Sunday, 26 March 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 20

(b) Early Attempts to Distinguish between Productive and Unproductive Labour (D’Avenant, Petty)


D'Avenant (An Essay upon the Probable Methods of Making a People Gainers in the Ballance of Trade, London, 1699, p. 50) put forward a Mercantilist view of productive and unproductive labour. For the Mercantilists, it was activity that created a surplus of trade which was productive. This trade surplus, thereby provided the gold and silver as a surplus value, which could then be used to finance the employment of labour in all other activities. 

In this regard, D'Avenant quotes the work of Gregory King (Scheme of the Income and Expense of the Several Families of England, calculated for the year 1688) who divided the nation into two classes, the first who were productive of wealth and the second who were destructive of wealth, and dependent on the first.

In the first class, King places “Lords, Baronets, Knights, Esquires, Gentlemen, Persons in Office and Places, merchants in oversea trade, Persons in the Law, Clergymen, freeholders, farmers, persons in liberal arts and sciences, shopkeepers and tradesmen, artisans and handicrafts, Naval Officers, Military Officers. As against these, the “unproductive” class consists of: common seamen, labouring people and out servants (these are agricultural labourers and day wage-labourers in manufacture), cottagers (who in D’Avenant’s time were still a fifth of the total English population), common soldiers, paupers, gipsies, thieves, beggars and vagrants generally.” (p 178)

D'Avenant's justification for this position was that those in the first class not only obtained an income sufficient for their consumption, but also obtained a surplus, which could be used to employ others. By such employment, D'Avenant suggested they were consumptive of the wealth created by the first class.

In fact, what was paid out as wages, and thereby added to domestic consumption was directly seen as destructive of wealth by D'Avenant and other Mercantilists, because what was consumed at home was not exported, and thereby reduced the trade surplus, which reduced the flow of gold into the country.

However, Marx says,

“Incidentally, it must not be thought that these Mercantilists were as stupid as they were made out to be by the later Vulgar-Freetraders.” (p 179)

Marx quotes D'Avenant (Discourses on the Publick Revenues, and on the Trade of England, etc., London, 1698) where he indicates that he clearly understood that the real wealth consisted not simply in the store of precious metal, but in the productive capacity of the economy.

““Gold and Silver are indeed the Measure of Trade, but the Spring and Original of it, in all Nations, is the Natural, or Artificial Product of the Country, that is to say, what their Land, or what their labour and Industry produces. And this is so true, that a Nation may be suppos’d, by some Accident, quite without the Species of Money, and yet, if the People are numerous, industrious, vers’d in Traffick, skill’d in Sea-Affairs, and if they have good Ports, and a Soil fertile in variety of Commodities, such a people will have Trade, […] and, they shall quickly get among ‘em, a plenty of Gold and Silver so that the real and effective Riches of a Country, is its Native Product” (p.45)” (p 179)

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Fart and the Deal

According to the so called billionaire business genius, Donald Trump, he is the master of deal making, and even wrote a book on it called "The Art of the Deal".  No doubt, Trump believes it is the best book ever folks, all other books are failing and terrible.  But, of course, as with everything Trump it is simply foul-smelling hot air, as his record already as president demonstrates.

Since becoming President, he put forward a disastrous decree to prevent people from seven Muslim majority countries from travelling to the US, which was struck down almost immediately by US Courts; he has pissed off his own state security services, by publicly attacking them, and comparing them to the Nazis, as well as pissing off the British state by trying to draw them in as collateral damage to cover his ridiculous claims that Obama has been phone tapping Trump Tower (which he can, of course feel free to do, as Britain embarking on Brexit, has to tug its forelock to every large power in the globe); and now even his flagship Health Insurance Programme cannot even win the backing of his own Republican Party in Congress, let alone any wider backing!

The fact is that Trump is full of shit, but he has been able to get away with it, in the same way that others of his ilk can get away with all sorts of rubbish and incompetence, because he was born with loads and loads of money, though by some accounts he has lost even a lot of that.  The fact is that Trump has actually been lucky that his fellow republicans have been fighting like rats in a sack over his Healthcare Bill, because had it passed, it would have caused chaos, and led to massive rises in health insurance costs for millions of those who actually voted for him, and the withdrawal of health insurance for millions more.  Hard reality, would soon have led those supporters to sober up, smell the coffee and ditch the Donald.

In places where people have had experience of him in the past, some of those illusions have already been shattered.  In Atlantic City, for example, Trump made big promises, like those he has made to the people of the US as a whole.  He took over a number of big Casinos, but instead of the area flourishing, it went backwards, whilst Trump stripped money out of the Casinos, before disappearing.

Its the same kind of asset stripping that was seen with BHS in Britain under Phillip Green.  Now it seems that Trump has his sights on a bigger asset to strip - the US itself no less.  He has already appointed members of his own family into this new empire.  We can only hope for the American people that having asset stripped the country, and left yet another venture in bankruptcy, Trump does not follow the example of Phillip Green who sold on the BHS for a pound, and sell on the US to Putin for a dollar.

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 19

6. Advocates of Smith’s Views on Productive Labour. On the History of the Subject


(a) Advocates of the First View: Ricardo, Sismondi


Both Sismondi and Ricardo accepted Smith's first correct definition of productive labour as that which exchanges with capital. Sismondi writes,

““The one always exchanges its labour against the capital of a nation; the other always exchanges it against a part of the national revenue.”” (p 177)

Ricardo also argues that it is better for workers if capitalists and landlords spend their revenue on hiring “unproductive labourers” than that they spend it on the purchase of luxury commodities. If they buy the latter then, once these commodities have been consumed “and there would be an end of them”, no more labour would be employed. However, Ricardo continues, if the revenue were spent on hiring menial servants, this would increase the demand for labour. 

“As the labourers, then, are interested in the demand for labour, they must naturally desire that as much of the revenue as possible should be diverted from expenditure on luxuries, to be expended in the support of menial servants” ([David ] Ricardo, [On the] Principles [of Political Economy, and Taxation,] third edition, [London,] 1821, pp. 475-76).” (p 177)

Marx does not challenge this view here, but its not at all clear that Ricardo is correct in this argument, for the reasons Marx has set out previously. If revenue is spent simply on hiring a cook, to prepare a meal for me then once I have spent that money it is gone. It is not reproduced. Unless I have some more revenue I have no means of employing the cook to produce further meals. The commodity they supply, the service of cooking a meal, has gone just as much as is any other commodity I buy, such as some luxury clothes. Ricardo does not seem to take into consideration that in buying say an expensive suit, this too created a demand for labour as with hiring a cook.

The tailor is added labour here, as is the labour of the weaver, who produces the cloth, the spinner who produces the yarn, the farmer who produces the cotton or wool, the machine maker who produces the loom, and the spinning machines and so on.

All of this additional labour is demanded because the revenue is expended upon buying a suit, which increases the demand for all these other commodities, and the labour required for their production. In hiring the menial servant, the revenue merely enables that worker to reproduce their labour-power, but adds nothing to capital accumulation. However, in buying a luxury suit, the revenue enables the surplus value of the tailor to be realised, so that his capital can be expanded. This expansion of capital thereby creates the condition not only for the existing labour to be reproduced, but for a demand for additional labour to be created.

Northern Soul Classics - Reaching For Something I Can't Have - The Marvellettes

Friday, 24 March 2017

Friday Night Disco - Girl, Why You Wanna Make Blue - The Temptations

Defend Scots Democratic Rights - Part 5 of 6

What we have are two competing nationalisms, confronting each other. We have the Scottish nationalism of the SNP being confronted by a Popular Front comprising the Tory Party, Labour Party and Liberal Party that is promoting English nationalism in opposition to it, wrapped up in the clothes of Brexit. Socialists should give no support or succour to the illusions fostered by either, but should work for the unity of the working-class on the widest, and deepest possible basis. That in itself poses a problem, when the immediate consequence of demanding that the 5.25 million Scots workers remain united with the 53 million workers of England, within the confines of the British state, is to demand that they simultaneously thereby become separated from the 450 million workers of the EU, including the nearly 5 million workers in Ireland. In that respect, only, the nationalism of the SNP is at least, more progressive and outward looking, than the purely Little Englander nationalism of the English Popular Front, which looks only inwards, and backwards.

As I have written recently, this is further complicated by the fact that the British state itself is moving backwards and towards disintegration, whilst the EU is moving forwards and in the direction of a more extensive and intensive integration. The EU is being driven by the logic of social-democracy, and the objective requirements of socialised capital, whilst English policy is being driven by conservatism, and an attempt to turn back the clock, based upon the ideas of mercantilism and colonialism, and the antediluvian forms of capital that underpin it.

The rational solution here would be, not for Scotland or Northern Ireland to become independent from Britain, but for England to become independent from Britain, a possibility that is not at all impossible were it the case that all nations within the union were actually equal. It would be quite rational for England to leave Britain simultaneously with leaving the EU, enabling a Britain of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales if it chose, to remain in the EU.

Had England actually negotiated, on an equal basis, with the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, that is a solution that could have been agreed upon. Theresa May's argument is nonsense when she tries to claim that the SNP's demand for independence, so as to hand sovereignty back to Brussels, is muddled. If I put my money in Bank A, because I believe it is the best place for it, if B comes along and steals that money, there is nothing muddled or irrational about me then trying to remove it from B's thieving grasp, so as to put it back in Bank A, where I wanted it to be in the first place! What would be irrational would be to allow B to simply get away with their act of theft.

It is also nonsense for May to insist that Scots can only hold a referendum after Britain, and thereby Scotland, has been taken out of the EU, thereby necessitating Scotland having to reapply for EU membership. One option would be for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to hold referenda jointly calling for England to be expelled from the Union, thereby enabling the other nations to remain inside both Britain and the EU.

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 18

As capitalist production extended to cover all aspects of life, and all aspects of life was geared to facilitate the accumulation of capital, so this provided the basis for the apologists to claim that anyone engaged in any activity was in some way a productive labourer. In this way, all of the restrictive monopolies and absurdities of feudal society and its state were replicated by the bourgeois state.

An example, in that respect, is provided by healthcare. For Smith, and the early industrial capitalists, the role of a doctor was unproductive, and a cost to production, because it is only required due to “physical infirmities”. In other words, rather than adding something positive, it is simply something correcting some existing imperfection. The goal was then to minimise this cost. The best way of minimising the cost was to avoid the imperfections to begin with, which is one reason the industrialists placed emphasis on temperance. But, modern bourgeois society places much less emphasis on the prevention of ill-health, and instead spends tens of billions on providing remedies for sickness, after it has arisen. The companies that sell these expensive cures, hospitals, machines, and so on make billions in profits from doing so, and nothing from people enjoying good health. The bureaucrats who earn huge salaries from running the hospitals and health systems, only exist on the basis of providing such healthcare, and would lose their raison d'etre if instead people fell sick in far smaller numbers to begin with.

As Brecht put it.

When we come to you
Our rags are torn off us
And you listen all over our naked body.
As to the cause of our illness
One glance at our rags would
Tell you more. It is the same cause that wears out
Our bodies and our clothes.

The pain in our shoulder comes
You say, from the damp; and this is also the reason
For the stain on the wall of our flat.
So tell us:
Where does the damp come from?

A Worker's Speech To A Doctor – Berthold Brecht