ECON103: Value of Labor - Unit 3 Essay

ECON103: Unit 3 Essay - Value of Labor

Labor is human time. Human time has become more valuable throughout history, and so has labor. Since time is the only true limited resource, we have to economize it and only spend it in the most productive way that we see possible. The biggest contributor to the value of human time increasing is a generational accumulation of capital which has led to technological advancements. These technological advancements greatly improved the level of productivity that human time had, which increased the opportunity cost to taking up any one activity, which increased the overall value of labor.

Labor became more valuable because human productivity has increased along with technological advancements. For example, monks used to make copies of books by rewriting whole books by hand, this process would take enormous amounts of time and would only produce a single book, compare this to somebody using a printing press who could make many copies of a single book in a day. The printing press allows for the person who is using the printing press to be far more productive, which in turn makes their time more valuable, they are able to produce more with their time.

Labor has also become more valuable in relation to every other good. Using the same example, books would cost a lot of money before the printing press was invented, but afterwards their price decreased as they became more widely available and easy to produce. As our labor becomes more productive we are able to produce more and as we produce more there are less things that are scarce, the scarcity of our time however will never change, making it even more valuable in relation to every other good. If we already have say 10 billion copies of a book, what price would it take to make somebody want to dedicate their scarce time to making more?

I think that this will only have positive effects as it seems that the value of every other good would tend to trend downwards against the value of labor as we become more productive with our time. This is a positive because it would allow for humans to spend more of their time in a state of leisure, which is what we all want. As labor becomes more productive, it will become more valuable, and with the current trend, a world can be imagined far in the future where somebody would be able to productively work for 5 years and live off of the fruit of their labor for the rest of their life, never having to worry about labor again. I don’t see any negative ramifications to that.


Well articulated. Some great points. I’d ammend two things.

#1. I wouldn’t say “Labor is time.” I would say “time is the ultimate scarcity, and labor is human effort applied over time.” Ultimately labor is only limited by time.

#2. I don’t think it’s a guaranteed that humans will be able to spend more time in leisure in the future. Even though the value of human time has gone up. the competition to provide time has gone up too. Weak money creates a system where people have to work harder for less, and I don’t although I don’t fully understand this concept the results are clear: 70 years ago it was common to see men go to work and women stay home. Now single working households are rarer. So one could say people have less leisure than 70 years ago even though the value of human time has gone up.

Additionally, “leisure” is subjective just as value is subjective. Men commonly find value in being needed and providing for their families, so it’s not entirely clear to me that “leisure” is the goal of labor. I think it’s better if we say that “freedom” is the goal of labor, and to go deeper we could say, “Freedom to pursue what one finds valuable.” Some will find leisure to be valuable, while others will find “labor” to be valuable.

I think your ideas very acurately mirrored the unit lecture and discussion, but I am not in full agreement with the unit lecture and discussion and/or one could say I agree mostly but have a slightly different articulation of some of the ideas.

What do you think about my ideas and my response to you? Where do you think I am wrong and/or where do you think we can improve these ideas?

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You made some great point there. in answer to your ideas:

Regarding the #2 you made, I would add some comments there.

  • I am not 100% after the notion that leisure is what you do "after time spent at work ". I think leisure is just a choice or could be a part of work, or ideally, someone has to provide clear definition what fall under “leisure time” actually. For instance, If I spent my time on the hobby that eventually lead me to a some sort of revenue, it is a leisure too? If laying on the beach and drinking a mojito gives me space to contemplate on the ideas that eventually proves to be a business idea and get me onto additional revenue, is that a leisure too? Or leisure is simply resting, like sleeping, after work…?

To your point regarding " …70 years ago…" I would add that in 70s the labour force started to increase due to women joining the work force which create more competition for the same work, improving its quality but decreasing the salaries per capita. In other words, when women postponed having babies in their 20s and joined the work force, the salaries must have gone down due to increase competition (gradually up to 50% in some fields). It may be a silly hypothesis but, it is worth checking this out.

Please leave me a comment.

Thanks in advance!

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