[OPE-L:1851] Re: Re: Re: Re: the money supply

Subject: [OPE-L:1851] Re: Re: Re: Re: the money supply
From: clyder (wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Dec 07 1999 - 07:29:13 EST

> Claus: I'm sorry but I would remind you that the problem of how the labor
> content of the commodities can possibly be measured by a form of money
> is not a commodity remains to be answered, as long as one conceives of
> prices as expressing the contents of social labor in the commodities. I
> would still like to know how you handle this problem.

The adaptability of labour means that, considered in the abstract,
it can be measured in hours: a scalar.
We can then associate with each product a scalar quantity, its value,
being the labour required making it. This list of pairs
{(product1, value1), (product 2 value2),} is homeomorphic to a price list.
Money prices or labour values can equally well serve as units of account.
They both act as operators mapping elements of heterogeneous types
onto a single measuring scale. They formally identical when it comes
to comparing the costs of alternative economic options .

But the existence of money involves more than just a price list for
all commodities. It also implies, and this is not adequately emphasized
in the Marxian analysis of money, existence of a credit account list.
This is of the form {(subject1 credit1), (subject2 credit2)..}
associating with each juridical subject a monetary credit or debit.
The list may exist in the form of ledger entries in the banks,
database entries in Visa's computers, or more primitively,
coins in purses. All of these are just different historically evolved
technologies for recording the same sort of information.

Whilst price lists and value lists may at first sight seem equally
useful in cost accounting, credit account lists imply something
quite different. Here money appears not as a neutral metric,
but as, what Smith called, the power to command the labour
of others. Credit accounts encode social hierarchy. Throughout
history the index of membership of the upper classes was the
ability to command others to do things. Thus the persistence of
such accounts in socialist societies is an index of the survival of
capitalist forms of domination, of lordship.

Money is abstract lordship, the abstract ability to comand.

Lordship primitively belongs to the public power. The public power
has the original authority to command labour time, which it retains
directly to this day in the right to conscript citizens to the army.
Whilst primitively the obligation to perform labour to the state
is personal and individual, the state later allows it to be transferable.
I can avoid robot, corvee etc if I can produce a certificate that someone
else has performed the service for me. These certificates then circulate
as money. The form of the certificates is not important, they can be coins
paper certificates, or as Wray recounts for Britain wooden treasury
tally sticks which circulated as money up to the start of the 19th century.

The state claims as right a certain portion of the labour time of society.
It issues certificates to whomsoever provides the labour and forces
another set of people to surrender an equivalent set of certificates.

One can see this process of establishing money particularly clearly
in the monetary history of British West Africa. Prior to conquest there was
an established commodity money system based on cowrie shells for low
denominations and standardised bronze ingots for higher denominations.
The introduction of modern money into the economy was brought about
by the imposition of poll taxes that had to be paid in the newly introduced
coin. This tax liability monetized the economy both causing the circulation
of the coin and forcing part of the social product to take the form of
commodities in order to raise the money to pay the taxes.

Commodity production is not necessarily a starting point, historically it
be the result of the need for money, which in turn is driven by the
of surplus labour by the state. The command over labour is prior, it is
what we start out with historically. Money is the symbolic expression
of this power of command, in the process, lordship is delegated to
the holders of credit accounts, lending them social power and
authority to command labour and production.

The origin of money is not to be found in the Benthamite paradise
of equivalent exchange but in imposition, in tax.

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