I periodically explain that labor and capital are the two factors of production and that our prosperity depends on how efficiently they are allocated.
But I probably don’t spend enough time highlighting how they are complementary, meaning that workers and capitalists both benefit when the two factors are combined. Simply stated, workers become more productive and earn more when investors buy machines and improve technology.
In other words, the Marxists and socialists are wrong when they argue that workers and capitalists are enemies. Heck, look around the world and compare the prosperity of workers in market-oriented nations with the deprivation of workers in statist economies.
This becomes painfully clear when you read this Wall Street Journal story on the statist hellhole of Venezuela:
Irish packaging giant Smurfit Kappa recently joined other multinational companies abandoning Venezuela…President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist government. But this case comes with a twist. Hundreds of employees, who counted on the Irish company for transport, education, housing and food, continue to show up at work. They take turns protecting idled heavy machinery from looting that has become rampant as Venezuela plunges into hyperinflation and economic chaos. …“Help, we need a boss here. We’re desperate,” said Ramón Mendoza, a Smurfit forestry division worker for 17 years. “We’re so scared because we now know that all the government does is destroy everything, every business.” Their plight underscores the devastation that rural Venezuelan communities face as private companies pull out of a country that was once Latin America’s richest. The economy has shrunk by half over the past four years.
Wow, Mr. Mendoza hit the nail on the head when he explained that “all the government does is destroy everything.”
Maybe he can replace Obama as Libertarian Man of the year. Except he would get the award on merit rather than satire.
But let’s not digress. Here’s more bad news from the article:
Workers who live in the surrounding area had received interest-free loans from Smurfit for their houses. Residents said they no longer can count on the four ambulances that the company paid for to serve communities of tin-roofed shacks. At the Agricultural Technical School in the nearby town of Acarigua, which was entirely financed by Smurfit, nearly 200 children living in extreme poverty used to receive an education, lodging, as well as hot meals that have become a luxury as public schools collapse. Over two decades, many of its graduates had gone on to work for Smurfit. The academic year was supposed to start on Oct. 1. But with no money to feed and transport students, there’s silence in the halls… “It’s like poof,” Ms. Sequera said, snapping her fingers. “Our whole future was taken away.”
Needless to say, the thuggish government of Venezuela has no idea how to fix the mess it has caused:
In recent days, the cash-strapped Maduro administration said it had come up with a solution for the Smurfit plant: That the workers would run it themselves. The government said it wouldn’t nationalize it but named a temporary board to help restart operations. The Labor Ministry offered no details over how it would replace Smurfit’s distribution network through which the company supplied its own subsidiaries abroad. But the workers say they can’t run the plant on their own and insist they want bosses—just not from the government. “We know how to move the lumber from here to the plants. What do we know about finances and marketing?” said Mr. Mendoza.
My heart goes out to the former Smurfit workers.
They simply want to do honest work in exchange for honest pay. But the wretched policies of the Venezuelan socialists have made that impossible.
By the way, I’m not implying that employers are motivated by love for workers. Nor am I implying that workers are motivated to create profits for companies. The two sides are in a constant tug of war over how to slice the pie.
But the key thing to understand is that the pie grows when markets are allowed to function.
That is why this old British political cartoon is a powerfully accurate depiction of real-world economics:
Indeed, I’ll have to add it to my collection of images that teach economics.
- The Wizard-of-Id parody about work incentives.
- The philoso-raptor contemplating supply-side economics.
- Lessons about double taxation and harvesting apples.
- Showing looters are the enemy, not rich people.
- The size of the pizza is more important than how it’s sliced.
- A lesson about socialism and incentives.