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Tag: hours of labor reduction

Empirical evidence that fewer hours of labor increases wages

As can be seen in the chart below, longer hours of labor does not increase the wages of the working class, nor do shorter hours of labor depress wages.


Empirical evidence for an inverse correlation between hours of labor and wages among euro-zone countries (Source: OECD)

In the euro-zone, as hours of labor fall (x axis), wages rise (y axis). The euro-zone is a good case study for the empirical relation between hours worked and wages, because the common currency means there is no need to adjust for currency exchange rates.

The data, provided by the OECD, shows that Greece, with the longest hours of labor, has among the lowest wages of the euro-zone countries, while Germany, with the shortest hours of labor, has among the highest wages in the euro-zone.

There is a definite inverse correlation between hours and wages.

Marxists who argue a reduction of hours of labor leads to a fall in wages have no empirical or theoretical evidence for their argument. They are just regurgitating the usual simpleton bourgeois nonsense that wage slavery is good for the working class.

Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 4

Is a fully developed communist society possible right now?

047I want to illustrate my point from the last post that to bring the labor reserve into production and so reduce hours to a minimum for everyone in society requires a much larger reduction than may be generally assumed in the literature on the subject. To do this, I will be using actual data drawn on the United States. As I will show, under present conditions in the United States the reduction of hours of labor now required to absorb the labor reserve into production may be so large as to effectively bring us to the threshold of a fully developed communist society.

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Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 3

Labor reduction and the horrific conditions of the labor reserve

I have made several important points about hours of labor reduction in the first two parts of my series “Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies”

The first point is that, according to labor theory, a reduction of hours of labor can drive the rate of profit to zero without any impact on productive employment and wages. This is an extremely important point, because much of the objection by Marxists and other workers to reducing hours of labor rests on their assumption that reducing hours will reduce wages. In fact, of all economic theories, labor theory alone suggest this cannot happen. Labor hours reduction has no impact on employment of productive workers and their wages.

thuglifeSecond, I have shown in part two of this series that when there is significant waste in employment of labor power in the economy, a reduction of hours of labor should actually increase both the number of productively employed workers and wages generally. When a significant portion of the existing employment of labor is wasted, reducing hours raises the wages of the working class.

If labor hours reduction does not negatively affect labor that produces value and surplus value, and if labor hours reduction forces capital to reduce the unproductive employment of labor power, can labor hours reduction actually eliminate unemployment altogether? To be more specific, to what extent is unemployment, underemployment and an entire body of workers who are today “unemployable” solely the product of the present 40 hours work week?

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Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 2

Steps the capitalists can take to counter a reduction in hours of labor and their effect when hours of labor are reduced

In the first part of this series, I showed that a reduction of hours of labor has no impact on wages and productive employment so long as this reduction does not actually encroach on the socially necessary labor required to produce the value of the wages of the working class. In this part, I will show why, under certain circumstances, a reduction of hours of labor will actually increase both wages and productive employment.

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Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 1

How exactly does hours of labor reduction work?

I have to say that I honestly have no idea how the minds of Marxists work — all of them, almost without exception. I have, by turns, alternately been accused of being reformist and ultra-Left for advocating hours of labor reduction. So, I thought I would show people how labor theory actually works in practice and why the struggle to reduce hours of labor is neither reformist nor ultra-Left, but a means to progressively abolish wage labor completely. It is the only real means of realizing a so-called ‘post-capitalist’ society.

What I find puzzling is that Marxists don’t seem to be able to do this very simple thought experiment on their own using Marx’s labor theory of value. The only real objection to reducing hours of labor is that Marxists don’t really want to kill capitalism in the first place.

One of the biggest problems I encounter when discussing hours of labor reduction with Marxists is not the dismissal of the idea as reformist or ultra-leftist. Rather, the problem is far more mundane and substantial. Marxists fear hours of labor reduction will plunge the working class into poverty as wages collapse with hours of labor.

This is an extremely important objection to reducing hours of labor, because it reflects what I think is a valid and extremely powerful fear among the working class. Since we live by selling our labor power, we must be suspicious of any proposal the seems to threaten that sale. However, there is no theoretical basis for this fear in labor theory as I will now show.

If you are a follower of value-form Marxism, don’t try this at home. It will only hurt your brain.

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The Great Unsolved Mystery of the 20th Century: Why did the Soviet Union collapse?

Despite its devastating impact on global relations between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie within the world market, the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union remains mostly unexplained. A large body of literature has been produced to explain the collapse, but, to my mind, very little of it provides a satisfactory explanation.

So I took up reading this paper, recommended by someone on, A Reassessment of the Soviet Industrial Revolution, by Robert C. Allen, without the expectation it would add much to the subject.

I was wrong. I now think it is a must read.

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Would capital flight prevent a $40 minimum wage?

Here is a really amazing paradox raised by my last two posts, as posed by Citizencokane to my blog:

“I love this way of thinking, EXCEPT… I think you are leaving out a third option:  businesses close up shop wherever this minimum wage legislation goes into effect, and re-open for business wherever the legislation is not in effect.  Meanwhile, the businesses take every last piece of real physical capital with them out of the country that isn’t cemented down to a concrete foundation.

“It doesn’t matter if the minimum wage is $60/hour if there are no jobs.  “Fine,”  you might say, “If all business ceases, then workers will just have to physically restart production on their own terms in order to maintain their sheer physical survival.”  That would be all well and good, except when they show up at the factory, they will find a dead husk of a building with all of the useful capital equipment picked clean and transferred to China.

“That is, if the legal system allows companies to move their capital overseas.  What if we prevent that?  Well, the only way we are going to prevent that is with workers’ control of the harbors, the shipyards, the airports, and with the disbanding of police and military forces.  In other words, full revolution.

“So your plan of a $40/hour or $60/hour minimum wage is predicated upon one of two scenarios:

“1.  The entire world joins us on this.

“2.  We physically prevent capital from moving to places that don’t enact the minimum wage legislation and get prepared to take over worker control of workplaces when businesses inevitably close up shop due to insufficient profitability.

“Otherwise, if neither of these two conditions hold, you are just setting up the working class for impoverishment.”

As the writer points out should we raise wages and cut hours, the capitalists have not two but three options: First, they can go bankrupt. Second, the can increase productivity. But, third, they can move to another location.

As the writer notes, I did not discuss the last option: capital flight to avoid higher wages and shorter hours. But here is the weirdest paradox:

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Seattle’s new $15 minimum wage law is killing employment (and that is good news)

minwage2The American Enterprise Institute has published great news for advocates of a higher minimum wage: the new $15 an hour minimum wage law in Seattle has already reduced employment by 11,000 workers.

Says the AEI, a leading neoliberal think-tank, Seattle’s minimum wage increase may be having a negative impact on employment. According to empirical data supplied by the think tank, in the months following an increase in the minimum wage employment began steadily falling just as many economist predicted.

Although many advocates of a higher minimum wage may be disappointed, this news is actually far better than they could have hoped for. Let me explain why.

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The hidden conflict within the fascist state for control of economic policy (5)

I have been going through this process in order to clarify for myself the logic of the current discussion of so-called negative interest rates — an oxymoron if ever there was one. This is part five of the series; part one, part two,  part three and part four can be found here. I hope it also will have some use to readers.

Part Five: The dollar and the increasing possibility of 21st Century Currency Warfare

Can monetary policy be rescued from oblivion? Probably not. There are just too many difficulties with the idea of negative interest rates on currency.

As I explained in part four of this series, Haldane proposes that the way around the zero lower bound on monetary policy may be to impose a negative interest rate on the holders of state issued currency. If a way could be found to force the holders of currency to pay interest on the currency in their bank accounts, wallets, pockets — and even in their mattresses — the distinction between credit money and currency could be forcibly imposed on society by the state despite a zero interest rate environment.

Once stripped of its deceptive wrapping as mere monetary policy, what Haldane is proposing is the outright expropriation of your savings account, your checking account and even the currency in your wallet and cookie jar. This goes well beyond monetary policy and begins to encroach on the limits of national economic policy itself. Under the most charitable interpretation, his proposal is well into the sphere of fiscal, even currency, policy despite the attempt to conceal it behind protective coloration as a negative interest rate on currency.

For the moment, however, let’s ignore this potential objection to his proposal. Instead, let’s treat it as a proposal for a measure similar to what FDR did in 1933: pure and simple devaluation of the currency.

What are the difficulties to be considered?

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The hidden conflict within the fascist state for control of economic policy (4)

I have been going through this process in order to clarify for myself the logic of the current discussion of so-called negative interest rates — an oxymoron if ever there was one. This is part four of the series; part one, part two and part three can be found here. I hope it also will have some use to readers.

Part Four: The desperate search for an exit from failed monetary policy

“I think we got the Recovery Act right. The primary objective of our policy is having more work done, more product produced and more people earning more income. It may be desirable to have a given amount of work shared among more people. But that’s not as desirable as expanding the total amount of work.” Larry Summers, Washington Post, November 8, 2009

“We didn’t think it would take that long.” Ben Bernanke, USA Today, October 5, 2015

The disappointment with the weak impact of counterfeiting the currency was admitted by Bernanke in a recent interview. This was not supposed to happen according to the dominant monetary theory, and Ben Bernanke in particular, where the prices of commodities are a function of the supply of currency in circulation. According to Bernanke’s “quantity theory of money”, the government had this technology, the printing press, which it could use to manage the US national capital. In fact, following the financial crisis, the policy rate went to zero without providing any real stimulus at all.

The chief economist of the Bank of England, Andrew Haldane, gave a speech in September on the problems faced by monetary policy. Although Haldane never mentions Larry Summers, his speech addresses the same concerns Summers raised in his own November 2013 “secular stagnation” speech. The problem is that monetary policy, on which the United States has relied since 1979, has run into a dead end, the zero lower bound. Had Washington not stepped in and provided a multi-year, multi-trillion dollar fiscal stimulus, capitalism likely would have collapsed. No one will admit it, but this is in fact what has happened after the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

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