Every commodity has its peculiarities. However, to the extent that labour is a commodity, its characteristics are arguably, in a league of their own. At the Constitutional Convention of 1878 Benjamin Franklin pinned down the essence of these peculiarities, with reference to slave labour, with the quip: 'Other cargoes do not rebel'. (1) He could have added that other cargoes may leak, radiate, explode or simply entail significant logistical challenges relating to their transport, transfer and use. They may be troublesome, but they never rebel against their owner. The emergence of capitalism represented a great change in labour relations. Successive waves of commodification emancipated bonded labour and turned societies that featured some markets (including markets for slaves) into fully fledged market societies. Vibrant markets for the labour services of free men and women underpinned exponential economic growth. The labour contract had arrived and humanity's productive capacities were enhanced immeasurably. And yet it is questionable whether feudalism's receding tide left behind a labour market which works, even approximately, like other markets. Whether the market for labour actually is a market, and whether it works like the market for coal, are questions that have found their way into the policy domain, notable in view of the ILO's pronouncement (1919) that labour is not a commodity.