[OPE-L:3252] Re: labour-power shortages and Martians

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 3 Oct 1996 06:57:26 -0700 (PDT)

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Paul C wrote in [OPE-L:3248]:

> What Jerry says is true, but consider for a moment the future of the
> capitalist world economy. Once the process of migration from peasant
> agriculture to the cities has been completed world wide in perhaps 50
> years time, will not world capitalism be in the same situation
> as Japan in the 90s or Britain in the 50s?

I don't think so.

(1) Advances in the productivity of labor in agriculture that
accompany accumulation and proletarianization mean that a given amount of
labor and land will be capable of producing additional quantities of
agricultural commodities.

(2) There is no reason to suppose that there will be a labor-power
shortage in agricultural production, especially given the increasing
amounts of agricultural proletarians that accompany concentration in
capitalist agriculture. If there is increased demand for wage-earners in
agricultural branches of production, there is no reason to believe that
laborers (barring state action) will not move to these geographic areas.

(3) There is no reason (if we reject the Malthusian argument) to suppose
that increases in the absolute population (as distinct from the relative
surplus population) will grow at a faster pace than the growth of
agricultural output and productivity.

(4) There are still parts of *this* world that can be exploited. For
instance, the sea (especially if people accept certain food, like seaweed,
that may be alien to certain cultures).

(5) Labor-power shortages, to the extent that they occur, are
cyclically-related. This is one of the major points of the FRP caused by
labor-power shortage theories of crisis in the sense that advocates of
those theories of crisis believe that changes in the supply of
labour-power can explain the *periodicity* of crisis.

(6) Although state policies sometimes encourage labor migration where
there is a shortage of labour-power, many governments oppose such
migration in times of crisis. On the other hand, we have seen in recent
years a growth in regional trade associations in which the restrictions on
labor mobility among the nations in the RTA are relaxed (this is, after
all, one of the major changes in the Common Market, is it not?).

(7) I suspect you are right: Martian immigration is not an option. I don't
see large numbers of working people either moving to or from Mars or any
other planet at any time in the forseeable future. This, however, does
not support the thesis that there will be an absolute shortage of land
for either agricultural production or residential housing.

(8) On that last point, although increasing numbers of working people may
migrate to cities, this raises land values and rent. Yet, as so
frequently happens in cities, working people can live on top of one
another (i.e. there can be an increase in the *height* of residential
housing to accompany the increased demand for housing). This, in general,
would increase the cost of living of workers in cities and lead to a
decrease in real wages rather than an increase.

In Solidarity,