Re: [OPE-L] The Law of Value and Rib Tips

Date: Wed Feb 09 2005 - 08:42:33 EST

> Ah Hah! A *joint* production problem.

Hi Phil:

Now why didn't I think of that pun?   Pun aside -- I think it is
(in part) a joint production problem.

One part of the answer might be to consider it a case of joint
production where with the same means of production and labour
power a variety of commodities can be produced.  Thus, when
the pig is slaughtered there are a wide variety of commodities
produced both as means of consumption for humans, food for
other animals, fertilizer, and perhaps even cosmetics (who
knows what else? -- I'm not sure).  In such an instance, one
might content that all of these commodities *together* tend
on average  to sell at their value but that some of these
commodities are  sold either above or below their value.  (Yes,
I realize this doesn't fit in well with your perspective.)

I don't view this, though, as a sufficient answer to the "Paradox
of Rib Tips".

That's because the answer also has to take into account the
special nature of demand for ribs and rib tips in which it is
customary at (certain kinds of) barbeques to serve both ribs
and rib tips.  In that case, one should look at the BBQ
(rather than the earlier activity of slaughtering)  as the specific
production process in which these two commodities are
produced.  Again it could be the case that one of these
commodities (ribs) tends to be sold above its value and the
other commodity (tips) tends to be sold below its value.
Yet, one could easily see how this relationship could change
with a change in *consumer preferences*.  Thus, if more
consumers demanded tips it might cause the price of tips to
increase and the price of ribs to decrease.   Clearly,
instead of looking at the two prices separately one has to
look at their *relative* prices.

There is also the question:  to what extent does nature in
addition to labour power and means of production
contribute to the price of the ribs and tips?  The pigs
themselves can't produce value but they are a source
of wealth and this wealth tends under capitalism to be
expressed in price.

For more on this, see the following posts written by
Matt Forstater and then, again, by Red Kronstandt.
Both posts were written last July and RK's July post
is the last post that has been sent to Kapital_Gang on
this or any other subject.

So what's your answer?

In solidarity, Jerry

1.) Post by Matt Forstater

Red -

I haven't thought the whole thing through, but one thing to keep in
mind is that Marx, like the classical economists, made a distinction
between market prices and prices of production. The latter are what
Smith and Ricardo called natural prices. Market price can be above,
below, or equal to price of production depending on various factors,
including things like unusual weather, but also demand.  Unlike
modern neoclassical economics, demand does not determine natural
price or price of production in the classics and Marx.  But demand
can affect market price.  So, it is possible that the market price of
rib tips is lifted higher than its price of production by consumer
demand. (Recall that differences-in taste, tenderness, etc.-can be
real or perceived.).

Just a thought.


2.) Reply to Forstater by Red Kronstadt


Thanks for responding to the quandary.  Incidentally, I should have
written you before because I had read your posting on monetization (A
Secret of Colonial Capitalist (So-Called) Primitive Accumulation.
(at: ) )

or what I call the extension of the value-relationship and found it

I don't think that the problem is one of simple demand-pull for with
any given supply of ribs and rib tips, the former will be more

Perhaps, by taking a different tack I can arrive at what I am
pursuing.  Consider the following:

Two people (A and B) are gold miners.  For sake of simplification as
well as clarification, we will assume that

They are equals in all respects e.g. strength, desire, knowledge,
equipment, etc.  i.e. the labor is equal to that of B

                        LA = LB

            The lands they are mining are un-owned

The only difference between the two is that

            Land A is twice as rich as land B

The final assumption is that all they can produce will be bought.

Now, it seems to me that, with a similar day, A will produce 2x what
B produces and therefore reap 2x the money from the sale thereof.  As
the capital investments are, by our assumptions, the same and the
same for the labors this situation must indicate that the values of
the lands differ.  Land A must be more valuable than Land B even
though no valuation has been affixed to them.  Similar to the way
that ribs must be more valuable than rib tips (as reflected in the
calculus of price points obtaining at different supplies).  As Marx
puts it

"The use-values, coat, linen, &c., i.e., the bodies of commodities,
are combinations of two elements - matter and labour. If we take away
the useful labour expended upon them, a material substratum is always
left, which is furnished by Nature without the help of man. The
latter can work only as Nature does, that is by changing the form of
matter.  Nay more, in this work of changing the form he is constantly
helped by natural forces. We see, then, that labour is not the only
source of material wealth, of use-values produced by labour. As
William Petty puts it, labour is its father and the earth its
mother."  Capital.  Vol 1. Chap I.

"The latter (humans) can work only as Nature does, that is by
changing the form of matter."  Nature, it seems, has done more of
the `work' in land A than in Land B and in ribs than in rib tips.
And here is the thing; it seems, at least in the case with which we
began, that this work by Nature seems to be readily quantifiable:


            15 lbs of whole ribs per pig

            2x in weight of ribs, x in rib tips per pig

            2x in price of ribs, x in rib tips

            Supply = Demand


Value of $2/lb for ribs.

From this we can conclude

            The pig has 10lbs of ribs, 5 lbs of rib tips

            The value of the ribs = $20

            The value of the rib tips = $5

Now, as in the previous posting, we had posited that the very same
labor simultaneously produces both ribs and rib tips, it seems that
Nature in its construction of the pig has endowed the porcine in a
manner such that in the pig the value of the

            ribs = 4x that of rib tips

There is a point to all of this.  And the point is not offered
without having been subject to due consideration:  there is a problem
in the Law of Value as it is usually interpreted.  Marx implicitly
seems to recognize this in Vol 3, Chap X:

"Every individual article, or every definite quantity of a commodity
may, indeed, contain no more than the social labour required for its
production, and from this point of view the market-value of this
entire commodity represents only necessary labour, but if this
commodity has been produced in excess of the existing social needs,
then so much of the social labour-time is squandered and the mass of
the commodity comes to represent a much smaller quantity of social
labour in the market than is actually incorporated in it."

Though the above appears but tangential to this discussion, the
problem seems to be that the Law is continually interpreted in a non-
dialectical manner.  These interpretations, by focusing entirely on
the supply aspect of the economic complement see and measure only the
particles of labor congealing and miss entirely the contributions of
the wave function of the universe.  In mirror-like manner, `orthodox'
economists see only the trees of demand and forget the forest from
which they are felled and by whom they are laid low.  Both, however,
seem to ignore the contribution to value of Nature in so constructing
matter in manners that it is more of less readily apprehensible by
the hands of humans.  This can has and must lead to economic
mistakes.  For, while the pig may be a renewable resource, science is
not yet at the state where it can venture into the exploded heart of
stars and add to the stock of an as yet limited resource.
This `natural' value must be part of sound economic
 calculation and must figure in the equations of any Law.


Red Kronstadt

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Feb 11 2005 - 00:00:01 EST