity and competition helped expand labor as working conditions improved. The industrialization process was a learning experience and it took many generations for the market to figure out what worked and what didn’t.
As worker productivity increased, pushed by the invisible hand of the free market, innovation nudged businesses to be competitive. More productive methods allowed adults to out produce children and by the early 1800’s, public education provided a new avenue for the displaced factory children.
Who were the innovators of this Industrial Revolution and the “enrichment”? People like Eli Whitney, John Deere, David Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Wright brothers, Marie Curie, Sandford Fleming, to name but a few. But don’t forget ordinary people like our great, great, great grandparents, and the generations that followed, laboring in the factories, construction, and farms to provide this ‘betterment’ for their children through their hard work.
During this period the Enlightenment was also birthing in northern Europe and then America, with people advocating for self-governance. The idea of governing ourselves was new and had a raucous beginning with the revolutions in America and France. As wealth transferred from the oligarchs and plutocrats to ordinary people over the next century, the impoverished raised themselves up to the new middleclass.
Who were the Enlightenment thinkers? James Madison, James Wilson, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Rousseau, and many others who contributed to developing ideas and theories on government and the notion of God given natural rights—life, liberty, and property. These were the basic ingredients needed for mankind to be sovereign before any authority. First comes rights and then government.
The two revolutions, the birth of America and industrial innovation, sparked the idea that with a good idea and hard work, wealth was possible for every man. If laborers saved their extra earnings, aka capital, they could open a barber shop, like my grandfather did, or a cement company, like my other grandfather did. And then anything was possible.
Consider this; according to the Economist since the late 1980’s, a billion people around the world have risen out of poverty because of free market capitalism. There’s still a billion living on $1.25 a day, In America, the poverty line has risen to $63 a day for a family of four.
Without personal property, that is, labor, and savings [capital], and the rule of law, the ‘enrichment’ we see today wouldn’t exist and we’d look like Venezuela or North Korea. From humble beginnings, America took root. Immigrants come to America today for the same opportunity.
But lately we’ve been moving away from the independent world of our grandparents and toward a more governing, dependent world where equality has become more important than individual achievement. The opportunity for individual success has been limited by third party intervention of expanding and controlling government.
Life, liberty, and property allow for labor to innovate and help lift mankind up. But it’s in danger of extinction in America today. We don’t decide anymore. The government tells us what kind of gas to burn in our cars and what kind of lightbulbs to use in our homes, and what the farmer can’t do with the wheat she grows.
If we choose to, we have the opportunity today to return to that world of individualism. The Convention of States Project has given us the opportunity to return to those values and virtues, first established by our Founding Fathers, to rise up out of poverty. If we choose to ignore the call for an amending convention, then we intern our children and their children to the servitude of the elitist politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists in DC. It’s our choice, We Decide. First come rights, then government.
The world we came into required us to work hard. Why would we give up our earnings and rewards to a third party to decide which neighbor gets them? Why aren’t we insisting on our God given natural and Constitutional rights to liberty to labor as we choose? For us and for future generations.
Lawrence Reed, founder of Foundation of Economic Education [FEE.org,], has suggested that we call the first Monday of September, every other year, Capital Day instead of Labor Day to honor the labor of capitalism and the free market. There is so much more to Labor Day than just union labor. Sounds like a good idea to me. What do you think?