The Myth of the Parasitic Middleman:
“Productive” and “Unproductive” Labor
Parasite, leech, vampire, symbol of unproductiveness and irresponsibility—these are familiar terms for that classic modern villain: the middleman. How often have we heard him thrust into the social darkness in company with the whole rogues’ gallery of liberalism’s enemies! Yet his case deserves review and reappraisal. He should be judged before being condemned.
The charge is well known: the middleman is nothing but a go-between. He is a trader who does not produce anything. He buys goods from the producer and sells them to the consumer at a profit; he is therefore an excrescence on the body economic, the profiteer, the “exploiter” par excellence.
The charge rests on a distinction between the “productiveness” of work and the “unproductiveness” of trade. But on what is this distinction based—apart from confused thinking?
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