Re: [OPE-L] standard commodity

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Fri Mar 11 2005 - 03:06:12 EST

--- Ian Wright <iwright@GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 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.
Ian, I don't agree with you on basics and non-basics.
Actually Sraffa would have liked to treat wages as
basics or at least part of it, but for his own purpose
it was convenient for him to treat wages as post
factum. In any case, your point that the separation of
basics and non-basics is an artifact is not true. One
only has to put taxes on basics and non-basics to
check whether in one case all the prices get effected
and in the other only the price of that good or the
sub-set of non-basics. Here actually one can do a
scientific experiment to find out whether the
distinction is real or not. Cheers, ajit sinha
> 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.
> -Ian.

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