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C. Personal Consumer Service
A particularly important category of laborer-entrepreneurs is that of the sellers of personal services to consumers. These laborers are generally capitalists as well. The sellers of such services—doctors, lawyers, concert artists, servants, etc.—are self-employed businessmen, who, in addition to interest on whatever capital they have invested, earn an implicit “managerial” wage for their labor.52,53 Thus, they earn a peculiar type of income: a business return consisting almost exclusively of labor income. We may call this type of work direct labor, since it is labor that serves directly as a consumers’ good rather than hired as a factor of production. And since it is a consumers’ good, this labor service is priced directly on the market.
The determination of the prices of these goods will be similar on the demand side to that of any consumers’ good. Consumers evaluate marginal units of the service on their value scales and decide how much, if any, to purchase. There is a difference, however, on the supply side. The market-supply curves for most consumers’ goods are vertical straight lines, since the sale of the product, once produced, is costless to the entrepreneur. He has no alternative use for it. The case of personal service, however, is different. In the first place, leisure is a definite alternative to work. In the second place, as a result of the connexity of the labor market, the worker can shift to a higher-paying occupation further up on the structure of production if his income in this occupation is unsatisfactory. As a result, for this type of consumers’ good, the supply curve is likely to be a rather flat, forward-sloping one.
The seller of the service, or the direct laborer, earns, as do all factors, his DMVP to the consumer. He will allocate his labor to whatever branch, whether high or low in the structure of production, where his DMVP will be the highest, and where, as a consequence, his wage rate will be the greatest. The principles of allocation, then, between direct labor and indirect labor in production are the same as those among the various branches of indirect productive use.
- 52. Since the scope of their business property and decisions is relatively negligible compared to their labor services, we may neglect their decision rents here.
- 53. It is a managerial wage, even though the only employee may be the owner himself. It may seem strange to classify a domestic servant as “self-employed,” but actually he is no different from a doctor or a lawyer to the extent that the latter sells his services to consumers rather than to capitalists.