[OPE-L:1638] Britain's crisis

Alan Freeman (100042.617@compuserve.com)
Fri, 29 Mar 1996 18:18:07 -0800

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Paul writes in 1630 of 29/03 in reply to my 1628 of 29/3

"Thus it is possible for accumulation to be either
negative or nugatory for a prolonged period, even
under classical capitalism. Maybe one could argue
that capitalism in Britain has been in crisis for
a century and a half, but once crisis becomes the
norm, it can not be dismissed as exception. De te
fabula natur"

I'll give a fuller response on my return. In particular
I strongly advise you to look at the German figures
which are very thorough and reflect what is happening
to Europe's healthiest capital.

But Paul, I can't help observing that in the very
article of yours which you cite, and by your own figures,
the organic composition of capital rises (p121) in every
single year except 1954 from 1948 onwards, the
first year in which the statistical office began
making reliable estimates of capital stock.

Why didn't you cite this data also in your posting?

Moreover it seems very implausible on the basis of
this same information that Feinstein's figures,
the ones you use before 1948, are really recording
capital stock and related data accurately, or at least
in the same way as the CSO data.

Thus between 1855 and 1938 using Feinstein's
figures you claim accumulation rates between -29% and
a (rare) maximum of 15.4%, while the CSO figures for
1948 onwards lie between a *minimum* of 15.9% and
a maximum of 69%

To say the least, it looks as if this tells us a lot more
about Feinstein's estimates than it does about
British capitalism. The difference between the means
of accumulation in the two periods 1855-1938 (Feinstein)
and 1948-1990 (CSO) is about 50ompared with a standard
deviation within each of the two periods of about 10%. Either
that, or a remarkably different period of British capitalism
opened up in 1948.

But even using Feinstein's figures between 1895
and 1938 the generally rising trend of organic composition
(from 3.77 to 5.02) is interrupted in any serious way
only during the crisis years of the thirties.

This use of empirical data seems to me almost as selective
as Gil's use of value theory. I don't think it seriously
supports the thesis that negative accumulation in money terms
is a serious competitive option for capitalism as a whole.

However in general we should distinguish two
questions that are in danger of becoming blurred:

(1) the empirical and observable fact that in most
nations in the world, above all since reliable capital stock
data became available, capital stock in constant
prices rises secularly.

(2) the *accounting* fact that, for *any* set of
accounting data involving capital goods which get
cheaper over time, temporal methods (when
corrected for misreported data) yield the same
rate of profit as the capitalists' accounts, and
simultaneous methods do not.

Fact (2) would remain true whatever the truth or falsity
of fact (1). Relating to the same set of accounts, the theory
of capitalist accounting gives one profit rate, the temporal
paradigm gives the same profit rate, and the simultaneous
paradigm gives a different profit rate.

It is this second fact to which you seem, to me, to be paying
almost no attention. I strongly recommend the following
exercise: take a set of reasonable figures, of your own choice,
in which there is productivity-enhancing technical change
over two successive years and in which the capitalists buy
anything, whether raw materials or machines, which lasts
more than one period and which cheapens in price.

Construct the accounts as the capitalists do it,
and then construct the profits as Okishio, or
any other simultaneous construction reports them.

The two sets of profit rates are simply *different*.
The difference coincides 100% with the paradigm used.
This difference has to be explained. It cannot just
be dismissed.