Publisher's Note: One of the most significant things you can do to promote Liberty is to support our mission. Please make your gift to the 2021 Year-End Campaign today. Thank you! —Mark Alexander, Publisher

Scott Powell / September 3, 2018

Labor Day Is a Holiday in Need of an Update

Among American holidays, Labor Day is probably the one most in need of an update. The idea of a “labor day holiday” was conceived in the 1880s by union labor leaders who sought recognition for the social and economic achievements of American workers. Finally in 1894, U.S. Congress voted to establish Labor Day as a national holiday to celebrate workers and their contributions to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the country.

Most don’t realize it, but attitudes toward labor are more progressive and respectful among Americans than they are in much of the rest of the world. European societies, for instance, generally view leisure as being more honorable than work. Throughout Latin America, people who are educated generally look down on those in the laboring class.

It was Alexis de Tocqueville, whose ever-relevant classic “Democracy in America” pointed out that Americans regard work “as positively honorable.” The suggestion that work is good for the soul and necessary to a fulfilling life is also found in the Bible, which makes more than 450 specific references to the value and importance of work — considerably more than its references to love, hope, joy, grace or peace.

Labor union membership peaked as a percentage of the entire American labor force at 26% in 1953. Today only about 11.2% of the total labor force belongs to a labor union. But what is most striking in the face of general decline in private sector union membership has been the growth of union membership among government employees. Some 36% of the public sector is unionized, while approximately 6.6% of business employees now belong to unions.

The vast majority of Americans just don’t see a need for unions. What is distinct about the U.S. economy is the strong and widespread entrepreneurial tradition, wherein there is frequent crossover from being a laborer to becoming a business owner who creates jobs that employ other people. Many wage earners decide at some point to take the risk of starting a new business that — if successful — generally provides upward mobility for the owner and employment opportunities for new wage earners.

Labor Day is perhaps what might be called an unfinished holiday in need of broader perspective. It’s certainly important to commemorate those who labor. But we should also celebrate the people who create new jobs by taking risk in developing new products, services and market opportunities. It is these visionary entrepreneurs who have been the primary drivers of progress and wealth creation that took the country from colonial poverty to world economic superpower in a little more than 200 years — making the United States the envy of the world.

Four of the five largest employers in the United States — Walmart, Amazon, Yum Brands and Home Depot — were founded within the last 50 years while unionized labor was declining. Each of these companies was founded by visionary entrepreneurs who transformed different sectors of the consumer products retailing industry — to deliver a wider variety of products with greater efficiency and at lower prices.

As the U.S. economy has evolved from a manufacturing to a service and information economy, it should come as no surprise that the four largest companies in terms of market capitalization — Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft — are all in the business of information technology. Each has greatly increased efficiencies for individuals and businesses, while also catalyzing a multiplier effect spawning the formation of a vast number of new companies and new jobs.

If the patterns of past economic history prevail, the development and application of automation and artificial intelligence should not be feared as they are likely to create as many new jobs as those made obsolete. For all of us, the challenge is to embrace change, recognize opportunity, and stay on game with training and incorporating technologies of a continuously changing economy.

So as we celebrate on the first Monday in September that last beach party or barbecue to commemorate those who labor, let us also remember and celebrate the entrepreneurs who drive renewal and progress — creating the new labor and employment opportunities of tomorrow.

Scott Powell is senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle and managing partner at RemingtonRand LLC.

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!


“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2021 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.