Happy Labor Day

by Will on September 6, 2010

Let’s drink to the hard-working people:

And to those with crummy jobs:

And to those just trying to find a decent job:

For the record, I understand Joe Strummer doesn’t want a job making tea at the BBC, but I will happily accept such a position.

You would think that Labor Day might have been declared a holiday during the New Deal, but you’d be wrong. It is actually one of the few enduring decisions of the little-remembered Grover Cleveland administration. Cleveland’s hard-money policies, and those of his immediate predecessors and successors, created an environment in which free-market capitalism did not work very well, and was more prone than it needed to be to spectacular crashes every few years. In such an environment, labor leaders waving around copies of Das Kapital and calling for radical changes had a bit more credibility than such people would have in later years. Luckily, responsible people created sound institutions to tame the business cycle and make the fruits of economic growth more widely shared, and labor mostly felt appeased. That system lasted a few good decades, before collapsing in the face of racial and religious resentments on the part of the country’s shrinking white Christian majority. Many of these sound institutions were then thrown in the garbage by Ronald Reagan and Alan Greespan. It remains to be seen whether we can salvage them to some extent.

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