[OPE-L] That hissing? It's the sound of bubblenomics deflating

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Wed Oct 03 2007 - 16:42:33 EDT


I did not "aggregate" the value of the stock of US physical assets with the stock of US tradeable financial assets, rather I struck a ratio between the estimates I had, to give a rough indication of magnitude. I would say from the data I have looked at that the value of the stock of financial assets in the US would be larger than the value of the stock of physical assets. About half of Americans however own negligible financial assets.

First you argued financial assets are "not values but information structures, sequences of records held on the hard disks of the banking system". Then you argue "social relations are codified in and depend upon data structures." But these claims are not the same. I am not sure what to make of this. 

I do not agree that "In commodity exchange a conservation law holds, the sum of embodied labour/value does not rise in exchanges" as stated. Because this law, if true, would hold only for the exchanges involved in the production of the gross output (Marx's definition of gross output or "value of production" differs significantly from the conventional measure, as I mentioned). It would presumably mean that no net additions to the new value created can result from the exchange of newly produced commodities only, or, that exchanges or products can only redistribute values, not add to them. This idea is strongly contested by bankers, e.g. because without operating certain transactions the product-value would not exist at all etc.

Yet assets are being devalued and revalued all the time, whether they are being traded or not. The conservation law would then presumably state that for every devaluation of some of the new commodity output there must be an equal revaluation of some other component of the new commodity output (?). 

However, at least one aspect is that the exchanges of total inputs and total outputs in the sphere of production are not all the exchanges there are. External to that sphere, a large trading process occurs as well. When Marx referred to values, he referred only to components of the gross output on his definition, not to total trade volume. 

One could depict unequal exchange in the trade in products as being only a redistribution of values between different owners.

When new debt is incurred, then in a conventional balance sheet it will obviously appear on both sides of the ledger, i.e. for every asset there is a liability, that's clear. I am not sure though what you mean by the L1 norm in this case - this seems to refer to a mathematical technique to discover a function/vector that will most closely describe/fit a data set (?). 

I do not know what you mean by "real capital", I assume you mean tangible physical assets or productive capital (?). 

In Cap. 2, Marx distinguished broadly between commodity capital, money capital, and production capital. Financial assets would presumably be a component of money capital. He also refers to "fictitious capital" or "fictitious commodities" though he fails to specify exactly what he means by that, it could be thought of as a capitalisation on property ownership. In Marx's analysis, capital can, assuming a developed credit and capital market, flexibly transit from one form of capital to another. Thus, if for some reason production becomes a more risky or less profitable avenue for accumulation, capital exits from the sphere of production to the sphere of circulation. It does not cease to accumulate, but the mode of accumulation changes, i.e. instead of M-C...P...C'-M' the circuit becomes M-M', M-C-M', C-M-C', C-C' (=countertrade) and so on. 

The corollary is that capital which is not production capital exists either as commodity capital (lodged in tradeable goods, physical assets or tangibles of some sort) or as money capital (lodged in financial claims of some sort) or fictitious capital (fiduciary claims of some sort). Instead of producing anything extra, you can use capital to buy up real estate, or companies, or trade in money, equities, securities, other financial products etc. (a current favourite is "buy-outs"). It would not be too difficult to show, with various statistical indicators, that in aggregate the total stock of money capital and commodity capital grows much faster, and is larger than, the total stock of production capital (well, in this regard actually the Fed axed the computation of M3, which was increasing around 12% yearly, as against about 10% in the EU and 3 or 4% in Japan and possibly 20% in China).

Marx's knowledge of the role of capital finance in the historical origins and development of capitalism was rather sketchy, and he did not live to work out the ideas he presents in Cap. Vol. 3 in more detail. So there is a lot more work to be done in that area, to make sense of historical and current realities in terms of the approach he favoured.


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