[OPE-L:6325] Historical, real and current costs

Sat, 21 Mar 1998 10:05:05

Following the dialogue with Jerry:

In the PIAF:

> Date: Sat, 21 Mar 1998 06:10:09 -0500 (est)
> From: Gerald Levy <glevy@pratt.edu>
> To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> Subject: [OPE-L] Re: Re: Historical, real and current costs

Jerry wrote:

> > Note that, actually, "Andrew's example" is not Andrew's but it is
> > in Marx's Capital II, Chapter 13:
> That is not true. The widget example was Andrews example, not Marxs. For
> instance, in the quote you cite from Vol. 2, Ch. 13, we did not have:
> * a one-product economy.
> * no constant capital.
> * only one capitalist ("Mr. Moneybags").

But Jerry, these are only simplyfing assumptions in order to make the
numerical examples easier! Otherwise we should use multiproduct
examples and the cumbersome and boring matrix algebra. The example
Andrew is proposing can be ulteriorly complicated in the way you
suggest, but we had only more numbers on the screen which are not
really useful, I think.

Why would a multiperiod example change the issues in discussion? Or,
maybe we (*we*, this includes you, Jerry) can reformulate Andrew''s
widget example in order to see whether or not the introduction of
all these complexities changes the matter.

Additionally, "corn models" are not Andrew''s. For example, Duncan
use a "corn model" to explain his reading of the falling rate or
profit in his book Understanding Capital (I recently received a copy!)

Duncan says on p. 131: "A numerical example of this process may help
to explain it. Suppose, for simplicity, that we are in the corn
economy of Ricardo; hence there will be only one produced commodity
and prices will be proportional to labor values."

Does this mean that Duncan''s discussion is not useful? No, of course
not. He''s only trying to illustrate the MAIN point he''s making.

I ask: Do your complaints about "Andrew''s corn model" apply also to
Duncan''s examples? I don''t remember --maybe I wasn''t in the list--
that you have suggested this issue to Duncan to be discussed. I have
the impression (maybe wrong) that you seem to believe that the only
person in the world using "corn models" is Andrew and that this is
the reason he obtain "perverse results". Do you think that such a
kind of results are also present in Duncan''s work.

All this is something funny for me because, almost one year ago,
Duncan kindly read my paper on the Okishio Theorem. His FIRST COMMENT
was that I should use a "corn model" and avoid the cumbersome matrix

> Moreover, note the following in Marxs quote:
> a)
> the qualification "ALMOST".
> b)
> > In timber raising, after the sowing and
> > the incidental preliminary work are completed, the seed requires
> > about 100 years to be transformed into a finished product and during
> > all that time it stands in comparatively very little need of the
> > action of labour.
> > "In all these cases additional labour is drawn on only occasionally
> > during a large portion of the time of production...
> the qualifications "very little" and "only occasionally".

You are of course right, but you are forgetting a quotation:

Marx also says, *conclusively*:

"In all these cases therefore the production time of the advanced
capital consists of two peridos: one period during which the capital
is engaged in the labour process and a second period during which its
form of existence -- that of an unfinished product -- IS ABANDONED TO

Note that Marx says *without being at that time in the labour
process", i.e. there is not labour expended at that time. The
commodity, during this time, is "abandoned to the sway of natural

Andrew is simply talking about this period of time in which the
commodity is "abandoned to the influence of naturale processes" and
therefore there is no new living labor being spent. You raised the
point that during this period, "in Andrew''s example", the Sun would
create value. But this period also exists in Marx''s example. My
question: Do you see also the "perverse results" in Marx''s
examples, in which certainly we have this period of time?

The qualifications you mention belong to more complicated examples
but even in those cases there are periods in which there is not
living labor at all and only the "natural processes" are acting.
For example, you quoted:


Suppose we have a year of 365 days. The sowing time is on Jan 1. Then
there is no living labor during 150 days. After this, 1 day is
devoted to clean the field and to apply herbicides (is English?).
After this, we have 212 days without living labor, only "natural
processes" are acting. Then, 1 day is spent in harvesting. So we have
that between the time of sowing and harvesting "the labor process is
almost entirely suspended", because we had 1 day of living labor in
the middle. But note that we have 365-3 = 362 days in which only the
"natural processes" are "working". Does this mean that during these
362 days the Sun or the soil are creating value?

I''m sure Andrew can "reconstruct" his example assuming that from 5
pm to 7 pm there is no living labor spent. After this, he can assume
that from 7 pm to 7:02, 2 minutes of living labor are spent, and then
from 7:03 pm to 9 pm there is no living labor. But, does it matter?
Is it necessary such a complication?

> Moreover, the Marx quotation does not speak to the issue at hand. I.e. he
> does not suggest that *value* was increased without the expenditure of
> living and/or dead labour.

Jerry: I can''t believe this sentence. Andrew doesn''t hold that
value was increased without the expenditure of living and or dead
labor. He has already clarified the matter. PLEASE, see his recent
post commenting Francisco''s questions. Why do you say that in his
example there is creation of value without expenditure of labor? He
has stressed that the labor-value is 100 hours. Please, tell me where
does Andrew say that labor-value is > 100 hours?

> > Andrew is not constructing a weird example or making silly
> > assumptions.
> If we are trying to understand some process connected with capitalism,
> then it seems to me that the assumptions listed above do a great injustice
> to that topic.
> Note that Andrew has not _just_ assumed c=0, but rather
> combined that assumption with many others that are at least as
> problematic.
> [btw, can you remember an example that Marx made that assumed a
> one-commodity economy?]

No, I don''t, but I think the "corn models" are useful to stress some
important aspect. I certainly don''t think that the authors who use
them (like Duncan and Andrew) think that they are "modelling
capitalism" in every aspect.

> > Well, my questions are:
> > a) Do Marx's above-quoted examples exhibit the "perverse results"
> > you attribute to Andrew's example?
> No, they dont. And Marx didnt use an example similar to Andrews.

The perverse result you originally mention is that in Andrew''s
example it seemed that the Sun creates value, right? So I will
reformulate my question in the light of a "more realistic" Marx''s
example I mention above:

We have a year of 365 days which is broken down in 3 days of living
labor + 362 days in which only "natural processes" (the Sun) act. The
living labor is spent as follows:

Sowing time: 1 day, at the beginning of the year
Harvesting time: 1 day at the end of the year
Other processes: 1 day "in the middle" of the year.

This fits perfectly with Marx''s piece you mention: "Between the time
of sowing and harvesting the labour-process is *almost* entirely
suspended." (p. 238). It is *almost entirely suspended* because it
is not suspended during 363 days, but only during 362 days,
i.e. "almost".

If you want to drop the assumption that c = 0, I completely agree.
Let''s suppose that, at the beginning of the year, c is advanced in
the form of seed and that this seed contains 3 days of social labor-

So, my questions are:

a) Do you think that "the Sun creates value" during the time in which
the commodity is "abandoned to the sway of natural processes", i.e.
during 362 days?

b) What is the amount of labor-value of this commodity?

c) What do you think is Andrew''s calculation of value for this
example? More precisely, what is the number you think he would

> > b) Do these Marx's examples imply that "natural processes" create
> > value?
> In the Marx quote, there _was_ labour performed in the drying process.
> Moreover, in the quote constant capital was not eliminated by
> assumption.

In Marx''s quote I''m making explicit with some numbers, the
possibility of constant capital is allowed. So, I want to see what
are you numbers in this case, and if they agree with Andrew''s.

So, Andrew, please, give us your own numbers for the example and
let''s see if you and Jerry really disagree, as Jerry think you both

Alejandro Ramos