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Re: [ox-en] Re: Role of markets

graham wrote:
Sorry for the delayed reply... I'm leaving a lot of the original in for context, which makes this a very long mail.
I will subedit for my reply

I'm not going to argue that Marx didn't talk in these terms, though not entirely consistently. I will argue that I think it's wrong, whatever Marx thought. Basically in the assumptions that work can be separated from the rest of life (so that work is a disutility to minimize and leisure a utility to maximize), that obsessive concern with time is universal, and in the opposition assumed between man and nature.

I don't think any of the three assumptions apply to hunter-gatherer societies, even the ones in situations of scarcity. I don't know what anthropologists nowadays think of Sahlins and Stone Age Economics nowadays but IIRC that was once a fairly standard opinion.
I dont know what they think of it either, I seem to recall hearing that his ideas were now considered wrong, but have never read the debate myself.

For purely farming societies the opposition between man and nature is there (ish) but not the other two, if only because life becomes pretty much nothing but work for six months and pretty much no work for the other six. Concern with time is all about getting things done before it rains, or the crop rots, or it freezes or whatever, not a concern over maximizing or minimizing value.
Do people really do nothing for 6 months of the year, or do they do non-agricultural work -- making tools, clothes, repair of buildings etc. Given the level of productivity of labour and the population, there is still only so much that can get done. You have shown that there is an additional constraint, -- certain parts of the labour necessary to support society have to be done at particular times of the year, but this does not mean that there is no overall labour constraint. The argument of the labour theory of value is not that there are no constraints on society other than time, but that labour time is the dominant constraint, and that other constraints work through labour. Ricardo demonstrates this for fertility of the soil. But we can take your example as well. If the harvest has only a 2 week window, the effect is to make the labour constraint on corn production even tighter.

Where value does universally start to appear is where you have rulers concerned about the proportion of people's effort that is going to them.
If you mean exchange value expressed in price, then I agree with you. The institution of monetary taxation by the state is critical to generalising a monetary economy.

The difference this makes is in whether you think value will always exist (an essential part of the relationship man:nature) or is a temporary phenomenon which did not exist once and may not again (if there are no rulers to enforce it).
I think that until robots are truely universal, which may occur some time in the future, human labour time will continue to be the dominant constraint on production.

To tell you the truth, part of the reason for not replying earlier was that I thought with ex-Krisis members around someone else would reply to this, but they are keeping quiet..
Who are Krisis?

If workers in Leipzig had been paid in labour tokens not Ost Marks, then
the situation would have been different. If for each hour they worked
they got 60 mins of tokens, then it would have provided an incentive to
Robotron to have been even more efficient in their use of labour than
Siemens. Of course in a system of labour tokens you would need to have
income tax, as Marx pointed out, but a tax on income, with tax rates
democratically voted on is quite different from paying for the state out
of company profits.

So in a differently organized system East German (and other) workers could have been better paid, a consequence of which would probably have been more democracy.

That doesn't answer my question of whether you think it is possible to have a system based on 'from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs', that is one where there is in no relation between an individual's work and their consumption (which is not to say that there is no statistical relation).
I do not think that the idea of free and limitless distribution of all goods will ever be practical. But I dont think that is what distribution according to needs means.

An alcoholic may think that they 'need' another bottle of Gin, but that
does not mean that society will agree to provide it to them for free,
and may not even agree that they should get it at all.

Who would the people be doing this 'objective assessment' of my needs if not a new set of rulers?
Not at all.

If you are a young healthy man and you go to your GP in Britain and say doctor I need a total checkup including a whole body NMR scan, he will say no. In his professional opinion, you do not need this, and have no right to call on societies resources to get it. None the less the health service in the UK is based on the communist principle of to each according to his need. It attempts to allocate the finite resources allocated to health fairly on the basis of medical need as opposed to wealth.

If I want to have three children (with the resulting extra consumption) can they tell me 'no, you only need 2?'. If so - if they believe they can separate what I want from what I need 'objectively' - they are dictators, and if not, then they will not have actual control over distribution.
In a country like China, where the choice was rapid population growth and mass starvation, or population restriction, and growing living standards but a restriction on personal liberty, the government was quite right to impose the 1 child family policy.
There is such a thing as social responsibility.

This kind of separation of 'need' and 'want' is only possible by sleight of hand: take current family, number of tvs per head, cars per family etc as given, and you can claim that this presupposed existing system shows what people objectively 'need', and anything else is just 'desire'. The British will then have lots of needs, and most of Africa mere desires.
No it is a matter of pragmatics and justice. It is practically possible and just to distribute health care and education free on the basis of need. It might also be possible to make bus transport free. But you can not practically make Ferraris and Bentleys free. Remember that free services have to be paid for out of taxation, and also that if something is made free but uses a lot of resources, then the result is terrible waste.
> Where distribution ad-libitum does become possible is with information.

'Become' is a bit of a weasel word. Become logically, or is becoming in time? Logically I don't think the status of information has ever changed. Politically, it's clearly changing hugely.
It becomes possible if either the impositions of private property can be sidestepped ( file sharing ) or can be politically defeated.


Why are these conflicting goals? Would not the enjoyment of the brick
kiln workers of Kerala be improved by the introduction of modern plant
and machinery, which would also reduce labour input?

Yes, that is one possibility. I know nothing about brick kiln workers in Kerala, but I can imagine that for some rather abstract generic brick kiln workers there might be other possibilities, for example:
The brick kiln workers of Kerala are not abstract, but members of the untouchable castes, working in conditions only marginally different from slavery. Their semi slave status and the absence of mechanisation are intimately linked. Both because prior to mechanisation, slave status was the only way to socially enforce such miserable back breaking toil, and because the low wages paid, make it economical to use semi slaves rather than modern machines,.
- they are from an area with a long history of working in brick (the area was once famous for magnificent moulded bas-reliefs made from thousands of individually different bricks), and before they were herded into the factory they used to admire the most skilled producers of these bas-reliefs. Now they are running the production they would like to increase this element of their work and decrease the level of mechanization

- bricks are part of a foreign method of construction brought in to build luxury houses unsuited to the area and vulnerable to earthquakes. Work in the brick kilns has always been an imposition, and given any chance the people doing it would love to escape, mechanized or not. Of course people will still need houses, so they decide to investigate alternative methods of house building (the original local method was wood based but the forests are long gone). Co-operation with South American Indians working on reviving adobe architecture for large-scale buildings sounds like it would be really enjoyable..

I could go on with more. The point is that maximizing their enjoyment is not necessarily going to fit with a planner who is busily trying to minimize time by maximizing mechanization. Especially if the planner believes he is doing it to fit their objective needs which they are too dumb to see.
This would be more convincing if it came from somebody who actually faced the daily toil of such work, rather than a more sedentary life.

Well if you want it to be leisure activity, then it does not get
included. If you want to work overtime or on a second job, then it does
get included, but during such hours you worked on a 2nd job you would be
submitting to the tasks and goals set by the collective within which you
were working.

But doesn't that completely mess up planning? If (I don't know the real figures) 20% of software (in terms of lines of code multiplied by times a program is run, say) is produced in people's free time, and you plan for x hours of people writing software in 'jobs', doesn't that mean your production figures will be 20% out? Or conversely, if you say that 10,000 man hours have gone into software produced in jobs and that a corresponding amount of labour vouchers need to be provided to use the software, what happens when no-one coughs up the labour vouchers because they are using the software produced in leisure time instead?
I am not saying that people have to pay to use software, what I am saying is the government would have to provide a budget to pay some of the people who were going to produce information ( software, drug discovery etc) that was later going into the public domain.

<snip long and interesting section from Paul comparing possibilities
for ecological planning in a planned system and under Kyoto>

I would say that any labour that is not required for the reproduction of
society in its current state of development and civilisation is surplus.
This is an analytic term, having a concept of something and having the
technique to exactly measure it are two different things.

You really think all concepts have a measure? The measure of labour 'in jobs' is time, and I am arguing that is a social measure, valid here and now, but not universal. But if you say that no it is universal, then you have precisely excluded labour 'outside jobs', outside working time, from having any measure.
No I am saying that population is finite, the waking hours are finite, the activity of humanity is thus finite, irrespective of social relations.

If the goods are created just for pleasure then that is not a problem.
But that is true only of a portion of informational goods. Developing a
new cancer drug is a process of information production. It is however a
very costly process of production in terms of the effort that has go to
into it. Once the drug has been developed, the information about its
formula can be distributed at minimal cost. What I am saying is that
because the marginal cost of disemminating the formula of the drug is so
low there should be not royalty charges impeding its cheap production.
But society still has to have some way of accounting for and defraying
the considerable labour cost involved in producing the information in
the first place.

And what is that way in a labour-value based system? Are you saying that production of information would be paid for by a tax on other production (the value of labour vouchers would be reduced slightly below the number of hours it took to work for them)? It doesn't sound hard to imagine; basically a return of information production to something like an expanded version of the university system. The university system is where most of the new drugs really originate from anyway. Clearly production of information would have to be authorised in case it catered for wants instead of needs. And good time-keeping would be essential. Sorry, too late in the evening and my sarcasm control is malfunctioning. Boris Kagarlitsky once had an argument a bit like this - free software developers were a GOOD THING and should be recognized as productive and paid for by the state, which would then set their targets..


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Contact: projekt

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