On the value of different people’s labor.

Somewhat fleshing out notions previously outlined, on the example of an aeroplane engineer and hairdressers, or something.

As I see it, both can produce similar levels of value with their work, depending on how demand for either looks like. Because perfect markets assume that anyone could assume any role and that consequently all labor wages are approaching identical levels.

Of course our current day labor market politics across the globe purposely run contrary to this principle, as low skill wages are suppressed via forcing a near infinite supply of unlucky folks to do em. While the lucky folks may aspire to do better things, like to develop or market better tools. Which holds more promise for rental income generation. And of course it doesn’t all come down to luck, but it sure has been a rather growing than shrinking factor, with the direction in which the economy has been going and seems to continue to go. Consider labor share of market incomes.

And while free education is a good idea in my view, using non-market incentives and methods to bind one’s livelyhood to being in education is not, as that just creates oversupply of people with those skills, in cases. Hence why Unconditional Incomes make sense here, rather than just diversified strategies to get people into education. Unconditional Incomes paired with free education. So that the potential market incomes be the reward, should they be above average.

Furthermore, returns from having your name out there already, be it a matter of respect or product and brand recognition, as well as other rental and monopoly incomes work by their own logic. Just because everyone knows that company xyz makes good products and consequently customers deliver profits due that recognition, doesn’t mean the productivity of the people working there would be greater than that of other people. It’s the customers that create some of this surplus value, by knowing what to buy, with less effort to chose. Mental infrastructure so to say.

Now productivity is also relative to the amount of tools present in the economy as a whole, of course. But who works with what tools doesn’t make a statement about the involved people’s productivity. Only supply and demand related price differences, excluding monopoly components (e.g.: brand/name recognition; royalties on tool/idea usage; interest rates on loans where involved; etc.), in income do that. If there’s a will to monetize one’s work anyhow. We don’t quite have the systems to make any profound statements on unpaid work, but for the purpose of this reflection, we might as well avoid that hugely important topic, as it’s not just hugely important but also huge on its own. (just be aware that framing productivity as a matter of income height is not very useful in a great many contexts. We just happen to have some paid work relations where it makes some sense, to a limited extent. That’s what this article is about.)

Now the ‘paradoxical’ issue of longer work hours and less productivity can make sense in a twofold way:

  1. working longer hours devoid of tools that allow to add more value will certainly reduce per work hour productivity. And we as a global society, we don’t actually have a lot of tools that we’d need to work on all that long to create a lot of wealth.

Which raises questions of redistributive justice from those who have the productive tools to those who don’t, at least briefly. On a second thought, automation always has, and is poised to continue to make tools near abundant anyway; aside from the idea/patent royalties (and land and capital rent) issue. So the practical issue here is with the royalties, recognition and otherwise monopoly based incomes. As a just cause for redistribution of a share of some income streams. You simply can’t break up some monopolies, like the recognition based one. We can only alleviate it a little by creating instances of neutral product and service rating, and restricting advertisement. As much as that issue doesn’t go away fundamentally. Perfect information vs effort needed to achieve such. We can however make great strides towards making idea ownership less massive of a rent seeking machine for whoever buys in.

  1. It further takes paid demand, because unpaid demand is not ‘valued’ in this market paradigm we got on our hands. We could encourage more added value creation (and more tool creation), sometimes with more labor, if we actually got the market signals right, if more people had methods to signalize additional needs and wants. Demand is a key component to value creation, because without it, nothing is valued (within the logic of this market paradigm). Paid demand is also needed to use more advanced tools and procedures, and other resources, for the workers, as these come with costs, rental and otherwise. That’s also why I strongly support a UBI that is at least in some feature, redistributive from people with a lower propensity to spend, to people with a greater propensity to spend. More people working and less people paying just means less value is created per hour of work, by the income metric, and less value creation is enabled, where access to resources/tools/etc requires money.

Hope that makes sense! I totally see that perfect markets aren’t a thing, yet I do see that we could get a lot closer to such, and to a world of less stressful views of oneself and less stressful circumstances. And I do see that the non-labor derived components in our economy demand much greater redistribution, to fund unconditional incomes, for both practical (enabling less stress; enabling more paid valuing; enabling less market distortion via reduction of coercive impact of ownership relations on wage negotiations; enabling a greater number of people to seek to improve tools and methods to aquire skills or skill replacing tools, and to only do so where it makes sense, rather than where a bureaucrat or public body guesses what might be what the people want.) and justice considerations (to enable people to access said non-labor things, that happen to be useful or even needed for doing things).

P.S. Personally, I’m all for using the democratic process as a method to express demand as well, though that is part of its own market if anything (where vote = currency). If the people at large chose to vote for some long term project, like green energy or more infrastructure, then we can have projects like that, too. As long as the outcome of the work is societally demanded. But in my view, for more fine grained relations, it takes individual people with money, probably increasingly with unconditional incomes (at least as long as an increasing amount of human work continues to be used in ever more popularity depedent ways.), to express what is societally valued. Because societies happens to be made up of individuals, so societal value can only be defined by the members of a society, and sometimes only individually. If we’re commited to the idea of free markets anyhow. I sure don’t see a better process for a lot of relations, personally. (Short of developing an Artifical Super Intelligence and getting it right somehow.)

P.P.S. I don’t mean to contest that there’s different value in different work, but would rather like to highlight the importance of tools (including skill replacing tools), monopolies of all kinds, and of course demand. Rather than some pure notion of ‘labor’ value. As much as there’s sense in people awarding people money for non-labor reasons, too. People like to get something for ‘respect’ they command, people like to give more to those they respect, even if it’s just because they want the other people to have a more nice time. It’s a bit like gifting. Even enables further refinement of already nice products and services, sometimes. As much as there’s no accountability with regard to that. And even when it happens, some of it might be used to increase degrees of monopolization. A context where taxes make sense, either way.

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