Re: [OPE-L] what is irrational in the functioning of capitalism?

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri Dec 01 2006 - 17:48:11 EST

(* note to Ajit:  I recognize that this is a different question than
the one you asked.)

> I think you may be wrong here.

Paul C,

Maybe, but I'm not convinced.

The question here* involves, in part, the speed of the adoption of
automation.  That question can and has been  related to the
discounted worth of the costs and benefits of a robot.  This can
be and has been (as far back as 1981 by Kutzman) looked at
graphically by plotting the projected trend for changes in labor
costs vs. the projected costs of a robot.  Actually, the above author
produced a graph with a range assuming different rates of growth of
labor costs.

Kutzman's projections -- as it happened -- were not correct
empirically for what I took at the time to be reasonably predictable
grounds, i.e. he over-estimated the pace of the growth of wages
(which included benefits for workers) and he over-estimated
the rate at which the cost of robots would decline.

But, the idea itself was sound: the pace of robotization is related
not merely to wage costs but also to the costs of robots, costs
that can be projected to decline with mass production, learning by
doing,  etc.  Furthermore, the quality of robots can be expected to
increase and with those changes they will become suitable for the
replacing of workers at more and more tasks in more and more
branches of production.

Unless you artificially stipulate a limit to how advanced robots can
become and how low their prices will go, then I see no necessary
physical limit.  Of course, there are social limits though: workers can
rise up and organize against these and other changes.  That's the only
real limit that I can see: the limit that workers can potentially impose
on capital.

In solidarity, Jerry

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