First watch this absurd and slightly humorous video:
The support character in this skit (Julian) is a good representation how I view socialists, particularly Marxists. Marx had this kookie idea called the “Labor Theory of Value.” He posited that the economic value of a products is derived from the amount of labor that goes into making it. For instance, making a wooden chair might take 10 hours of skilled labor, while a stamped steel chair might only take 1 hour of unskilled labor. According to the Labor Theory of Value, the wooden chair should be worth more.
Julian insists that his brother should drink the hot koolaid. Julian feels that his product is worthwhile, simply because he put labor into it. We are given an example from the skit, where one of his previous products hospitalized three women. The value of the product is in fact negative.
I could spend 100 hours writing a book out by hand, or I spend 100 hours typing up a book. Writing it by hand would certainly be more laborious, but there’s no reason to think that the hand written version would be better than the typed version. It’s likely that the hand written version would be shorter, have more typos, and be harder to read.
Finally, there’s the issue of “diminishing returns.” For every additional hour added, only a decreasing fraction of additional output is added. Any painter can tell you that they’re never actually finished, but at some point they just stop painting. There’s always one or two more touch-ups to do… always. Virtually unlimited time can be poured into a single painting, and yet after a while, the painting doesn’t noticeably improve. I don’t think it’s possible to argue that the hours sunk into a painting has a strong correlation to the value.
The value of a product is unrelated to the labor that is put in. Just because Marx spent years thinking about his Labor Theory of Value, doesn’t make it a worthwhile idea.