[OPE-L:5321] Re: use-value of money

Hans Ehrbar (ehrbar@marx.econ.utah.edu)
Thu, 3 Jul 1997 22:56:48 -0700 (PDT)

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Yes, Jerry, I had Lipietz in mind as you suspected in OPE-L 5319.
Lipietz emphasizes Marx's distinction between capital an general (the
esoteric) and the sphere of competition (the exoteric). The sphere of
competition is the interaction of the individual capitalists, workers,
land owners, etc. on the market. Everyone tries to get the better of
everyone else. Although the economic agents are often trying to
escape the law of value, they end up forcing each other to adhere to the
esoteric laws of capital in general. Too bad Marx never wrote his
book about competition arguing in more detail why he thinks this must
be so.

Lipietz stresses the relative autonomy and, with monopoly regulation,
increasing rigidity of the exoteric sphere. The exoteric is able to
move on its own and separate itself more and more from the esoteric
base, so that reconciliation is often only possible by crisis. For
instance if the markup is too big for the amount of surplus value
generated, this may lead to stagflation: either the workers cannot
maintain their consumption, or the capitalists cannot replace their
fixed capital.

To come back to a policy-based measure of value: I am assuming that
government policy (perhaps it is too narrow only to talk about
monetary policy, perhaps one should include here also fiscal policy)
can generate enough demand that prices will be driven up, and that
governments have by and large learned not to do this but they know
that it is better for the capitalist economy to maintain a stable
price level. Why is it better? Because under a reasonably stable
price level, prices are a better expression of value. This is the
same argument that Marx gives in Section 3 of Chapter One of *Capital
I*: given value is congealed abstract labor, what is the most
appropriate *expression* of value? A good expression of value has
important practical implications: it gives businesses a good compass,
so that they will not divert their resources in speculation etc. but
will make productive investments. This is what the economists at
the Fed go by, they therefore do not need to know Marx to pursue
monetary policy. But I don't think it is an accident
that the Fed in the USA maintains the statistics about industrial
production, and that it is shielded from electoral pressures.

Hans G. Ehrbar                                    ehrbar@econ.utah.edu
Economics Department                              (801) 581 7797
1645 E. Central Campus Dr. Front                  (801) 581 7481
Salt Lake City    UT 84112-9300                   (801) 585 5649 (FAX)