LTV: An encore

Mon Aug 1 19:49:15 MDT 1994

     Paul writes of my most recent criticism of the labor
theory of value:  "I don't know where you get the idea that
any theorist of the LTV has claimed an ability to dictate
which labour shall or shall not create value."

     Actually, Paul himself gave me this idea.  Throughout
this entire debate, he has been passing judgment not only on
WHO creates value, but also on who does NOT create value.
(Recall our discussion of quantity and quality, innovation
and invention).

     Paul also remarks:  "The assertion that a process
occurs, independently of the ability of the theorist to fully
specify the process is an everyday part of the practice of
science."  He employs examples exclusively from natural
science (Darwin, physics) to rebut my claim that a theorist
would have to have knowledge of many complex, interrelated
factors in order to evaluate PRECISELY what is the `BEST' or
even, the `AVERAGE' practice within a given branch of

     It is not enough for Paul to claim that good practices
exist objectively.  Of course they do.  But there is a real
question with regard to how one MEASURES such `good'
practices.  It is also not enough to claim that Marx
relegates to the competitive process the determination of
that which is "socially necessary."  What is at issue here,
is not MERELY the assertion that a process determines the
"socially necessary."  What is at issue is the assertion that
a process determines SPECIFIC prices that are proportional to
SPECIFIC values, which derive from a SPECIFIC notion of what
is "socially necessary."

     To posit relative price differentials, the LTV theorist
is doing a lot more than merely asserting the existence of
that process.  Since a grasp of "socially-necessary labor-
time" is crucial to the quanitification of value, and since
value is, according to the LTV, in some sense, proportional
to price, no comprehension of relative price differentials is
possible without an understanding of WHAT IS "socially
necessary."  To say that competition determines the "socially
necessary" is to presume, at least partially, that which you
seek to explain.  It is also to presume the one-dimensional,
quantitative approach of neo-classical, static, equilibrium
analysis.  I have already offered several significant
objections to this approach.

     Finally, Paul asserts:  "I have the impression that
Chris may be misapplying the Austrian argument when using the
notion of the synoptic fallacy as a critique of the LTV.  If
not, the Austrians are even more banal than I took them to
be.  I had previously seen it used in the context of the von
Mises argument against the possibility of socialist

     Paul is correct to note that the argument was used in
connection with the calculation debate.  I won't begin to
discuss this debate here.  But it should be noted that since
the collapse of central planning, even Robert Heilbronner has
recognized that "Mises was right."  The Austrian, epistemic
critique of socialist calculation is extremely sophisticated,
certainly not "banal."  If my passing use of the synoptic
argument in the current context, was not as persuasive for
Paul, it is certainly not the ONLY objection which I've made.
As I have indicated, the objections to the LTV involve wide-
ranging issues that go FAR BEYOND the synoptic fallacy.

     I appreciate Paul's passion with regard to this subject,
but I hesitate to continue this thread much longer, for fear
of boring the rest of the participants who have "heard that
song before."  Perhaps we should just agree to disagree.  As
for the calculation debate.... <smile>....

                            - Chris

Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, N.Y.U. Department of Politics
INTERNET:  sciabrrc at
BITNET:    sciabrrc at nyuacf


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