[OPE-L:1946] Re: Value of Au

John Ernst (ernst@pipeline.com)
Sun, 19 Dec 1999 07:20:21

In OPE-L 1834, Duncan wrote:

"It seems to me that at the level of abstraction Marx usually adopts in
Capital (competition, etc.) the gold producers do make the average rate of
profit. You could introduce rent and monopoly if you like, but they aren't
essential to gold production or the role of gold as the measure of value."

John writes:

First, I think we can agree that gold producers are natural monopolists.
If so, Marx specifically excluded them in his transformation procedure.
Hence, I do not see these producers earning the average rate of profit.
(Letter to Engels, 04/30/1868)

More important is how we read other sections of Marx's work. In it, as
I said in my post, the value of gold is generally assumed constant. If
we hold fast to the idea that gold producers earn the average rate of
profit, then the exchange value of gold would change with every change
in the exchange value of the commodities consumed as constant capital
in its production. If the changes in the exchange values of the other
commodities are due to changes in their values, directly or indirectly,
then gold like the other commodities would experience a change in its
value with changes in the exchange value and value of its inputs. If
the value of gold is constant, how do we speak of technical change and
consequent changes in value? Clearly, in general, gold's value can't be
constant. Yet, in Marx, it is -- by assumption.

Now if we follow this path, then in order to examine the process of
production and reproduction we find ourselves referring to abstract
labor itself as the measure of value. Relative values are
the best we can do when it comes to looking at exchange values. Money
prices are no longer part of the analysis since any old commodity might be
money. M - C - M' becomes C(1) - C(2) - C(1)' where C(1) may or may
not be the same as C(2) and C(1)' > C(1). The accumulation process
itself becomes the accumulation of commodities and can be seen as an
increase in use-values. That M - C - M' where M' < M may exist as
C(1) - C(2) - C(1)' occurs where C(1)'> C(1) is not considered. As
we measure things by changes in quantities of use values, even abstract
labor itself disappears or becomes "redundant."

The capitalists become mere wealth producers with the struggling workers
doing little more than grubbing for more use values. To fight
against the grubbing workers, capitalists may have to invest in
such a way that the rate of increase in use values as outputs falls
relative to the rate of increase in use values as inputs. The
Ricardian image of the accumulation process takes on a more modern
form as strange and generally unseen capital-using techniques (Rube
Goldberg again) replace Ricardo's notion of decreases in the marginal
product of the agricultural sector. Money as something other than
another commodity remains meaningless as Marx is transformed into
Ricardo. This is the accomplishment of what David Laibman calls
"20th Century Marxism."




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