Mush Brained Youth and the Labor Theory of Value

2 mins read

Editor’s Note: Lector originally wrote this in 2004, but it still holds up.
The disturbing thing about time is the nasty habit it has of moving forward – perpetually. This creates all sorts of problems for those of us who’d sooner dig out a nice comfy spot that makes sense and hold out until the reinforcements arrive. See, time is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a goodly separation from the emotion of major events gives us an excellent perspective on what really happened. On the other hand, those who don’t live through troubled times, and their solution, often completely miss the lesson.
After spending some time at Will’s blog [Ed.Note: just kept this in for context]... which for some unknown reason is frequented by High School girls (You sick freak), I’ve come to a rather disconcerting conclusion. We’ve got whole generations of kids that have no idea what the cold war was about. They have no idea what communism is or was, and why it doesn’t work. They don’t remember the 80’s. They don’t remember that wall coming down. They don’t remember the USSR.
Well… how about we take the time to talk about communism, and why it doesn’t work.
First of all, communism is rooted in the belief that the most important thing in the world is fairness. Everything must be fair. That which is naturally unfair, must be controlled, and manipulated to be made fair. If anyone noticed the fascination the American Left has with fairness, and then also saw how that fascination grew in direct correlation with the democratic parties embrace of socialism, give yourself a hefty pat on the back from ol’ Lector.
At the root of all this idealism is the base idea that one man’s work shouldn’t be worth more than another man’s work. Society needs ditches as much as it needs brain surgeons, so therefore, 10 hours of ditch digging should earn a man the same amount as 10 hours of brain surgery. See? Fair.
That’s the Labor Theory of Value…. or as we Austrians say… Total Crap.
The biggest problem with the Labor Theory of Value (TC) is that it runs in direct opposition to the Law of Supply and Demand. Who remembers what happens when a “theory” contradicts a Law? Right. The paper the theory is written on is burned, and then we all piss on the ashes and feed them to the idiot that thought it was clever enough to write down.
You old timers know exactly where this is going, so if you want to spare yourself some foul imagery….
On with it then. Time to once again dispense with this idiotic Labor Theory of Value (TC). Let’s suppose I live in a communist commune. Stop laughing. Seriously. While there, I decide I need to work, so I take a big healthy crap, then painstaking sculpt my crap into the shape of my own ass. I take 20 hours to do this.
According to the Labor Theory of Value (TC), my steaming bust would be worth the same as any of the other products that the other skilled laborers produced with 20 hours of work. Swords, beds, clothes, food, music, stories, horseshoes, brain surgery… All of them… worth the exact same as my rude sculpture.
Down south we have a word for this. We call it “Stupid”.
See, the time it takes to make something is nowhere near the determining factor in it’s worth. It’s worth is determined by how much people want it, and how many “its” there are.
Communism is diametrically opposed to human nature. Capitalism depends on human nature. Time spent on rationalizing Communism is slightly more wasted than time spent inventing a perpetual motion device. Young idealists can complain all they want about how good it would be…. if only… which is rather like complaining about not being able to explore space because of that stupid gravity thing.


  1. > Society needs ditches as much as it needs brain surge[ries]
    To agree with you: It doesn’t therefore follow that the marginal benefit to Society from John spending an extra hour digging ditches is as great as the marginal benefit to Society from Richard spending an extra hour on brain surgery. It all comes down to the specifics of the case. There’s also the little matter that Richard probably invested a lot more in learning how to become a brain surgeon than John invested in learning how to dig ditches, and it would be a bit of a disincentive to Richard and others like him if the market was so overfull of brain surgeons that people were requesting relatively frivolous brain surgeries and not prepared to pay much for them.
    Having said that, there are three difficulties I have with the “capitalist” wage-setting approach that we have now.
    First: It doesn’t respond well to an oversupply of labour. We haven’t yet found a good way to absolutely prevent human beings from churning out excess offspring. Excess people may or may not be a problem right now, but assuming there is enough food to feed everyone, it doesn’t strike me as axiomatic that some people should be deliberately left to starve just because they don’t have a sufficiently useful way to earn food, all the really useful ways having been taken by others who got there first.
    Second, and related to the above: I have a problem with jobs that don’t pay well. (Yes, I live in a country with much stronger minimum wage laws than prevail in the US at the Federal level.) I admit that there is work of relatively little marginal utility to the business; I feel that such work should not be offered to a breadwinner as a full-time job on low – below subsistence level – wages. Those who work deserve their pay. It could perhaps be offered, e.g., to a high school student still living with his or her parents.
    Third, at the other end of the scale: there are some positions that seem to me to be absurdly over-salaried, like some chief executives, professional actors and athletes, and the like. Now, some of that is a reflection of our society’s priorities. And far be it from me to interfere in the affairs of a private company. But I’m not sure the mechanism of, “Vote the board out, or if you can’t do that, sell your shares,” is a very good way to bring about real accountability. There is a problem when the people deciding to spend the money and the people whose money is being spent are different.
    None of this means I think Communism is superior to Capitalism; I don’t. And it may even be that, given human nature, the current state of things as it applies to wages is the best we could hope for. But I wouldn’t kid myself that it’s perfect.

  2. It is ironic, Valtandor, that you do not see the direct connection between your first two points. It is only possible to have an over-supply of labor when you have minimum wage laws, because the price of labor is not allowed to fall to the point where it *is* economical to hire someone to do a low-skill / low-return job at the margins of “need.” In fact, by cutting out the lowest rungs of the income ladder with minimum wage laws, you remove the ability of a young worker to get on to the economic ladder in the first place in an effort to climb it. Only family heads need to earn a family wage – the rest is “scraping by” or gravy money. There would be plenty of family-wage jobs if wives would stop competing with their own husbands, and we didn’t subsidize everyone who crosses the border while we ship high-skill jobs overseas to save a few dollars for the screw-you mega-corps.

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