Re: [OPE-L] The Law of Value and Rib Tips

From: Philip Dunn (pscumnud@DIRCON.CO.UK)
Date: Wed Feb 09 2005 - 18:57:56 EST

Quoting Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM:

> > Ah Hah! A *joint* production problem.
> Hi Phil:
> Now why didn't I think of that pun?   Pun aside -- I think it is
> (in part) a joint production problem.
> One part of the answer might be to consider it a case of joint
> production where with the same means of production and labour
> power a variety of commodities can be produced.  Thus, when
> the pig is slaughtered there are a wide variety of commodities
> produced both as means of consumption for humans, food for
> other animals, fertilizer, and perhaps even cosmetics (who
> knows what else? -- I'm not sure).  In such an instance, one
> might content that all of these commodities *together* tend
> on average  to sell at their value but that some of these
> commodities are  sold either above or below their value.  (Yes,
> I realize this doesn't fit in well with your perspective.)
> I don't view this, though, as a sufficient answer to the "Paradox
> of Rib Tips".
> That's because the answer also has to take into account the
> special nature of demand for ribs and rib tips in which it is
> customary at (certain kinds of) barbeques to serve both ribs
> and rib tips.  In that case, one should look at the BBQ
> (rather than the earlier activity of slaughtering)  as the specific
> production process in which these two commodities are
> produced.  Again it could be the case that one of these
> commodities (ribs) tends to be sold above its value and the
> other commodity (tips) tends to be sold below its value.
> Yet, one could easily see how this relationship could change
> with a change in *consumer preferences*.  Thus, if more
> consumers demanded tips it might cause the price of tips to
> increase and the price of ribs to decrease.   Clearly,
> instead of looking at the two prices separately one has to
> look at their *relative* prices.
> There is also the question:  to what extent does nature in
> addition to labour power and means of production
> contribute to the price of the ribs and tips?  The pigs
> themselves can't produce value but they are a source
> of wealth and this wealth tends under capitalism to be
> expressed in price.
> For more on this, see the following posts written by
> Matt Forstater and then, again, by Red Kronstandt.
> Both posts were written last July and RK's July post
> is the last post that has been sent to Kapital_Gang on
> this or any other subject.
> So what's your answer?
> In solidarity, Jerry

Hi Jerry 

I think it is entirely a joint production problem.

First, suppose that the division of rib and rib tip is held constant in some
sense, some regulation that specifies what a rib tip is and what a rib is.  So
an amount a of rib tip is always produced with an amount b of rib.  That seems
to be a case of rigid joint production.  So there is only one commodity, the
embodied labour value of the rib tip part of the commodity is equal to the
value of the money it sells for, and the same for the rib part.  Costs,
labour-time etc. are then divided between the two parts in proportion to

Second, suppose that the division is variable.  It is then possible for the
butcher to vary the ratio, by weight say, of rib tips and ribs.  Then I think
we have two commodities.  Costs etc would then be allocated by considering how
things change when the division is varied. (vague but one day I will produce
something).  This is the problem of flexible joint production. 



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