Labor Day time to celebrate man’s mind

should have a holiday to honor its work. The high standard of living that

Americans enjoy is hard-earned and well-deserved. But the term “Labor

Day” is a misnomer. What we should celebrate is not sweat and toil, but

the power of man’s mind to reason, invent and create.

Several centuries

ago, providing the basic necessities for one’s survival was a matter of daily

drudgery for most people. But Americans today enjoy conveniences undreamed of

by medieval kings. Every day brings some new useful household gadget, or a new

software system to increase our productivity, or a breakthrough in


So, it is worth asking: Why do Americans have no unique

holiday to celebrate the creators, inventors, and entrepreneurs who have made

all of this wealth possible—the men of the mind?

The answer lies in the

dominant intellectual view of the nature of work. Most of today’s

intellectuals, influenced by several generations of Marxist political

philosophy, still believe that wealth is created by sheer physical toil. But

the high standard of living we enjoy today is not due to our musculature and

physical stamina. Many animals have been much stronger. We owe our relative

affluence not to muscle power, but to brain power.

Brain power is given a

left-handed acknowledgement in today’s fashionable aphorism that we are living

in an “information age” in which education and knowledge are the keys

to economic success. The implication of this idea, however, is that prior to

the invention of the silicon chip, humans were able to flourish as brainless


Contrary to the Marxist premise that wealth is created by

laborers and “exploited” by those at the top of the pyramid of

ability, it is those at the top, the best and the brightest, who increase the

value of the labor of those at the bottom. Under capitalism, even a man who

has nothing to trade but physical labor gains a huge advantage by leveraging

the fruits of minds more creative than his. The labor of a construction

worker, for example, is made more productive and valuable by the inventors of

the jackhammer and the steam shovel, and by the farsighted entrepreneurs who

market and sell such tools to his employer. The work of an office clerk, as

another example, is made more efficient by the men who invented copiers and fax

machines. By applying human ingenuity to serve men’s needs, the result is that

physical labor is made less laborious and more productive. An apt symbol of

the theory that sweat and muscle are the creators of economic value can be seen

in those Soviet-era propaganda posters depicting man as a mindless muscular

robot with an expressionless, cookie-cutter face.

The best and brightest

minds are always the first to either flee a dictatorship in a “brain

drain” or to cease their creative efforts. A totalitarian regime can force

some men to perform muscular labor; it cannot force a genius to create, nor

force a businessman to make rational decisions. A slave owner can force a man

to pick peanuts; only under freedom would a George Washington Carver discover

ways to increase crop yields.

On Labor Day, let us honor the true root of

production and wealth: the human mind.

Fredric Hamber is a senior

writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Marina del Rey, Calif. The Institute

promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The



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