Robert Anton Wilson
A quote from a book which is, for once, not about economics. The book that is, not the quote! Prometheus Rising is an eclectic look at how the human mind works and is both entertaining and enlightening.
“Where does this wealth come from? According to orthodox economics it comes from land, labor and capital. According to Marxists, it comes from land and labor alone, and the capitalist is a thief who has inserted an artificial book-keeping system into the process. Both are wrong. Land and labor alone, and land, labor and capital together, can’t produce new wealth if they are all organised by a fallacious idea, such as searching for oil where oil is not. The real source of wealth is correct ideas: workable ideas: that is, negative entropy – Information.
The origin of these coherent (workable) ideas is the human nervous system. All wealth is created by human beings using their neurons intelligently.”
Robert Anton Wilson (1983), Prometheus Rising
I have plenty of time for Marxist thought, not so much for socialism. But the labour theory of value (LTV) is, for me, perhaps not as scientific as Marx and many Marxists make out. The above quote sums it up nicely, suggesting that the LTV is misleading or at best incomplete, and designed to make social injustice and exploitation into something scientific.
If one wishes to fight injustice, including exploitation, that is all to the good. However I am not convinced that surplus value, a key concept in classical political economy and Marx, necessarily originates solely in the efforts of the workers. Management by the capitalists or their representatives is probably necessary for a productive and profitable workplace and can take many forms, coercive or otherwise.
To draw once more on the quote above: in the right political, social and economic environment, capitalists and workers, sometimes in conflict, sometimes cooperating, can be collectively productive if they work (and use their neurons) intelligently.