[OPE-L] A startling quotation from Engels (reply to Paul Cockshott)

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sun Aug 19 2007 - 06:52:22 EDT

In reply to Prof. Cockshott:

The distinction between natural, money and credit economy occurs in the
section by the same name

"Natural economy, money-economy, and credit-economy have therefore been
placed in opposition to one another as being the three characteristic
economic forms of movement in social production."

I am aware of Marx's discussion of credit, but credit economy obviously
takes new forms in modern capitalism. The technology of extending credit is
nowadays much more advanced.

Your "labour-tokens' idea ignores the fact that a substantial sector of
people in any real economy does not work for a living and cannot work for a
living. On what basis, then, can you allocate them labour-tokens? You can
only do that, on the basis of rationing. What you implicitly say is, if you
are ill, too old or too young, or handicapped etc. you get a standard packet
of labour tokens even if you did no labour. Naturally in your system, only
purely Marxist bureaucrats are in charge, ensuring that the labour-tokens
are distributed in a just and fair way.

The only thing that distinguish the labour-tokens from money, is that the
labor-tokens are granted to workers only on the basis of the actual work
they do. If you don't do any work, you get no labour-tokens, if you do a lot
of work, you get a lot of labour-tokens. It is a disguised form of
rationing, insofar as many people do not work, and because some Marxist
bureaucrats are in charge of what workers may spend their labour-tokens on.
Obviously the whole point of the system is that you cannot simply spend all
your labour-tokens on things that the Marxist bureaucrats disapprove of,
such as capital accumulation. You can consume only according to Marxist

You ask: "What, Jurria[a]n, are the "wide range of allocation principles,
most of which are already present in capitalist society", that you envisage
applying in a communist economy?"

I wasn't talking about a communist economy but a socialist economy. A
communist economy presupposes an advanced practical-moral understanding and
transparency such that people take only what they need and give what they
can give. Such an economy can exist only if social relations are such, that
there is no conflict between the needs and interests of people, with respect
to economic goods, and no economic scarcity. A communist economy is based on
direct allocation of economic goods according to need, rather than through
market intermediation.

In any capitalist economy, many goods and services are allocated informally
and voluntarily without a cash nexus; there are public goods, taxes and
social transfers; there is licensing and leasing subject to non-monetary
conditions; goods may be allocated by juridical decision or by right; there
is barter and counter-trade etc. In all these cases, goods are not allocated
via capitalist markets and the cash nexus although they may operate in
tandem with capitalist markets and the cash nexus. Morover, something like
half of the work done in any real capitalist economy is non-market labour.

Because I am not a Luddite, I recognise the usefulness of money as an
instrument for resource allocation, and I do not propose to replace it with
an alternative, unless the alternative is more efficient. I realise orthodox
Marxists want to get rid of the law of value "as quickly as possible" but
all that says is, that they want to get rid of trade as a principle of
validating cost-economies and resource allocation.

Orthodox marxists have by implication learnt nothing much from the
experience of Soviet-type societies. If you get rid of trade, you do not
automatically get a society which is less alienating. In fact you may get a
society which is even more alienating, to the extent that even more needs
are frustrated. The real question is, what allocative devices and property
rights best promote human development, and how they can be combined to give
the most efficient result. There is no particular mystery about what human
beings need - for instance Prof. Ian Gough the dreaded "neo-Ricardian" has
done a lot of work on this, to establish the kinds of things which all
people need for their development.



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