[PEN-L:11894] Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: units of analysis (was: wojtek)

Craven, Jim jcraven at SPAMclark.edu
Tue Sep 28 15:05:37 MDT 1999

James Craven
Clark College, 1800 E. McLoughlin Blvd.
Vancouver, WA. 98663
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-----Original Message-----
From: Wojtek Sokolowski [mailto:sokol at jhu.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 1999 12:35 PM
To: pen-l at galaxy.csuchico.edu
Subject: [PEN-L:11894] Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: units of analysis (was:

At 11:29 AM 9/28/99 -0700, Jim Craven wrote:
>We also note how the concepts of "efficiency" are tied-in with central
>"axioms" of NC theory including the shit about "normative" versus
>e.g max output of what?/input and we note how much of the concepts of
>efficiency are tautological i.e. efficiency defined under capitalism leads
>to the tautology that capitalism best achieves "efficiency" when the system
>provides definitions of "efficiency" that are mere descriptions of what
>capitalism does: capitalism produces/reproduces capitalism. We also talk
>about time horizons and narrow parameters concepts of efficiency and also
>short-run maximization versus long-run contradicitions and

Jim, I agree that the nc concept of efficience is highly problematic on
both empirical and ethical grounds.  However I used that term in a
nontechnical way, meaning that capitalist economy is capable of producing
more than its predecessors.  That is an obvious fact and there is no point
denying it.  The problem is not with the volume of capitalist output but
with its upwardly skewed distribution.  If the actual producers of wealth
could participate in the consumption of what they have produced in
proportion to their contribution to the production process rather than
their class or social status - there would be no problem with capitalist



I think there is more involved here. For example, although Marx praised the
development of productive forces under capitalism relative to other previous
modes of production, and although Marx noted that capitalist
imperatives--accumulation of capital = f(maximization/realization of total
profits) = f (effective competition) = f ( maximization of productivity) = f
(accumulation of capital)= f...--lead to total cost/input minimization per
$value of output/quantity of output, and although these represent economic
and technological "eficiency" in NC terms, Marx also talked about Alienation
(so did Adam Smith in connection with discussions on the Division of Labor),
surplus realization crises, crises in lost skills/contributions from chronic
and necessary unemployment, unproductive versus productive labor,
costs/waste/consequences of surplus value extraction/appropriation,
costs/waste/consequences of State hegemony to serve capitalist interests and
"keep the rabble in line", etc.

NC theory defines "efficiency" as part of the overall contrived syllogisms,
ideology and tautologies central to the overall theoretical eidfice of
neoclassicism. For example, the definition of minimizing input or cost per
unit of output, without being able to question the nature of the output
being produced--pet rocks versus dialysis machines--on the assumption of
perfect rationality and consumers would never demand what they don't want,
and on the assumption that all exchanges MUST be mutually beneficial
otherwise they would not occur, leads nicely and in contrived and
tautological ways, to the notion that capitalism = efficiency; efficiency is
defined in terms of what capitalist imperatives demand and therefore
capitalism = efficiency.

So if a system machines of death, dope, cigarettes, fad items etc under
conditions and imperatives that demand progressive unit cost/input
minimization relative to $values/quantities of output, this can be seen as
"efficiency" only in the crudest, most narrow, most short-term sense of a
very limitied and even contrived definition of "efficiency". Even in
capitalist terms, resources going to war machines are not going somewhere
else for other purposes--there are opportunity costs. We however, under NC
theory cannot evaluate true opportunity costs and the full spectrum of
possible missed opportunities because under capitalism and NC theory, it
doesn't matter about wants and needs of everyday people only "effective"
demand, or where the purchasing power is among those able/willing to buy.
Further, when time horizons are widened and future direct and opportunity
costs are calculated if possible, even in strict NC terms the calculus of
"efficiency", optimality, economy etc leads to different conclusions. But
capitalism is necessarily short-run and myopic--under the banner that to get
to the long-run, the capitalist must "survive and effectively compete and
accumulate" in the many "short-runs".

So when we get to the level of analyzing what is being produced and
distributed and the probable social consequences (and even consequences on
individuals purchasing) of that which is being produced, when we consider
the "how" to produce in wider terms and with longer time horizons than that
allowed by NC theory or capitalism itself, when we include social costs and
benefits paid by whom and for whom, when we include freedom from despotism,
alienation and manipulation in our "utility functions", when we account for
true costs and on whom they fall in our "production functions", etc etc
capitalism is one of the least "efficient" (in a much more wider and humane
notion of efficiency) systems known whose inexorable and inner/defining
contradictions and structures produce dynamics and trajectories of
destruction far more than creation and overall waste and tragedy far more
than efficiency and prosperity; that is, if it is the broad masses of people
that matter and not just a chosen/elect few.

Add to that all the lost "efficiency", tragedy, waste, death, misery and
lost opportunities when imperial power projections and machinations in the
"Third World" trigger another law of history: "Where there is oppression
there will be resistance".

Jim C

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