Re: [OPE-L] a paper on Marx's transformation problem and Ricardo's problem of an invariable measure of value

From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Wed Jul 18 2007 - 16:02:54 EDT

> This is what I disagree with. The process that terminates at scale q is
> not hypothetical but actual even in a self reproducing economy.

Any "dated" interpretation of labour-values is hypothetical because
the series representation does not imply anything at all about the
past history of the economy.

For example, economy A can have the exact same labour-values as
economy B, but the historical trajectories of A and B may have been
quite different. The point is that labour-values are variables of
state not history.

> Consider a simple corn economy, which, using the standard commodity
> allows us to model any such process of production.

I don't understand this statement.

> Suppose that for each seed of maize sown 100 are harvested. Suppose that
> the the maize harvest is 100 million tons and involves 10 million person
> years direct labour input. Let us assume that there are 10^6 grains of
> maize per ton, which is correct to an order of magnitude. We can then
> express the harvest in terms of seeds 10^14 seeds. 10^12 seeds would
> have had to be sewn in the spring to produce this. That seed corn would
> itself have required
> 10^10 seeds the previous year, 10^8 the year before that etc. Going back
> 7 years we find that one seed was the logical ancestor of the entire
> crop. (I think by the way it is unrealisitic to define your quantities
> as reals rather than integers and rationals, which are all that ever
> exists in economics).
> If in year -7 this seed had been eaten, there would have been a
> shortfall of 100 seeds the next year, and if there was no corresponding
> reduction in consumption in year -6, the
> Shortfall would be 10,000 seed the next year - growing to the entire
> harvest after 7 years.
> But this does not imply that the population can not consume the entire
> net product each year, it only means that they have to correctly
> calculate the set-aside for re-sowing. This set-aside is not part of the
> net product. So long as the population eat no more than
> 99,000,000,000,000 seeds each year production can continue without
> interruption.

None of this makes much sense to me. Are you describing an actual
historical trajectory or an alternative interpretation of the series
representation of the standard formula for labour-values? If the
latter, I cannot map this scenario to the series representation,
particularly since it is an infinite series.

A good litmus test of any economic interpretation of standard
labour-values is how it interprets the net value equality (see page
5). I discuss Pasinetti's interpretation and also my "dated"
interpretation in the paper. If you think your alternative
interpretation has legs then it should say something economically
meaningful about this key tautology.

The particular dated interpretation of the series representation of
both standard and nonstandard labour-values that I employ is
widespread in the literature and is quite simple and straightforward.
I have found that people find it easier to think in terms of sequences
rather than simultaneous constraints, even when discussing what is
essentially a property of a discrete technology field. If you
understand that the particular interpretation chosen is a
presentational choice to make the mathematics understandable then you
will understand my argument better. (The same argument could have been
presented in terms of, say, an employment multiplier interpretation in
which impacts diminish over time.)

The interesting stuff from your point of view are probably sections 6,
8.1 (especially footnote 18), 8.2, and the appendix on proportionate

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