Lump of labour fallacy

misconception in economics about allocation of work

In economics, the lump of labour fallacy (or lump of jobs fallacy, fallacy of labour scarcity, or the zero-sum fallacy, from its ties to the zero-sum game) is the contention that the amount of work available to labourers is fixed. It is considered a fallacy by most economists, who hold that the amount of work is not static, although the history of the claim contains inconsistencies and anomalies.


  • The spread-the-work schemes, in brief, rest on the same sort of illusion that we have been considering. The people who support such schemes think only of the employment they would provide for particular persons or groups; they do not stop to consider what their whole effect would be on everybody.
    The spread-the-work schemes rest also, as we began by pointing out, on the false assumption that there is just a fixed amount of work to be done. There could be no greater fallacy. There is no limit to the amount of work to be done as long as any human need or wish that work could fill remains unsatisfied. In a modern exchange economy, the most work will be done when prices, costs, and wages are in the best relations to each other.
    • Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson (1946), Ch. 8. Spread-the-Work Schemes.
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