[OPE-L:1010] Re: which crime?

Gilbert Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Thu, 8 Feb 1996 10:41:04 -0800

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Alan writes:

> Gil says
> "Marx nowhere asserts that total prices equal total values; and if he did
> the assertion is either true only by definition or is in general false."
> ^^^^^^
> Sorry to labour a point, but *which*?
> We would like to defend Marx, but we need to know the charges.
> At present the poor old sod will be shot for treason if he deserts, and hung
> for murder if he doesn't.
> Does he stand accused of in-general-falseness or truth-by-definition?
> Choose!!!!!
> Alan

This is sort of like being forced to answer whether or not you still beat
your children. The question is phrased in such a way that no freedom
is allowed to give the correct response. Let me try once more.

1) I don't believe Marx ever argued that total prices are
necessarily equated to total value. I'm damn sure he didn't say so
in the passage in Ch. 5 that Alan refers to. The proof of this is rather
obvious: Alan but not Marx mentions prices understood as distinct from
the (monetary expression of) values, and Alan but not Marx mentions the
number "45"--and why? Because it's the sole price that will validate
Alan's assertion that total (monetary expression of) values 40 + 50
equals total prices. But nothin guarantees that this price
obtains--*unless one assumes it***.

Thus as I understand it there is no question of "defending Marx",
since in my reading Marx is not saying this particular something that
needs to be defended. *Alan* is asserting this claim.

2) The reason my response to Alan's (not Marx's) claim is phrased as
a dilemma is because there is lingering uncertainty (see my upcoming
response to Alan's recent post) as to the basis for Alan's assertion.
I've explored both possibilities at length in a prior post. *If* one defines
the value of money in a certain way (and I note that Alan does not in
fact define the term in his recent post, although he invokes it),
then one can generate total [monetary expression of ]values = total prices
as a tautology. I've spelled out how this is done.

*If* on the other hand values are expressed as v = pa + L, then I've
argued that in general total values do not equal total prices, *even
if* one controls for nominal price changes by setting the price of
the money commodity equal to one in all period. I've spelled out the
reasoning behind this conclusion. I note that in his recent post
Alan has ignored the fact that my critique abstracts from nominal
price changes. More on this in my upcoming response to his recent
post. As far as I can tell, Alan establishes the equivalence in this
case by citing Marx, which is a problem because Marx doesn't say
this--and if he had (which he didn't), it would be wrong in general.

Alan insists I "choose!!!!!".

Very well: I choose to reaffirm that Marx in fact does not say what
Alan says he says.

Now I think Alan should choose: is his assertion that total values =
total prices true by his definition of the value of money (perhaps
based on Marx's definition--I don't know yet), and if
not, on what basis does he make the claim that in general

p(t+1)*x(t+1) = [p(t)*a(t) + L(t)]*x(t+1) once one controls for
changes inflationary effects, in light of my earlier--and

I'm sure Alan wouldn't insist on an answer that at this stage would require
me to read his mind to figure out why he finds something in Marx that I

In solidarity, Gil