Piketty’s data

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  • #101689

    Young Master Smeet
    Participant

    Oh, and from his Wikipedia article:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_K._GalbraithHe's listed as 'Post-Keynsian' (which coul, I suspect, mean anything but includes Robinson, so a touch of pick-up from Marx from that route at least: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-Keynesian_economics).His writing's suggest he may be half sensible (from a very quick skim I found this contribution to one of our local bug-bears):

    Quote:
    In the modern world, when the Treasury writes you a check, your bank credits your account. That's how money creation works. The Treasury then issues bonds to absorb that money.

    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/10/02/can-obama-ignore-the-debt-ceiling/government-doesnt-have-to-borrow-to-spend 

    #101690

    ALB
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    ALB wrote:
    Was reviewed in the May Socialist Standard:

    Was that actually a review (as in the author had read the whole book)?  I took it as a report of the news controversey, and we were waiting for a more detailed review.

    You're right. It wasn't a review but a comment on the controversy surrounding him and his book. We must do a proper review. A copy of his weighty tome is being ordered.

    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    Anyway, I think someone has linked to Harvey's review before, but in case not:http://socialistworker.org/blog/critical-reading/2014/05/18/david-harvey-reviews-thomas-pi

    This review is terrible. Harvey is getting worse and worse. There is an underlying endosement of "underconsumption" arguments and what's he mean by this:

    Quote:
    From his data (spiced up with some neat literary allusions to Jane Austen and Balzac) he derives a mathematical law to explain what happens: the ever-increasing accumulation of wealth on the part of the famous one percent (a term popularized thanks of course to the “Occupy” movement) is due to the simple fact that the rate of return on capital (r) always exceeds the rate of growth of income (g). This, says Piketty, is and always has been “the central contradiction” of capital. But a statistical regularity of this sort hardly constitutes an adequate explanation let alone a law. So what forces produce and sustain such a contradiction? Piketty does not say. The law is the law and that is that. Marx would obviously have attributed the existence of such a law to the imbalance of power between capital and labor.

    Would Marx have?

    #101691

    alanjjohnstone
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    'Fact, or data' will not solve this clash. We pick our ideology, and reap 'fact or data' to suit.

    Hmm…i think to that,  Robert Burns replied "Facts are chiels that winna ding”  (facts are fellows that will not be overturned,  cannot be disputed) but he was just a womanising drunken poet so what would he know. 

    #101692

    LBird
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    LBird wrote:
    'Fact, or data' will not solve this clash. We pick our ideology, and reap 'fact or data' to suit.

    Hmm…i think to that,  Robert Burns replied "Facts are chiels that winna ding”  (facts are fellows that will not be overturned,  cannot be disputed) but he was just a womanising drunken poet so what would he know.  

    But 'capitalism' is a 'fact', to many…It's not Burns' womanising, drinking or poetry that's the problem, ajj, but that he lived before Einstein and didn't read 20th century philosophy of science.I find it more and more difficult to understand how memebers of the SPGB think 'facts' are sacred. It's not a good sign for the philosophical basis of the party.Is it really acceptable to argue that 'capitalism' is a 'fellow that will not be overturned'?

    #101693

    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    Weekly Worker has a review of the book by Michael Robertshttp://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1013/unpicking-piketty/I gave up reading soon as the algebra equations began.But the review ends "For Piketty – in true social democratic fashion – the replacement of the capitalist mode of production is not necessary."(off thread, the WW letters has a yes scot referendum nationalist in denial that his position is nationalist which is full of gibberish…someone can answer if they wish.)

    #101694

    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    "But 'capitalism' is a 'fact', to many… that 'capitalism' is a 'fellow that will not be overturned'"Not sure if i understand correctly.No-one denies that there exists a thing called capitalism…that is, indeed, a fact…but what we declare is that additional facts about capitalist system  provides the reasons why we wish to overthrow it…and those facts cannot be disputed…Part of our task is to present these facts…they aren't opinions or claims …but simple facts, …We factually describe features of capitalism (which cannot be changed without changing the fact it is no longer capitalism but something different) that are not for the benefit of people or the planet. You may well argue that what we wish to replace it with is not a fact but perhaps a presupposition. That is another debate. I think we should recognise that there is a difference from facts and as they say "lies, damned lies and statistics". I think we would agree a statistic is not a fact. I always use the example that the breed of dog that statistically more liable to turn on its owner is the supposed placid loyal labrador. It's a fact vets receive more visits on labradors going vicious than other breeds. Why? Because it is simply reported more…1)generally labrador owners are more responsible and refer their dog to vet …who records the visit 2) Such behaviour is out of the ordinary for the breed so a medical problem is seen as a cause, not temperment, so the dog is taken to the vet …who records it.Whereas your Staffie Bull Terrier is on the Kennel Club's list of most family friendly dog and it's nasty reputation is not a fact, either. Corgi's bite because it was a cattle dog..nipping the heels of the cows to move them along …and when dog intelligent tests are conducted the Standard Poodle is usually top or thereabouts…But they also say an octopus intelligence is about the same as a dog… but i completely digress now  i never joined the party because of its philosophical basis.  It's pretty much subsidiary importance to me and despite all the overly complicated exchanges on it no-one has made any advance on Marx's comment that the issue is not analysing the world but changing the world and none of the related threads gave me any particular insight into doing that. Not just your efforts Lbird, but all your protagonists, as well.Sorry comrades. 

    #101695

    LBird
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    "But 'capitalism' is a 'fact', to many… that 'capitalism' is a 'fellow that will not be overturned'"Not sure if i understand correctly.No-one denies that there exists a thing called capitalism…that is, indeed, a fact…but what we declare is that additional facts about capitalist system  provides the reasons why we wish to overthrow it…and those facts cannot be disputed…Part of our task is to present these facts…they aren't opinions or claims …but simple facts, …We factually describe features of capitalism (which cannot be changed without changing the fact it is no longer capitalism but something different) that are not for the benefit of people or the planet. You may well argue that what we wish to replace it with is not a fact but perhaps a presupposition. That is another debate. I think we should recognise that there is a difference from facts and as they say "lies, damned lies and statistics". I think we would agree a statistic is not a fact. ….i never joined the party because of its philosophical basis.  It's pretty much subsidiary importance to me and despite all the overly complicated exchanges on it no-one has made any advance on Marx's comment that the issue is not analysing the world but changing the world and none of the related threads gave me any particular insight into doing that. Not just your efforts Lbird, but all your protagonists, as well.Sorry comrades. 

    I think that the simplest way of putting it is that a 'fact' is always enmeshed within a wider network of other 'facts', all based upon theories.If one accepts a 'fact' (ie. at face value), and doesn't confront the so-called fact's surrounding network (which can only be done by critical thinking, because the links between 'facts' are often not apparent), then one is unwittingly dragged into seeing the world from the point of view of existing 'facts'. Do I need to stress the essentially conservative method this approach leads to, of just 'dealing with the facts'? It always means what can be seen by the individual, ('it's obvious') rather than what can be explained by social theory (by criticism of 'the obvious').Whatever, I think the problem lies with those Communists who aren't explaining these crucial issues properly (including me in that number), than with you or others who can't grasp it, yet, ajj.

    #101696

    Young Master Smeet
    Participant
    #101697

    stuartw2112
    Member

    Reviews of Piketty's (and Graeber's) book by Marxists that say "well, it's not Marx, is it?" are a bit depressing. If it was Marx, it wouldn't be worth reading, or writing, would it? Both Graeber's book on debt (which I've read) and Piketty's book (which I've started) are wonderful and informative and will be of profound help to anyone who wants to understand the modern world. 

    #101698

    ALB
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    Weekly Worker has a review of the book by Michael Robertshttp://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1013/unpicking-piketty/

    He raises a point which has occurred to me: to what extent is the tendency that Marx postulated for the rate of profit to fall in the long run compatible with Picketty's data? As Piketty has concluded that there is a tendency for the rate of return on capital to increase faster than the rate of increase of production, in theory it would still be possible for this to happen with a declining rate of profit but as long as the rate of increase of production ("growth") declined too but more.  Is there any evidence that the rate of growth has declined?Roberts seems to want to defend the tendency of the rate of profit to fall at all costs, but I don't see that this is necessary since the evidence seems to suggest that the counter-tendencies Marx identified as working to raise the rate of profit have also operated, to such an extent that it is not possible to predict what will happen in the long run to the rate of profit in the real world.Ironically, if Piketty's "law" is correct and the rich have a tendency to get richer wouldn't this be a stronger criticism of capitalism than that the rich will tend to get poorer and poorer?

    #101699

    LBird
    Participant
    stuartw2112 wrote:
    Reviews of Piketty's (and Graeber's) book by Marxists that say "well, it's not Marx, is it?" are a bit depressing. If it was Marx, it wouldn't be worth reading, or writing, would it? Both Graeber's book on debt (which I've read) and Piketty's book (which I've started) are wonderful and informative and will be of profound help to anyone who wants to understand the modern world. 

    It would be useful if someone (for us, necessarily a Communist, because there is no 'unbiased observation point' in science) who understood these issues could give an opening summary of the differing assumptions/axioms of Marx, Graeber and Piketty.I'm sure that this guidance would be helpful to all Communists who want to understand those three thinkers.Isn't there anybody in the SPGB, schooled in 'political economy', who could sum up their three 'pre-writing' idelogies? Their 'viewpoints' would tell us much about why the three focus on different 'facts' of the system, and allow us to assess the book's worth to us.

    #101700

    stuartw2112
    Member

    Marx was an Hegelian who assumed, for the sake of argument, that the political economy of his day was basically right, was the high point of scientific achievement, and then examined where the logic of the argument turned into its opposite. He was attempting to put socialist argument on a sounder (more 'scientific') footing.Graeber is an anarchist and an anthropologist who shows how human economies actually operate, and how capitalist economies might have arisen out of them. In this sense, he is complementary to Marx, and shows the historical/anthropological basis for what Marx would have called commodity fetishism and wage-slavery.Piketty is an economist and a liberal who shows, from exhaustive analysis of data, that capitalism does not live up to its own ideals, and is never likely to, and who therefore proposes radical (utopian) reforms to save it from itself.

    #101701

    ZJW
    Participant
    #101702

    ALB
    Participant

    I'm still waiting for the copy of the book I've ordered to arrive but I see that Mattick makes the same point as Michael Roberts that Piketty is concerned with the distribution of wealth in general (including non-income producing forms such as personal houses and cars) rather than with that of capital (wealth used to produce other wealth with a view to profit). This may well be the case but, surely, the distribution of wealth will be less unequal than the distribution of capital? As explained in chapter 7 of our pamphlet The Market System Must Go.It is true that defining capital as all wealth and attributing a notional income to forms of wealth which don't actually produce any would distort the figures for the "returns to capital" by making them bigger than they would be on a different, more accurate definition of "capital". But what about the rate of increase of these returns? It is not clear whether this would be bigger or smaller on the different definition. Maybe there's something on this in Piketty's book. I'll have to wait and see.To tell the truth, I'm beginning to suspect that people like Mattick and Roberts may be wanting to show that the "returns to capital" are less than Piketty claims in order to sustain their theory of the falling rate of profit (i.e the falling rate of returns to capital properly understood).

    #101703

    stuartw2112
    Member

    I've only just started the book, but it is living up to expectations. It is lucidly written, in clear English (well, the translation is…), full of fascinating details, provides a comprehensive historical overview, is based on exhaustive analysis of actual data rather than airy speculation, is refreshingly modest about what it hopes to achieve, and is rooted in real-world political and economic debates, not to mention in the everyday experience of daily life. No wonder the Marxists are having to try hard to pretend not to hate it! ;-)

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