[OPE-L] Capital reproduction theories and the facts

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Thu Sep 07 2006 - 14:43:28 EDT

Of course one of the problems with import-export data for goods *in price
terms* is that they do not give much of an idea of the actual quantities of
*physical use-values* involved. The latter are estimated only for a small
range of goods (e.g. oil products, or cars etc.). The lack of systematic
data on physical quantities of goods produced and traded ("material flows
accounts" such as were compiled in the USSR and China) I think signify a
major lacuna in our understanding of economics and ecology.

Typically raw materials (or foodstuffs) have a lower price per physical
quantity of product, than finished manufactured goods, and the dollar value
of imported goods may also signify a lot more money, in terms of the local
buying power of the currency of the exporting country.

As writers like Harry Magdoff and Richard J. Barnet already noted long ago,
US industry consumes, and is heavily reliant on, imports of large quantities
of e.g. bauxite, chromium, manganese, cobalt, columbium, nickel, tin,
tungsten, zinc etc. in addition to oil and petroleum products (to a large
extent from developing countries). We could als mention certain
semi-finished products, e.g. semiconductor materials. Although the finished
products manufactured in the US may contain only small amounts of these
imported materials, either by value or in physical quantity, without them
the US manufactured products could not be produced at all. Hence also the
numerous US policy statements about the implications of "strategic raw
materials" for national security.

In that sense, imports do make a rather critical contribution to US material
wealth and capital accumulation, even although the actual capital value
involved may be comparatively small, as a proportion of the total US
physical capital stock.


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