[OPE-L:5469] RE: Empirical work

Simon Mohun (S.Mohun@qmw.ac.uk)
Mon, 15 Sep 1997 08:52:32 -0700 (PDT)

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I have changed the title in order (hopefully) to start a new thread.
Duncan wrote in OPE-L5465 about the 'New Interpretation',

"(snip) As Dumenil and Levy have tried to make clear, it is an
interpretation of Marx's labor theory of value that tries to make the
theory operational in terms of the actual statistics of real capitalist
The advantage is
that one can then answer questions like "what is the rate of surplus value
in the U.S. economy in 1997" directly, and without converting everything
into a parallel embodied labor coefficient accounting system which actually
depends on a whole lot of theoretical assumptions and the adequacy of
input-output tables."

And around 6 months ago in OPE-L 4167, Duncan wrote,
"the labor input should in principle be a measure of
productive labor, and that using measures of total labor input may lead to
misleading estimates of the time path of the Monetary Expression of Labor
when the proportion of productive to unproductive labor is changing
rapidly. (If the proportion is not changing much, the *level* of the MEL
will be wrong, but its time profile will be correct using total labor input

Suppose we are interested in empirical measures for the economy as a whole
of (1) the rate of surplus value (s/v) and (2) the composition of capital
(c/v for the sake of argument; or, as in Duncan's book, s/v, v/(c+v) and
(c+v)/K where K is the capital stock).

1. Suppose the proportion of productive to unproductive labour is not
changing rapidly. Should any adjustment be made to capital stock figures?
Or would you assume that the time trend of the non-residential structures,
and plant and machinery, that productive labour works with can be
(reasonably adequately) captured by some sort of c/v ratio where v is total
wages excluding general government wages?

2. Same question, but suppose the proportion of productive to unproductive
labour is changing rapidly (as seems to be the case in the UK in the late
1970s/early 1980s) Then what? If variable capital is the total wages of
productive labour, what capital stock does this labour work with? And how
can I get any empirical estimate of it? Or should I sidestep the problem
with some sort of decomposition like
r=(s/v)*(v/total wages)*(total wages/total capital advanced)*(total capital

Any help or comments gratefully appreciated.


P.S. Jerry, take it easy.