In certain of my cheekier moments, I've suggested that in addition to Labor Day, we ought to celebrate Capital Day -- not as a rival holiday nor to take attention away from Labor Day, but rather to emphasize that the positively miraculous outcome of the American social and economic system hasn't come from one or another, but from the balance between the two.
In an economy that is now 70% based on the delivery of services by private-sector providers, we are undoubtedly dependent upon labor in a giant way. But in the same economy, where about 15% of our population is of retirement age, and where life expectancy at age 65 is generally another 20 years, it's also inescapably important that we have the means for people to earn an income after they exit the labor force. An income of their own, for which they are not dependent upon the promises of government nor former employers.
Neither variable can be removed from the equation without crashing it. And it would be good for all of us to expect our public figures, talking heads, politicians, economists, and activists all to acknowledge that we are dually dependent -- not just on the people who do the work, but also on the people who take calculated risks on investing in the plant and equipment, the intellectual property and branding, the hiring and training that all come together to make work possible.
The official figures show that 16 million Americans are self-employed. And it's estimated that two out of every five working-age adults have some kind of a "side hustle". All of these people illustrate the ambiguity of calling "labor" and "capital" rivals or competitors. In most cases, freelancers, bootstrappers, and other hustlers are both sides of the equation, and we should celebrate them, too.
So while we shouldn't stop celebrating Labor Day, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that America's economic engine relies upon all of its cylinders firing together. Capital Day wouldn't be a serious idea, but it wouldn't hurt us to think of the big picture -- the totality of what makes our economy work -- and how to make it work better. The economy isn't one-dimensional: Labor Day is still well worth celebrating. But balance is worth celebrating, too.