Labor

Well… last week I wrote about the fiasco called Jan 6th.  Most of you gave me some serious attaboys!  Some of you were less than pleased with me “supporting the insurrectionists”… sigh.  Well, this blog is sure to piss off a bunch of people too!  

 

Enjoy.

 

Let’s start out with a scene from a John Wayne movie:

 

“I’ve been punched many a time in my life, but never for hiring anybody!”

 

“Ah, I don’t know what to say… I never begged before… it turned my stomach, I suppose I should have been grateful you gave me the job.”

 

“Gave?!?  Boy, you got it all wrong… I don’t give jobs, I hire men!”

 

“You intend to give this man a full day’s work, don’t you boy?”

 

“You mean you are still going to hire me, Mr. McLintock??  Well, yes sir!  I will certainly deliver a full day’s work!”

 

“And for that I’ll pay you a full day’s wage.  You won’t give me anything and I won’t give you anything… we both hold up our heads.”

 

That little scene was from the John Wayne movie, McLintock!, released in 1963.  That little dialogue is incredibly important… incredibly valuable… and completely contrary to our current economic paradigm.  The fact that it seems old and antiquated is disheartening.  The fact that it seems alien to our current employee / employer relationship… not just here, but internationally as well, might, ironically, be the single greatest psychological health issue facing us.  

 

During my years of college in San Francisco, I often hung out with Social Leftists, Authoritarian Collectivists, and I even dated a couple of Communists (that was an interesting experience).  What they all seemed to have in common was a belief that workers in the marketplace were marginalized.  They did not enjoy the bargaining power of the companies they worked for.  Without someone advocating on their behalf with the coercive force controls of government behind them, they are bound to be exploited.

 

I have always rejected this idea.  I think it is immoral and dehumanizing.  It also has the potential to sow the seeds of political fragmentation.  

 

First off, let’s talk about the actual role of government when it comes to regulation of the marketplace.  The government does, in fact, have a role.  Even a Classical Liberal like myself recognizes that.  It needs to provide the physical capital and regulate money supply.  It needs to provide proper weights and measures.  It needs to protect the commons.  It needs to allow for the potential break-up of monopolies when those monopolies create anticompetitive environments.  That is, frankly, about it.  (Though, to be sure, when it comes to the break-up of monopolies, the government has done a spectacularly bad job of it.  More to the point, when a political party in power benefits from the concentration in the marketplace among a small number of participants, it displays little zeal in actually doing anything about it… see the current administration and “Big Tech”.)

 

But labor is unique.  

 

Labor is a factor of production.  It is a commodity.  Unlike its three other sisters:  land, capital and entrepreneurship, this is the single factor of production that absolutely, positively NEVER is discounted.  

 

Think about that for a second.  In a falling market, capital can be discounted, land can be acquired more cheaply, even the entrepreneur will be willing to sacrifice her own savings… labor, however… by law, remains at the same price tag.  And as we have seen in both the state and federal arena, actually increased.

 

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This protection of labor has incipient problems.

 

First off, it creates, by definition, a concept of “superiority”.  The business owner is the boss…the kingthe wizard who lives behind the curtain.  The owners exist for a singular reason… exploitation, be it exploitation of the worker or exploitation of the customer or client.  

 

What labor (specifically the individual employee) fails to realize is that they are a business owner themself.

 

Their labor is the product they provide.  

 

Some have invested heavily in the development of their labor and thus are able to participate in a smaller market of competitors.  As such, they are able to demand a greater price for their product.

 

Others are not as fortunate, and must compete with a greater number, thus lowering their value.  Both, however, are subject to macro-market fluctuations.  When the entire labor force is reduced for any reason, from war to disease, or industries suffer market disruptions and release their labor force back into the marketplace, the relative value of the labor itself fluctuates.  To put it bluntly… when there are many who will do your job, you will get paid less… when there are few who will do your job, you will be paid more.

 

Now, the owner of the employing business has customers and clients.  They must provide the best possible service or product to continue the revenue stream.  They may or may not “like” their individual customers.  That part is irrelevant.  They will do what is necessary to provide good friendly service, or suffer the financial consequences of lost business.  

 

The labor working in the business has a single customer:  the owner of the business. 

 

That is it.  

 

Their singular job is to provide value that maintains and even enhances the entrepreneur’s business.  Like the company that provides paper and postal stamps, the workers at the company are individual vendors providing labor.  

 

Here is the kicker… the boss isn’t “better” than them, nor are the workers “better” than the boss.  

 

Maybe even the terms “boss” and “worker” are decidedly outdated.  Perhaps we should be thinking in terms of client and vendor.  Clients have a certain expectation of value as they deal with their vendor.  The vendor does not want to lose the client and, thus, will seek to meet or exceed the client’s expectations.  A “boss” denotes power.  If you are not a “boss”, then what are you?  Well, my little friend… nothing more than an employee.

 

When I go to Home Depot I do not believe, nor should I believe, that Home Depot, as an entity, has any legal right to demand my money.  I reserve the right to actually not buy anything.  I reserve the right to, frankly, leave Home Depot and buy my hardware at Lowe’s.  But Home Depot, under the current mindset, “works for me”.  There is fundamentally no difference between the economic relationship that exists between Home Depot when I buy electrical wire and any other vendor supporting my business… that includes labor.

 

What level of marginalization has taken place in our country as children grow up seeking or expecting to be “given” or “find” a job.  How demoralizing is it when someone sees inadequacies and lack of service in the marketplace and does not seek to individually rectify it.  How many opportunities have been lost because people think of themselves not as business owners and independent vendors of labor but, rather, employees… and, more importantly, employees who must be given unique protection by the State.

 

The 13th Amendment called the imposition of slavery illegal.  Make no mistake… our mindset and those who would seek to control the marketplace of labor, have ignored the fundamental basis of humanism and individualism inherent in the Constitution.

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Comments (13)

  • Kevin Reply

    A good article and yet… Direct Material, Direct Labor and Factory Overhead go into every product. When your demand exceeds your capacity to manufacture, you build a new factory or add a second and third shift. Similarly, when labor becomes too expensive, you look at other options and automation, or robotic labor, becomes cost-effective in a number of jobs. Robotic surgery, ordering kiosks at McD’s, for example.

    If a $15 an hour minimum wage is good, wouldn’t $50 an hour be better? Robots would vote “yes” on the $50 an hour minimum wage and promise to never strike, get sick or take a holiday. Do something hard that others can’t or won’t do – NFL lineman, Recon Marine, Electrician, Doctor, Lawyer, CPA, and you might make enough money or you might not make any money. The Pursuit of Happiness isn’t a Constitutional Right or a guarantee of happiness.

    01/19/2022 at 08:35
  • Autumn Reply

    Steven, I agree with you. Many people don’t work on building skills that would make them competitive in the marketplace. Or they don’t recognize their skills are worthy of higher pay. And instead of either improving their skills and negotiating for a price that they think is fair for their labor, they settle for lower pay and build resentment towards the employer and the system. It’s easier to blame someone else for the “unfair”transaction than to acknowledge that either you’re not as skilled as you’d like to think, or that you cheated yourself out of higher pay because you didn’t have to courage to speak up and negotiate for something better.

    01/19/2022 at 08:37
  • Travis J. Reply

    As a business owner for 23 years, I concur with every assessment you make regarding labor. And it is unfortunate that the current mindset of many (dare I say most?) people living in this great country of ours, is the train of thought that “Someone else (parent, friend, company, government (at the least!) will / should take care of “me” now and until the day that I die, period.” But since I personally believe that we are born (by God or whatever you believe in) hardwired to be who we are, with relatively minimal change to our overall psyche throughout life, there will likely just continue to be caretak-ers and caretak-ees(?) in this world indefinitely. And those that are caretakers are fine with that (mostly), and those that are caretakees are also fine with that (absolutely). Everything else is probably just noise in the middle.

    01/19/2022 at 08:57
  • SG3 Reply

    When I was very young man…I read this quote by Author Sidney Sheldon:
    “There is a simple formula for success,
    and I’ll tell you what it is:
    Always do more than you’re paid to do.”
    I cut it out, and still have it 50 years later.
    This became one of my objective when I was running my own business, and when I was working for others.
    “It worked for me.”

    01/19/2022 at 09:51
  • Gregg Pimental Reply

    Amen

    01/19/2022 at 10:10
  • Gregg Pimental Reply

    Amen

    01/19/2022 at 10:10
  • Adam Sheck Reply

    Well thought out and well said. Consistent with the attitudes I grew up with. Nobody owes anybody a living. If you work ‘for’ someone, at end of pay period, you don’t owe ‘them’ and ‘they’ don’t owe you, square. We are each unique with unique skill sets that we cultivate and receive renumeration accordingly. Supply and demand. AND, we can be kind to others along the way.

    01/19/2022 at 10:13
  • Stephen Halcum Reply

    Great analysis.

    01/19/2022 at 11:12
  • Wade Weakley Reply

    Ironic that the scene in McLintock! to which you’re referring takes place between John Wayne and his son Patrick. Somewhere our generations, the notion of working hard to get ahead got replaced with the expectation of being given a job.

    01/19/2022 at 17:05
  • Robert Pingatore Reply

    “Labor is a factor of production. It is a commodity. Unlike its three other sisters: land, capital and entrepreneurship, this is the single factor of production that absolutely, positively NEVER is discounted.”

    Because great writing gives me joy, this paragraph made my month. Bravo, sir.

    01/20/2022 at 08:06
  • Jay Keener Reply

    Stephen this article is hits the nail on the head. When I came home from the military when when I was very young I fell into a slump at my parents home my father who served in the Navy one night got hit his boiling point. The end result was the next morning was a healthy discussion with me and his final quote “Son if you’re working and it doesn’t matter if you’re working at a gas station bring in a small check. That money you are earning is yours and that builds a sense of pride because you earned it. No one gave it to you.” He was right on about that because that lead me to building off of that small job to eventually wanting more and owning my own business. Our country is all about ME not not about giving our best to each other.

    01/20/2022 at 08:29
  • Olaf Kilthau Reply

    It really is mindset. If the individual saw themselves, their household, and their family as a personal service corporation, then they would probably make better decisions. They wouldn’t see themselves as disadvantaged in the “boss vs. worker” scenario. They would see themselves as empowered.

    01/20/2022 at 10:10
  • Norm Ellis Reply

    Interesting take!

    01/23/2022 at 14:32

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