From: Allin Cottrell (cottrell@WFU.EDU)
Date: Thu Apr 12 2007 - 21:51:33 EDT
On Wed, 11 Apr 2007, Howard Engelskirchen wrote: > Allin, I now understand the point of your comments from your > other posts of 4/9 and I agree with the analysis -- there is > waste that is necessary and goes into the calculation of what is > socially necessary. The value of each dinner served embodies, > if you like, an appropriate portion of the dinners thrown out. Yes, that's exactly what I had in mind -- well put. > On the point about need..., I'm not convinced. You cannot make > a difficult problem go away by stipulation. Yes it would be > nice if we could calculate need based on current levels of > technology... We're not making that claim. The view on this topic that Paul and I hold came from thinking about such issues as planning problems. (When you solve the planning problem, you can work back and see whether a capitalist economy will produce a similar solution, or -- as is generally the case -- a systematically worse solution.) Here, we're saying that you should not confuse (a) the question of how much labour-time it takes to produce a particular good, assessed purely on the production side, and (b) the question of "how much this good is wanted". Our view is that you have to measure both (a) and (b) but that you shouldn't conflate the two things. And that you let the people themselves "measure" (b). This can be expanded by thinking of Marx's "lower stage of communism" (Critique of the Gotha Programme), where workers are paid in labour-tokens (one per hour worked) and can spend these tokens on the available personal consumer goods. Imagine that products are marked with their labour content (again, assessed purely on the production side). But if people "don't much want" a particular good in a given period, its price, in labour tokens, is set at a discount relative to the actual labour content. (We'd rather sell these goods and not waste them.) On the other hand, if a good is unexpectedly popular, its price in labour tokens is set at a premium relative to the actual labour content. Now we have two independent pieces of information: the labour content as such, and the price in labour tokens that (roughly) "clears the market" for the good. The key point is that we can use the _divergence_ between these two magnitudes to guide a reallocation of resources. For goods where the labour-token price falls short of the labour content, we can say: people are not willing to spend out of their personal allowance an amount of labour equal to what went into the goods. So we should produce less of them. The labour going into these goods is of less than average "use-value effectiveness". If the market-clearing labour-token price exceeds the labour content, this means that people are willing to spend more of their own labour time to acquire the good that it actually took to produce, so we should produce more of these. At the current scale of production the labour going into these goods is of greater than average use-value effectiveness. Notice the structure of the general idea here: we need two independent sources of information. That's why we're opposed to "mashing together" the two criteria (the technical necessities of production and the degree of social demand). If you do that, you get a magnitude that's neither fish not fowl, and hence useless for solving the practical problem. Allin.
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