Re: [OPE-L] workers' consumption and capitalists' consumption

From: Allin Cottrell (cottrell@WFU.EDU)
Date: Thu Jun 15 2006 - 22:36:56 EDT

On Thu, 15 Jun 2006, Ian Wright wrote:

> Why do you think labour-values should be independent of the
> real wage?

"The value of a commodity, or the quantity of any other
commodity for which it will exchange, depends on the relative
quantity of labour which is necessary for its production, and
not on the greater or less compensation which is paid for that

Thus Ricardo starts Chapter 1 of the Principles.

But seriously, this is not a trivial question to answer.  Marx
started from Ricardo's point of view, and was troubled by the
discrepancy between labour-values, so defined, and prices of
production.  He saw prices of production as a mechanism for the
redistribution of surplus value, and reckoned that this
redistribution left total price equal to the total of
labour-values, and total profit equal to total surplus value.
As we all know.  But the math didn't work out that way -- as
again we all know.

You're offering Marx a solution, but it's not at all clear it's
one he'd take.  In the context of the present argument (simple
reproduction with a surplus that's consumed by the capitalists),
you're arguing (I think) that labour-values and prices of
production are _identical_ (even if organic compositions
differ).  That obviously preserves Marx's two equalities, but at
too high a cost: the distinction between labour-values and
prices of production is effaced.  Labour-values are no longer
"quantities of labour necessary for production", other than in
what I see as a tricksy sense.

In fact, I see your analysis as back-handedly supporting Smith's
old argument: that the labour theory of value ceases to apply
with the emergence of profits on stock.  With this twist: it's
not that prices cease to correspond to labour-values, but that
"labour-values" have to be redefined so that they no longer
correspond to the labour-times required to produce things --
which latter quantities are left orphaned, without any valid
theoretical status ("Sraffian values", based on an accounting
error).  Prices of production are "correct" and labour-values
have to be redefined to match.

I want labour-values to be based on production technology and
direct labour-time requirements alone, as per the classics, and
to be independent of distributional variables.  That way they're
(in principle) capable of explaining the pattern of commodity
exchange ratios in a particularly strong sense.  A robust
materialist sense.  Of course, it's an empirical matter whether
they actually do so.


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