Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Commercial Credit - Part 3 of 5

What we have here is a version of the process of social reproduction that Marx sets out in Theories of Surplus Value, in his analysis of the Tableau Economique. In other words, as he sets out there, every commodity is money, because every commodity has value, and represents the equivalent form of value of some other commodity. The only thing that singles out gold or silver as the money commodity is its specific role as the universal equivalent form of value. A single commodity which everyone will exchange for all others.

In reality, what stands behind the process of social reproduction is the fact that, in the most part, commodities are bought by other commodities, and there takes place an exchange of equal amounts of value, represented by them. So, here, the farmer bought the suit, not with money, nor even with the IOU, but with the £100 of wool they sold to the clothes producer. There was an exchange of an equal amount of value - £100 of wool for a £100 suit – simply with a thirty day interval between the start of the exchange and its completion. The IOU, here, is the form of commercial credit, provided by the farmer, which enables the exchange to take place.

In a system of pure barter, this reality is apparent, precisely because money does not insert itself between the two acts of the exchange, the selling of the wool by the farmer, and the purchase of the suit by the farmer. Here, there is only C-C (wool-suit), not C-M (wool-money), followed by M-C (money-suit).

In a system of barter, it would still be necessary for the clothes producer to provide the farmer with some token to indicate that the second act of this exchange has not been completed, and that they owed the farmer a given amount of labour-time, in the shape of the suit. Provided the farmer trusts the clothes maker, they will accept this token and take receipt of the suit later. In fact, credit here is just another name for trust, and someone has greater credit the more trust others have in them making good on their debts.

But, where participants in an exchange have no basis for extending such trust, and thereby providing credit, either the exchange must be conducted on the basis of barter, with one commodity exchanging immediately for the other, and so each commodity acting as money, the equivalent form of value of the other, or else money itself must insert itself into the process of exchange.

Money, as a commodity with a given value, which everyone will accept, therefore, does not simply assume this role, because what A wants to sell B wants to buy, but what B wants to sell, A does not want to buy. Farmer A may sell £100 of wool to clothes maker B, and may, in turn, want to buy a £100 suit from B. However, B does not have the suit available, and can only produce it when they have the wool required to produce it. A does not know B, and so says, I will sell you my wool. Give me £100 in gold, and next month, I will come to market and give the gold back to you, in exchange for a suit.

Note that although there is a month's interval between the first act of the exchange (the sale of the wool) and the second act of the exchange (the purchase of the suit) there is no question of a payment of interest. The £100 of wool, which exchanged for a suit, as an equal value, at the start of the month, exchanges still for the suit at the end of the month. The only basis for that not being the case would be if the actual value of the wool had changed relative to the suit during that period, i.e. if relatively more labour-time was now required to produce wool. This is why explanations of interest as deriving from time-preference are wrong.

Indeed, as Marx sets out, this is the difference between credit and the loaning of money-capital at interest, but it is a difference which the representatives of the bankers sought to conflate and confuse.

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