[OPE-L:2709] Re: More on abstract labour

Wed, 24 Jul 1996 14:33:56 -0700 (PDT)

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On Wed, 24 Jul 1996, Paul Cockshott wrote:
(among other things)
> Paul:
> I would say that the social welfare function is uncomputable
> since there exists no well defined procedure for computing it.

I'm not sure whether you mean there's no political procedure for arriving
at a social welfare function, or it is impossible to compute in the sense
of evaluating it either on real data, or conjectural data as part of a
mathematical programming problem.

> >
> >> 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
> >picture.
> Paul:
> 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
> function?

I meant the attempt to allocate resources using embodied labor
coefficients. Marx has some interesting criticisms of "labor money
schemes" in the Grundrisse, too.

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

I suppose I was taking the experience of the formally "socialist"
countries of eastern Europe as a kind of historical trial, but, again, I
may not understand the ways in which Allin's proposal diverges from these
historical experiments.