To protect the people and secure their rights

Liberty and Democracy are not opposing ideas. The political center is where all change is made. Let's embrace reason and civility.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lincoln on OWS (Occupy Wall Street)

Below is from an email I received from the Alan Grayson campaign referring to a speech Lincoln gave to Congress just two years before the Gettysburg Address. I offer it here as an interesting, historical observation about Labor and Capital during the early years of the American Civil War. Of course, Lincoln was the first Republican president.

This is what President Lincoln said to Congress, to America, and to us:

"It is not needed, nor fitting here [in discussing the Civil War] that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions; but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effect to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor, in the structure of government.

It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded thus far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life.

“Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights."

1 comment:

  1. This is a precursor to Henry George and the progressives, but Americans before the Civil War understood this, especially in the north. They understood it even better before the Revolutionary War, because we had genuine capitalism without much exploitation by bankers and land monopolists. To have capitalism without landlordism and indenture is to see how beneficial it can be to labor.

    The Irish understood this from the other side, because they were denied the opportunity to develop capital by British (Cromwellian) policy, and were mercilessly rack-rented by absentee landlords.

    Germans never had freedom from landlords and had been thoroughly rack-rented by the state by the time real entrepreneurial capitalism arose. Because landlords increased rents and banksters increased lending just as capitalism arrived, Germans, including Marx, were naturally confused.