[OPE-L:3992] Re: Depreciation Query

john erns (ernst@pipeline.com)
Wed, 15 Jan 1997 18:34:19 -0800 (PST)

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Thanks for response. What you refer to (below) and reproduce
seems like the earlier dialog to which Marx referred in 1867.
But in 1958 had Marx dismissed McCulloch? If not, when did


At 03:36 PM 1/15/97 -0800, you wrote:
>In reply to John's question, I picked up the dialogue between M. & E. a
>few months later in my book on Marx's crisis theory:
>Marx read Babbage's estimate that capital equipment turns over
>within five years (Perelman, 1987, Ch. 6; Marx to Engels, 2 March
>1858, in Marx and Engels, 1983, XL, pp. 278). Engels informed
>him that textile equipment was written off over 13 years,
>although the rate of depreciation did not indicate the rate at
>which machinery disappeared (Engels to Marx, 4 March 1858, in
>Marx and Engels, 1983, XL, pp. 279-81). He continued:
> Nor does the old machinery that has been sold promptly
> become old iron; it finds takers among the small
> spinners, etc., etc., who continue to use it. We
> ourselves have machines in operation that are certainly
> 20 years old and, when one occasionally takes a glance
> inside some of the more ancient and ramshackle concerns
> up here, one can see antiquated stuff that must be 30
> years old at least. Moreover, in the case of most of
> the machines, only a few of the components wear out to
> the extent that they have to be replaced after 5 or 6
> years. And even after 15 years, provided the basic
> principle of a machine has not been superseded by new
> inventions, there is relatively little difficulty in
> replacing worn out parts, so that it is hard to set a
> definite term on the effective life of such machinery.
> Again, over the last 20 years improvements in spinning
> machinery have not been such as to preclude the
> incorporation of almost all of them in the existing
> structure of the machines, since nearly all are minor
> innovations. (Marx and Engels, 1983, XL, pp. 280-1)
>Marx uncharacteristically disregarded many of Engels' subtleties.
>He confused the time required to fully depreciate equipment on
>the books with its economic lifetime. He concluded that the
>economy follows decennial business cycles that coincided with the
>lifetime of the average piece of equipment (Marx to Engels, 5
>March 1858, in Marx and Engels, 1983, XL, pp. 282-4).
>Michael Perelman
>Economics Department
>California State University
>Chico, CA 95929
>Tel. 916-898-5321
>E-Mail michael@ecst.csuchico.edu