On the Labor Theory of Property: Is The Problem Distribution or Predistribution?

Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs 60 (2):171-188 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Much of the recent discussion in progressive circles [e.g., Stiglitz; Galbraith; Piketty] has focused the obscene mal-distribution of wealth and income as if that was "the" problem in our economic system. And the proposed redistributive reforms have all stuck to that framing of the question. To put the question in historical perspective, one might note that there was a similar, if not more extreme, mal-distribution of wealth, income, and political power in the Antebellum system of slavery. Yet, it should be obvious to modern eyes that redistributions in favor of the slaves, while leaving the institution of owning workers intact, would not address the root of the problem. The system of slavery was eventually abolished in favor of the system we have today which differs in two important respects: the workers are only rented, hired, or employed ; and the rental relationship between employer and employee is voluntary. Today, the root of the problem is the whole institution for the voluntary renting of human beings, the employment system itself, not the terms of the contract or the accumulated consequences in the form of the mal-distribution of income and wealth.

Author's Profile

David Ellerman
University of Ljubljana


Added to PP

185 (#45,445)

6 months
38 (#39,419)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?