From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Fri Apr 22 2005 - 17:47:22 EDT
Andy: Your view sounds pretty much like the general 'surplus approach' view. The problem is that, if the inputs have been paid for (M-C), then why doesn't their cost sum to the cost of the output (C-M). Why would inputs be sold at a value less than that which they produce, in a situation of free exchange? Many thanks Andy -------------- The existence of a net surplus means that if you naively attempt to evaluate any particular value basis - be it labour, electricity, oil etc, you get a set of equations whose iterative solution is that everything has a value of zero. I realised this when I first attempted to compute the electricty and oil values for the UK economy using the govt i/o tables. The reason is that you find that it takes less than one kilowatt hour of electricity to make one kilowatt hour of electricity. Thus if your procedure to work out values is iterative : that is you make a first approximation at the values for every input, recompute using that and then substitute in the new values, then each time round the value of electricity gets smaller and smaller, and consequently the indirect electricity value of everything else declines. If one took the classical economists view of labour and assumed that labour had a value determined by the inputs necessary to reproduce it, they you get exactly the same problem. The fact that the io table has a net surplus means that every single commodity requires less than one unit of itself to produce itself - labour included. This precludes the possiblity that you suggest. Any coherent value basis - labour, energy, the standard commodity or what have you, requires that you treat the basis commodity differently from everything else in your formalism. The basis commodity has to have a value of unity by definition and you have to exclude it from the general formula for computing value. This is what marx does when he distinguishes between labour and labour power, by this means he can get an hour of labour being worth an hour of labour, irrespective of the fact that the wage is lower than this. Similarly if one uses electricity as a basis you define the kilowatt hour as the unit of account, despite the fact that a kilowatt hour is worth - in value terms, less than a kilowatt hour of electricity. From the standpoint of internal consitency it does not matter much how you chose to exclude your basis commodity. Marx provides something of a barristers fine distinction between labouring power and labour: pretty obviously drawn from Watts distinction between the horse power of the ' engines he leased and the work that they actually did. I dont think this distinction made by Marx is necessarily dimensionally consistent, and since exactly the same problem arises whatever value basis you use, we should not get too attached to this particular argument - which had, I think essentially juridical and polemical determinants in his arguments against Rodbertus and Lasalle.
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