Saving Locke from Marx: The labor theory of value in intellectual property theory

Social Philosophy and Policy 29 (2):283-317 (2012)
Abstract
The labor theory of value is fundamental to John LockeJustifying Intellectual Property,s physical labor contributes only proportionally to this socially-created market value. Robert Nozick, G. A. Cohen, and other philosophers similarly dismiss the labor theory of value as illogical or incoherent. But these philosophers redefine Lockes labor theory of economic value. The principle of interpretative charity demands reconsideration of Lockes property theory within the context of his natural law ethical theory, as presented in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and in other works. In this context, Locke’s concept of labor means production, which has intellectual as well as physical characteristics, and his concept of value means that which is useful in the flourishing life of a rational being, which is a conception of the good that is more robust than merely physical status or economic wealth. This not only disabuses modern scholars of the absurdities they impose on Locke, it also explains why Locke says that inventions exemplify his labor-based property theory and why he argues for property rights in writings (copyrights), arguments that seem to have been lost on his critics in intellectual property theory and beyond
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