[OPE-L:2765] Orthodox Price Theory

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Tue, 30 Jul 1996 15:39:28 -0700 (PDT)

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>Michael W:
>Again, we disagree: IMO the best proximate explanation of relative prices is
>provided by the appropriate version of orthodox price theory. Prices EXIST
>because of relative scarcity. What models of socially necessary labour
time add
>is a - one-sided - account of the physical/technological constraints on the
>market mechanisms modelled in orthodox models.

Paul C:
In saying this you lay yourself open to Marx's criticism of vulgar economics,
that imbalances of supply and demand are all very well for explaining changes
in prices, but do not explain what happens when supply and demand are in
or more generally, one has to explain the levels around which prices gravitate.

In what sense can you talk about 'relative scarcity'?

Scarce relative to what?

If we ignore non-reproducible goods such as great works of art, which are
absolutely scarce, what does relative scarcity really amount to in other

It is just a coy and politically acceptable way of presenting the
fact that different amounts of human effort have to be expended to produce

Michael W:
We do have different political visions here: IMO the abolition of commodity
production must await the abolition of scarcity (which is, I would say, not as
implausible as it sounds).

Paul C:
This is to ground commodity production in the relationship of society to
nature rather than in production relations.

Hypothetically if labour productivity in all branches were infinite, the
value of all commodities would be zero, and commodity production might
cease without any political revolution. But if 'le future dure longtemps',
the attainment of infinite labour productivity dure en plus. Who is talking
unattainable utopia's now?

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)