How Labor Hours can add up to Value

Someone once said the value of a product was linked to the number of labor hours that went into its production. But then a whole bunch of people said no, no, no that’s not how it works. Can both views be correct under differing circumstances?

There are circumstances where a certain number of work hours are needed to pull off an event. Years ago the Junior League of Minneapolis opened up a showcase house in a tony area of the city for an annual fundraiser. A friend was involved so she’d recruit a bunch of college friends to help fill the volunteer shifts needed to support the three-day event. Tickets were sold to the public. The public got to traipse through a well-appointed property and imagine what it would be like to live there.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that builds homes for people who otherwise couldn’t afford them. It was founded in the mid-70s and brought along by former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn. Volunteers at all levels of the trades donate their labor to the project. A slew of community members also pitch-in and paint or doo site clean-up. The soon-to-be homeowners are also expected to build sweat equity. This contribution isn’t measured by their skill level or their education level but by a set number of hours.

The various branches of the US Armed forces will finance a young person’s college education. There are the academies of course like West Point and Annapolis. But there is also an ROTC program where you matriculate at one of the many colleges across the country where the program is offered. In exchange, the graduate commits to several years of employment with the military. The repayment does not depend on the specific rank or ability of the serviceman. It simply is paid in time.

It seems that in creating value for community endeavors, people simply need to show up. In these circumstances, whether the participants are paid as an attorney or a painter in the private market, the work they do in this sphere is not priced out that way. A positive outcome, or the capacity for a successful project, is based on the reliability of the number of hours that can be filled. So maybe there’s some truth to both philosophies after all.