Re: [OPE] Invention, Inventors, and the Productivity of Labor

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Sun Nov 02 2008 - 06:38:27 EST

on 2008-11-02 11:27 Alejandro Agafonow wrote:
> Why these salaried workers don’t produce these inventions by their own?
> The lack of capital is not enough, since it is possible to borrow this
> capital.
> I think the answer comes from more subtle phenomena coming from the
> degree of risk averse of entrepreneurs. A low degree of risk averse is
> needed to embark on risky projects.
> We can’t neglect this soft side of the problem if we want a socialist
> institutional design able to reach the rate of technological change of
> capitalism.
> By the way, most socialist institutional designs encourage a high
> degree of risk averse. That’s why socialism has been so vulnerable to
> criticisms that remark it is unable to cope with high rates of
> technological change.
> Overcoming this has maybe been the main goal of Market Socialism.

I agree that this issue is central to the debate between market
socialism and CPE.

However, I think you are grossly oversimplifying the process of
technical change in modern economies. There are two different processes:
innovation and development/application. Innovations have a great degree
of uncertainty and can arise from very unpredictable ways. A systematic
search for innovations however typically requires significant research
costs that small workers' co-ops cannot undertake.

On the other hand if they already have an innovation there is still the
issue of developing and applying it. This typically also requires huge
amounts of capital that cannot be borrowed from scratch. Rather small
firms tend to sell such innovations off to larger ones that have the
resources to materialize them.

So the question is what types of economic organisations can search the
space of technologies efficiently? I think it is clear that autonomous
or independent research as well as production activities with a
significant degrees of freedom are important factors for this search.
But it does not follow that it is done most efficiently under
"risk-taking entrepreneurs", indeed many successfully applied
innovations during the last century did not come about this way.

//Dave Z
ope mailing list
Received on Sun Nov 2 06:40:40 2008

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