- Capitalism and Alternatives -

More objections OR Barry Strikes Out

Posted by: Joel Jacobson ( The Fast Food Syndicate, United Surplus Appropriators (USA) ) on December 01, 1999 at 10:35:19:

Hmmm, it seems as if Stoller just posted some random minutiae in response to my challenge. My main point was that his precious LTV is absolutely impotent in providing for economic decision-making whereas the TMU is a real-world applicable model of how economic entities behave. It seems as if he has some sort of last resort mantra stating that “labor creates value”. He then blathers on about some pseudo-phenomenon he labels exploitation and how the TMU somehow sanitizes it, but nowhere does he even bother to respond to any of my objections.

Okay, let’s look at this assertion that it is labor alone that creates value*. Specifically, the claim is that labor creates value* in the act of production, and that only labor is the source of value* since what we call capital is merely dead or congealed labor (1). In short, all value* is created by labor. So, we can make the following identities:

a) Labor = Production
b) and following from a) Production = Value
c) therefore Labor = Value

So far so good. We have produced a logical identity demonstrating that as labor produces all value*, value* may by identically referred to as congealed labor; therefore ==>> c) Labor = Value. Philosophers would call such an identity analytic truth, that is something that holds true in all possible worlds, and thus all possible situations. Using this identity we can substitute any object synonymous with either labor or value* and still maintain the integrity of our identity. Great! Let’s call digging holes in the ground and filling them back up “activity X”.

d) Activity X = Labor
e) Labor = Value
f) and Activity X = Value
g) by substituting our variable back in we can see that we have taken our original identity and logically derived that digging holes in the ground and filling them back up again creates value*.

This occurred because the assertion that all value is created by labor is a purely tautological statement and is posited to be true in all possible worlds; this is what philosophers have, until the 1950s, call an analytic truth. The problem as W.V.O. Quine(2) pointed out was that something is true in all possible worlds then we must also accept that it is true for all possible situations in which we can imagine. Thus, if we are to accept that Labor = Value in all possible situations then we must also accept that any possible “physical exertion”, which is the very definition of “labor”, is valuable. Because of Quine’s essay philosophers by and large do not accept that there are any such things as analytic truths. What I have done with the identity “Labor = Value” is the same thing Quine did with the identity “A bachelor = unmarried male”. He twisted it around and made it obvious that far from a truth in all possible worlds this identity was indeed synthetic and contingent upon normative considerations to give it an applicable meaning. In the same way, in order for labor to have any meaning, note I use the far more stringent term meaning in place of value*, we must actively apply normative considerations upon what we mean by labor.

For if all physical exertion exercised upon nature should be considered labor then we must say that since physical exertion means value* whatever we exert ourselves physically upon prima facie has value*. But, after seeing the example above of digging holes in the ground this is precisely what we are trying to avoid. By adding normative constraints we actually can actually begin to differentiate between what we ought to consider labor and what we ought to consider needless physical exertion. And nowhere in the LTV is there any mention of a normative function relating to the norms under which we should consider physical exertion labor. The TMU, however, incorporates into itself such constraints. Because of these socially developed normative constraints the TMU is an actually pragmatic, and thus non-tautological, economic model upon which various economic actors can achieve their diverse and infinite economic ends in correspondence with the appropriate economic means.

Incidentally, if I really wanted to have fun with Barry I could do the following:

a) taking a shit while constipated = physical exertion
b) physical exertion = labor
c) labor = value
d) therefore, taking a shit while constipated creates value
Hey, boys and girls, playing with analytic truths (i.e. tautologies) is fun. Wheeeeh. Seriously though, this is the hash one makes out of unqualified tautological truths, and why they are no longer considered when developing philosophical arguments. All tautological truths, such as Labor = Value contain what one of my professors has called a smuggled normative. By that he meant the person positing an analytic truth has made a hidden value judgement that constrains one portion of the identity into what he or she construes it ought to contain. So for Marx “labor /= physical exertion” and thus digging holes in the ground (or shitting) is not value producing, but Marx does not realize that he has positioned this normative constraint around the term value. But nowhere does Marx’s LTV explain the difference between labor and mere physical exertion, and this distinction is precisely what the normative conditions in the TMU seek to discover. Any addition of normative conditions to achieve a distinction between labor and mere physical exertion must take place outside of the LTV and because of this the LTV is an utterly useless concept by itself.

Now Barry has posited two useless concepts:

a) the Labor Theory of Value
b) the identity Labor = Value as derived from the statement “labor is the source of all value” (note that the identity Labor = Value is just a simplified version of the LTV)
I must stress that I am not claiming that I have disproved the LTV or that I have proved the TMU. Bear in mind my pragmatism, and as such I do not consider the terms “proved” or “disproved” to possess any real usefulness (all versions of pragmatism pretty much hold this as well). All I seek to show is why and under what normative constraints would one consider the TMU as superior to the LTV as a method of economic inquiry. Basically:
a) the TMU integrates economic means can be utilized to achieve economic ends
b) the LTV attempts to strip away appearances and discover the true underlying essence of value*
c) the former is a necessity for any possible future arrangement of society as there will be a myriad of changing, and often conflicting, economic ends and these ends will compete for current and potential future economic means.
d) no future configuration of society will be capable of avoiding this need, which is simply left un-addressed by the LTV.

I have no express right to expect the rejection of the LTV. Yet, anyone still holding the LTV must contend with c) and d) regardless of their stance on the LTV, or of what they consider the ideal social structure. And if, as I pointed out, before the TMU explains all the LTV does only better as well as explaining much more then this makes the LTV redundant in relation to the TMU. As I posted before the TMU both subsumes and trancends the LTV, thus making the LTV obsolete. After developing a new theory that encompasses the old theory why would we keep the old theory?

Oh yes. There was mention of exploitation in Barry’s post as well. The LTV, and it’s simplification identity “Labor = Value”, is the foundational topic of Marx’s whole philosophy, and the described appearance of the phenomenon of exploitation is solely a predicate of the subject (i.e. the LTV). Now if the subject, as I have given detailed reasons for, is useless and irrelevant than so also follows the predicate. Exploitation follows only from the LTV, and the LTV’s worthlessness spells the same doom for the concept of exploitation. Until the LTV is actually shown to possess some worth talking of exploitation makes assertions that we are not entitled to make. In short no LTV, no exploitation.

Sorry, Barry. Strike One. Please try again, and when you do so please attempt to make at least a halfway useful response to my first post as well as this one.

* along with other various words I consider “value”, “proved”, and “disproved” to be basically useless as they do not convey any sort of pragmatic meaning, and in fact hinder rather than help communication.

1. Karl Marx, Kapital I, pg 51, 106
2. Wilard Van Orman Quine, The Two Dogmas of Empiricism

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