You Do Not Own Your Labor
“This line of argument is confused because of an over-reliance on vague metaphor. We have to stop thinking of contract as binding promises or obligations. We have to think of it, as Evers and Rothbard argue, as transfers of title to owned resources. And we have to recognize that these owned resources are only scarce, physical goods—not “labor.” You do not own your labor. You own your body. That gives you the right to perform actions (labor), but you do not own your actions. If I perform an action that you like, and pay me for, you do not own my action. You do not even “receive” my action. You simply prefer that I engage in it, for a variety of reasons.
In other words a labor contract may be viewed as an exchange only economically, but not legally. Economically, the employer gives up title to money, in “exchange” for you performing some action. But legally, it’s not an exchange at all, it’s just a one-way transfer of title: a conditional transfer of future title to future money, conditioned on the occurrence of a certain event happening (namely: that the “employee” does a certain action). That is, if you mow my lawn, then title to this gold coin transfers to you. Again, the transfer of title in this case is both expressly conditional and future-oriented. Title to the coin transfers only if the lawn is mowed, and I still own the coin.
The performance of the action triggers the transfer of money from the employer, but the action is not literally “sold” because the employee did not “own” his labor, and the employer does not own it after it is performed. We have to stop thinking sloppily and overusing metaphors.”
— Stephan Kinsella, A Libertarian Theory of Contract
One caveat I would add is that employers pay you to perform an action and this is a one way transfer but they do so with the expectation that your performance will result in a 3rd party transferring them some sort of payment, and usually greater than the original payment for your action.
If that second transfer isn’t possible or relied on or there is no expectation of a reciprocating action/reaction then most, if not all, employers would not initiate the initial action of transferring payment to you in the first place.
The secondary action can even be a negative. For example if you pay someone to stand guard as security on your property, your expected reciprocation from 3rd parties is that they will NOT bother you or enter your property.
You’re therefore paying for an action and expecting non-action in return.