Begun in 1882 as a “workingmen’s holiday,” today’s Labor Day celebrates Americans in all sectors of the economy, whose initiative and creativity drive economic innovation and success.
The American economy is more than an aggregate dollar value of impersonal production and consumption. No economy exists without millions of unique people bringing to the marketplace their gifts of creativity, intelligence, initiative, and effort. Human capital―the knowledge, skills, and experiences of people―is the true wealth of a society.
The story is told that during his presidency, Ronald Reagan remarked on the limitations of economic predictions that don’t take into account people’s capacity to invent the unimaginable. During a meeting on economic policy, he said:
“You know, back in the twenties I think they did a report for Herbert Hoover about what the future economy would be like. And they included all their projections on industries and restaurants and steel, everything. But you know what they left out? They left out radio! They left out the fantastic rise of the media, which transformed the commercial marketplace. And those were economists talking about the future!
“And now they make their projections, and they leave out high tech….”*
Fostering economic growth requires remembering where wealth comes from. Government doesn’t create it, and human beings can’t fully predict it. Individuals can change the course of the economy with one key new idea. So this Labor Day, let’s celebrate the special contributions every person brings to American enterprises, great and small.
* Peggy Noonan, What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era (New York: Random House, 1990), 146.