(OPE-L) Jurriaan on Production shifts

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Tue Nov 09 2004 - 12:42:16 EST

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Production shifts
From:    "Jurriaan Bendien" <andromeda246@hetnet.nl>
Date:    Tue, November 9, 2004 10:37 am

Jerry asked:

Is this claim to asset ownership  by the working class via stock ownership
in pension and mutual funds to be understood as:  a) an increase in the
customary value that is represented -- indirectly -- by the wage?; or b) a
claim by the a portion of the working class to the *surplus* value
produced by other workers?

As I have mentioned before, in Marx's time taxation and social insurance
was a much more marginal phenomenon. The claims of taxation on current
income & revenues were not so large. In reality, however, the data show
that stock ownership is not very dispersed (see e.g. Edward Wolff's work
on this) and that the amount of stocks directly owned by ordinary workers
is small.

Specifically, Wolff mentions that the richest 10 percent of families own
about 85 percent of all outstanding stocks. They own about 85 percent of
all financial securities, 90 percent of all business assets. In 1983, only
32 percent of households had some ownership of stock. By 2001, the share
was 51 percent. So there has been greater dispersion stock ownership, in
terms of number of families. But on closer inspection, a lot of these
families have very small stakes in the stock market. In 2001, only 32
percent of households owned more than $10,000 of stock, and only 25
percent of households owned more than $25,000 worth of stock. So a lot of
these "new stock owners" have had relatively small holdings of stock. The
majority of ordinary people holding significant stocks are older
middleclass workers, not the younger ones, who generally hold few stocks.
That makes sense, because the younger ones haven't yet the ability to save
enough from their income.

If ordinary workers directly receive profits from stocks, then they
obviously do participate in the share-out of surplus-value, but as
mentioned, this phenomenon is quantitatively not so significant. If
workers pay into pension, mutual or insurance funds, however, the payout
they get later is normally a cost to the pension, mutual or insurance
business, not a direct disbursement of the income of that business, which
proceeds to invest these funds. Hence it should be seen not as part of
surplus-value, but as a distribution of revenue. In principle, the Marxian
economic concept of surplus-value applies to the valuation of the output
of production; though surplus-values can of course be realized in
exchange. Only the payout from insurance funds can be considered part of
the real wage, assuming that the worker is earning a wage.

I personally do not regard variable capital, the value of labor-power and
the (real) wage as identical concepts, although often Marxists do so (in
my opinion wrongly). You might do that, I think, in some abstract academic
model, but in real life or in an analysis of empirical data, this
conflation cannot be sustained.

As regards skilled workers, I haven't got a data set yet on that, but
there more "drain" of skilled workers from developing to developed
countries than "drain" of semi-skilled or skilled jobs from developed to
developing countries. Of course, we have to distinguish between shifts in
jobs and shifts by workers themselves.


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