Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The Priority of Labor
Boethius has written a lot of worth responding to. At the risk of repetition, let's pick up on this business of the priority of labor over capital one more time.
Boethius, speaking with the Church, is certainly correct in one sense: we can have labor without capital but we cannot have capital without labor therefore labor is literally first. But as I argued in a prior comment, most contemporary thought on about this topic is about the ethics of compensation: how much labor gets vs. how much capital gets.
But even if we accept this to be an error, the train of thought is still interesting for me at least. The idea is that the material goods of the world are ordered to human welfare. Labor, having priority, is more fundamental to human welfare than capital therefore it must be compensated at the expense of capital if necessary. What's interesting about this is that if even if some of the Left's premises are faulty, not all of them are. In particular, I have no problem conceding to the Left that the goods of the world are properly ordered toward human welfare.
But there's something of a paradox that says that if property that is held privately serves public ends better than property that is held publicly. But paradox or not, that's what the history of the last 150 years or so tell us very strongly. There are substantial costs in trying anything else.