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Why economists dislike a lump of labor


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  • Tom Walker


The lump-of-labor fallacy has been called one of the “best known fallacies in economics.” It is widely cited in disparagement of policies for reducing the standard hours of work, yet the authenticity of the fallacy claim is questionable, and explanations of it are inconsistent and contradictory. This article discusses recent occurrences of the fallacy claim and investigates anomalies in the claim and its history. S.J. Chapman's coherent and formerly highly regarded theory of the hours of labor is reviewed, and it is shown how that theory could lend credence to the job-creating potentiality of shorter working time policies. It concludes that substituting a dubious fallacy claim for an authentic economic theory may have obstructed fruitful dialogue about working time and the appropriate policies for regulating it.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Review of Social Economy.

Volume (Year): 65 (2007)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 279-291

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Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:65:y:2007:i:3:p:279-291

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Keywords: lump-of-labor fallacy; hours of work; full-employment policy;


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Blog mentions

As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Fawcett: "The Regulation of the Hours of Labour by the State" (abridged) IV
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2009-08-31 20:07:00
  2. Number One!
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2009-08-02 03:22:00
  3. Only So Much Boilerplate to Go Round
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2009-07-17 02:17:00
  4. Jobless Recovery v. Working Less
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2009-07-10 18:39:00
  5. No Evidence that Business Week Economics Editor Knows What He is Talking About
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2009-07-09 15:56:00
  6. The Danger of Boilerplate
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2009-06-18 18:32:00
  7. Those Wacky Europeans!
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2009-05-08 00:03:00
  8. Bailouts and JAWBS
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2008-11-20 18:18:00
  9. Invitation to Ryan Avent for a Debate
    by Sandwichman in ecological headstand on 2011-08-25 20:21:00
  10. What's Wrong with the Case AGAINST Shorter Work? VI
    by Sandwichman in The Lump of Labor on 2011-12-16 00:50:00
  11. Megan McArdle: As the Lump Crumbles...
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2013-06-18 23:30:00
  12. Labour Markets: "A crazy explanation for what is happening to workers"
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2014-01-22 23:48:00
  13. Basic Econometrics: Robots Demand Shorter Hours!
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2014-01-29 22:52:00
  14. Tim Kane: "Overtime, rooted in the LOL fallacy"
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2014-03-20 05:27:00
  15. Whack-a-Mole Tim and the Fixed Amount of Cheese-Eating Work Fallacio
    by Sandwichman in EconoSpeak on 2014-05-30 19:05:00
Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
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Cited by:
  1. Zhang, Chuanchuan, 2012. "The relationship between elderly employment and youth employment: evidence from China," MPRA Paper 37221, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. James Banks & Richard Blundell & Antoine Bozio & Carl Emmerson, 2010. "Releasing jobs for the young? Early retirement and youth unemployment in the United Kingdom," IFS Working Papers, Institute for Fiscal Studies W10/02, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  3. Zhang, Chuanchuan & Zhao, Yaohui, 2012. "延迟退休年龄会挤出年轻人就业吗?
    [Will Postponing Retirement Crowd out Youth Employment?]
    ," MPRA Paper 52931, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Dec 2013.
  4. Zhang, Chuanchuan, 2012. "延迟退休年龄会挤出年轻人就业吗?
    [Will Postponing Retirement Crowd out Youth Employment?]
    ," MPRA Paper 49811, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Nov 2012.


This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
  1. Lump of labour fallacy in Wikipedia English ne '')
  2. Lump-of-labour-virhekäsitys in Wikipedia Finnish ne '')


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