[OPE-L] equilibrium and simultaneous vs. sequential determination

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Wed Sep 12 2007 - 18:20:39 EDT

Fred Moseley wrote:

"The fact that Marx's theory cannot be translated into a different logical method does not imply that Marx's theory is logically invalid.  It only implies that Marx's theory cannot
be translated into this different logical method, without producing "anomalies", etc."

As a translator, this does not make much logical sense to me. When you translate non-fiction, then you render a unit of meaning in one language into the functionally identical unit of meaning in another language, preferably in an aesthetically pleasing, efficient and communicatively appropriate way. If I started to translate simply on the basis that X in language A is "analogous in intent" to Y in language B, I don't get very far in the profession, unless I am translating fiction. Admittedly the boundary between fiction and non-fiction is sometimes hard to draw, but because this is so, does not mean that fiction and non-fiction are the same.

Point is I don't think you can "translate" one theory or method into another theory or method, because in that case you are substituting a different, non-identical meaning. At best you can prove that one theory or method can "functionally perform" in the same way, or better, than another theory or method - or that they are analogous in some way. In this sense, scientific progress involves a three-dimensional contest between rival theories, and a shared body of evidence. 

In programming, you can write different programmes in the same language, or different programmes in different languages, which have exactly the same functionality although they apply different logical steps to get to the same results. But strictly speaking you cannot say in this case that one programme is a "translation" of another. Each programme is a different programme, although from a meta-perspective they perform the same function. 

Admittedly, two programmes written in different languages may be logically compatible in some sense, but in that case there is again no "translation", either the logical operators are simply identical, or, item X encountered in programme A by some logical method is treated as item Y in programme B, where X and Y themselves are logically non-identical items.  

To my knowledge, a Ricardian natural price is not the same as a Marxian production price, and therefore, there is no way I can "translate" one into the other. At most I might argue they are somewhat analogous, or perform a similar sort of function. But I suspect that once you explore the dynamics of the quest for surplus-profits (extra-Mehrwert) from the point of view of Marxian value theory, this isn't even true.

A scientific problem, and not just a translation problem, with Marxian production prices, is that these prices are variously described by Marx in his draft as:

- theoretical equilibrium prices (the price which would exist, if supply and demand are equal, or if a "production-and-distribution system" was in equilibrium in some sense)
- regulating prices (a modal or predominant price-level, above or below which traders are less likely to trade, as shown by the price distribution) 
- empirical price averages (a statistically average price, obtained by some method from actual prices)

Now these are not all the same thing. A theoretical price cannot really be a regulating price, because it exists only in theory, and therefore it "determines" nothing about actual prices (of course you could have "theoretical" regulating prices in a model, and theoretical prices can influence actual prices through market propaganda). At best a theoretical price can help explain something about actual price trends. 

A regulating price presupposes no equilibrium, it "determines" in the sense that it is an accepted trading norm. 

A price average can deviate from a regulating price, and likewise it presupposes no equilibrium, or can deviate from such an assumption. 

Thus, whereas "long run centre-of-gravity prices" is a nice catch-all slogan to have, in fact it runs together a whole bunch of things which have to be explicitly theorised. In my own writing, I have emphasised a basic distinction between actual prices and ideal prices. Economists frequently fantasize that they are the same, but I think this leads to big errors. 
When we examine the concept of "price" as such more closely (its meanings), it turns out to be far more complex than it appears at first sight. 


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