Did you celebrate Labor Day this past Monday?  Do you have a job?  Here are some things to think about the next time you go to work.

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.  Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.  Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.  Abraham Lincoln (1800–1865)

Show me the country that has no strikes and I’ll show you the country in which there is no liberty.  Samuel Gompers (1850–1924)

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned—this is the sum of good government.  Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)

It is essential that there should be organization of labor.  This is an era of organization.  Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize.  Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919)

Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.  Karl Marx (1818–1883)

All wealth is the product of labor.  John Locke (1632–1704)

Large fortunes are all founded either on the occupation of land, or lending or the taxation of labor.  John Ruskin (1819–1900)

He who tampers with the currency robs labor of its bread.  Daniel Webster (1782–1852)

The great dialectic in our time is not, as anciently and by some still supposed, between capital and labor; it is between economic enterprise and the state.  John Kenneth Galbraith (1908–2006)

A life spent in constant labor is a life wasted, save a man be such a fool as to regard a fulsome obituary notice as ample reward.  George Jean Nathan (1882–1958)

When money is controlled by a few it gives that few an undue power and control over labor and the resources of the country. Labor will have its best return when the laborer can control its disposal.  Leland Stanford (1824–1893)

If capital and labor ever do get together it’s good night for the rest of us.  Kin Hubbard (1868–1930)

Every man is dishonest who lives upon the labor of others, no matter if he occupies a throne.  Robert Green Ingersoll (1833–1899)

There will soon come an armed contest between capital and labor.  They will oppose each other, not with words and arguments, but with shot and shell, gun-powder and cannon.  The better classes are tired of the insane howling of the lower strata and they mean to stop them.  William Tecumseh Sherman (1820–1891)

Have a nice day.

One comment so far

  1. Dave Weiner says:

    Interesting quotes you presented on the subject of labor and capital. However, in the decades since most of those comments were made, we’ve been ever more clearly on a path not receiving enough attention: more is being produced with less manpower.

    In the nineteenth century agriculture employed perhaps a majority of the country. Today we have far more agricultural output with far less manpower. Automobile manufacturing relies heavily on robots. Mitt Romney goes unchallenged in claiming that since he was a big time capitalist in the private sector he knows how to create jobs. The reality is business operates to make profits, not make jobs. Labor is an expense business accepts only as a last resort to find greater profits. Labor is ever less of an ingredient to our products and that’s a trend we can expect to continue well into the future.

    Instead of offering up nineteenth century quotations as guiding insight into the importance of labor relative to capital, our near and long range reality is the increasing unimportance of labor in the modern economy. The question is how our society is going to cope with that trend. No society will survive with millions of individuals bereft and locked out of a decent existance enjoyed by those in society’s mainstream. These unfortunate idle will riot and tear down the system before they just go quietly into the night and disappear.

    Many today don’t seem to understand that government provided welfare was a way of offering those locked out sufficient necessities to keep them docile. Most of the time welfare achieved it’s purpose. In a society with a large sized permanently unemployed population it’s in everyone’s interest for the profit engines at work to provide a satisfactory living to the unemployed. A decent living entitlement is bound to become accepted as unavoidable cost of doing business.


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