Can One Man Earn a Million Dollars?

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CAN a person earn a million dollars in a lifetime? Let us see.

Labor is human effort. Land is all the elements and forces outside of man himself. Wealth is the result of application of the labor to land. Wealth, therefore, must be material, tangible, concrete.

In the light of these definitions, which accord with the latest and best political economy, it seems clear, indeed, that a million dollars must represent concrete things— buildings, cultivated fields, animals, vessels, railroads, etc.

Let us be generous with the producers and pay them the wages of Congressmen, viz.: $5,000 a year, and then they would each have to live and work 200 years to earn a million dollars, to say nothing about accumulating it. But when we consider that the average wages in this country is less than $500 a year, it is only a question of figuring to ascertain how long one would have to work to earn a million, and say nothing about his expenses in the meantime.

But it has been said that the average production of the worker in this country equals $1,800 a year. A million dollars at these figures requires the labor of one average producer 555 5-9 years. This is a good long time for a person to work. And while it is a fact that the rich live longer than the poor, the difference can hardly be so much.

Let us assume that those who are rich have greater powers of production than those who remain poor, and let us assume further that the rich live long enough to enjoy 70 years in the production of wealth. Each one who accumulated a million dollars would, therefore, have to produce $14,285.71 a year, or more than seven times as much as the average producer.

It is impossible for any one person to produce seven times as much as the average producer; it is improbable that anyone would have that sum given to him by its producers; and if it is not produced or given as a gift, how is it procured?

The conclusion is inevitable. The rightful ownership of a million dollars through the labor of any one person is impossible.— Joseph Labadie in Detroit News Tribune.


  • Joseph Labadie, “Can One Man Earn a Million Dollars?,” The Railroad Telegrapher 18, no. 9 (September 1901): 814-815.