Marx didn’t invent the labor theory of value: That work was done by Adam Smith, John Locke, David Ricardo, and others. But he gave it his own spin. And the gist is easy enough to understand. The value of any good is equal to the amount of labor, measured in hours, a laborer puts into it. On the surface, this is not a ludicrous way to think about things. You put in the work making a widget, so the value of that widget is equal to the amount of time you put into it. This makes even more sense, superficially, if your conception of work involves artisans—like cobblers, or even self-employed dilettante writers like Marx—working by themselves and doing “all” the work in the production process.
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