[OPE-L:4416] Re: dissertation topics

Duncan K. Fole (dkf2@columbia.edu)
Mon, 17 Mar 1997 12:57:27 -0800 (PST)

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I agree with Fred about the cautions he expresses, but I think there's a
lot that could be done even with the data that is available that hasn't
been done. Adalmir Marquetti has made a start at extending the capital
stock data by the perpetual inventory method, and also melding the PWT data
with UN data on distribution in the cases where that is available. You can
take a look at the results at http://cedar.barnard.columbia.edu/~econ3037,
where his extended tables are available to be downloaded.

One of the advantages of the Marxian conception is that they rather
naturally "nest" in terms of aggregation and disaggregation. There's some
information, for example, in measurements of the rate of profit gross of
unproductive labor expenditures, even if we would like to move beyond that
to a more correct accounting for unproductive labor.


>A comment on the following dissertation suggestion by Duncan:
>>2. The publication of the Penn World Tables data on comparative growth
>>patterns since 1960 for a large sample of countries opens up the
>>possibility of some systematic examination of issues related to the falling
>>rate of profit (such as changes in the rate of exploitation and the
>>composition of costs and of capital) empirically.
>Based on my experience with estimates of the rate of profit in Mexico,
>I would be very careful using sources such as this to estimate the rate of
>profit and the rate of exploitation, especially in developing countries.
>Actually, it would be very interesting to study carefully their methods of
>estimation. But in general the data are most less reliable and have to be
>used with great caution. For example, the capital stock data, which are
>based on an annual survey rather than the perpetual inventory method.
>Another big problem - at least in Mexico - is that there are no separate,
>independent estimates of profit (hence no "income" or "value added" approach
>to the estimation of GNP). Profit is estimated as a residual (NNP - wages),
>but this residual also includes the income of the self-employed (farmers,
>artisans, carpenters, taxi drivers, etc.). So if in the process of the
>development of capitalism, the relative proportion of this income of the
>self-employed is declining, as is usually the case, then this appears in the
>data as a decline of the rate of profit. Our group is trying hard to figure
>out a way (at least a crude way) to separate out this income of the
>self-employed, but it is not easy, and may not even be possible. Fellow
>OPEL listmember Abelardo Marino and I have a meeting this week with
>officials from the main agency for economic data in Mexico to see if they
>can help us with these two main problems: the capital stock data and the
>self-employed. The thought of trying to do this for a whole collection of
>countries is mind-boggling (language barriers for one). But maybe if we can
>do this for a small number of countries, we can will have a better idea of
>the extent of the biases in the offical data. For the appropriate
>estimation of rate of exploitation, there is the additional problem of
>distinguishing between
>productive and unproductive labor.

Duncan K. Foley
Department of Economics
Barnard College
New York, NY 10027
fax: (212)-854-8947
e-mail: dkf2@columbia.edu