A Wealth of Labour – Manifesto

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4 Responses to “A Wealth of Labour – Manifesto”

  1. johnnilsson703 Says:

    So why the labor theory of value? What about maringalism?

    • eg221 Says:

      Marginalism can provide a useful description of the arrival at prices, which are instrumental in reallocating resources (labour, capital, land) in a way that can maximise welfare. But a price is a relative measure: it expresses the rate of exchange of such and such actual resource for a given numeraire. And this numeraire, or unit, only stands in for value, in the same way that a centimetre stands in for distance. What value is and where it originates requires its own theory, which is where the labour theory of value comes in (I cannot see any other source of value than labour, since even eating a fallen apple requires an expense of labour to pick it up off the ground). So I don’t see any conflict between the supposedly rival schools on this matter. I cannot see any other source of value

      • johnnilsson703 Says:

        As I understand it the marginalist view is that value is a subjective thing and originates only from the decision on which act or not.

        Price is just the result of subjective valuations in aggregate, but in it self is not a measure of value, only of “mean” value. (Given a market with multiple sellers and buyers that is)

        In your example with the apple it seems you agree on the point that value can be measured by the labor the appl picker is prepared to expend on picking it up. The difference would be that in the marginalist view the apple pickers labor is the full measure of how much value it would be to have that apple to eat.

        The labor theory would also claim that the “true” value of the apple include all past labor put in to having that apple end up on the ground. While the marginalist would say that those decisions were made in isolation of the current decision to pick it up and thus has no direct impact of its value. (Although one might think that the apple picker might compare the effort of picking up the apple to the effort of planting and caring for a new apple tree in the decision on what action to take…)

        As I see it value is measured in labor, as you put it. But only in the sense that given a state of the world A, and some (subjecive) desireable state of the world B how much labor is one prepared endure to transition the world from state A to state B? That is, the apple as such has no value, the apple is just an apple.

        The state of the world where the apple is in the apple pickers mouth has a value supposedly higher than the state of the world where the apple lies on the ground. To the apple picker this value is at least compareable to the effort of picking the apple up from the ground. What other source of value do we need, and why?

  2. eg221 Says:

    Interesting – perhaps we have two subtly different, but related notions of value. One resides in the realm of ideas, eg between the state of the world as it is and the world as it should be but for a particular expense of labour. So in your example of the hypothetical outcome in which the apple is in the picker’s mouth, the potential value of this would be ‘endorsed’ by the amount of labour the picker is prepared to expend. There is infinite ‘potential value’, deriving from any number of parallel universes in the eyes of countless beholders. Such ‘potential value’ naturally precedes labour and is entirely subjective.

    When I refer to value in my work it is ex post, after real (accumulated) expenditure of labour has brought about a given change in the state of things. The value of such a change is not simply given by the accumulated time spent working towards this end, as some believe the labour theory implies (even some who claim they endorse the theory). Far from being fixed, the productivity of labour-time varies among the population. This is precisely where value comes in: as an abstraction, it allows one to generalise in spite of human distinctions, by acting as a universal scale on which on can denote labour (seeing as time is unsuitable). This is what the labour theory of value means to me.

    Of course the value of X, also after it has come into being, is subjective. But this does not detract from the meaning of value in its labour theory setting because one is never required, ex ante, to specify an individual’s labour productivity at any point in time (never mind in general). Because contributing labour is the sole basis that entitles one to consume value (additional to our birth rights in natural resource rents), one’s productivity is ultimately one’s reward (wage). But this only comes out in the wash once self-ownership is enshrined, and my work is my effort to explain how this can be achieved.

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