The Price of Labor: Burke, Nietzsche, and Menger

17 Apr

Edmund Burke, Thoughts and Details on Scarcity:

When any commodity is carried to market, it is not the necessity of the vendor, but the necessity of the purchaser that raises the price….If the goods at market are beyond the demand, they fall in their value; if below it, they rise. The impossibility of the subsistence of a man, who carries his labour to a market, is totally beside the question in this way of viewing it. The only question is, what is it worth to the buyer? (pp. 68-69)

Carl Menger, Principles of Economics:

Neither the means of subsistence nor the minimum of subsistence of a laborer, therefore, can be the direct cause or determining principle of the price of labor services.

In reality, as we shall see, the prices of actual labor services are governed, like the prices of all other goods, by their values. But their values are governed, as was shown, by the magnitude of importance of the satisfactions that would have to remain unsatisfied if we were unable to command the labor services. (p. 171)

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow:

The value of work.—If we wanted to determine the value of work by how much time, effort, good or ill will, compulsion, inventiveness or laziness, honesty or deception has been expended on it, then the valuation can never be just; for we would have to be able to place the entire person on the scales, and that is impossible. Here the rule must be “judge not!” But it is precisely to justice that they appeal who nowadays are dissatisfied with the evaluation of work. If we reflect further we find that no personality can be held accountable for what it produces, that is to say its work: so that no merit can be derived from it; all work is as good or bad as it must be given this or that constellation of strengths and weaknesses, knowledge and desires. The worker is not free to choose whether he works, nor how he works. It is only from the standpoint of utility, narrower and wider, that work can be evaluated. (§286)

One Response to “The Price of Labor: Burke, Nietzsche, and Menger”

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  1. The Idle Rich and the Working Stiff: Nietzche von Hayek on Capital v. Labor | Corey Robin - April 19, 2013

    [...] The Price of Labor: Burke, Nietzsche, Menger [...]

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