Re: [OPE-L] NIPA (1) A practical proposal arising from a gooddiscussion

jurriaan bendien (
Sat, 3 Jan 1998 16:21:25 +0100

Duncan Foley writes:

The maintenance of a consistent set of international accounts is an
> immensely time- and energy-consuming project. Before anybody commits to
> I think it would be very desirable to discuss exactly what the point of
> such an exercise should be, that is, what scientific questions the data
> is supposed to be able to answer.

It seems to me that before you can get to a "consistent set of
international accounts" you have to have agreement on standards of
accounting practice. But we don't even agree fully on our own categories
and methods ! Possibly the most useful thing to be done in this area is to
write a sort of guideline for a Marxian interpretation of national
accounts. Shaikh & Tonak's work provides some basis for that, as do
several other studies.

When I attended a meeting organised by Alan Freeman in London in 1984, the
grandiose objective was to arrive at standards for international
comparisons of national accounts in a Marxian fashion. 13 years down the
track a lot of empirical work has been done in many countries, however
there is no international "standard" approach. And maybe this is very
difficult to achieve anyhow, even if we all agreed on measurement
standards, given that the accounts of various countries differ considerably
in approach and coverage. We would probably need to base ourselves on the
UNSNA accounts, filled out with other sources.

The objectives of Marxian national accounts work presumably are chiefly:

(1) A critique of the ideology implicit in official macro-economic
categories and conceptualisations
(2) To arrive at more satisfactory measures of output, economic growth and
capital accumulation
(3) To test Marxian economic theory and key Marxian variables against real
data for the purpose of explaining capitalist development
(4) To discover better indicators and predictors of the real trend of
capitalist development


Jurriaan Bendien.