[OPE] Basic and non-basic goods

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Mon Jan 12 2009 - 15:49:14 EST

Let me just refresh the memory on a previous discussion about this in 2005. Ian Wright commmented:

... the distinction between basic and non-basic commodities
hinges, I think, on Sraffa's decision to treat the wage as a nominal
share of a "surplus", rather than a vector of physical inputs to the
labour sector. He mentions this choice has the awkward side-effect
that the consumption goods of workers are therefore non-basic, even
though they enter into the physical reproduction of workers. My
feeling is that the distinction between basic and non-basic goods is
an artifact of an asymmetry in Sraffa's equations, namely that means
of production are always vectors of inputs to productive sectors, but
worker and capitalist consumption is conceptualised as scalar shares
of a physical surplus. A symmetrical treatment would conceptualise
worker and capitalist consumption also as a vector of commodity inputs
to household sectors. If the latter route had been taken then the
distinction between basic and non-basic goods disappears.

I question therefore whether the basic/non-basic distinction is real,
and suggest that it is a side-effect of considering the physical
surplus simply as an output, rather than also an input that enters
into the reproduction of the human actors.


This is similar to what I have in mind about input-output economics,
although I think the conceptual problems go deeper than that.

I think mathematics is great as an aid to understanding the
quantitative implications of theoretical assumptions, but I
do not think mathematical analysis can substitute for
adequate conceptual development.


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Received on Mon Jan 12 15:52:15 2009

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