Should We Have A Capital Day?
(Image from Progressive Libertarianism)
Today is Labor Day, that holiday created in the 1880s to celebrate workers and blue-collar labor.As a youngster, I always found it quixotic, since doesn’t everyone labor somehow? It’s a holiday for everybody? But now I know what it really is about, and the new question I have is: Why not have a capital day?
With all the demonization of the 1% and industrialists in this day and age, it’s necessary to take a moment and remember just where we would be without capital: not very far. Foundation for Economic Education President Lawrence Reed explains it well:
Capital without labor means machines with no operators, or financial resources without the manpower to invest in. Labor without capital looks like Haiti or North Korea: plenty of people working but doing it with sticks instead of bulldozers, or starting a small enterprise with pocket change instead of a bank loan.
Capital can refer to either the tools of production or the funds that finance them. There may be no place in the world where there’s a shortage of labor but every inch of the planet is short of capital. There is no worker who couldn’t become more productive and better himself and society in the process if he had a more powerful labor-saving machine or a little more venture funding behind him. It ought to be abundantly clear that the vast improvement in standards of living over the past century is not explained by physical labor (we actually do less of that), but rather to the application of capital.
This is not class warfare. I’m not “taking sides” between labor and capital. I don’t see them as natural antagonists in spite of some people’s attempts to make them so. Don’t think of capital as something possessed and deployed only by bankers, the college-educated, the rich, or the elite. We workers of all income levels are “capital-ists” too—every time we save and invest, buy a share of stock, fix a machine, or start a business.
The real problem today, of course, is that many “capitalists” acquire their capital by using government power to do so. That’s not true capitalism, that’s cronyism. When we libertarians speak of capital, we speak of what people accumulate through voluntary interaction, not through force.
Unfortunately, nobody seems to recognize this. That’s our big challenge, educating the public about what capitalism truly is. Considering that nobody pays attention to what holidays are about any more, I doubt a “Capital Day” would do much on that front. But hey, who knows.
[Edit: Updated with this year’s article, rather than last year’s.]