Economic discourse has got me down

Brett Knowlton brettk at
Wed Jul 22 21:43:36 PDT 1998

This message got me thinking. I like discussing economic matters as much as the next guy - the effects of capital flows, unemployment rates, etc. But sometimes I think its all meaningless, that the way such debate/discussion is usually confined to the traditional terrain of western academic economic thought is way too restrictive.

Have any of you read The Abolition of Work by Bob Black? I reread it the other day. I think he overstates the degree to which you can make productivive activities enjoyable, but the man makes some excellent points.

Maybe things would be better if we went back to being hunter-gatherers, only with the addition of modern hospitals and sanitation systems. It is a pretty powerful statement that such societies, of all human social structures, have best approximated the libertarian socialist ideals of classlessness and statelessness. This isn't to say they were perfect - I'm sure many of them had oppressive traditions, etc. But they achieved some desirable features that modern industrial societies have not.

In the modern industrial state it is almost impossible to answer, or even ask, the simple quesiton - what commodities and services are worth the toil and bother their production requires?


At 10:53 PM 7/22/98 EDT, you wrote:
>In a message dated 98-07-22 12:29:41 EDT, you write:
> specifically, i have heard the concept of devaluing capital on this
> list before. what does it mean? also, what is s.v. extraction?
> >>
>Since I started this let me take a crack at it:
>Marx locates a fundamental irrational logic in kist production: automation -
>in the form of ever-greater fixed capital - is necessary to do battle in the
>marketplace. However, capitalizing the labor process in machines,
>entails greater expenses that must be serviced, irrespective of current
>Railroads are highly capital intensive enterprises, with high fixed costs
- to
>be profitable you want to run them 24/7 to minimize those fixed costs. If
>your in a rate war - always cutting prices to kill the next guy, you need
>"deep pockets" to operate at losses for a protracted period. The devaluation
>of capital occurs when a competitor goes bust - if you've got the resources
>you can get in at "fire sale" prices, but then you've got to get back in the
>game (automate - cut prices - gain market share - automate again - etc.)
>Over the last twenty years, hospitals went on a building spree because
>reimbursement was always on a cost-plus basis. When the gov't switced from
>cost-plus to capitation, the hospitals got caught with a lot of empty beds
>a ton of debt service (i.e. their capital stock was effectively devalued).
>I hope this helps to clarify the "devaluation" of capital issue.

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