Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 2, 2008 / 2 Elul 5768

The labor theory of value

By Paul Greenberg


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The old man had long ago given up fixing shoes and tried other businesses, but always at the same location — 836 Texas Ave., Shreveport, La. — and with many of the same customers. But he never found any other work that gave him as much satisfaction as putting new soles on a pair of old uppers. Or putting a pair of Cat's Paw heels on shoes that still had a lot of wear left, and doing it neatly, surely, carefully — to last.


He loved the feel and aroma of new leather, the grain in the old. He was seldom as happy as when he could hold a pair of weathered shoes in his hands, turn them over and over, feel the tread, admire the workmanship ... sometimes he could even name the local shoemaker who'd done the job.


Labor omnia vincit. Labor conquers all. The old man had no Latin, but he did have some Hebrew, and would have known that the Hebrew word for labor and worship are the same: avodah. He worked the same way he prayed: with dedication, concentration, intention. It showed. In those two things, work and prayer, he came into his own.


His boys could remember those rare occasions when the old man lost his temper. Once he threw a poorly repaired pair of shoes against a wall in his fury. What a sloppy waste of good leather! What a waste of time and the customer's money!


In his old age, he was unable to contain his contempt when he would drive past one of those glittery new shoe stores that sold cheap, shiny imports — the cardboard kind sure to come apart in the first rain.


The old man took poor workmanship as a personal affront. Labor wasn't a factor of production to him, it was a calling — and a refuge.


The old man wasn't much on theory, but he understood value received, good will, repeat business, and, above all, the importance of trust between people — customer and merchant, worker and boss, lender and borrower. To him commerce was friendship.


All the talk he heard about labor and capital, first from agitators in the old country, and then as the standard fare of politics in this one, seemed textbookish to him — not really useful like a good, solid pair of work shoes.


He had a more personal concept of how economics worked. He thought of the economy as a web of personal relationships: with his customers; with the workers he hired and trained and sometimes had to let go; with the banker he depended on to get him started in various ventures; with the landlord who collected the rent from him; and with his own tenants after he began buying a piece of property here and there, and building some rent houses.


He liked his houses kept up, the lawns mowed, so they would look like something. Like a good pair of shoes.


Like most Americans, the old man was too deeply involved with labor and capital to think in those terms. Instead he thought in terms of people and whether their work — and their word — was good.


When he died, people the family couldn't remember, maybe had never seen, showed up at the house to pay their respects. They'd all tell much the same story — how he'd given them credit when they needed it, or a little help when they were trying to get started.


He liked giving people a start. There was Henry Johnson, for example, whom he'd hired as a boy — and taught how to fix shoes. Henry would stay with him for the next 50 years through the old man's various ventures, mastering one skill after another.


His apprentice would grow old with him, teaching his boss as much he'd learned, and die two weeks before the old man himself did. The family smiled knowingly. They understood that Henry had just gone ahead, as usual, to scout the territory.


Labor Day has a great deal in the usual press releases, but none of it will be more eloquent than work done well. To me, two new soles on a pair of well-shined shoes still say more than all the Labor Day speeches ever written.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

Paul Greenberg Archives

© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles