[OPE-L:2191] Fw: Re: [OPE-L:2141]Thermodynamics

From: Michael J Williams (michael@williamsmj.screaming.net)
Date: Mon Jan 17 2000 - 11:35:46 EST

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In response to the request from Julian, I have taken the liberty of
forwarding Paul C's message to the List.

Dr Michael Williams
Economics and Social Sciences
De Montfort University
Milton Keynes
fax: 0870 133 1147
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----- Original Message -----
From: clyder <wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk>
To: Michael J Williams <mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk>
Sent: Monday, January 17, 2000 2:27 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L:2180] Re: [OPE-L:2141]Thermodynamics

> > >In this context however the crucial question is whether intentionality
> or
> > >teleology can be plausibly called in to impose order on the structure
> > >profit rates and prices in a complex economy.
> >
> > I would appreciate some indication of the arguments why the irreducible
> > intentionality of human beliefs desires and so the actions guided by
> > can be assumed a priori to impose no (or only 'insignificant')
> > on the reproduction of systems of such intentional agents.
> The point is not whether there may be some structure imposed by
> It is whether we have any reason to believe that the sort of structure
> that Steedman imposes on his models to meet his intentions -
> discrediting embodied labour theories - is the same structure
> that the intentions of autonomous agents would impose on a
> capitalist economy.
> He obtains his results with
> 1. Uniform profit rates.
> 2. A small number of industries whose organic compositions have
> been deliberately tailored to produce a desired telos, negative
> surplus value with positive profit.
> 2. The intention of each firm is to obtain the highest profit for itself.
> Each firm wants above average profits. These intentions can not
> all be realised, there are winners and losers, some firms and industries
> earn above average profits and some below. We know that this is
> in fact what happens. A recourse to intentions of the participants
> can not justify Steedmans assumptions ( shared by the whole pre
> F&M literature), as just earning average profit is not the assumed
> intention.
> 2. The structure of the input output table required to produce
> pathological phenomena like reswitching and negative SV is
> easy to arrive at on paper. What Steedman has to show is
> that it is a plausible circumstance to arise in the real world where
> the choice of techniques used is determined by a mass of highly
> complex and contingent causes. The most parsimonious assumption
> here is that each product will take as inputs a collection of
> other inputs randomly drawn
> from the total population of commodities. As such, they will
> obey the law of large numbers and the distribution of the
> mean organic compositions of these bundles of inputs will
> have the same expected value as the expected value for
> organic composition for the economy as a whole, and a
> smaller standard deviation than the standard deviations
> for the economy as a whole.
> It is very improbable that a collection of industries each
> of whose production functions takes a random sample of
> inputs will have the properties of one of Steedmans examples.
> It is not impossible, it is just that the probability is vanishingly
> low.
> >
> > >I believe that they can but only under circumstances that would make
> > >economy cease to be capitalist in the normal sense. Intentionality and
> > >teleology
> > >in the form of a state plan for prices and profit rates could create an
> > >economy
> > >whose structure could be modelled by the sort of input/output tables
> > >uniform
> > >profit rates that Steedman assumes, but this would not be the sort of
> > >economy
> > >that Marx was trying to describe.
> >
> > Again, what arguments can you adduce for the presumption against any
> > (significant) structure in a modern capitalist 'mixed economy'. First,
> this
> > is not a system of spot markets in which dumb atomistic non-agents
> collide.
> > There are many elements of 'planning', hierarchical management,
> > administration, etc.: within large corporations and even quite small
> firms,
> > within state apparatuses (distinguished by their power to impose their
> > 'plans' on the market sector), within non-governmental organisations,
> so
> > on. Why do you assume that your example of:
> >
> > >the publicly regulated utilities. In these cases it is valid to assume
> > >intentionality as the explanation.
> >
> > is unique?
> >
> The argument is not that there is no structure, it is just that
> a) there is no evidence for the sort of structure assumed by
> Steedman
> b) the onus is on whoever assumes a particular sort of structure
> to have good arguments for it. In the absence of such arguments
> on has to make the most parsimonious assumptions. Failing this
> a reply to Steedman would be trivially simple - I need only draw
> up an input output table with all industries haveing the same
> organic composition and claim that intentionality imposes
> my structure rather than his.

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