Labour voucher

Labour vouchers (also known as labour cheques, labour certificates, and personal credit) are a device proposed to govern for goods in some models of , unlike does under .



Unlike money, vouchers cannot circulate and are not transferable between people. They are also not exchangeable for any hence they are not transmutable into Capital. Once a purchase is made the labour vouchers are either destroyed or must be re-earned through labour. Therefore, with such a system in place, monetary would become impossible.

Such a system is proposed by many as a replacement for traditional money while retaining a system of remuneration for work done. It is also a way of ensuring that there is no way to ‘make money out of money’ as in a capitalist .

Additionally, the only kind of that could exist in an economy operating through the use of labour vouchers would be an (arket) for mostly non-productive goods and services; as with the dissolution of money, capital markets could no longer exist and labour markets would also likely cease to exist with the abolition of which would by necessity occur with the adoption of vouchers.

Author and activist and economist have proposed a similar system of remuneration in their economic system of (parecon). A difference is that in parecon “credits” are generally awarded based on both the time spent working and the amount of effort and sacrifice spent during labour, rather than simple contribution. Some later advocates of and parecon have also proposed awarding more based on job difficulty or danger. Also, in contrast to the physical note or cheque format used for labour vouchers in the past, parecon credits are proposed as being entirely digital in keeping with advances with technology and are stored in electronic accounts and usable through cards similar to current day debit cards.


Labour vouchers were first proposed in the 1820s by and . Two early attempts at implementing labour vouchers (called labour notes at the time by their proponents) were made by both following their experiences attempting to establish a utopian community at , in which currency was prohibited.

In 1827, established the where goods could be purchased with labor vouchers representing an agreement to perform labor. He folded the store in 1830 in order to devote his effort to establishing communities that implemented his principles of labour-based prices.

Beginning in 1832, and his followers attempted to implement labour notes in London and Glasgow by establishing marketplaces and banks that accepted them.

The followers of Robert Owen stood for a society of co-operative communities. Each community would own its own means of production and each member of a community would work to produce what had been agreed was needed and in return would be issued with a labour voucher certifying for how many hours he or she had worked; a person could then use this labour voucher to obtain from the community’s stock of consumer goods any product or products which had taken the same number of hours to produce.

Owen believed that this co-operative commonwealth could begin to be introduced under capitalism and in the first half of the 1830s some of his followers established “labour bazaars” on a similar principle: workers brought the products of their labour to the bazaar and received in exchange a labour voucher which entitled them to take from the bazaar any item or items which had taken the same time to produce, after taking into account the costs of the raw materials. These bazaars were ultimately failures but the idea of labour vouchers appeared in substantially similar forms in France in the writings of .

Although he disagreed with the manner in which they were implemented by Owen, they were later advocated by in 1875 as a way of dealing with any immediate and temporary shortages upon the establishment of socialism. Marx explained that this would be necessary since socialism emerges from capitalism and would be “stamped with its birthmarks”. In Marx’s proposal, early socialist society would reward its citizens according to .

Marx was adamant in saying that labour vouchers were not a form of money as they cannot circulate—a problem he pointed out with Owen’s system of labour-time notes.

During the , European communities implemented local currencies with varying success. The aptly-named economist Sir Leo Chiozza Money advocated for a similar monetary scheme in his 1934 book Product Money (Methuen) with notes or certificates being issued for productive work and destroyed once exchanged for consumption goods. More modern implementations as were implemented in the United States starting in the 1970s.

Systems that advocate labour vouchers

The following political and economic systems propose the adoption of labour vouchers (in some form or another) either permanently or as a temporary means of remuneration during a transitional stage between a monetary economy and a completely moneyless economy based on free association.

is unique in proposing two kinds of vouchers. Basic vouchers (BVs) issued to each citizen according to need; are used for essential goods and services such as health care. And non-basic vouchers (NBVs) awarded to each worker for labor contributed are used to pay for non-essential commercial goods and services.


Capitalists—whether , , or —generally oppose labour vouchers as they are not money and thus claim an economy using them could not set prices according to and would theoretically have to rely on the , which adherents of the generally see as inflexible and restricting economic freedom of choice for the consumer. Some proposed systems which advocate labour vouchers, namely participism, reject the labour theory of value.

The system has also been criticized by many , particularly , who propose abolishing all remuneration and prices and advocate instead a with value determined by . , in criticizing retaining of labour vouchers and cheques, said: <blockquote> “for after having proclaimed the abolition of private property, and the possession in common of all means of production, how can they uphold the wages system in any form? It is, nevertheless, what collectivists are doing when they recommend labour-cheques.” </blockquote>

The has argued against using labour vouchers as either a permanent or a temporary system while transitioning to their desired economy based on free access. They claim that seeing as most of the occupations that currently exist under capitalism will no longer exist, would no longer be an issue. They also state that: <blockquote> Labour vouchers would tend to maintain the idea that our human worth is determined by how much or how many goods we can own (or produce). Labour vouchers imply that someone must police who takes the goods produced by society. In other words there must be people who spend their time ensuring that other people do not take things without paying for them. That is normal in a profit oriented society, but a waste of human labour in socialism. </blockquote>

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