# [OPE-L:4148] Counting Sheep

john erns (ernst@pipeline.com)
Wed, 5 Feb 1997 01:56:55 -0800 (PST)

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Andrew,

Before we get into counting sheep or machines, let me share with you
some thoughts on part of our dialog.

John: "To be sure, neither the economic nor the natural life span can be
known *a priori*. Both are estimates. You use the latter and I, the former."

Andrew:

"This is wrong or at least misleading. I don't estimate anything. I do only
hypothetical or ex post calculations. I am happy, however, to consider, the
implications of decisions that economic actors make on the basis of *their*
estimates of things past, present, and future. I'm not quibbling here. The
point is an important one. The calculation of value magnitudes and the
calculations that firms make when deciding on courses of action are wholly
different things. The former is merely a theoretical tool; specifically, a
way of representing a process and relations of determination. The latter is a
practical, decisionmaking tool. The two sets of calculations do not
necessarily have to have *anything* in common."

John now says:

Let me clarify my original statement. I assume that the estimate
of the life span of the machinery used by capitalists is the actual
*average* life span they have experienced. As a starting point
as we go more deeply into this, I'd begin by assuming that the *average*
does not change.

So you do not estimate anything. You are considering matters ex post.
But how? Generally, when a machine becomes scrap before it is "worn
out", no one is producing such a machine. How "ex post" are you to know
how long it might of lasted? The only given is that it is scrap after,
say, 5 years. That's it. It would seem that in this situation you
would have to use only hypothetical calculations since what
happens "ex post" gives you insufficient information to make your
value calculations.

Further, if the capitalists' calculations have, as you say, little
in common with yours, does your rate of profit differ from theirs?
If so, how? This may be a bit unfair as here we may need that
example of a simple overall economy that you suggested.

Time to count sheep,

John