[Marxism] Debates about the declining American empire

Sabri Oncu soncu at pacbell.net
Thu Mar 9 15:21:24 MST 2006


Patrick: 

> But I think the newer literature on crisis handles this
> with balance, avoiding 'breakdown' concepts and instead 
> drawing on the ideas of spatio-temporal fixes, accumulation 
> by dispossession and the like to instead show *displacement* 
> (yet not *resolution*) of overaccumulation. And before 
> agreeing that profit rates have recovered since the mid 1980s, 
> see work by Dumenil and Levy which deconstructs some of the 
> financial features and argues differently.

Dear Patrick,

However much I like and respect you, I have difficulty in understanding you
at times. For example, what does "the ideas of spatio-temporal fixes" mean?
Also, "accumulation 
by dispossession and the like to instead show *displacement* (yet not
*resolution*) of overaccumulation?" Also, "deconstruction of some of the
financial features?" 

Back on Wall Street, what you call "deconstruction" is generally referred to
as "decomposition," I think, whereas we mathematicians refer to
"spatio-temporal" as "space-time dependent," although it also makes sense to
me if you say "geography-history dependent." 

Why complicate the matters that are already quite complicated more when you
can present your ideas more effectively?

Being a "Jack of Many Trades", I happen to be a probabilist too, among other
things, so I never make, or try to never make (unless I am carried away),
statements that may give my audience the feeling that I know what is going
to happen in the future. And I am glad to learn that the newer literature
avoids to give their readers that feeling as well.

I do not know if you followed Henry's recent articles on OLEC I posted to
the A-List, but in the last of them he talks about the magical replacement
of the so-called GNP (Gross National Product) with GDP (Gross Domestic
Product) in 1991 in measuring economic growth. 

See:
http://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/gdp.asp
and
http://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/gnp.asp
if you  do not know what GNP and GDP mean, even if this may be unlikely.

For the past few hours I have been playing with the US GNP/GDP data from
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis database to be able to say a few things to
Javier and it appears that economic growth measured in GNP growth is
different than the one measured in GDP growth for whatever reason, possibly
including data issues. 

Surprise, surprise!..

There are many questions, two of which are:

1) Which measure should we choose, that is, which one is more meaningful,
whatever "meaningful" means? 

Let us call this "relevancy."

2) Which one is measured more accurately, whatever "accurate" means? These
data get revised quite often, irrespective of how "accurately" they are
measured, so that tomorrow's number can be very different than today's
number, just to let everybody know.

Let us call this "reliability."

I am of the opinion that GNP is more relevant but less reliable whereas GDP
is the other way around, at least, because GDP is the main focus in these
days (see Henry's last article). By the way, it seems that the World Bank is
of the same opinion with me and in these days they use something called GNI,
which is much closer to GNP than GDP, in determining the
credit-worthiness/economic performance of countries.

Let us now suppose for a while that the difference between using GDP or GNP
is not a big deal. With this supposition, the next question is:

Why are we looking at the (so-called "real") GDP or GNP growth rate to
measure economic growth? Put differently, what exactly can we infer from
that growth rate? 

Here is what I have been thinking about looking at for a while: The
decomposition of the GDP (or if data are available and "good," GNP as well)
into its agriculture, goods and services "components." 

I claim, without proof other than anecdotal evidence at the moment, that for
the US both the agricultural and goods production contributions to the GDP
(or GNP) have been going down for the past few decades steadily, or, almost
steadily. In 2001, for example, the decomposition of the GDP into these
three categories, in the above order, are about 2%, 23% and 75%,
respectively, as I recall from a recent World Bank web site I checked.

Do you not think this is alarming?

If no, why?

If yes, why?

Best,

Sabri

One last question: If I am producing mostly services, in the absence of
regulations (or friction to stop me if you like from gliding), what
difference does it make to me to go elsewhere and sell my services there,
provided that I am a strong global "brand name" or  even some brand which is
known "enough" there, whatever this means. For example, if I am a mortgage
lender in one country, what difference does it make to me to lend to the
citizens of some other country, if I can earn more by lending to them? 






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