[OPE-L:994] Missing the mark

Alan Freeman (100042.617@compuserve.com)
Wed, 7 Feb 1996 16:21:49 -0800

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Michael Perelman asks:
I find these questions interesting, but then I ask myself what difference the
answer would make.

I think this is, to say the least, an understandable question, especially
since the last month's discussion must have seemed like an exercise in
very obscure logic-chopping.

One issue is: whether Marx was wrong or right. I didn't use to think
this was important, but I've changed my mind.

But there are other questions which are also important; so, here is the best
answer I have, though maybe not a good one:

One approach to Marx says that the profit rate does not fall, and the
other says that it does.

On this question hangs: is the instability of capitalism due
to causes external to the market, or internal to the market?

If the former, the rational conclusion is that consequences of
the market's instability such as mass unemployment, mass poverty,
fascism and war, should be overcome by ensuring that the market
works as perfectly as possible and that external interference
is minimised.

If the latter, the rational conclusion is that capitalism can
never stabilise and we should struggle against all these effects of
the market and eventually seek to replace it by an alternative system
of social organisation.

One approach to Marx leads to the conclusion that the inequality between
rich and poor nations arises from the differences between the peoples
of these nations. The other concludes that even if the peoples of different
nations are identical humans, differences in the distribution of capital
must give rise to growing inequality both in productive capacity and
living standards; and that growing inequality in the distribution of
capital is a direct result of technical progress, if this is organised

If the former is true, then the policy which follows is that the poor
nations should either accept their lot or tighten their belts.

If the latter is true, then the poor nations should break out of the
world market by what ever means necessary.

One approach to Marx leads to the conclusion that profit arises
from a variety of causes, among which the exploitation of labour power
is but one.

The other approach concludes that the only source of profit is the
exploitation of labour power.

I don't wish to prejudge the policy conclusions of the first argument
but I know that the policy conclusions of the second is that the
only hope for humanity is to abolish the wage system and the market.

These are harsh things to say, but the difficulty is that academics
do not always have to draw out the policy conclusions of their analysis.
Sometimes it is necessary to spell them out; not because the political
conclusions of any argument can tell us whether it is true or not, and
not because academics can be judged by the political conclusions of their
own arguments - usually they leave the conclusion-drawing to other people.

But because whatever we do, those who pay us are waiting in the wings
to draw the conclusions that suit them; and we should not forget this.

If it wasn't for these conclusions, even if the difference was only
1 decimal place, I wouldn't give an incontinent squirrel shit.