Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V: Formula A. Work the Measure of Value - Socialistic Fallacies
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CHAPTER V: Formula A. Work the Measure of Value - Yves Guyot, Socialistic Fallacies 
Socialistic Fallacies (London: Cope and Fenwick, 1910).
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Formula A. Work the Measure of Value
Rodbertus—The working hour—“The social will”—Work tickets or vouchers—The equalisation of values—Rodbertus alarmed—Inconsistencies of Karl Marx and Engels.
Rodbertus, about 1842, sought to determine the “standard of work” as the measure of value, under the name of the “normal period of work” (Arbeitszeit).
“Inasmuch as a working day has a different productive value in different kinds of production, different kinds of work should be assessed relatively to one another and uniformly expressed in terms of a standard unit of work-time. In a particular class of work a working day contains so many hours by the clock, or a working hour so many minutes by the clock; in another class of work it contains so many hours and so many minutes respectively. This presents no obstacle to a division of the standard day or the standard hour, in the different kinds of production, into a uniform number of standard hours or minutes of work. This will give in and for every kind of production a species of scale by which to measure the productive value of a given period of work.
“The difficulty arising from the differences among various workmen can be removed by the standard daily task (Normales Tagewerk).”
This settles the whole question. The “social will” of the State decrees the standard period of work. This “social will decides and fixes where individual wills had debated and compromised.” This “social will” implies “a separate organ of society to administer its land and its capital, and to preside over social production and distribution.” This central organ, “of monarchical or democratic origin”—it matters little from the economic point of view—is to embrace in itself all economic functions. Public needs are determined by the “social will,” as represented by the Prince of the Assemblies. Individual needs are fixed by the standard period of work. “The time which everyone who takes part in production consents to devote to productive work determines the limits of the means which are sufficient to cover the range of everyone's needs.” The limits being ascertained, one knows “what is the nature of the needs which are to be satisfied, and therefore the nature and quantity of the articles which are to be produced.” From the time when “the duration of work is a common measure of productive power, as well as of needs, nothing can be clearer than the manner in which to proceed.”
The administration may, (1) fix the value of all products “by fixing the value of the produce of the labour of each individual in terms of every other kind of product, and consequently in terms also of articles for consumption or finished products” (p. 117); and (2) create a currency which answers fully to the requirements of a currency.
The economic administration would remit to each producer a receipt for so much standard work, represented by the actual produce created by him in accordance with the rules herein set forth. This document would bear an exact statement of the value created by its holder, and would therefore serve in his hands as a voucher for an equal value. He could then use it to obtain payment for his labour in the social magazines in the form of articles of consumption in exchange for the voucher.
This currency would form a perfect measure of value, since each voucher would state the precise quantity of value which had been worked out; in the second place it would afford an absolute security, inasmuch as it would only be issued if the value expressed upon it in fact existed; in the third place it would cost nothing, as it would be merely a piece of paper with no intrinsic worth, yet capable of forming a perfect substitute for money. (pp. 126-127.)
“By properly following the rule,” said Rodbertus, “the sum total of value to be disposed of must be exactly equal to the total value certified; and inasmuch as the total value certified corresponds exactly to the total value allotted, the latter must necessarily resolve itself into available value, all requirements are satisfied and the values balance accurately.”
Although Rodbertus was an agriculturist, he forgets that a fortnight of drought or of rain might disturb this beautiful equilibrium. Still, he worked it out and had it verified by one of the overseers of the public debt in Pomerania, and therefore asserts that it supplies every guarantee of soundness. He admits, however, that “in the absence of special legislation, it is impossible for work to be the measure of value.”
Karl Marx, in order to prove that he was not a disciple of Rodbertus, made fun of this childish system, which pre-supposes that an administration can set up an exact relation between the value of gems and of manure, as determined by a standard of working time, regardless of demand and supply, which can only be indicated by competition.
When Karl Marx's “Capital” appeared in 1867, Rodbertus, the conservative and landowner, was alarmed, like a hen which has hatched ducklings. In order to reassure himself and his fellow landed proprietors, he proposed “to consider the function of the capitalist employer as a public function entrusted to him by the medium of capitalist property, and his profit as a form of salary. But salaries can be regulated or reduced if they become unduly large.”
All systems of collectivist organisation end, through the force of circumstances, in vouchers for work, and the witticisms of Marx and Engels only go to prove the incoherence of their own theories.