“Of course capital should get more of the rewards than labor,” posted the guy in a discussion group. “They invest more. They contribute more than the workers.”
That’s the conventional wisdom. I’m not so sure.
What does capital (ie, ownership and executives) contribute? Money. Nest eggs. For many of the nation’s big investors, excess cash. If you look beyond the dogma of commerce and economists, its actually just 1’s and 0’s in a computer (or, in days gone by, marks on a ledger).
What does labor contribute?
Blood, sweat, and tears.
For the thousands of miners who have developed black-lung disease (pneumoconiosis), or developed cancer as a result of employment in uranium mining of various chemical processing industries, their health.
Of course, the ultimate sacrifice paid by labor is life. A few thousand laborers died in completing the Transcontinental Railroad. In the early years of the last century, it was common for well over a thousand miners to die each year in mining accidents (not to mention those mentioned earlier; those who later died slow, excruciating deaths from illness directly caused by their work), and for hundreds to die in various manufacturing jobs throughout the nation. While today the yearly fatality numbers have dwindled to under 100 in most industries (a reduction brought about as a result of labor protection laws and direct bargaining by labor for increased safety standards), those deaths still represent the fact that the ultimate cost is born by labor. Ownership and executives may suffer financial losses, even have their life savings wiped out and worldly possessions taken from them (though often bankruptcy laws and government bailouts frequently shelter the most privileged from that risk), but what is that compared to health or life?
Who in reality gives more? Who really bears the costs and risks of “progress?”
We should honor their contributions. We should ensure their voice in the decision making processes, and equitable compensation when their labors bear fruit. They may not hold stock, but their stake is equal to any that the owners, investors, and executives hold.