Re: [OPE-L] (OPE-L) recent references on 'problem' of money commodity?

From: Paul Bullock (paulbullock@EBMS-LTD.CO.UK)
Date: Wed Dec 01 2004 - 18:21:02 EST

Paul,  with refrence to the last section of our exchange below , and the separate note you posted later re conspiracy theory,

there is indeed a lot of rubbish  talked about gold. BUT it is an historical fact that the gold producers in SA created an oligopsony ( buyers) to hold down the price of labour and machinery purchased for the mines. They got at each other very sharply if one offered better wages.... This simply strengthens the points  I  made. Gold is produced as the money commodity whatever the state of play of capiotalist development. Gold will periodically be placed far in the back  ground, as it has been for 30 years, but as inter-imperialist rivalries come to the fore then  gold reaserts is attraction as the store of value, the nearest to an 'absolute' in the relativistic world of commodities. This will be especially true as we see what happens to the dollar...

This is of course completely different from diamonds  ( the oppenheimer ref was tooo cryptic)  where there had to be a restriction on the sale since diamonds are relatively  easy to obtain.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Paul Cockshott 
  Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2004 4:37 PM
  Subject: Re: [OPE-L] (OPE-L) recent references on 'problem' of money commodity?

   Paul C  - the red is Paul B 
    One almost does not know where to start with this teleology. 
    What is the status of this 'need' which is taken to govern the labour content of gold?
    The 'need' of the capitalist to extort the maximum surplus labour from any amount of fresh labour added, is characterisic of all capitalist the case of the money commodity the total value added is  vital since this presents the gold owner with the capacity to exchange it with more products, and so 'enrich' themselves with more use values.
     "the need to compress as much human labour as possible into each ounce"
    Since when have 'needs' been casually effective for science?( Well this question might 
    take us back to the question of 'social science'  versus 'natural science', 
    are you proposing that there is no difference?) 
    Yes in this respect I am. The great thing about Marx and Darwin as
    scientists is that in their epistemological break with pre-existing ideologies
    they dispense with teleological and subjective causes. These are
    replaced with objective causes - what Marx called Laws of Motion.
    This was a direct appeal to the mode of causality of physics.
    The high labour content required to produce gold does not stem from any
    kind of need but from its high atomic weight, this means that relatively little
    of it is produced in supernova. These supernova occurring more than 4 billion years
    ago were hardly influenced by any supposed needs of the capitalist system.

    But this contradicts your point below that more technology could/would be applied 
    and so, (I assume that is the aim), gold could be extracted more easily, more cheaply.
    Why would the 'manager', I guess you mean the owners, want to exchange
    an ounce of gold for fewer other goods?
        Applying equally modern mining technology to copper and gold will never bring
    the price of gold down to that of copper. The solar system abundance of copper
    is about 2000 times as great as that of gold, so copper mines will always
    yield a higher output to the same amount of  labour assuming equally modern
    mining technology.
    Then we hear that gold is not in competition with any other commodity for
    its role as money. Gold here becomes a social subject engaging in competition.
    (???? Your second sentence stands in direct contradiction to the first...
     I clearly said NOT, and you repeated the word... it does not today compete in practice,
     although other metals have had to be displaced in the history of the money commodity. 
    Why would the value of gold be brought down intentionally by its possessor?  
    This is simply the same contradiction between individual capitalists and
    capitalists in an industry as a whole. The same argument could be brought
    forward against cotton yarn production - why would a master spinner want to
    cheapen yarn. We know the answer to this.
    The value of all other products is reduced because the business man tries to compete 
    better for the market. Gold producers have always struggled to form a global 
    monopoly of gold supply to prevent such a disaster for them )
    Competition may occur between capitalist firms to secure larger shares of 
    a market, it does not occur between chemical elements.
    ( Dear Paul C, blustering accusations of 'teleology' cannot conceal the fact that you are here
     simply being silly! one might as well say that since margerine contains chemical elements
     no competition occurs between its producers))
     Now given that multiple firms are engaged in gold production they have the same incentive
    as any other to reduce their labour costs.
    ( Any other gold producer, or any other non money commodity producer?)  
    What I am saying is that gold is no different from any other commodity.
    Prices are brought down by competition between producers within an
    industry rather than by competition between distinct products. The 
    products don't compete it is the firms that compete 

    Indeed even a monopoly producer of gold would have an incentive to 
    reduce labour input to production. The manager of a gold mine does 
    not say - never mind about cost cutting and reducing employment 
    since 'gold is not in competition with silver'.No he will try and reduce 
    the number of workers employed to do a task just like the manager 
    of a copper mine, or a tin mine would.
    Why this comparison? Tin is regarded as a laughable and unacceptable substitute for gold as money, 
    and copper has at best served as small , light weight , change. We are talking 
    about THE money commodity, against which all other commodities must measure up, 
    compare themselves, whatever the practical inventiveness of bankers and 
    governments to overcome its many inconveniences on a daily basis. 
    The point is that gold is a mined metal like copper and tin. Its value
    is determined in exactly the same way - by the labour required to 
    produce it. The fact that gold was once used for high denomination
    coin and copper for low denomination is of no particular relevance
    in looking at the process of technical advance in the mining industry.

    The high value of gold relative to copper is simply a product of their
    comparative abundances.

    should I debase the currency by clipping hours from its production!! You don't
    seem to understand the differentia specifica  of the golden commodity. The 
    gold mining  capitalist will  extend the working day, intensify labour and pay
    as little as possible in wages.  His cost cutting is indeed enthusiastically carried 
    out as long as it is the life force of the worker that is reduced, absorbed recklessly into the product, 
    but Mr Oppenheimer and his gang  will  not willingly to dilute the labour content of the product itself.  

    Paul C
    In that case are you arguing that gold production internationally is currently
    and has long been governed by a cartel analogous to that of de Beers for diamonds?

    I have never seen such an allegation before. Do you have historical evidence for this?
    You seem to be implying that gold mines will refrain from employing any technology
    that increases the amount of gold that they can produce with a given amount of
    labour. Do you have any evidence to back this up?
    Are there books detailing the refusal of gold mining companies to use modern
    mining machinery?

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Dec 05 2004 - 00:00:01 EST