Date: Mon Jul 26 2004 - 09:51:46 EDT
---------------------------- Original Message ---------------------------- Subject: Measurement of abstract labor From: "Jurriaan Bendien" <email@example.com> Date: Mon, July 26, 2004 9:49 am -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hi Claus, You wrote: It seems to me that this statement of yours is based on implicit unproven pressupositions, which are: 1) that in Marx's time the massive creation of credit and of fiduciary money were phenomena of minor significance, of which people seem to have been unaware, which I think is not true; 2) that Marx's theory of money did not contemplate and/or is unable to take into account and explain those phenomena, which I think is also not true; 3) that what you call the abandonment of the gold-dollar standard implies that gold has lost its monetary role, which in my opinion cannot be taken as a proven fact. As regards 1), Marx was well aware of credit-creation, and Engels mentions it in Cap. Vol. 3, but if today for example British households collectively carry more than £1 trillion of debt, or given that the total net indebtedness of the USA (household, federal, state, local govt and household debt) is in excess of US$40 trillion (i.e. four times the size of annual GDP) while more US currency and dollar-denominated claims circulate overseas than inside the country, then we're talking about a phenomenon of quite a different order and magnitude I think. As regards 2), I agree with you in principle. As regards 3), the USA still holds very substantial gold stocks. The IMF reports that the US holds 261.59 million troy ounces, worth $11 billion. http://www.imf.org/external/np/sta/ir/usa/eng/curusa.htm#I But other industrialised countries, including e.g. Britain and Holland, have been auctioning off gold in recent years. So you are correct, gold is still part of the monetary system. Point is that its role has been vastly diminished, simply because the volume of monetary claims in circulation is much larger than the value of gold. The classical commodity theory, according to which the long-run value of money is related to the production-costs of the precious metals used as monetary standard was counterposed to the quantity theory, according to which the "value" of money is simply determined by the quantity of money available in the economy. Obviously, currency itself is also a commodity, in the sense of a tradeable object that can be the source of capital accumulation, hence the phenomenon of "money-markets". Clause wrote: I'm not sure I understand what you mean: you seem to believe that the market is compatible with socialism. I'm sorry if I understand you wrongly, but if that is your belief, then your interpretation of Marx's theory of money is in my opinion problematic. If I missunderstood you, please don't consider my remark. One of the goals (not the only goal) of socialist economy is to encourage the transcending of a system of resource allocation exclusively on the basis of buying power or profit criteria, through legally sanctioned citizens entitlements and rights, which include a guaranteed subsistence and educational opportunities. But that doesn't mean the abolition of money, rather it means restricting money-economy to those spheres where it is useful, efficient and serves socially decided goals - and this is done by clearly demarcating which goods and services may be generally traded, and which may not, and by whom they may or may not be traded. Moreover, money remains a unit of account, along with physical unit accounts and labor-accounts. All of this is discussed in the more intelligent East European literature. The dispute among real Marxists has never been about whether there should be a market or no market, but (1) where markets are effective and efficient, and where they are not, or violate social priorities, (2) how these markets should function, and (3) to what extent it is possible to replace markets by superior forms of resource allocation, which is the overall aim. That is how Lenin, Trotsky and Bukharin approached it as well. The goal is to abolish a situation where production of output is mainly conditional on accumulation of private capital, rather than conditional on social priorities agreed to by the majority of society. But this does not mean that a private sector would not continue to exist to some extent, in areas where that is useful and productive, for example, entrepreneurship. In large part, the large corporations are internally already functioning as planned economies, and for basic consumer goods the demand is known, predictable and stable, and is supplied by just a few corporations. In that sense, socialisation is objectively already occurring. Personally, I have never belonged to that school of Marxists which believes that money is the root of all evil, because it isn't. Marx's critique is that money becomes an autonomous force as private capital, in which case people are used and exploited in the pursuit of property ownership and private enrichment, and moral and social priorities of human life are disregarded. We can see nowadays what the downside of capitalism means; Fidel Castro discussed it in detail. In 70-80 of the 100 or so 'developing' countries the average income per head of the population is today lower in real terms than ten or even 30 years ago. The FAO estimated that the number of chronically hungry human beings around the world rose to 842 million in 2000, an increase of 18 million. Around 25 million human beings die annually from hunger. Developing countries account for over 800 million undernourished human beings, and this number is climbing at a rate of almost five million a year. About 34 million human beings are hungry in "marketised" countries of the former Soviet bloc, followed by 10 million in industrialised Western countries. This is not market efficiency. Currently world unemployment is steadily increasing and stands at about 180 million people, according to the ILO, including 50 million in the industrialised countries. A billion people (a third of the world's work force) are unemployed or underemployed. Some 550 working poor live on US$1 or less per day. 3 billion people earn 2 euro or less per day, i.e. less than 730 euro a year. There are now 27 million people on earth living in slavery, as slaves, men, women and children being bought and sold. Then you're talking 0.4 percent of the world population, or around 1 percent of the world's workforce. In the next decade, there will be another 460 million young workers streaming onto the job market, but at the moment there is no significant net increase in world employment. Climate change over the next 50 years is expected to drive a quarter of land animals and plants (1 million species) into extinction. And so on. At the same time that this is happening, utilisation of installed productive capacity in the industrialised countries is running at 75-85%, i.e. between a quarter and a sixth of available capacity is not used simply because the buying power is not there. This is not "market efficiency". These problems cannot be solved by capitalism, not just for demographic reasons but because universal marketisation just increases the socio-economic inequality; it does raise productivity and raises a stratum out of poverty, but not in a way that benefits the majority. The fastest growth areas of production are in the area of luxury production and weapons production, and this is logical, because the incomes of the mass of ordinary consumers are stagnating or increasing only very slowly. That is why state planning, democratisation and socialisation are necessary. But this does not mean abolishing all markets, this is completely impossible. World trade is necessary. It means rather that we consider more carefully what markets really are, how trade must occur, and where we want to have markets and where we don't want to have them. Commoditisation is conditional on privatisation, and privatisation is about asserting property rights. If you change the system of property rights, some thing can no longer be commodities, simple as that. Deregulation of the wealthy means regulation of the working classes. You can also turn that around, and regulate the rich more, and deregulate the creative potential of the working classes. Markets can accomplish some of that, but without appropriate regulation they don't have an overall beneficial effect. The dogma that all markets are bad, cost the lives of millions of people. It is not a viable position, anymore than the idea that markets are always good is a viable position. What is a viable position, is to regulate markets so that they serve social priorities, and there is no particular mystery about what those are, since there is a basic sequence of human needs that must be met for people to be able to realise their potential, and we know a lot about the psychology and physiology of human development now. So to cut a long story short, yes, markets are compatible with socialism. But not any kind of market; the pattern of trade must satisfy social criteria. All that postmodernist confusions really achieve is that people think they are no longer able to agree about moral principles about resource allocation and therefore that anything goes within the strictures of market behaviour. But as soon as the market ceases to function for them, then all of a sudden it is discovered that people have very strong values, very strong moral beliefs, and absolute moral principles... in which case all the postmodernist fuzziness disappears. And of course, moral principles have their class basis as well. The preoccupation with themes such as identity presupposes that you have the ability to think about that identity, and this has definite material and social sublimates. Now I have to concentrate on making some money... Jurriaan PS - a good article on abstract labor is at: http://www.unet.univie.ac.at/~a9709070/grundrisse01/1abstrakte_arbeit.htm The author carefully distinguishes like Marx does between the substance, form and measure of economic value.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 28 2004 - 00:00:01 EDT