Some rough ideas I’m working on. Thanks to Bob Whitney for “provoking” them.

If labor determines the value of a commodity, it follows that a commodity-based economy necessarily leads to the exploitation of labor for the greatest value possible. If demand determines the value of a commodity, however, it SHOULD follow that the set value (price) of a commodity is decided by the buyer. The contradictory relationship between buyer and seller mirrors that between labor and capital, and undermines any contention that demand creates value; rather, demand for a lower price allows the buyer to SHARE IN the value produced by labor. That is, the buyer shares in the benefits of exploitation of labor with the cheaper price afforded by greater and greater exploitation. It is THIS demand–for a lower price–that has the greatest impact on determining the use-value of variable capital, i.e. to what extent the capitalist is willing to exploit the worker, which in turn affects the price of the commodity.

Secondly, the emphasis on demand as the origin of value in a society, rather than labor, reflects an ideology of WANT, i.e. demand, as the sole good (virtue) in a society, from which the value of that society originates and grows, and de-emphasizes the role or importance of labor in creating both the value and the physical manifestations of society as we know it. “If nobody wanted a school to be built, we wouldn’t build it.” This places the value of labor outside of the purview of the capitalist and within the supposed mandates of “the people.” Therefore, the capitalist does a “public good” by building the school, and the laborers inhibit that good by demanding fair wages and working conditions.

The ideology of demand glorifies wanting and vilifies work, such that one must only want in America in order to be a good person, and one should avoid having to work to fulfill one’s wants. And those who do work clearly just don’t want enough.