[OPE-L:1366] Re: Where does the value go?

Paul Cockshott (wpc@clyder.gn.apc.org)
Fri, 8 Mar 1996 00:14:15 -0800

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Alan replies to my question as to why he portrays the losses
of some producers due to moral depreciation as exactly equaling
the gains of others with the reply:
<<Thus: we know that value is conserved, and we know that in moral
depreciation, value is lost to an individual producer. We also know
that, since this loss is an effect of circulation (of the formation
of a uniform price and a uniform value for commodities of the same
type), the value is lost only to the individual producer and not to
society. Therefore, it is a necessary consequence of the law of
conservation of value that the lost value *must* appear as the
superprofit of *somebody*. Just as, a necessary consequence of the
law of conservation of energy is, that if a body gets cooler, the
loss of energy in one form *must* reappear as a different form of
energy somewhere else.

I am willing to support a law of value conservation in exchange,
but moral depreciation is no a question of exchange. It arises
from a change in the conditions of production. I see no compelling
reason why the value of the aggregate social stocks of means
of production must be conserved. It is possible for technical
change to devalue the stock of capital in the economy as a whole
if a stock which originally took 4 years of work by the whole
of society to acquire, can now be reproduced in 2 years.

I thus find the hypothesis that there exists a law by which
aggregate value must be conserved, dubious. The fact that I
find it dubious may just be my ignorance. If you can cite compelling
empirical evidence that such a law exists in reality, then
I would be forced to reconsider.