[OPE-L:7577] RE: From Michele Naples on Gold

From: Itoh Makoto (mktitoh@kokugakuin.ac.jp)
Date: Sat Aug 31 2002 - 12:47:12 EDT

As for the special nature and process of equlaization of profit rate for the gold industry under the gold standard system, Makoto Itoh and Costas Lapavitsas, Political Economy of Money and Finance (Macmillan and St.Martin's, 1999)  tried to clarify the basic principle in relation with the balancing process of demand and supply of gold through business cycles in a section 6.3.2. It assumes that the gold industry is subject to equalization of propfit rate though in a specicial way different from other industries.

	-----Original Message----- 
	From: Rakesh Bhandari [mailto:rakeshb@stanford.edu] 
	Sent: 2002/08/30 (金) 4:21 
	To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu 
	Subject: [OPE-L:7566] From Michele Naples on Gold

	This post is from Michele Naples. rb
	It?s been interesting to read the discussion about gold, Marx?s view that it
	exchanges at value and the implications for the transformation problem.  I have
	to say at the outset, however, that I view any effort to fit Marx into a
	long-run equilibrium box as the imposition of the Walrasian method on an
	exploitation theory of the profit rate, which is not methodologically
	sound.  If
	capitalism is crisis-prone, it must be overdetermined, not determinate.  There
	are supposed to be too many variables and too few unknowns.  This does not
	violate the labor theory of value, it means capitalism is incapable of long-run
	equilibrium.  To me this is an appealing conclusion.  I frankly don?t
	why anyone would rather conclude that it?s necessary to choose between surplus
	value or values as aggregating to profits or prices, since the resultant
	Ricardian profit rate (dependent only on production conditions in basics) still
	violates Marx?s theory that economy-wide conditions were determinate.  Marx
	explicitly challenged Ricardo?s view on this in his Theories of Surplus Value.
	People may find these solutions interesting, but they are not Marx.
	That said, on gold, Fred rightly points out that Marx hung his view that gold
	exchanges at value on its lower-than-average composition of capital, and that
	it?s not clear why mining or agriculture today should necessarily have
	below-average compositions. Coal mining, for instance, has a huge
	composition of
	capital relative to the economy average, at least in price terms.  Doesn?t the
	marginal mine still earn a rent?  Given Marx?s emphasis on private property in
	the means as the basis for capturing surplus value, I would think the answer is
	yes.  [BTW, Fred, I?d think the value of a mined good is not
	determined by labor
	productivity in the marginal mine, but on the average technique employed.  It?s
	the socially necessary labor.  So it seems to me that if the
	lowest-rent mine is
	not best-practice or average-practice, it would create less than one unit of
	snal (labor-value units) per hour.]
	Rakesh is right to emphasize that the quantity of gold in existence swamps
	current production, and that this makes gold quite different from other
	commodities.  Gold, like the housing stock, is an asset, a stock far exceeding
	current flows.  But Marx was clear that today?s flow, and the associated value
	of producing gold today, determine the value of any of the gold stock.
	Rakesh also talked about the demand for gold as hedge against inflation?that?s
	not appropriate here, since it?s a short-term problem generated by monetary
	crisis, not a value question.  It has to do with the fact that gold is the
	ultimate means of payment and store of value, it does not cause its value to be
	higher or lower.  Marx argued in the Grundrisse, I think, that in times of
	crisis when the price of gold rises, the reality is that the value of goods are
	falling, since there is widespread overproduction, beyond what was socially
	necessary.  There is no change in the value of gold despite the rush to gold.
	Rakesh has suggested that gold?s value be seen as resulting from a monopoly
	(over the means of production by gold-mine owners) and therefore absolute rent
	can be interpreted as a monopoly rent. I?m concerned that this takes us down a
	slippery slope towards neoclassical modeling, diminishing returns, etc.
	What strikes me is that is that farm and mine products are what we now commonly
	call raw materials or primary products.  They are not produced with other
	inputs, they are extracted from the earth.  Just as joint products are not the
	same as capital goods that have not been fully depreciated (the Ricardian
	treatment of fixed capital), farm and mine product are not the same as produced
	means of production, they are extracted.  So then logically they
	should be dealt
	with differently from produced intermediate goods.  I don?t think we need to
	make the case in terms of the organic composition of capital in those sectors,
	as Marx did. The point is the crucial, irreplaceable role that the land
	component plays in their availability, and the power this gives those mine- and
	landowners to charge rent. From this perspective, even if coal mining has an
	above-average organic composition of capital, and therefore coal operators
	should earn surplus value above what is produced in coal, in addition those
	operators should keep the surplus value their land-holding permits them to lay
	claim to.  Then the value of coal and surplus value created in
	coal-mining would
	set the rent on coal mines, and the organic composition of capital in
	coal would
	determine how much additional surplus value would be allocated to
	coal operators
	from other sectors.  From this perspective all of the profit over and
	above rent
	that coal operators get is surplus value created in other sectors.
	Thing is, I don?t see that this insight does anything to substantially modify
	the standard equilibrium solution to the transformation problem.  The value of
	the m gold and other mine or farm products is known before the profit rate is
	known, and their surplus values do not get redistributed through the pricing
	mechanism.  Nevertheless the n-m other sectors earn only the uniform
	profit rate
	based on the redistributing surplus value, determined by the surplus value in
	the b-m basic sectors that is allocated subject to profit-rate equalization,
	assuming that no mine or farm product isn?t basic, although a few may
	be.  [Even
	diamonds have industrial uses, but perhaps asparagus and endive are only
	luxuries.] This is still a profit rate that does not depend on production
	conditions in non-basics, and as such it is a Ricardian but not
	Marxian solution
	to the transformation problem.
	Thanks for including me in the discussion.  I?ll be interested to hear others?
	- Michele

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