Perspective: What Is 'Work' In America Today?
Today is Labor Day. As we pause from work, we should pause to examine the troubling conditions of work in America today.
The very nature of work has changed fundamentally. The transformation from a manufacturing economy to a service economy has rattled and even wrecked the lives of many Americans. By ignoring this tectonic shift, self-satisfied elites helped elect Donald Trump. The rise of the "gig economy" has left too many workers unprotected by basic labor laws, and the number swells.
Wages have stagnated, as has productivity -- the engine propelling wage growth. Income inequality, as a result, has expanded alarmingly. Labor force participation, a key indicator of social as well as economic health, has plummeted.
The Business Roundtable just posed the question whether corporations advance the public interest or merely self-interest. The Economist magazine cover shouts "What Are Companies For?" -- by which is meant who are they for?
Is the response to this threatening litany of problems to abandon, as has been demanded, capitalism for some hybrid of socialism? In a word -- no. A mere glance around the globe leads us to seek a more practical and promising response.
So enjoy the cookout and the day. But remember that tomorrow we have to go back to work, or rather, we have to go back to work defining together what work means for us and to us as Americans.