[OPE-L:5626] does re-switching actually occur?

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Sat May 19 2001 - 08:38:14 EDT

In [5618] Paul C wrote:

> Whilst the possibility of reverse reswitching is
> logically correct given  the assumptions about 
> equal returns to capital in  different branches,
> it is still a matter of interest to determine whether 
> it actually occurs.

I think that there are instances where the
"less advanced" older technique is swiched back
to in preference to the "more advanced" technique.

One such example is in the news in the US:
President Bush (boo! hiss!) has proposed that
as a partial solution to the California energy
shortages that wood chips be used as a source
of energy.   Wouldn't that be re-switching?
(it would also be an environmental disaster for
the nation's forests.)

Consider the switch away from nuclear power
caused by a variety of factors (safety issues,
downtime, cost-overruns, protests) back to older
technologies such as electrical generation via
fossil fuels like coal. Wasn't that an empirical
example of re-switching?

With the failure of the "Green Revolution" in
many parts of the world, there was a switch
back to older technologies in preference to the
newer "more advanced", more "scientific"
agricultural techniques.  (this was a good
example of how supposed technological advances
under capitalism can give rise to "externalities"
and, in this case, unanticipated ecological

In some sections of Chesapeake Bay, motorized
craft were not allowed to be used in the
oyster-harvesting industry and sail (or oar)
power was mandated. (this was caused by
state action but if certain types of energy costs
go up high enough in the future in other areas, then
sail could again be a viable commercial option.)

There are some examples in the U.S. of supposed
advances in military technology which were
deployed and later abandoned in preference to
older, simpler military technologies.

Do you remember the electric toothbrush? ...
the electric carving knife?

For some 'health food' products there has been a
move away from the use of newer, more
advanced technologies (e.g. pesticides). Older,
herbal treatments are often increasingly used in
health care in preference to the more advanced
"modern" prescription medications. (in this case,
there may be a shift back to re-capture the
technologies employed thousands of years ago
in certain cultures!)

None of this, of course, has to do with the 70's "capital controversy"
between the two
Cambridges.  On this point, Ajit is most
assuredly correct. And he is correct that no
amount of empirical evidence can rescue the
neo-neo-classical theory from its logical
failings.  Yet -- stripped of the particular context
of that debate -- I think it is pretty clear that
're-switching' can and does occur. How
important it is as an empirical matter is another
question. My suspicion is that from an overall,
aggregate perspective, examples of re-switching
are not of great empirical significance. However,
I think that there are examples that have
significance in individual branches of production,
sectors, regions, and even individual national

In solidarity, Jerry

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