Labor Day? How About Employers Day?

Sep 6, 2011 | Economy, Government & Policy

Labor Day Weekend has come and gone. Some people had to work, of course, but many people had Monday off, a traditional 3-day weekend for a last end-of-the-summer fling. (Technically, the last day of summer is September 22, but a manmade construct like the school calendar overrides the autumnal equinox!)

In theory, though most of us were hiking, at the pool or shopping, yesterday was about celebrating “labor,'” in organized labor. Growing up in a railroad union family, I know how important the union movement was at one point in our nation’s history. Some of the benefits, work hours and safety regulations common today have their roots in hard fought battles of the past.

But the operative word there is “past.” Membership in private sector unions has plummeted over the years.

A friend quipped that we really should replace “labor” with “employer.” That won’t happen anytime soon (as in “ever”), but his joke is not without merit. That’s especially true at this time in our nation’s history. We, as a society, and governments at all levels should be doing everything within reason to signal to employers that they have our support and appreciation.

A nice start would be President Obama’s jobs speech this week. Based on his remarks at Labor Day events over the weekend, I’m not particularly optimistic, but we’ll see. Businesspeople need a stable environment in which to make calculated decisions about how to deploy their capital. Most are not looking for government “incentives” or new government programs. They just want to know that when they take a risk, government won’t change the rules on them and put their investment in jeopardy.

Anyway, here are two items that might interest you. They related to this topic of “labor” only in the sense that they offer some insights into capitalism and America’s bright future. In a way, they are a nod toward my friend’s idea of “employers” day.

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Top 3 Common Myths About Capitalism. Jeff Miron, PhD, is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. This short video does a nice job of explaining how supporting capitalism is not the same as being “pro-business” and how capitalism benefits consumers and impacts income distribution. He also comments on how the financial crisis was not a failure of capitalism.

America’s future is very bright. I’ve written previously about my optimism for the future of the country and how I don’t buy the doom and gloom outlook that America’s best days are behind us. This article by Irwin Stelzer gives a nod to some of the short-term challenges we are facing but then explores the underlying strengths of America that bode well for the next 40 years.

For example, we are young. This is true even with a huge wave of Baby Boomers due to retire. By 2050 only about twenty percent of Americans will be older than 65, whereas in Europe and East Asia the number is closer to one-third. Innovation and consumer purchases are driven by younger populations

As an example, he points to the number of patents issued around the world. Over the past 14 years, American-based inventors received 2.3 million patents. Germany had 286,000, a distant, distant second.