Re: [OPE-L] standard commodity

From: Ian Wright (iwright@GMAIL.COM)
Date: Thu Mar 10 2005 - 14:05:29 EST

Hi Paul

> What else would the real wage be but a vector of commodities?

Yes, but I am trying to square that with the Sraffian approach of
specifying the wage as a scalar measure in its basic price equation,
rather than a vector of physical commodities.

> The real wage in conjunction with the physical production conditions
> are enough to determine the money wage and rate of profit.

Ok, but the distinction between basic and non-basic commodities
hinges, I think, on Sraffa's decision to treat the wage as a nominal
share of a "surplus", rather than a vector of physical inputs to the
labour sector. He mentions this choice has the awkward side-effect
that the consumption goods of workers are therefore non-basic, even
though they enter into the physical reproduction of workers. My
feeling is that the distinction between basic and non-basic goods is
an artefact of an asymmetry in Sraffa's equations, namely that means
of production are always vectors of inputs to productive sectors, but
worker and capitalist consumption is conceptualised as scalar shares
of a physical surplus. A symmetrical treatment would conceptualise
worker and capitalist consumption also as a vector of commodity inputs
to household sectors. If the latter route had been taken then the
distinction between basic and non-basic goods disappears.

I question therefore whether the basic/non-basic distinction is real,
and suggest that it is a side-effect of considering the physical
surplus simply as an output, rather than also an input that enters
into the reproduction of the human actors. I may have misunderstood
Sraffa's basic model.


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