Celebrating the labor in Labor Day

posted at 8:01 am on September 2, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

Labor Day is upon us once again, and many of you will be enjoying an extra day of rest this week. Your crew of busy bees at Hot Air will be putting in a bit of a lighter schedule as well, spending time with our families and generally trying to unwind. But as we do, I felt compelled to share a few thoughts and open the podium to discussion on why it’s still important to recognize Labor Day, regardless of how some modern factions have tried to twist the meaning of the occasion.

Last night you engaged in quite the discussion over Quotes of the day, focusing very much on the “new” meaning of Labor Day… that being some distorted form of celebrating labor union bosses and their various victories. But today I would like to focus on something much more positive and, if I may, traditional, reaching far back to the roots of our nation. The real meaning of Labor Day should be remembered as one of the concepts which has no doubt been true in civilizations across the globe at various times spanning the history of mankind, as well as a cornerstone from the founding of this nation. That idea, of course, is the principle that hard work toward a meaningful goal is:

- Necessary to the success of not only the individual, but the community
- A cornerstone of both prosperity and individual freedom
- A reward in and of itself

Without work there is no food, no shelter, no clothing, and – in the long run – no survival. But it’s more than just keeping one person or one family of hunter gatherers alive. The lowliest animal works and, with luck, manages to stay alive, breed and pass on its genes to the next generation. Man works not only for himself, but as part of a larger vision, building a community, a region, a nation. When that impetus to work fails, not only do the individuals remove themselves from the path to prosperity, but the larger community weakens. And traditionally, when large numbers of people fall off the productivity bandwagon and become reliant upon the state to provide what they themselves are not contributing to, the state eventually fails.

As opposed to any communal system, the freedom to work hard, to build a life and save for the future are, if you think about it, the absolute definition of freedom. If you depend entirely on what you are given by the state, your future is only as certain as the stability and wealth of that government. And since government has no source of wealth beyond that which it collects from productive citizens, it doesn’t require an advanced math degree to see how that doesn’t add up to long term stability. But what you earn for yourself is yours, and can be passed on to your children.

This country was built by hard working individuals who knew with brutal certainty that the choices were to be productive or – in most cases – to die. And they built something wonderful, passing on a better life to each succeeding generation until we had a standard of living which was the envy of the planet. This was true of the first farmers who raised crops and animals to feed us, the first laborers who built the roads and railways to connect a continent and all the innovators who dreamed of a better future. Not everyone rose to dizzying heights of wealth and power, but the opportunity for every family to stand in their own castle on their own plot of land with a full belly and shelter from the storm was there. It was Ben Franklin who said, “then plough deep, while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep.”

A sentiment which is still true today.

That’s what comes from work, along with the pride we take as individuals in our achievements. This is why neighborhoods of single family homes generally look better than apartment blocks. Work is its own reward, and what you work for and earn you tend to value and take care of. It’s easy to be disappointed in much of what we see around us or on the news at times, but we still live in a place where opportunity exists. So here’s to all of you that work and earn and save and spend and build, and to all those who came before you, building what you stand upon today. Happy Labor Day.


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