Labor Day is an odd holiday, it used to be more meaningful when union membership was much higher in the US. Now it is primarily the marker between the end of summer and the start of school. But it is worth considering the value of human labor and work on this day. The United States finds itself in the odd position where we appear to value money–its investment and the returns to that investment, more than we do human work. Tax and other policies amply reflect this. Capital gains and dividends are taxed at a lower rate than wages from actual work (unless of course, you are a VC or PE partner, where your labor gets treated as though it were capital, another disgraceful policy). The theory behind this distinction is that there is or will be a shortage of capital available for starting and growing businesses if we don’t create incentives for investment. That is pure BS. If anything, there is too much capital, and this surplus ends up making for stupid investment decisions. Look at health care, look at the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into apps, analytics, every trendy thing. How many of those businesses really deliver any value to investors, or any one else, after a few years of existence. The right thing to do is to change the tax code and other policies so that the financial fruits of human labor at a minimum are not taxed at a higher rate than the returns from investment.
And we seem to also be undervaluing the contribution of work to purpose and meaningfulness in life. We have literally tens of millions of people who don’t even try to work, who find any excuse to be on disability and welfare, and who therefore are doing nothing worthwhile with their lives, and end up feeling depressed or anxious. I’d be depressed too if I sat on my ass all day and collected government checks. Aside from the unfairness to tax-paying workers, this failure to provide dis-incentives for idleness, and to actually incent indolence, keeps people from having happier, more productive lives. What is our purpose here–to do nothing? Or is it to find some meaningful occupation, whatever it is, that in some way contributes to the advancement of human society, that contributes to the general welfare, not takes from it. We aren’t doing people any favors when we allow them through free everything to avoid work. So we need to change our policies and you either work or make an effort to find work or you get nothing from your fellow citizens who are making that effort. Have a good Labor Day.