The Disutility of Labor
Originally published in The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics
Some Austrian economists have argued that the disutility of labor is a necessary auxiliary empirical assumption to complement otherwise a priori economic theory in order for it to apply to the real world. Without this assumption, it is claimed that individuals will supply the full quantity of labor of which they are physically capable. We argue that the disutility of labor assumption is unnecessary to derive this conclusion, which can instead be derived through standard marginal analysis. Leisure (the state of not engaging in labor) is a necessary complementary good for consuming other goods. As such, leisure’s status as a consumer good is a priori true, not an empirical assumption. Furthermore, the concept of disutility of labor is not only unnecessary but also leads to confusion due to its being used in two different ways, and therefore ought to be discarded.