Calculating the Value of Labor


Contrary to popular ‘Marxist’ belief, the value of labor is not indeterminate. A simple equation dividing the total value produced in a given period by the total number of working hours reveals the value of labor.

Unlike in Marx’s day when the total value produced in the world economy was unknown, today we can use the global gdp as a rough estimate of the sum. Likewise, because the total global population is statistically counted, we can extrapolate the total hours worked.

In 2011, the global GDP was $69,110,000,000,000. The total population was estimated mid-year to be 7,021,836,029. Let us assume that half of people regularly work. In this case, each worker produces about $20,000 per year. This would be the value of labor. Furthermore, if we assume each worker works 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, the value of labor is $10 an hour.

If the value of labor is $20,000/year or $10/hour, then a majority of US citizens receive incomes that include the full value of labor plus surplus value from the exploitation of other’s labor. While nearly 40% USians’ over the age of 15 have incomes that are formally below this figure, this portion likely receives welfare and other benefits which make up for their relatively low paychecks. The poorest 5% in the US are still better off than two-thirds of the world’s population. Due to the extreme level of parasitism of the US population at large, even a hypothetical sizable minority of minimally-exploited US workers would be politically and culturally bought off by capital.

As it stands, estimates of the global median income float between $1,250 and $1,700/year, $18,750- $18,300/year less than the estimated value of labor.

– Nikolai Brown