[OPE-L:3352] Re: Re: objectivity of value

From: Michael Perelman (michael@ecst.csuchico.edu)
Date: Thu May 25 2000 - 15:38:58 EDT

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Dear Patrick,

I hold your work on race in highest regard. I'm not arguing against doing
empirical work nor would I argue for abandoning the terrain to the likes of Thomas

I'm arguing against the treatment of value theory is something that can be
precisely measured. To say that does not mean that one cannot make some empirical
questions. Recall how marks tried to make estimates of the rate of exploitation
under different circumstances.

I do not think that treating value theory as being largely qualitative turns
Marx's his work in gibberish. Marx was very interested in revolution, but that
does not mean that precise measurements of value parties are necessary or
sufficient to transform society.

"Patrick L. Mason" wrote:

> Mike:
> I would still argue that it is a very strong statement to say "any
> empirical calculations are more of the "back of the envelope" variety." The
> quality of empirical work depends on:
> 1. the quality of theory underlying the empirical work,
> 2. the availability and quality of the data,
> 3. the availability and quality of statistical procedures, software, and
> computers, and
> 4. the imagination and ability of the analyst.
> When all four of these factors are solid, the empirical work is solid, that
> is to say, it is something more than a "back-of-the-envelop" calculation.
> Consider Thomas Sowell's work on race and labor market outcomes. Sowell is
> a strictly "back-of-the-envelop" economists. None of his work ever uses
> anything more sophisticated than descriptive statistics. He argues that
> since African American immigrants from the Caribbean earn at or near the
> national average and that since Asians earn at or near the national
> average, there is no racial discrimination in the labor market. Of course,
> he believes this regardless of the data. But, that's beside the point. His
> back-of-the-envelope analysis is also deeply flawed. Using the same
> descriptive statistics, a better theorists would simply say that the
> distribution of income is "mediated" (to use Alfredo's language) by
> geographical location. Those who live on the coasts of the US face greater
> price levels than those who do not. Hence, the average level of income for
> residents of New York, Boston, LA, Hawaii, etc are higher regardless of
> race. Caribbean and Asian immigrants are bi-coastal residents in the US, or
> they tend to live in cities such as Chicago (which also has a very high
> cost of living). Hence, the correct comparison is between the incomes of
> Caribbean and Asian immigrants and the average income of the populations in
> the cities where they reside, rather than for the average for all of the US.
> The point here is that measurement matters. Some measurement is better than
> others. All measurement has some flaws. Indeed, all theory has flaws. So,
> if we say that all empirical work is strictly "back-of-the-envelop" because
> it has flaws then we must make the same statement about high theory.
> Economic measurement is linked to economic theory.
> peace, patrick
> At 08:36 AM 5/25/00 -0700, you wrote:
> >I did not want to give the impression that all empirical research is a
> waste of
> >time. I only intended to say that the pretension of precision is foolish. I
> >tried to explain -- perhaps not very well -- that we do better to realize
> that
> >any empirical calculations are more of the "back of the envelope" variety.
> >
> >
> >"Patrick L. Mason" wrote:
> >
> >>
> >> But, your point is fundamentally different from Mike and others. They are
> >> arguing that any type of empirical analysis is a waste of time. You are
> >> simply saying that there are some theoretical problems with the
> >> Neo-Ricardian approach to values and prices.
> >
> >I was also making the anti-neo-Ricardian poing.
> >--
> >Michael Perelman
> >Economics Department
> >California State University
> >Chico, CA 95929
> >
> >Tel. 530-898-5321
> >E-Mail michael@ecst.csuchico.edu
> >
> >


Michael Perelman Economics Department California State University michael@ecst.csuchico.edu Chico, CA 95929 530-898-5321 fax 530-898-5901

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