During his experiment in Cincinnati Warren distinguished different types of labour:

Adjustments were made for the difficulty and disagreeableness of the work performed, so that time was not the only factor taken into consideration. Warren also set up boards on the wall where individuals could post what kind of services they were seeking or had to sell so that others could respond, and trade among each other using labor notes.

From what I understood about Cincinnati Time Store, it was left up individual judgment of for example how many hours of a skilled labourer A should exchange for how many hours of unskilled labourer B.

Though the store was successful, the problem of equal labor times for different difficulties of work was a concern for Warren. He was never able to reconcile the objectivity of his "labor for labor" prescription — treating all labor as essentially fungible goods — with the subjectivity employed in determining how much time used for one type labor entailed the same amount of work exerted during a different amount of time performing another type of labor. He settled to simply credit it with being a matter of individual judgment.

Given the described reason for its failure, was it also the case in Modern Times?

Wunderlich further says that, even before 1857, more of the skilled workers of Modern Times "were beginning to be disinclined to trade their skills at par without financial gain", and so worked outside Modern Times.

Was it up to individual judgement to trade not at par different labour notes in Modern Times? If trading labour not at par took place in Modern Times, was such exchange more frequent in private settings as oppposed to public square of some sort?

  • The 1820s are not "modern times" but the 1850s are? Also, I'm struggling to see how this is a politics post and not an economics post.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 20:39
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    @ohwilleke Modern Times is the name of the town and the anarchist community in thereof.
    – John Smith
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 6:56
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    Anarcho capitalism had come much later and that isn't seems to be geared towards a labor theory of value approach way prior to that and likely not even in the actual school of thought. Depending on what "libertarianism" applies to a similar logic can be applied, though that term is generally more fuzzy anyway.
    – haxor789
    Commented Mar 26 at 15:10
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    I'm voting to close this because it's a Q about the details of something that happened in the 19th century. Q belongs on History SX. (Also, I'm failing to see what this has to do with the 'libertarianism' tag--not having a currency I guess, although the printed labor notes/debts are essentially one. FWTW, Wikipedia puts the broader en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_voucher under the rubric of socialism, even if that's somewhat debatable too. Anyhow it claims that "The system has also been criticized by many libertarian socialists, particularly anarcho-communists.") Commented Mar 27 at 20:49
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    For the more modern conceptualization en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time-based_currency Commented Mar 27 at 20:54

1 Answer 1


From what I get from your sources, the exchange of labor was hour of work for hour of work with slight adjustments for how hard that job was.

His problem was rather the comparison of work and labor time. So is doing x hours of work doing A really the same as doing x hours of work doing B. Like the concept of fungible work tokens implies as such, but having to make adjustments for hard labor implies that reconciling the subjective nature of determining how hard a work is with the objective nature of treating work as work was work ... so as a fungible token, didn't perfectly match. So he left it to the individual were they liked to work.

Though that didn't stop him from seeing his Time Store as a success, closing it down and moving to Modern Times was according to Wikipedia less of an admission of failure, but rather an attempt to franchise his philosophy and try it on a different scale in a community that on top of that business model also applied other anarchist ideas.

Though that had some problems. On the one hand they were apparently unable to produce their necessities within their community so they had to work outside and engage in regular employment with the outside world. Newcomers often weren't on board with the philosophy and rather lived there but worked elsewhere. Likely because the basket of goods that they could exchange their work for was bigger thus they could earn "more" with their work and lastly because of the civil war. Apparently they had philosophical crises as to whether they should support a government, an above average amount of people did it anyway, likely leaving them with even fewer people, resources and unfulfilled labor vouchers decreasing the trust in that currency even further.

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