[OPE-L:4744] Re: Re: RE: capital scarcity

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Jan 09 2001 - 06:10:11 EST

Hi Gil and all,

All too briefly:

'Scaricity' is certainly the wrong term. Probably 'capital' too.

What is necessary is that the means of production not in the 
contol of one class, such that the class is forced to do wage labour 
(also necessary is that this class *possesses* their labour-power 
such that they can sell it). This has nothing to do with 'scarcity' of 
the means of production, these means could be abundant (and are 
now, in fact) - it's just that they are not in control of a class (this is 
what Julian is getting at I think).

Gil, how do you define 'capital'? Not by 'means of production' I 
hope. Capital is self-expanding value taking the form once of 
money once of commodities. There is never 'enough' capital 
because it is measured by a *quantity* with no limit. One can 
always make more.

Sorry for brevity,

Best wishes,

On 8 Jan 2001, at 17:55, Gil Skillman wrote:

> Julian writes
> >
> >Having looked at this again, I now see what Gil was getting at -- it's the
> >scarcity of capital *in the hands of the workers* which underpins
> >capitalism. This, I think, is something we can all agree on (he said
> >provocatively).
> [See John E.'s caveat]  But capital *in the hands of capitalists* must also
> be scarce--that is, it's *logically* possible for excessive capital
> accumulation to drive the rate of surplus value to zero. [Of course Marx
> gives reasons in Ch. 25 why this wouldn't typically happen.]  
> >I don't think I'd go along with Gil, tho', in describing this as "systemic
> >scarcity". 
> I didn't.  I described capital scarcity as the *systemic basis* of
> capitalist exploitation.
> >While it's true that the scarcity -- from the workers' point of
> >view -- is a product of the system, Gil's phrasing suggests (at least to me)
> >*all-round* scarcity.  I think this echo of neo-classicism stunned me into
> overlooking the force of
> >the words I excised in my response.
> I don't know exactly what you mean by *all-round* scarcity, Julian, but let
> me anticipate.  The only reason I'm using this more general wording is to
> avoid putting words in Marx's mouth.  More specifically:  capital scarcity
> is certainly a necessary condition for the existence of surplus value, and
> scarcity implies, other things equal, that a commodity's price and value
> diverge (cf. Ricardo's discussion on the 2nd page of the chapter "On Value"
> in his _Principles..._).  These points are all I need for my Ch. 5
> critique.  It doesn't matter what the *basis* or *source* of capital
> scarcity is.
> One possibility is scarcity in the classical sense used by Smith and (more
> carefully by) Ricardo in discussing land rents:  that is, the existence of
> positive demand for more capital than currently exists.  Under this
> interpretation, surplus value corresponds to economic rent.  This is my own
> sense of what Marx had in mind, but we can't know for sure.
> A second possibility, though, is scarcity in the neoclassical sense of
> opportunity cost (a sense anticipated by Smith), meaning that capital is
> scarce because capitalists incur subjective costs of "abstinence" and/or
> "risk aversion" in initiating a circuit of capital.  I reiterate that I
> don't think this was what Marx had in mind, since he makes fun of
> "abstinence"-based theories of profit, but I can't rule it out, and the
> logical result still holds that exchange under scarcity in this sense also
> yields positive rates of profit or interest and generic price/value
> disparities for the scarce good.
> So:  I'm emphatically *not* trying to interpret Marx in neoclassical terms.
>  I'm trying to avoid the appearance of suggesting, illegitimately, that
> capitalist exploitation would not exist under neoclassical competitive
> conditions yielding only a "normal" rate of profit.    
> Gil

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