(OPE-L) Taxation

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sat Jun 12 2004 - 07:27:31 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jurriaan Bendien" <andromeda246@hetnet.nl>
Sent: Saturday, June 12, 2004 6:40 AM
Subject: Taxation

 Marx suggests that tax is a component of commodity prices "independent of
the value" of those commodities (e.g. Cap. 3, p. 892 in the Pelican edition)
but the question is whether this argument can be sustained if taxation
becomes an integral part of the cost-structure of production.

 Marx's remarks must be interpreted as saying that the value magnitudes of
commodities are determined quite independently from taxes. After all, his
argument is that the substance of that value, consists of the abstract labor
required to produce it. But part of that value is in fact realised as an
impost on sales revenue and appropriated as tax revenue, which reduces the
surplus-value realised by producers as net profit.

Then it could be argued that the tax levy is form (a relation of
distribution) which does not affect fluctuations in values, but rather
fluctuations in production prices, and the formation of production prices.
But Marx suggests that this isn't the case either, because production prices
relate individual output values to total output values, and these values are
not the actual market prices. In that case, we can conclude only that
taxation for Marx is not a relation of production, but a relation of
distribution, which applies specifically only to market prices and actual
gross revenues.

 This argument may be credible perhaps, if tax is only a small percentage of
costs or revenues, a sort of faux frais of production, but if the tax impost
is equal to between a quarter and half of the total market price of net new
output (i.e. the total tax rate exceeds the general profit rate), then
taxation has become integrated as an important part of the very cost
structure of production, and begins to affect the accumulation process in
very important, maybe even decisive ways. That is, it now affects both cost
prices and average profits in very important ways, and must influence
production prices.

 For Marx, however, it seems that tax is nevertheless NOT a component of the
regulating production prices. The magnitudes of these production-prices are
determined by labor-time performed, given an established market demand. The
magnitudes of taxes by contrast are determined independently by the state,
as an impost on an existing flow of sales and revenues. Levying a tax, thus
already assumes the existence of regulating production-prices.

 But how could tax revenue then be considered a "component of
surplus-value", a component of surplus-labor or surplus-product which is
appropriated as tax revenue ? This is really the conceptual problem that has
to be solved, and I think that Marx suggests an answer in his manuscript
"Relations of production and relations of distribution" (chapter 51 of Cap.


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