Thursday, 11 April 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 20 - Part 111

In adopting the Malthusian definition of exchange-value, as the amount of labour that a commodity can command, McCulloch also accepts the argument put forward by Malthus that the profit arises because commodities are sold above their value. In other words, it is a reversion to the old Mercantilist theory of profit on alienation

“Malthus draws this conclusion. With McCulloch this conclusion follows naturally but with the pretence that this constitutes an elaboration of the Ricardian system.” (p 171) 

This descent of the Ricardian system into “twaddle”, Marx says, had been accepted across the continent, as being the pinnacle of development of the system, on the basis of the eradication of all the inconsistencies. 

“McCulloch is simply a man who wanted to turn Ricardian economics to his own advantage—an aim in which he succeeded in a most remarkable degree. In the same way Say used Smith, but Say at least made a contribution by bringing Smith’s theories into a certain formal order and, apart from misconceptions, he occasionally also ventured to advance theoretical objections. Since McCulloch first obtained a professorial chair in London on account of Ricardian economics, in the beginning he had to come forward as a Ricardian and especially to participate in the struggle against the landlords. As soon as he had obtained a foothold and climbed to a position on Ricardo’s shoulders, his main effort was directed to expounding political economy, especially Ricardian economics, within the framework of Whiggism and to eliminate all conclusions which were distasteful to the Whigs. His last works on money, taxes, etc., are mere pleas on behalf of the Whig Cabinet of the day. In this way the man secured lucrative jobs. His statistical writings are merely catch-penny efforts.” (p 171-2) 

In 1828, McCulloch published Adam Smith's “Wealth of Nations”, and, in the fourth volume includes his own notes, which were little more than a recitation of his lectures, and an incorporation of the ideas that had been put forward by supporters of Ricardo, like Mill, and of Ricardo's opponents. Essentially, in his “Principles”, McCulloch puts forward only a rehashed version of those notes, but now with the need to put forward these notes together in an ordered and consistent format. 

“Thus the passages quoted above, though they are, in part, taken verbatim from the “notes”, look rather less inconsistent in these “notes” than they do in the Principles. [In addition the Principles contain plagiarisms of Mill amplified by absurd illustrations, and reprints of articles on corn trade, etc., which he has repeatedly published, maybe verbatim, under twenty different titles in different periodicals, often even in the same periodical at different periods.].” (p 172-3) 

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