Thursday, 13 December 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 19 - Part 39

Malthus' solution to this problem of having landlords buy the surplus production with rent, obtained from capitalists, or the state to do the same via taxes, is clearly absurd. The same is true of the Keynesian application of this same concept. By failing to identify that the rents or taxes come from the same fund of revenue as wages and profits, Malthus makes it look as though this fund for demand somehow comes from the outside. As his Ricardian critic states, 

““Mr. Malthus sometimes talks as if there were two distinct funds, capital and revenue, supply and demand, production and consumption, which must take care to keep pace with each other, and neither outrun the other. As if, besides the whole mass of commodities produced, there was required another mass, fallen from Heaven, I suppose, to purchase them with… The fund for consumption, such as he requires, can only be had at the expense of production” (op. cit., pp. 49-50). 

“We are continually puzzled, in his” (Malthus’s) “speculations, between the object of increasing production and that of checking it. When a man is in want of a demand, does Mr. Malthus recommend him to pay some other person to take off his goods? Probably not” (op. cit., p. 55). Certainly yes. 

“The object of selling your goods is to make a certain amount of money; it never can answer to part with that amount of money for nothing, to another person, that he may bring it back to you, and buy your goods with it: you might as well have just burnt your goods at once, and you would have been in the same situation” (op. cit., p. 63).” (p 60) 

But, as Marx points out, just because “it is one and the same fund—”the whole mass of commodities produced”— which constitutes the production fund and the consumption fund, the fund of supply and the fund of demand, the fund of capital and the fund of revenue, it does not by any means follow that it is irrelevant how the total fund is divided between these various categories.” (p 60) 

And, this is again a point made by Marx in Capital III, Chapter 15, in talking about the conditions of the realisation of profit being different from and often contradictory to the production of surplus value. And, that is because demand is not homogeneous, but is a demand reflecting widely different revenues for different sections of society. If workers wages are subdued, this facilitates a higher rate of surplus value, and larger surplus product, but reduces the capacity for the realisation of that surplus value. If the solution to that, as Malthus proposes, is for the capitalists and other exploiters to consume the surplus unproductively, then this does not achieve the aim of capitalist production, which is to produce the surplus so as to accumulate additional capital. If the capitalists use their revenue for accumulation of capital, that reduces their demand for consumption goods, so the surplus of these presses down on the market, reducing their prices and potential to realise the profits. Any additional accumulation and production only exacerbates that surplus, but also if consumption goods are already oversupplied, there is no incentive to accumulate additional capital. 

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