Reply to Jamie Morgan’s Commentary on ‘The Labour Theory of Property and Marginal Productivity Theory’
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Jamie Morgan’s commentary (Morgan, 2016) on my paper ‘The Labour Theory of Property and Marginal Productivity Theory (Ellerman, 2016) largely focuses on a number of dogs that didn’t bark in the paper. My focus on the root institution of the renting of persons (the employment relation) is ‘incomplete’ because it neglects all the accumulated historical results of that institution, e.g., the resulting power relations or the resulting obscene mal-distribution of wealth and income. However, I argue that the critique should be focused on the root of the matter and not on the accumulated symptoms. Even if there was some miraculous redistribution of wealth to restart the clock (‘year zero’) in an economy still based on the human rental system, then the critique based on the labour theory of property would still apply. After discussing the main points of Morgan’s commentary, I conclude that the commentary exhibits a troubling postmodern anathema to abstract theory in much heterodox economics—even alternative theories—in favor of atheoretical but morally charged descriptions of particular economic, political, sociological, and psychological concerns—which is all too reminiscent of Marx’s volumes of moral invective to compensate for the deficiencies in his labour theory of value and exploitation.