Re: [OPE] peanut butter value-form theory

From: Allin Cottrell <>
Date: Sat Apr 04 2009 - 23:01:26 EDT

On Sat, 4 Apr 2009, Alejandro Agafonow wrote:

> In order to let the 'labour commanded' by dodgy crackers be
> adjusted Cottrell, you would have to recover someway the labor
> time already crystallized in a useless commodity. This is
> impossible unless you have a time machine.

Absolutely not. How are you defining 'labour commanded'?
Evidently not as Adam Smith did (or as I did, following him).

> The fact that the price of dodgy crackers is zero doesn't mean
> that the labour they command is also zero.

Yes, it does. You can't command any labour with $0 in a
capitalist economy.

> You expended labor time in the production of these useless
> crackers indeed. How can this labor just be zero?

It's not zero, But that doesn't matter when you're figuring the
labour commanded.

First-order planning rule for an economy without exploitation: if
a product embodies X hours of labour but commands Y > X hours of
labour then the work that went into it is of above-average
effectiveness and production should be increased. If it commands
Z < X hours of labour then production of this item should be

> Technological change is just the way the disruption of the cost
> structure takes place. But this disruption is ultimately brought
> about by changes in consumer preferences which trigger
> entrepreneurs to experiment with new forms of production.

What change in consumers' preferences caused which "entrepreneur"
to invent the Internet (hint: it began as a US government defense
network), or to invent the PC (hint: IBM) or the jet engine, or...
Well, what you're saying here seems just to be an article of

> Computers became very much cheaper after the reduction of their
> scarcity, thanks to entrepreneur who foresaw their potential
> demand not yet realized.

Thanks to scientist/entrepreneurs such as Shockley, Noyce and
Moore. But these people were driven in the first instance by the
technological possibilities opened up by 20th century physics.
The consumer demand followed, once they figured out how to make
transistors cheaply (with a small total outlay of labour time).

There's no mileage in "foreseeing potential demand" unless you
have a practical technical means of producing an existing product
more cheaply, or a new product at a labour-cost that might make it
marketable. Science fiction writers have "foreseen" all sorts of
cool things that never made it -- not because people wouldn't like
them, but because they were technically infeasible.

> You and Cockshott only foresee preferences as playing the role
> of determining the quantities of the various goods produced, but
> you don't have satisfactory mechanisms to foster technological
> change in response to the change of preferences.

It's easy to adjust production in _response_ to changes in
consumers' preferences. What's not so easy is to figure out the
technological possibilities created by scientific advance and to
judge which of these possibilities, if they were exploited, might
induce a (previously unsuspected) "preference" on the part of

IBM famously thought, at one point, that only big businesses would
have any use for computers. But that did not represent a failure
to _respond_ to consumers, who at the time knew nothing about
computers and would not have known what to do with one if given it
as a present. If it was a failure, it was a failure to _imagine_
a future in which massive networking of computers (courtesy of
DARPA, in the first instance) would make them everyday
communication tools.

Allin Cottrell


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Received on Sat Apr 4 23:03:18 2009

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