Oren Cass's Labor Theory of Value
At the center of Marx’s critique of capitalism is a labor theory of value. Namely, the notion that treating labor as a commodity to buy and sell alienates workers from the act of production, causing feelings of powerlessness, isolation, and self-estrangement — feelings that ultimately lead to revolution.
It’s through this lens that I read The Once and Future Worker, the first book from policy thinker Oren Cass. At first blush, the book is a forceful reassertion of classic conservative tropes: that work has intrinsic value; that earned success and self-sufficiency form a foundation for strong communities; and that the devaluing of work and family in favor of hedonistic, protean consumerism has undermined our moral fabric.
But beneath the surface is something much more novel, particularly coming from Mitt Romney’s 2012 domestic policy director. Indeed, far from the usual conservative manifesto, The Once and Future Worker is a scathing critique of globalization, open immigration, and the commoditization of labor — forces which Cass believes have ransacked working class fortunes across three decades of neoliberal hegemony, despite the ideological half-measures offered by bourgeois elites designed to merely absolve them of complicity…