At 5:36 on the Friday afternoon before Labor Day, it's hard to keep one's mind focused on substantive posts, and you wouldn't read them if I did. To judge by today's comments, it's all y'all can do to engage in a little desultory chitchat about music and giant grasshoppers. So here are a few fun1 links for your Labor Day delectation:
From The Atlantic's mighty archive, Jack London on scabs, in which our intrepid author battles with deadweight loss and competition:
It is for this reason that a laborer is so fiercely hostile to another laborer who offers to work for less pay or longer hours. To hold his place (which is to live), he must offset this offer by another equally liberal, which is equivalent to giving away somewhat from the food and shelter he enjoys. To sell his day's work for two dollars instead of two dollars and a half means that he, his wife, and his children will not have so good a roof over their heads, such warm clothes on their backs, such substantial food in their stomachs. Meat will be bought less frequently, and it will be tougher and less nutritious; stout new shoes will go less often on the children's feet; and disease and death will be more imminent in a cheaper house and neighborhood.
Thus, the generous laborer, giving more of a day's work for less return (measured in terms of food and shelter), threatens the life of his less generous brother laborer, and, at the best, if he does not destroy that life, he diminishes it. Whereupon the less generous laborer looks upon him as an enemy, and, as men are inclined to do in a tooth-and-nail society, he tries to kill the man who is trying to kill him.
When a striker kills with a brick the man who has taken his place, he has no sense of wrong-doing. In the deepest holds of his being, though he does not reason the impulse, he has an ethical sanction. He feels dimly that he has justification, just as the home-defending Boer felt, though more sharply, with each bullet he fired at the invading English. Behind every brick thrown by a striker is the selfish "will to live" of himself and the slightly altruistic will to live of his family. The family-group came into the world before the state-group, and society being still on the primitive basis of tooth and nail, the will to live of the state is not so compelling to the striker as the will to live of his family and himself.
In addition to the use of bricks, clubs, and bullets, the selfish laborer finds it necessary to express his feelings in speech. Just as the peaceful country-dweller calls the sea-rover a "pirate," and the stout burgher calls the man who breaks into his strong-box a "robber," so the selfish laborer applies the opprobrious epithet "scab" to the laborer who takes from him food and shelter by being more generous in the disposal of his labor-power. The sentimental connotation of scab is as terrific as that of " traitor" or "Judas," and a sentimental definition would be as deep and varied as the human heart. It is far easier to arrive at what may be called a technical definition, worded in commercial terms, as, for instance, that a scab is one who gives more value for the same price than another.
The laborer who gives more time, or strength, or skill, for the same wage, than another, or equal time, or strength, or skill, for a less wage, is a scab. This generousness on his part is hurtful to his fellow laborers, for it compels them to an equal generousness which is not to their liking, and which gives them less of food and shelter. But a word may be said for the scab. Just as his act makes his rivals compulsorily generous, so do they, by fortune of birth and training, make compulsory his act of generousness. He does not scab because he wants to scab. No whim of the spirit, no burgeoning of the heart, leads him to give more of his labor-power than they for a certain sum.
It is because he cannot get work on the same terms as they that he is a scab. There is less work than there are men to do work. This is patent, else the scab would not loom so large on the labor-market horizon. Because they are stronger than he, or more skilled, or more fortunate, or more energetic, it is impossible for him to take their places at the same wage. To take their places he must give more value, must work longer hours, or receive a smaller wage. He does so, and he cannot help it, for his will to live is driving him on as well as they are being driven on by theirs, and to live he must win food and shelter, which he can do only by receiving permission to work from some man who owns a bit of land or piece of machinery. And to receive permission from this man, he must make the transaction profitable for him.
Viewed in this light, the scab who gives more labor-power for a certain price than his fellows is not so generous after all. He is no more generous with his energy than the chattel slave and the convict laborer, who, by the way, are the almost perfect scabs. They give their labor-power for about the minimum possible price. But, within limits, they may loaf and malinger, and, as scabs, are exceeded by the machine, which never loafs and malingers, and which is the ideally perfect scab.
It is not nice to be a scab. Not only is it not in good social taste and comradeship, but, from the standpoint of food and shelter, it is bad business policy. Nobody desires to scab, to give most for least. The ambition of every individual is quite the opposite,—to give least for most; and as a result, living in a tooth-and-nail society, battle royal is waged by the ambitious individuals. But in its most salient aspect, that of the struggle over the division of a joint-product, it is no longer a battle between individuals, but between groups of individuals. Capital and labor apply themselves to raw material, make something useful out of it, add to its value, and then proceed to quarrel over the division of the added value. Neither cares to give most for least. Each is intent on giving less than the other and on receiving more.
Why don't we celebrate Labor Day on May 1st like everyone else, particularly since May 1st commemorates the Haymarket Riot, an American labor milestone? Slate's Explainer, er, explains.
What's an animal lover to do for that special barbeque? Might I suggest Certified Humane Meat?
Various versions of the Internationale, to be sung during that somnolent post-gorging period.
Demotivating your workforce, from Despair.com
1For some values of the word "fun"
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