Misplaced Daily Priorities

Misplaced Daily Priorities September 22, 2003

The “Business” section is irrelevant. We need a “Work” section.

“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. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital, producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and, with their capital, hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class — neither work for others, nor have others working for them. …”

— Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, Dec. 3, 1861

Well, here it is Monday again, so you’re back to work. That’s the rhythm of the work-week and the rhythm of life for most people. But your daily newspaper doesn’t think so.

Newspapers don’t care much about the work-week. They don’t care about thank-God-it’s-Friday or Oh-God-it’s-Monday. Monday matters to the daily newspaper only because that is the day the stock markets reopen on Wall Street.

The stock markets — the business of investments and the people who live on them — are the concern of an entire section of your daily newspaper. The “Business” section. Odds are, like most people, you don’t read it. That’s okay — it wasn’t written for you. It was written for a tiny sliver of the total readership — those who earn dividends and capital gains rather than wages.

It’s a bit odd, at least from a circulation standpoint, that an entire section of the paper should be dedicated wholly to the concerns of these “few men,” as Lincoln called them. Particularly since there is no corresponding section dedicated to the concerns of the great majority of people and readers — those who work for a living.

It can’t be good business for newspapers to disregard the concerns of the great majority while catering to these few men. Nor does it seem fair.

USA Today was probably on to something when they decided to call their “Business” section “Money,” instead, but I would like to take it a step further. I would like to see a section called “Work.”

It only seems fair, after all, that work (labor) should be treated as at least the equal of investment (capital).

But of course these things are not equal. “Capital is only the fruit of labor,” as Lincoln put it, a principle that came in Catholic social teaching to be called the “primacy of labor.” Primacy as in “first,” as in “priority.”

It’s Monday and you’re back at work. That matters. It’s more important than the vagaries of the stock markets. Even if your daily newspaper has its priorities upside down.

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