[OPE-L:3500] Re: valuation of imports

From: Jerry Levy (jerry_levy@usa.net)
Date: Wed Jun 14 2000 - 13:02:57 EDT

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Re Paul C's [OPE-L:3496]:

Issues discussed below include:
  I. Regional trade associations (customs unions)
     a) states and nation-states
     b) the free mobility of labor
  II. Socially-necessary-labor-time

I. Regional trade associations

> The problem with nafta is that it is not a currency union.

True, but one can have a customs union without a currency union.

> Does the US constitute a single nation state?


> I thought that it was a federation of such states?

The "states" in the US never had the characteristic of being independent
nation-states -- with the exception of Texas, otherwise known as "occupied
Mexico". It is important to remember that what became the founding 13 states
were not nation-states but were rather *colonies*.

It is true that the "states" have *some* level of autonomy, but they are not
part of a "federation" of sovereign states. Indeed, the Civil War settled
decisively whether the "states" had the authority to secede from "the Union".
Thus, rather than being a federation, the US is a *republic*.

> The point is that from the standpoint of the US economy, US workers are
> universal robots, who can be applied to the production of
> any combination of goods and services within the production
> possibility frontier.

a) I strongly object to the idea that we can comprehend the macro-dynamics of
capitalism using production possibilities curve analysis.
Of particular note in this context is the assumption that there is some form
of centralized decision-making regarding the use of productive resources
within a capitalist economy rather than these decisions being made in a more
de-centralized manner by many thousands of capitalist firms.

b) As you go on to note, there are significant skill differences in the
working population. Yet, this is inconsistent with the notion that workers are
"universal robots".

c) To conceive of workers as "universal robots" is inconsistent with regarding
them as citizens. It is also inconsistent with viewing the capacity to
*resist* as fundamental to the working class.

> If Mexican
> domiciled workers are not in the same situation. Their ability of to
> substitute for US workers, whilst substantial is not complete. There > > are
differences in
> skill, but more importantly imigration barriers prevent them from being
> able to freely for US labour substitute in service activities.
> This distinction does not exist within the Euro zone where there is a
> currency union, a customs union and free labour mobility.

But is the free mobility of labor a requirement or a *contingency*? It is
important to note that there have been *immigration barriers _within_
(capitalist) countries*. For instance, there were Ghettos in some European
capitalist nations for Jews. Hardly free mobility of labor! Similarly, there
is the experience of the South Africa-like pass system.
These restrictions on the mobility of labor (done for reasons of
racism/discrimination or to limit rural to urban internal migration) did not
mean that these nations were no longer sovereign (and capitalist)
nation-states. This suggests contingency rather than necessity re the free
mobility of labor.

II. Socially-necessary-labor-time (SNLT)

> On the secondary question of whether some public sector labour
> constitutes socially necessary labour time, in my opinion it
> definitely does, one should include labour required to produce and
> maintain roads for example as
> part of the socially necessary labour time. In practice there are
> difficulties in separating things out exactly due to the level of
> granularity of the i/o tables, but in principle the fact that labour is >
employed by the public
> rather than the private sector is imaterial as to whether it is
> socially necessary.

Well, I agree that the roads are necessary from a social perspective. Does
this mean, though, that the labor time spent on their construction necessarily
counts as SNLT?

My answer to that question is "no". That is because I think that the concept
of SNLT in _Capital_ is a specific *form* that value-creating labor takes
*under capitalism*. I.e. I think that SNLT is a concept specific to
comprehending capitalism and is distinct from a trans-historical understanding
of what is socially necessary.

In particular, the context of the meaning of SNLT is in relationship to the
categories of *commodity* and *value*. Thus, these categories are married to
each other and can not be separated. But we disagree on these points as
previous exchanges have shown.

In solidarity, Jerry

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