Culture

On Labor Day, We Celebrate Laziness

During the above weekend address, President Obama offered remarks in commemoration of Labor Day:

I wanted to take a moment to talk with you about the real meaning of Labor Day, the day we set aside every year to honor the hard working men and women who fought for so many of the rights that we take for granted today. The eight hour work day, forty hour work week, weekends, overtime, and the minimum wage; safer workplaces, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and retirement plans; all of those gains were fought for and won by the labor movement.

As the president lists off these “rights” won by community organizers, my mind cycles through how each has limited the capacity of ambitious workers to earn more money by producing more value. If you want to work more than eight hours in a day, or more than forty hours in a week, and you’re willing to do so for less than the minimum wage or without accepting an overtime rate, you can’t. You’re not allowed to make as much as you want, because other people don’t want to compete with your ambition. That’s why lots of folks have three or more jobs, because being too productive at one is literally illegal.

Should we celebrate government linking health insurance to employment? Has that not proven to be one of the worst aspects of our healthcare system? The modern argument over preexisting conditions might not exist but for the ill-conceived marriage of employment and health insurance.

Imagine what each dollar wasted on Social Security and Medicare could do if simply invested by the workers who earned them. But that would require foresight and responsibility on the part of each individual. We can’t have that.

If the real meaning of Labor Day is truly as Obama describes it, then the holiday essentially celebrates laziness. Take a moment to thank all those “hard-working men and women” who made sure you wouldn’t have to work hard or think much.

Here’s the thing: all these wonderful things we’re supposed to be grateful for, someone who produces value can get them on their own. They earn them. For such people, the labor movement has only ever presented an obstacle.