While at the “Occupy Minnesota” “rally” over the weekend, I saw a few signs saying that “Labor Creates Wealth”.
Now, I’ve got nothing against labor. I work for a living; without someone to build things to sell, capital and management will be more or less out to dry.
But does labor create wealth?
For those of you who believe this, I’m going to propose an experiment.
- Do some work. Any work at all. Dig a ditch, draw a painting, ride a bike from downtown to downtown, bake a tray of cookies, write a blog post, play guitar in the skyway, build a dog house, make your bed, it doesn’t matter. Just do some…labor.
- Check to see if you have gotten any “wealth” – money, food, lodging, coffee beans, green stamps, trading cards, coupons, strings of beads – by simple dint of having labored.
I’m guessing “no”. And without wanting to spoil the experiment, I’m going to speculate on exactly why.
Without someone willing to pay you something for that “labor”, the “labor” you did in #1 above was just something you did for fun (hopefully; I mean, you didn’t really expect to be paid, did you?)
And who is it that finds someone who needs, and is willing to pay for, a ditch or a drawing or for you to ride your bike, or is hungry for cookies or your insight or your music, or needs a dog house?
Now, you could very well be your own manager – it happens all the time.
And unless you dig with your hands, draw with your blood, inherited a bike, conjure flour and sugar and chocolate chips and butter and heat from pure mind power, can ethically blog from the library, imitate a guitar with your voice, or pound nails with your face, someone needs to “invest” in a shovel, a pencil, a bike, ingredients and a stove and gas, a computer, a guitar, and a hammer and some wood, in the hopes that they’ll generate a “return” on the investment – money or food or lodging or whatever you get for your labor. Again – you could be the investor! But without someone – you, your mom, a venture capitalist, or a bank listed on the NYSE – to “invest” in making sure you have the tools you need to make sure your labor produces something to take to market, you’ll be, well, pounding nails with your face, as it were.
It’s called “Capital”.