I saw a sign outside a “Communications Workers of America” (CWA) location that stated “It’s time the economy worked for everyone!”. Now, I have actually seen this sign a few times but for whatever reason it really struck me today. Is is arrogant and it shows a blatant disregard for basic Economics and Logic. Since when does the Economy work for anyone? I thought by adding our labor to the economy we are basically working for it, making ‘it’ bigger. Rather than the Economy being some figurative Ox that should be taken advantage of until every ounce of wealth is extracted from it.
You may think I’m stigmatizing it because it came from a Union company, and I’m not going to defend against that. I am. I don’t think highly of modern Unions, where they completely rely about their ability to bully companies into doing what they want. But that is a discussion for a different day perhaps.
I do realize what the Union’s sign is trying to say however; that it’s time that you, as a worker received your ‘just’ due for all the hard work you did to make the economy expand. And as a Union they want to help you get your ‘just’ compensation. But there in lies the next level of frustration. No matter where you work, unless you are a slave or a thief, you get paid your just, or due, compensation. Done.
This is somewhat described in Jesus’ parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) where workers who had worked all day – 12 hours – complained about other workers who only worked for one hour that received the same pay as them. One of the points in this story is that all received their just compensation, which is exactly what they agreed upon prior to working. Again, just compensation is what you earn unless you are a slave. You agreed to it, they agreed to it, so it is just. Sure, some people work don’t work as hard as you, but that doesn’t mean that you deserve more than them or they less than you. That is a point all Union’s should take to heart. Your actions determine what is your just compensation. To go against that, is then unjust. To demand from and bully the Vineyard landowner into paying you more because he paid the 1 hour workers the same as you is theft. To demand and bully the landowner into paying the other workers less so you feel better about your own pay is also theft. Though theft on the 1 hour worker instead of the landowner. A quote from Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged is useful here:
I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
– John Galt (Atlas Shrugged)
Good advice, and a reasonable motto to add to one’s life. I attempt to work to serve people, because in serving people I better my life, those I serve and those around me. However, that isn’t making the economy “work” for me necessarily, it is instead working for the economy. The Economy isn’t some ideological omnipotent force that is out to extract from you with no return and benefit the lazy bum next to you. Think about it, the “Economy” is just a collection of individuals all pursuing their own self interests. That includes you, and me. Thus, in working for the Economy I am working for every man. In attempting to get the economy to work for me, I am attempting to get every man to work for me. It’s a mindset thing, that is easy to have if you view the Economy as an Ox like mentioned above.
Let’s put it another way. Stating “It’s time the economy worked for everyone!” sounds like they are working hard so that the Economy gives you more than you put into it – like an unwanted leech or a parasite. I’m not saying one shouldn’t try to get as much out of the economy as you can, in fact you should. Because in an uncoercive environment, the only way to do that is by putting more into the economy. The more you put it, the more you get out. The more you produce, the more you are able to consume – if you desire to consume more. Unions however aren’t generally in to the whole “producing more” bit, they are all about increasing pay and benefits; especially through collective and legislative control. Which is a forceful way of making the economy work for you. And I am always against unjustified force, no upright moral code encourages unjustified force.
What should the slogan be instead? That’s hard to say, how about “It’s time you worked for the Economy”? No, as I said earlier: The Economy isn’t some ideological omnipotent force, it needs to be about people. “It’s time to stop leeching off of others, so get up and produce!” Hmm, a little on the harsh side perhaps. I guess it’s hard to beat the golden rule of “Love thy Neighbor”. In loving they neighbor you should produce more than you consume so you aren’t a drag on him. Hah, actually let’s use another quote from Atlas Shrugged in closing which is a good slogan to replace “It’s time the economy worked for everyone!” because it implies producing as much, if not more than you want to consume.
An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.
– Francisco d’Anconia (Atlas Shrugged)