- Capitalism and Alternatives -

For Mr. Jacobson.

Posted by: Red Deathy ( Socialist party, UK ) on December 03, 1999 at 14:23:53:

Long post - I'll have to be swift.

In a recent TV play by Stephan poliakov, one of the characters asks "Can you take a photograph of a lie?". hold onto that question, its important.

Joel once denied that there is such a thing as capitalism, as I understand his argument, by Analogy, it was like him being in the middle of the Yellowstone park, and saying "there is no forest here, only a tree, and a tree, and a tree...".

This lies at the heart of the difference between Joel's methodology, and my own.

I'll plagiarise Robert m. Pirsig's 2Zen and teh ARt of Motorcycle Maintenance" a moment. prisig posits a question: if you had been blind for 18 years, and had never seeen before, and you 'blinked' and saw a motorcycle (say) and then someone changed its angle to you, and you blinked again - wouldn't you think that these were two entirely different objects? I'm using this example to demonstrate the paucity of empiricism, its clear from actual life, that we actively construct the object of our study, and must infer beyond simple sense data.

I'm going to skip over essence, except to point out that surely Popperian doctrine of 'disproof conditions' is simply a reformulation of essence - if I say "A head is an essential part of a human being" I am positing exactly the same denotation as if I said "If Bob doesn't have a head, he's not human".

Now, to the meat of the matter. joel is trying to photograph a lie, hold it in a clear sense data picture. Basically, I think his preference for MUT is based on a methodolgical error.

Both myself and Barry have quoted Marx on monopoly pricing - we fully accept such a thing exists. Joel's method universalises monoppoly pricing, and turns it into the full explanation of price, this is, I think, how.

If we isolate the event of purchas3e, take a pohoto of it, if you will, then what we have is an instant, in which we can say that the commodity being purchased is a monopoly commdoity - necessarilly, it is true that the commodity meets the needs of teh consumer - since they have bought it - and necessarilly, other commodities won't do - since they haven't bought them. Effectively, if we freeze the universe at this point, as Plato would have us do ;), then we turn every purchase into a monopoly purchase.

Joel confuzzled me in his Uber post, by saying that marx didn't factor competition into his explanation of value, whereas, as I shewed him last year, Competition is at teh very centre of Marx's model, and in fact, Joel's MUT couldn't factor in for competition, and teh effect competition would have of dirving prices to cost: because, and this is teh only way I can understand it, assumedly for MUT, every sale is a monopoly sale, and the competition is between utitility - trying to find a niche monpoly on teh market - rather than within a utiliy. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems teh on;ly way Joel's position can make sense.

Now, I find this doesn't hold - partly because, as I mentioned in a previous post, it involves elevating on position in the productive chain, to be the universal norm of the whole system, as if the end user were the only one that was effective within the system. Further, I think it is flawed, because it follows a reductive scientific method, isolating the object from context, looking at it without outside reference, much like teh methods of American "New Criticism".
One of teh first things I learnt about science, and dialectic, is that things must be studied in their relations, how they relate to anotehr object, not just in themselves.

I have a furtehr philosophical objection, and that is that joel is a pragmatist. Pragmatism is teh school of "i don't care how teh remote control works, so liong as it does". MUT suffice for him, precisely because his concern does not lie with understanding teh system, or critiquing or evaluating, but simply with makuing it work, and MUT is fine for making it work, LTV is more useful for imminant critique, extrapolating teh logic of the system.

Pragmatism doesn't care about why's, only hows: "Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to be efficient, or die". In this sense, it is a very conservative science, because its only concern is for dealing with things as tehy are, and making them work: indeed, it was the "oofficial ideaology" of the British Tory party, in that they said, "We have no ideology, we just rule, in order to rule, in order to rule" to make things work, as they are.

Now, I have two final points I'd like to make:

I return to the question I've been bugging Gee with: what does X = 1 mean? This may seem to many like asking how many Trotskies can dance on teh head of an ice-pick, but its actually vitally important: we have to choose, is money a variable, or is use-value a variable. MUT seems to me to imply that money is not a commodity - since it doesn't measure utility, and has no utility of its own, other than to obtain others - and that utilities are specific: i.e. a Bible is sold for reading, nothing else. But if money is a constant factor, then utility can be infinite, and varied.

How does MUT account for what money is?

Finally, I return to my presentation of Von mises' monetary Calculationa rgument, as detailed in the interesting book 'From marx to mises' by David Ramsay-Steele. Good, and chalanging book.

How do we economically decide between two commodities, made differently, that have an identical use-value? Imagien nbuying tables for a blind man, any colour, and appearance, as long as they are the right hight and area. How do we price them? How do we deicde between them?

I'll leave it there, time's up. See you monday.


Follow Ups:

  • An Addenda Joel Jacobson none USA December 03 1999 (1)
    • A note. Red Deathy Socialist Party UK December 06 1999 (0)
  • Formal not methodolgical Joel Jacobson The Fast Food Syndicate United Surplus Appropriators December 03 1999 (1)
    • Meths. Red Deathy Socialist Party UK December 06 1999 (0)

The Debating Room Post a Followup