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.

Continue reading “Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 4”

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?

Continue reading “Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 3”

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.

Continue reading “Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 2”

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.

Continue reading “Labor Theory for (Marxist) Dummies: Part 1”

Schrödinger’s Capital: Value theory and economic depressions

NOTE 16: Who are you going to believe? Your lying eyes or the BLS?

If not all labor creates value, how can we distinguish labor that creates value from labor that does not create value. Marx proposed that labor that creates value must be expressed as exchange value; which is to say, value producing labor contained in one commodity must be expressed in the bodily form of another commodity having value for which the first product of value creating labor is exchanged.

Marx’s definition provides a testable statement regarding value:

If a product of labor has value, this value must be expressed as exchange value.

An important caveat to Marx’s theory must be stated here: while the value of a product of labor must be expressed as exchange value, the converse statement will not necessarily be true: the value of a product of labor will be expressed in the form of exchange value, but not every object with exchange value actually has value.

The value-form school’s definition of value directly contradicts Marx’s argument in that, for value-form theory, value does not necessarily take the form of exchange value, but only some definite quantity of the material of a “value-form” (i.e., a money), irrespective of whether this material itself has value or not. Thus the value-form school also produces a testable statement:

If a product of labor has value, it will have a price denominated in some material granted forced circulation by the State, and having the key determination of immediate exchangeability. (Arthur, 2003.)

According to Heinrich in his Introduction to the three volumes of Capital, there is no reason to prove value exists. However, the problem we face is not whether we need prove value itself exists, but which of these two distinct and incompatible definitions of value is accurate.

Continue reading “Schrödinger’s Capital: Value theory and economic depressions”

Schrödinger’s Capital: FYI, Marx NEVER said labor creates value

NOTE 15: Some labor creates value

So, here is the problem with Heinrich saying we don’t need proof for Marx’s propositions: Not all labor creates a product that contains value.

Think of it this way: According to Arthur, money is simply use value with no labor value whatsoever, just like all other commodities. According to the value-form school, it is the physical material of money that gives all other commodities their value, by serving as the form of value, the value-form, the money-form. Commodities, says Arthur, are the product of concrete useful labor, not abstract labor. It is not until these commodities are exchange for the value-form, that they are reduced to values.

In the value-form argument, commodities do not have a social property of value prior to exchange; they remain simply incommensurable use values — objects that cannot be compared as values, because they are of completely different qualities. Thus, before exchange, we cannot say 10 apples equal one hoe because the usefulness of apples cannot be quantitatively compared to the usefulness of hoes. Somehow, the exchange of the objects for the value-form strips the commodities of their useful qualities and reduce them to abstract labor values. Continue reading “Schrödinger’s Capital: FYI, Marx NEVER said labor creates value”

Schrödinger’s Capital: Michael Heinrich explains why Marxists don’t have to prove anything

NOTE 14: Proof is for real sciences, not labor theory?

What sort of science is this that Marxists believe in? According to Michael Heinrich:

“Tied up with the question concerning the difference between Marx’s value theory and classical value theory is the question of whether Marx had “proven” the labor theory of value, that is, whether he had established beyond the shadow of a doubt that labor and nothing else underlies the value of a commodity. This question has been frequently discussed in the literature about Marx. But as we’re about to see, Marx was not at all interested in such a “proof [value lies behind prices].”

That statement is from Michael Heinrich’s Introduction to the three volumes of Capital, chapter 3, section 2, and it is just astonishing.

To understand the flaw in Heinrich’s reasoning, remove Marx and insert Einstein: “Einstein was not at all interested in such a proof of the existence of space-time relativity.”

Or, remove Marx and insert Darwin: “Darwin was not at all interested in such a proof of evolution.”

Would physicists or biologists accept this argument from Heinrich? Why would anyone who calls herself a Marxist? We are discussing the whole underlying structure of a modern capitalist economy, but we don’t require proof for that structure? We can just wing it until we get to extremely complex questions like the transformation problem or whether there is a law of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, where, all of a sudden, proof value is behind prices and profits is demanded?

And Marxists wonder why no one takes them seriously.

Continue reading “Schrödinger’s Capital: Michael Heinrich explains why Marxists don’t have to prove anything”

Schrödinger’s Capital: Money, “technological unemployment” and the cold war

NOTE 13: Historical materialism minus the history part

I have been reading, “Marx and Monetary Theory”, by Matthijs Krul. At the outset, Krul makes this statement:

“In the context of the current crisis, with ‘quantitative easing’ to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars on the one hand and the rush to liquidity that accompanies financial crises on the other, it may be useful to take a look at how Marx’s economic theory relate to issues of money and monetary policy. The aim here is to provide a clear and understandable overview of what Marx’s theory of money was, how it relates to our current-day monetary system internationally, and how this relates to his value analysis generally.”

image-A699_4D98869BAccording to Krul in this 2010 essay, the financial crisis makes it useful to compare Marx’s approach to money (and, by implication, value and exchange value) with bourgeois monetary theory. The problem, however, is that in Marx’s theory money is the expression of the values of commodities. By contrast, bourgeois theory lacks a theory of money and treats money as a mere system for counting up incommensurable use values.

Since the commodities themselves are incommensurable, what else the prices might represent is unclear from Krul’s discussion — he never mentions the word, value, until he discusses Marx. It is possible that bourgeois economics believes money is a system for counting itself. As Arthur puts, money is both the form and measure of value.

In any case, bourgeois theory bounces between two poles: in times of relative calm it adheres more closely to the Austrian theory. During times of crisis, it suddenly declares, in the words of Milton Friedman, “We are all Keynesians now.”

Continue reading “Schrödinger’s Capital: Money, “technological unemployment” and the cold war”

Schrödinger’s Capital: Is the US dollar world money or the end of money?

It is important to say I want to preserve the science of historical materialism. To be clear, the outcome of this debate has nothing whatsoever to do with the outcome of the class struggle. Despite claims to the contrary by various vanguardist parties, no class in history ever made a revolution based on its theoretically accurate grasp of the society it was seeking to overthrow. The proletariat will not break that pattern. We can thus safely separate the issue of the scientific veracity of historical materialism from the social implications of its conclusions to answer the troubling questions raised by the value-form school argument.

I say this to emphasize I do not think Chris Arthur is “being revisionist” or some such nonsense. Instead, the science itself is being challenged by the appearance of something many people assume labor theory never predicted, a fiat currency filling the role of ‘world money’. Historical materialism has a big problem of explaining whether this fiat ‘world money’ is in fact money, and, if so, how it works.

NOTE 12: The end of exchange value?

According to Marx, a use value has value only if it is the product of human labor. The quantity of value contained in any product of human labor is the duration of socially necessary labor time required to produce the commodity. The value of a commodity is expressed as exchange value in a transaction in which the value of the first commodity is expressed in the use value of the second commodity. According to Marx the value of a commodity can only be expressed in the use value of another commodity also having value. The commodity socially recognized as playing the role of money is simply the one whose use value serves to express the values of all other commodities in the community.

This definition of money is commonly recognized by almost all Marxists. But if Marx is correct about this, the dollar, a valueless state issued inconvertible fiat paper currency, cannot be world money. The problem with the dollar serving in the role is that, as bitcoin shows, it can be produced with no expenditure of human labor whatsoever. And, it can be produced in whatever quantity is required almost instantaneously. This means the dollar is not a product of human labor and thus contains no value at all.

Which bring Marxists face to face with a paradox: If the dollar is world money, Marx must be wrong by his own definition. If Marxists recognize dollars as world money, they are — by the same definition — no longer Marxists.

Continue reading “Schrödinger’s Capital: Is the US dollar world money or the end of money?”

Schrödinger’s Capital: How Marxists missed the biggest story of the last 45 years

NOTE 11: What the fuck happened to wages?

This is what US price inflation looks like from 1913 to 2012 according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Consumer Price Index 1913-2012 (BLS Series Id: CUUR0000SA0)
Consumer Price Index 1913-2012 (BLS Series Id: CUUR0000SA0)

 

This is what the change in the standard of prices (gold) look like over the same period:

Gold price standard - 1913-2012 (KITCO.com)
Gold price standard – 1913-2012 (KITCO.com)

I would like to you to see what happens when I set these two measures of depreciating dollar purchasing power side-by-side

CPI versus Gold measure of dollar purchasing power depreciation - 1913-2012
CPI versus Gold measure of dollar purchasing power depreciation – 1913-2012

One of these measures of dollar purchasing power depreciation is lying. Can you guess which one it is?

Continue reading “Schrödinger’s Capital: How Marxists missed the biggest story of the last 45 years”