Re: (OPE-L) [Jurriaan on] Unproductive consumption

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Fri Apr 30 2004 - 00:13:34 EDT

At 17:13 29/04/2004, Paulo wrote:

>Does this mean that wages were generally above the value of labor power so
>that state taxes scoop off the excess and redistributes them in favor of the
>capitalist class? Or is it that in the end this redistribution ends up
>diminishing wages below the value of the labor power?
>For the workers to get the value of labor power any taxation on them implies
>that their money wages should be higher the the VLP, otherwise they are not
>able to buy what they need as workers. This means that any taxation on
>workers either comes from surplus value or is levied on them in detriment of
>their normal consumption level.

In the new chapter. "Wages' of the revised edition of Beyond Capital, I
address this question as follows:

>             Thus, rather than determined as the wage that maintains a
> constant labouring population for capital, the value of labour-power is
> the result of capitalist and worker pressing in opposite directions. In
> the struggle over distribution, the respective power of the combatants is
> key in determining what can be maintained as the standard of necessity
> for workers. For example, the growth of monopoly in an economy may lead
> to rising prices facing workers and, all other things equal, to a fall in
> real wages. In Volume III of Capital, Marx points out that that a
> monopoly price may simply transfer profit from one capitalist to
> another--- i.e., it may generate merely a 'local disturbance in the
> distribution of surplus-value among the various spheres of production'.
> But this is only one case:
>If the commodity with the monopoly price is part of the workers' necessary
>consumption, it increases wages and thereby reduces surplus-value, as long
>as the workers continue to receive their value of labour-power. It could
>press wages down below the value of labour-power, but only if they
>previously stood above the physical minimum. In this case, the monopoly
>price is paid by deduction from real wages (Marx, 1981b: 1001).
>So, two possibilities--- workers bear the burden of monopoly if they
>cannot prevent wages from being driven downward or they succeed in
>shifting the burden of the monopoly price to other capitalists through
>increased money wages. Once we treat the standard of necessity as
>variable, then the ultimate impact of monopoly depends upon class struggle.
>             Similarly, consider the case of an increase in taxes upon
> commodities purchased by workers. In Marx's notes on 'Wages' from his
> 1847 lectures, Marx identified the growth of taxes as a factor 'bringing
> about the really lowest level of the minimum' wage. The worker, Marx
> commented, 'is harmed by the introduction of any new tax so long as the
> minimum has not yet fallen to its lowest possible expression' (Marx,
> 1847b: 425). If we assume, indeed, that the standard of necessity is
> given and fixed (whether it is at its lowest possible level or not), then
> the burden of any increase in the prices of means of subsistence will
> necessarily be shifted upward; in the absence of that assumption,
> however, the precise incidence of a monopoly price or growth of taxes
> depends upon the respective power of the combatants.

         in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at

Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun May 02 2004 - 00:00:02 EDT