Interesting: Marxists say the very same thing. They claim that previous effort (“frozen labor”) is that which gives value to economic goods. Well, Objectivists are doing the same in a more fashionable — yet equally flawed — way. They claim economic value is derived from frozen…thoughts. Yes, frozen thoughts. See, Objectivists consider labor performed inside our heads1 the source of economic value, and thus being the very core of value creation it has to be rightfully protected at all costs, right?
Wrong. The source of value is the customer’s valuation of said good during the time of sale.
Yes, ladies and gentlement, it is sales (that mundane and sordid act) that which generates an income in a free society (i.e. the division of labor). Sales are the only way in which demonstrated preference tells us that which is valuable to others. And if it is, they surrender certain amount of another good by giving it to us in exchange for what they need and want. That good is generally one of general acceptance (the most marketeable one), in other words, money. So in order to make money one has to sell. It does not suffice to sit, philosopher style (see pic), and wait for money to come to oneself. One has to know how to turn the idea into an attractive and/or useful product, which requires a whole different set of skills. Or find able partners for the risk-taking endeavor. Even choosing an adequate partner/team for production, distribution, and sales require entrepreneurial skills far beyond the usual thinker’s.
But in any case, it is not “who thought of this first?” that makes people buy more of brand X. The customer couldn’t care less either way. It is the positioning of brand X in the customer’s mind that creates what we call a true market niche for a product. Thus, it follows that it is opportunity, quality and ultimately demonstrated preference (sales) that determines commercial success. Alas, Capitalism is not the social system of thinkers (nor was Socialism, as it was predictably taken over by power-mongers): it is the social system of merchants. Yes, lowly, mundane, and anti-intellectual merchants.
This, to the despair of (Objectivist) NeoMarxism and Marxism, two philosophies founded by intellectuals who wanted to highlight the role of people like themselves.
- A substantially less sweaty form of labor, of course [↩]