- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Click Here For a Good Time!

Posted by: Barry Stoller on November 01, 1999 at 22:20:50:

Sorry folks for the teaser. The REAL title of this post is:

Comparing Market-Exchange and Labor Theories of Value

The best argument FOR the labor theory of value is, interestingly enough, the market-exchange theory of value.

IF, as proponents of market-exchange theory insist, the CUSTOMER decides what a commodity is worth by paying this, that, or the other for it, then value as an indication of anything goes out the window.

I'm willing to spend $100 on x---partly because I just got a big raise today. Yesterday I was making much less at my job and I wouldn't have looked askance at x.

You, on the other hand, are willing to pay $1000 for x---partly because you're a Getty heir.

Someone else says: 'To hell with x; give me y or nothing doing.'

Value can never be specified using the market-exchange theory of value.

Market-theory tells us NADA about value..

On to the labor theory of value...

All commodities contain labor.

Labor, therefore, acts as a universal currency when exchanging commodities.

Ostensible exceptions:


Land is worth little to nothing UNTIL labor has brought from it fruit, oil, etc.


A bottle of wine is one of the few things that age improves. However, aging requires maintenance. Maintenance, I hasten to add, IS labor (someone watches the wine, someone built the structure it is watched in).

Money. Credit.

Do we have here the exception that---finally---explodes the labor theory of value?

Paper money (credit) is valued according to its EXCHANGE-value, NOT its use-value---the TRUE predicate of value. Otherwise it is paper and its use-value is nominal.

Other ostensible exceptions...

Sorry, but this wouldn't be a 'nutshell' if I just went on and on!

Whatever! Look at your ostensible exception closely. You will---invariably---find the presence of labor in it.

Indeed, EVERYTHING is labor.

Why, then, is labor paid such different rates from nation to nation and region to region?

Because socially necessary labor time varies from country to country. Technological development determines the exchange-value of labor as a COMMODITY to a large extent.

Generally, the cheaper values prevail.

But that's the theory of globalization, and that's a whole 'nother post...

Follow Ups:

The Debating Room Post a Followup