Re: [OPE] Studying unproductive labor: CEPR report

From: Dave Zachariah (
Date: Sat Mar 01 2008 - 10:13:12 EST

on 2008-03-01 12:54 Jerry Levy wrote:
> I think that what you wrote above contradicts what you wrote below 
> since the modernizing of the means of production is a process of 
> innovation.

I don't think so. The relative improvements resulting from research may 
be modeled as a stochastic process. R&D will by some probability improve 
"production" by delta if that is its target. That is less likely to 
happen if the target is "destruction". Unintended side-effects on 
innovations in the rest of economy is subject to far greater uncertainty.

> For instance, modernization of the "means of destruction" can assist a 
> nation's winning a war and that could - through the transfer of wealth 
> that often accompanies a war (booty) - lead to a higher living 
> standard at home (for those who survive the war) and can make 
> available funds that can be used for modernizing the means of production. 

You don't think that would be very roundabout way to improve the 
productivity of the economy?

> After all, if there weren't economic benefits for capitalist nations 
> going to war then there would be less wars! If what you were saying 
> was correct, then all 'rational' capitalist societies would disarm.

I don't share this conceptualization of "capitalist nations" and its 
"rationality". By same token firms could never act in a way that would 
depress the average rate of profit. Capitalist nations have no goals or 
rationality. It consists of legal subjects with varying interests. Some 
vastly more powerful than others, some forming coalitions with others by 
virtue of overlapping economic positions or interests.

It is not capitalist nations that go to wars but territorial states. 
Some representatives of capital find particular military actions in 
their interests and may support or even push for them, other 
representatives don't. Oil companies and arms producers and contractors 
profit at the expense of the rest of the capitalist class.

//Dave Z
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