[OPE-L:2705] Re: More on abstract labour

Wed, 24 Jul 1996 08:57:08 -0700 (PDT)

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>This seems to me to mix up "levels of abstraction". Are you saying that in
>principle the socialist society should solve the full social welfare
>programming problem, but because that's too hard they might use embodied
>labor coefficients instead, because by a fortunate accident of the
>structure of production the shadow prices might not be very different? Or
>are you saying that in principle you want to use embodied labor

I would say that the social welfare function is uncomputable
since there exists no well defined procedure for computing it.

>> Allin:
>> Our suggestion is that consumer goods are marked with their 'value'
>> (embodied labour-time), and also a (roughly) market-clearing price
>> expressed in Owen-style labour-tokens (with which people are paid
>> for their work, at an average rate of one per hour). Then the
>> plan can be amended according to the algorithm, if P > V, order
>> more of the good; if P &lt; V order less. If P > V that says that
>> people are willing to pay, in their own time, more time than it
>> costs society to produce the thing. When I say the plan is
>> 'amended' I mean that a new target vector of final outputs is
>> generated, and the required vector of gross outputs is computed.
>> All this is -- we argue -- computationally feasible. On the
>> other hand "maximizing a social welfare function" directly is
>> not. A lot of effort went into the latter in the USSR, and I
>> think it was basically wasted. It was too "abstract and
>> theoretical" to be of any practical utility to GOSPLAN.
> Duncan:
>Somehow this point of view seems to me to have been subjected to the
>withering criticism of history already, but maybe I'm not seeing the whole

Which point of view, that put forward by Allin or that put forward
by those in the USSR who talked of maximising the social welfare

If the former please explain why you think it has been subjected
to historical criticism.
Paul Cockshott