Re: [OPE] intrinsic value

From: Allin Cottrell <>
Date: Wed Mar 25 2009 - 22:34:16 EDT

Philip Dunn wrote:

> The _distinction_ [between labour-content and price] is not
> dissolved by the non-deviation of prices from values. A price is
> a sum of money. The intrinsic value of that sum of money can
> equal the intrinsic value of the commodity it buys while the
> distinction stands.

And Paul Cockshott responded with the argument that the "intrinsic
value" of modern money, taking the form of computer records at the
banks, is negligible.

To which Philip in turn responded with:

> I have never suggested that the intrinsic value of money should
> be understood as embodied labour. In fact, I regard the value of
> money as its intrinsic power to command labour-time. ... The
> value of a unit of money is then aggregate labour-time over
> aggregate money value added (clock hours per dollar, say).

The word "intrinsic" seems an odd one to use in this context.
Surely the value of any commodity is not intrinsic to that
commodity, but rather resides in the relationship that the
commodity bears to the system of production of the society that
produced it (the "technology", in a broad sense).

One might perhaps stretch "intrinsic" to refer to the labour time
embodied in a commodity (taking production technology as a given
background condition), but talking of the "intrinsic power" of
money to command labour seems a stretch too far. As Paul said,
money _embodies_ negligible labour, and its power to _command_
labour is the resultant effect of an array of macroeconomic forces
-- primarily, but not exclusively, the relationship between (a)
the emission of money by the state and (b) the level of tax
liabilities imposed by the state. Broadly speaking, the greater
the ratio of (a) to (b), the less labour-time a unit of money will
end up commanding.

Nothing "intrinsic" there: the power of modern money (which does
not itself embody any significant amount of labour) to command
labour (either live, or embodied in commodities) is a tail that is
wagged by the macroeconomic dog.

Allin Cottrell
Department of Economics
Wake Forest University
ope mailing list
Received on Wed Mar 25 22:36:41 2009

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