Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on July 16, 2021

Another open thread, where you can comment on any topic. Moderation and standard rules still apply. Lengthy side discussions on other posts will be diverted here. Enjoy!



MisterMr 07.16.21 at 11:32 am

I have a pet argument that is the Labour Theory of Value, in particular the no-ricardian/classic version of it (that is the version that takes the LTV as a price equilibrium model, not as an assertion about the existence of some entity that we call labour value separated from prices).

I recently came to think to this example, that I believe explains EVERYTHING about the LTV, the univers, the purpose of life, and capitalism:

In world A, everybody is a farmer, but all the land is owned by a few landowners. Worker 1 works a field and produces 10$ a day, and is paid 5$, the remaining 5 dollars go to the landowner; worker 2 works a slightly worse field and produces 9$, he still gets 5$, the owner only ges 4$, and so on, until we get to worker M who works a field that produces 5$, M gets 5$, the owner gets 0$ and therefore will not employ any other worker.
M is the famous marginal worker, every workers gets its marginal product (that is, M’s output), total profits depend on the difference between marginal productivity and average productivity.
In world A, there is a clearly defined full employment situation, that is when the last worker has a productivity so low as to just cover his/her wage.
But all this depends on the assumption that workers work with worse and worse pieces of land (this is actually Ricardo’s theory of land rent); worker’s falling productivity actually depend on capital’s falling productivity.

In world B, instead, everyone works at a shoemaking factory. Since it is possible to produce any number of equal factories, worker 1 produces 10$ of shoes and gets 5$ in wages, worker 2 again produces 10$ and gets 5$, and so on, and the profit share is allways the same. However, as new shoe factories are built and unemployment falls, workers become uppity and start asking for more, so that at some point all workers will ask for 6$, then all workers will ask for 7$ (thus reducing profits from 5$ to 4$ to 3$ per workers). At some point capitalist stop investing becuse they see their profits falling instead than rising, but as investiment in new factories was an integral part of demand, their profits actually fall even more, triggering a recession; this goees on util the economy reaches some sort of bottom, stall for a bit, and then the cycle repeats when some enterpreneurial guy chooses to invest again.
In world B, as the capital goods do not have a falling productivity, workers also do not have a falling productivity, and therefore it is impossible to determine worker’s marginal productivity: there is no worker M.
Therefore, there isn’t a clearly defined full employment situation either , but just a cycle of booms and busts (one could notionally argue that “full employment” is when workers get 10$ and capitalists get 0$, but obviously this doesn’t make sense in a capitalist economy).

Does our world look more like world A or like world B? In my opinion much more like world B.

The contention of the LTV/neo-ricardian/classic guys is that in the economic models currently in use, the economy is assumed to work like in world A (so with a falling productivity and therefore a clearly defined full emplyment and a Worker M), and then, since in reality the economy has booms and busts, keynesian economics is grafted over this model to justify the booms and busts. But hen there is a problem because some assumption of keynesian economics contradict the assumption of the underlying model (the so called microfundations problem).
In other words, the microfundation problem is just the same problem of the Cambridge capital controversy, it’s a problem caused from the assumption that we live in world A, whereas we live in world B; the technical details of the microfundations and capital controversies are very complex but, at the bottom, the root is very simple.

So, what has this to do with the LTV?
Basically if we live in world B we cannot distinguish between labour productivity and capital productivity, we have a total output of 10$ of which some will go to the worker and some to the capitalist, but not due to some techinical limit but just because of social constraints (e.g. the level of unemployment).
In world A instead there is a cclearly defined point (worker M) that determines what is the worker’s share, there fore we can say that if worker 3 on lot 3 has an output of 8$ of potatoes, 5$ are produced by the worker and the other 3$ by the lot.

But if we cannot determine how much productivity is the worker’s and how much is capital’s, all that we get is that the market will push the workers in those field where their productivity is higer until ideally all workers have the same productivity, thus leading to the LTV equilibrium (in the simple form, pricse will tend to be directly proportional to the amount of labor used in production, in the complex form there is a part of fixed capital so that there will be multipliers that depend on capital intensity, following Sraffa these multipliers also depend on the wage share so this is a pain, but still the wage share is the independent variable and the multipliers the dependent one).

I’m sure this comment will enlighten everyone!


nastwoman 07.17.21 at 6:50 am

as I (also) really believe – that misinformation
and lies
and propaganda
especially if such lies and misinformation is distributed by Right-Wing Science Denying Anti-Vaxxers –

to do…
everything we can –
to save lives! –



steven t johnson 07.17.21 at 3:49 pm

The subtitle to Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities is Prelude to a Critique of Economic Theory. It seems to me the target was marginal analysis. General equilibrium theory as a description/justification of what is, rather than an analysis of what is required for the stability of reproduction and (or?) the optimal performance of the market, wasn’t, I think. Also, absolute rent I suspect is a useful way of looking at the real world.

But overall, Sraffa ends with a hint it’s all about interest rates after devising a standard commodity (with essentially the average capital/labor composition, the whole economy epitomized in a single product that is perfectly representative,) suggests to me something of a dead end. As in, is the standard commodity any more calculable than the marginal revenue product?

In other news, Erik Loomis at Lawyers Guns and Money tells us that the anti-vote campaigns of today are rooted in the Northern white liberals after the Civil War, as demonstrated by Jamelle Bouie. Loomis quotes Bouie, including, “The introduction of the secret ballot and the polling booth made voting less communal and put an additional premium on literacy — if you couldn’t read the ballot, and if no one was allowed to assist, then how were you supposed to make a choice?” Loomis is a vociferous supporter of Critical Race Theory. The view that the secret ballot was a white liberal plot (prompted by endemic white racism, it appears,) against people of color is presumably therefore a good example of Critical Race Theory. The current political implications of the discovery that white liberals are the problem are obvious.


Jake Gibson 07.17.21 at 11:54 pm

Trolls gonna troll. We need a good
higher quality troll. Mr Johnson almost makes me miss Esper.


MisterMr 07.18.21 at 12:25 am

@steven t johnson

There is no point in calculating the standard commodity, as you say it’s basically just an averaged commodity that Sraffa uses because, in his model, a change in the wage share causes a change in the relative prices of commodities, but in order to write the model he needed a notional unit of measure.

Ultimately after all the math is done, the difference between Sraffa/LTV/classic model on the one hand and the orthodox/marginalist model on the other is that in the first the wage share is free floating, in the second there is a supposed correct, natural and optimal wage share, but this is based on the hidden assumption of some sort of declining productivity of capital (that makes sense for land but not for other forms of capital).

The paradox is that most people assume that the LTV is the more rigid and restrictive model (why would prices be proportional to labor) but in reality it is the orthodox theory that is a special case of the LTV, the more restrictive model, and the LTV the more general one.

For example, there are various studies that show that there is actually an highish correlation between prices and labor used in production, but this can’t prove the orthodox theory wrong because this would happen also in the orthodox model. This is because at the root the orthodox model is the LTV + assumption of falling capital productivity + unrealistic assumption of full employment where the last worker eats all the output of the last, least productive chunk of capital.

This at least at best of my understanding.


MisterMr 07.18.21 at 1:44 am

An addendum to my previous comment.

Suppose that in year X Joe the average worker produces 10 muffins in an hour. Later, in year Y, thanks to improved technology Joe produces 20 muffin in an hour.

We can express this in two ways:
We can say that Joe’s productivity increased from 10 to 20 mufins; in this way we use muffins as the unit of measure of Joe’s productivity; this is the way we usually think now (real value).
Or we can say that in year X a muffin took 6 minutes of labor, in year Y a muffin took only 3 minutes of labor (labor value); this is the way Marx, Ricardo and Smith tought.

It’s the same thing, but it is expressed in very different ways, that is very confusing.

Marx Ricardo etc. tought this way because they assumed that the LTV was true, and therefore it was simpler to express value as units of labor time, but Sraffa did not believe in the LTV, so he expressed value in real terms, as a quantity of stuff, as we do now.

But when building his economic model, he got the problem that the relative price of stuff in an economy where people produce a lot of different things depends on the wage share/rate of profit/interest rate, so that it is difficult to build a basket of commodities that one can use as an unit of measure. In the real world, there are government offices that create these baskets by statistical rules of thumb (so called real dollars that we use to calculate inflation), but Sraffa wanted a more teorically coerent unit of measure, so he came out with this standard commodity that is a basket built (notionally, in the theory not in the real world) in such a way as to be independent from the changes of wage share/rate of profit.

Then he wrote his model, that uses quantity of stuff as the unit of measure, as we do now, and not labor time as the classics did, because he didn’t believe in the LTV. But at the end of this he realized that his model was more or less the same of the LTV.

So in pratice it is the same, only using the modern notation with stuff as a unit of measure and not the old notation with labor time as a unit of measure.

Is Sraffa’s standard commodity the same thing of modern day ‘real dollars’? In pratice no, because real dollars are a statistical artefact of some government agency. But when we speak of economic theory, the ‘real value’ of economic theory is just assumed to measure some quantity of stuff, without worring whether it actually corresponds to what the government agency is doing, so I’d say that while Sraffa’s standard commodity is not the same of the real dollar of statistics, it is the same (or at least an analogue construct) of the real dollar of economic theory.


Peter T 07.18.21 at 5:59 am

On MisterMr – it’s obvious that determining the contribution of any single worker – or even group of workers, or the ‘marginal product of labour’ in any complex system of production is impossible. We only talk of these things because economic ideology demands it. In fact, labour share is negotiated based on custom, social position (higher level people have to paid more – otherwise how would anyone know they were higher?) and social muscle. The same is true for quantity theories of money – but as several economists have noted, economics is outstanding as a field in its ability to persist in error.

steven t johnson’s misreading of Eric’s post is remarkable both for its failure of comprehension and its lack of charity.


nastywoman 07.18.21 at 7:09 am

AND I shouldn’t quote the Doubt –
‘In “An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination,” Times writers Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang describe a deleterious pattern at Facebook: Don’t bring the boss bad news or push back. Exercise willful blindness about the disaster around the corner, and then, once it arrives, manage it badly. Put the syndicate over democracy. Blame others for your mistakes, especially the unfair media. Present yourself as doing good for the world when you’re doing bad.

That perfectly captures the routine inside the Trump White House as well.

Frenkel and Kang write about how Zuckerberg has distanced himself from his consigliere Sheryl Sandberg and diminished her role, even though he needs her and even though she helped him make money hand over fist.

He wanted to stay in his hermetically sealed box playing tech visionary, Kang told me, and blame Sandberg for the fallout over Cambridge Analytica, foreign interference in the 2016 election, disinformation in the 2020 election, misinformation about Covid-19 and the vaccines. This is despite the fact that when it comes to critical issues for Facebook, such as how to handle disinformation complaints and whether to ban Trump, Zuckerberg makes all the decisions.

“He is blaming her basically for bad PR, for allowing the public to have this negative impression of Facebook,” Kang said.

Sandberg was hired to be the adult in the room, but she was too afraid to push back on Zuckerberg in any major way. And she, too, had the bad habits of hearing only what she wanted to hear and surrounding herself with Facebook employees who practiced groupthink.
“Even as they have grown distant and are trying to distance themselves from controversy, they are inextricably entwined to each other and Facebook,” Kang said. “They built a business that is unabated and shows no signs of slowing down.”

But the Biden administration doesn’t operate within a reality distortion field. This past week, with the president at his wit’s end over the continued spread of vaccine misinformation and Facebook’s unwillingness to turn over data on how much information is spreading on its site, tension between the White House and Facebook exploded.

“They’re killing people,’’ President Biden told reporters outside the White House on Friday.

His surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, declared for the first time that the bile on social media was a menace to the health of Americans’.


nastywoman 07.18.21 at 8:26 am

and I always wonder now:
what is the difference between telling the Germans lies about ‘the jews’ or telling Americans lies about ‘the scientists’?


nastywoman 07.18.21 at 8:40 am

AND there is this theory –
that in Germany – the Atrocities of Right-Wing Narrow-Minded Nationalistic Idiots –
against some very well educated and Open-Minded Humans –
is just like ‘trump’
(the worlds new word for: Utmost Evil Stupidity)
And it’s:

(with the difference that American Right-Wingers somehow managed to convince a lot of Americans that it is just: ‘Against the Elites’!)


Stephen 07.18.21 at 10:50 am

steven johnson@3: You quote an article in Lawyers Guns and Money by Eric Loomis. On looking it up, I found that it was written by Scott Lemieux. Are there any significant differences between the two?


Gorgonzola Petrovna 07.18.21 at 2:33 pm

My primitive understanding of LTV is that it simply allows us to compare ‘values’ of a kg of potatoes vs. a pair of shoes vs. a dozen of muffins, by establishing the basis for comparison: the number of hours necessary to produce each of those. This is the version of ‘value’ independent of supply/demand. ‘Social’ value, as opposed to ‘market’ value.

It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the money workers and capitalists get or with the full employment. And even not necessarily with productivity (as in “thanks to improved technology” @6), because hours spent to produce productivity-increasing machines are included into calculations.

But you sound like you’re talking about something much more advanced…


steven t johnson 07.18.21 at 4:11 pm

Re the Jake Gibson/Peter T spasms? The proposition that the secret ballot was a scheme to disenfranchise people of color is not the hill to die on. It is inconceivable how it is trolling to point out this is an extraordinarily obtuse thing to say. The secret ballot was and is a reform, not a white conspiracy. I can’t imagine why anyone would care to defend this.

As to the alleged misreading of Erik Loomis’ post, I must suggest that the one who read closely enough to spell Loomis’ name correctly got it right. It is equally of course that it is a magnificent failure of charity to blame me for Loomis’ misreading of Bouie. It is also a particularly funny one, given that Loomis actively prides himself on his willingness to savage humanity, in general and in particular.


Gorgonzola Petrovna 07.18.21 at 7:54 pm

Secret ballot makes it difficult to identify and promptly cancel the covert deplorables hiding among us.


MisterMr 07.18.21 at 9:34 pm

@ Peter T 7
I agree, but the problem is that this concept is implicit in the economic models that in turn are (more or less) used to make economic policy.

@Gorgonzola Petrovna 12
The way Marx (and other old pro-capitalism economist) use the LTV, it is just a different economic equilibrium model, and is supposed to represent how capitalism works, not values in an abstract sense.
Then some other people have used the concept of labor value also in the sense you use, but it is not the original meaning of the term. This happened when marginalist become predominant, so people who were marxist said “ok, Karl used a theory that is now considered unscientific, but in some abstract moral sense we can still think of labor value representing something”.
I am referring to the LTV used by Marx as an economic model of capitalism, and to the subsequent minority (a very small minority) of eterodox economist that still use it or similar models (like Sraffa, or Anwar Shaikh who is still alive).
Im a big fan of Shaikh , basically.


JimV 07.19.21 at 3:05 am

I had to go back a page at LGM to find anything mentioning J. Bouie, which was this one:
(copied and pasted)

There is a long quote from the JB column which contains the part about secret ballots, among several other examples. It was not clear to me that SL endorsed everything JB wrote specifically rather than generally agreeing that there had been some clear attempts to restrict the ability of certain people to vote in the Northern USA.

Perhaps there was an earlier, similar post by Erik Loomis, but it seems unlikely since SL would probably have linked to it or at least mentioned it.

To paraphrase my favorite Einstein quote, all (thinkers) make mistakes; good (thinkers) find/correct them. (He used “mathematicians” but I like to apply it more generally.)

I don’t know all the ins and outs of secret ballots, but it strikes that if there is a need for them in a society, that says something negative about the society. Which is not to say they are not a good solution for non-angelic societies.

And the subject provides slim justification for another pre-Welch GE anecdote. At the end of a review meeting the manager of a large engineering department counted heads around the conference table,” Let’s see, one, two, …, twelve. Well, my 13 votes say …”


J-D 07.19.21 at 3:27 am

I agree, but the problem is that this concept is implicit in the economic models that in turn are (more or less) used to make economic policy.

I know little or nothing economic models used to make economic policy. However, if it should be the case that those models rely on concepts which are erroneous or meaningless, the appropriate remedy is not to say ‘Well, we’ll have to treat those concepts as sensible then’, the appropriate remedy is to develop better models not relying on those concepts.


MisterMr 07.19.21 at 12:38 pm

@J-D 17

I’m not an economist, so I won’t say that I know well the models used in economic policy; the point is that if Sraffa’s critique (or the LTV or classic approach) is correct, the concept of full employment doesn’t make sense (there are obviously situations of higer and lower employment, but not a specific “full employment” situation).

The concept of full employment is generally used when speaking of economic policy, but in pratice (as was evident in recent years) nobody really agree on when we are at full employment.
If the critique is correct, the solution is to reharse a 200 years old and now semi-defunct theory, rather than creating a new one, which is the reason I think 99% people istinctively scoff at it.

It’s like mummy economics VS zombie economics.


Tm 07.19.21 at 3:49 pm

I’ve meant to post this in the CRT threads a few weeks ago but they were all closed, so here I am a bit late for 4th of July:

“Until 1775, most White Americans had resisted parliamentary innovations like the Stamp Act and the tea tax but had shown little interest in independence. Yet when they heard that Blacks had forged an informal alliance with the British, Whites were furious. John H. Norton of Virginia denounced Dunmore’s “Damned, infernal, Diabolical proclamation declaring Freedom to all our Slaves who will join him.” Thomas Paine pronounced the Anglo-African alliance “hellish.” “Our Devil of a Governor goes on at a Devil of a rate indeed,” wrote Virginian Benjamin Harrison, who would later sign the Declaration of Independence.

Whites’ fury at the British for casting their lot with enslaved people drove many to the fateful step of endorsing independence. In his rough draft of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson listed 25 grievances against George III but devoted three times as many words to one of those grievances as to any other. This was his claim that the king had first imposed enslaved Africans on White Americans and was now encouraging those same enslaved people “to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them.””

These are facts. Historical facts documented in written records that we can verify. They nevertheless need interpretation and there is going to be debate and dispute about the interpretation of these facts among historians. What I find find most remarkable about these historical facts is that it is now formally illegal in at least a dozen or so US states for a teacher to bring them up and discuss them during a history lesson.

If you don’t believe this, according to Texas law, teachers can only mention the existence of slavery and racism if they falsely portray them as “deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States” .
Florida makes it illegal to “define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” .


nastywoman 07.19.21 at 4:46 pm

and as some ‘mummy economics VS zombie economics’ (according to Mr.M)
seems to be a lot more interesting than my worry about people not wanting to get vaccinated because they believe there is ‘no value’ in it (Petrovna?) let me try to connect some… dots -(as the saying goes)

AS on the First of August!
ON the German-Swiss border!
AWAITS US – in Heaven
‘a cool’ 112 Million Dollars
with the utmost ‘valued’ living artist and his utmost valued pieceofart –
(see TC:0:58)

and that should connect ALL comments…


Tm 07.19.21 at 6:39 pm

More about what the crusade against CRT really is about:
“In Sullivan County, Tennessee, Matthew Hawn, a white high school social studies teacher, is facing termination after assigning an essay on President Donald Trump by writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and showing a video of a poetry reading about white privilege that included curse words.”

No doubt our resident right-wing apologists will explain how this is all the fault of Ibrahim Kendi’s and Robin DiAngelo’s insuficiently nuanced writing and in particular their failure to appreciate that really “every decent person” in America is against racism anyway, now can you please shut up?


Tm 07.19.21 at 6:49 pm

More about what the crusade against CRT really is about:
“After a student-designed yearbook cover in Texas included the words “science is real, Black lives matter, no human is illegal, love is love,” the school district placed an art teacher on leave over parent complaints. A district in New York censored a presentation about racial justice created by a group of eighth graders. A Florida school district temporarily halted the sale of a student-produced yearbook because it discussed the Black Lives Matter movement, but did not mention the pro-police “Blue lives matter” slogan.”
“In Sullivan County, Tennessee, Matthew Hawn, a white high school social studies teacher, is facing termination after assigning an essay on President Donald Trump by writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and showing a video of a poetry reading about white privilege that included curse words.”

No doubt our resident right-wing apologists will explain how this is all the fault of Ibrahim Kendi’s and Robin DiAngelo’s insuficiently nuanced writing and in particular their failure to appreciate that really “every decent person” in America is against racism anyway – quod erat demonstrandum I guess.


J-D 07.19.21 at 11:53 pm

@J-D 17

MisterMr, I may be wrong, but I’m guessing that the purpose of your most recent comment was to clarify your meaning for me.

If that was the purpose, it was not achieved. (If it was not the purpose, ignore me, carry on.)


steven t johnson 07.20.21 at 8:34 pm

“Florida makes it illegal to ‘define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.'”

Then, Florida law mandates that students learn John C. Calhoun was deeply unAmerican, no? “If he should possess a philosophical turn of mind, and be disposed to look to more remote and recondite causes, he will trace it [the evil, to Calhoun, proposition the federal government can restrict slavery in the territories] to a proposition which originated in a hypothetical truism, but which, as now expressed and now understood, is the most false and dangerous of all political errors. The proposition to which I allude, has become an axiom in the minds of a vast majority on both sides of the Atlantic, and is repeated daily from tongue to tongue, as an established and incontrovertible truth; it is, that ‘all men are born free and equal.’ I am not afraid to attack error, however deeply it may be intrenched, or however widely extended, whenever it becomes my duty to do so, as I believe it to be on this subject and occasion.

Taking the proposition literally (it is in that sense it is understood), there is not a word of truth in it. It begins with “all men are born,” which is utterly untrue…”

Calhoun continues to savage the universal principles Florida’s state legislature loves so much. It is likely too, that the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions, so foundational to Calhounism, aka states’ rights, must be condemned as unAmerican. And that the Confederate States of America was treason to the founding principles of America, too, and all the Confederate leaders traitors to the American spirit.

A law that points to its own inanity in the long run is only significant as a hint for further intimidation. The real problem, given the number of adults in this country who have already been taught that the Civil War was an unfortunate misunderstanding, or industrialism versus agrarians, or maybe quasi-totalitarian social disciplinarian Protestants, is that most teachers are already teaching what the Florida law mandates. And it’s not just in the south either. Any teacher in Florida could ju jitsu this nonsense, if they cared to.

I think the ultimate cure for that is teaching more facts, like, how John C. Calhoun despised the Declaration, and that John C. Calhoun was a huge figure in southern thinking. The case for Ibram X. Kendi or Robin DiAngelo helping solve the already existent problem has yet to be demonstrated. The radically decentralized nature of US education and the much vaunted absence of a national curriculum are more important issues than the absence of a vague and ill-defined set of notions that arguably don’t even constitute a genuine theory. Ideas that violate community prejudices are commonly deemed indoctrination, especially in religious families. Libertarian and anarchist thinkers tend to think of school are positively criminal, as if children being expected to learn things was exploitation.

And, there’s the general problem that, given that teachers are, as the Supreme Court recently informed us, “mother fuckers” who unreasonably oppress/indoctrinate students, it is a problem expecting, maybe even hoping, that students learn enough detail to make sense of good-sounding propositions like, the US was largely based on the universal principles of the Declaration of Independence [and that’s why the unAmerican minority who tried to break away were defeated in the Civil War.]

Conformity in school teaching has always been highly prized, and largely obtained. Things like the Florida law are meant I think just as much to protect majority practice as to intimidate a dissident minority.

As to the quote from Scott Lemieux, er, Erik Loomis? The “influenced” in the title is a weasel word. Reducing the American Revolution solely to the formal declaration of independence is bad history. The English lost control of New England to the revolution in 1774, which is why they were raiding the countryside in April to recover weapons from the rebels. The notorious Intolerable Acts and the radical response, the Suffolk resolves, were also in 1774. The later Fairfax resolves, calling for independent organization of the colonies, were, again, in 1774.

The weaselly implication that Lord Dunmore’s proclamation in November 1775, after war had broken out, somehow caused the revolution that had already started, is worth…why, nothing. If it meant anything at all, it would “explain” why the South was the hotbed of the Revolution, instead of Loyalism; where it broke out, instead of New England; where it triumphed first, instead of New England. Again, the case that ignorant nonsense helps anybody, has yet to be made.


Tm 07.21.21 at 10:28 am

stj 24: I do not actually quote Scott Lemieux, er, Erik Loomis. I quote an article via LGM, but none of the quotes except the title are Loomis’. If you care enough about the LGM blog to hate its authors, you should at least understand the difference between LGM writers’ own words and quotes they have lifted from other writers.

The rest contains a lot of strawmannery. “Reducing the American Revolution solely to the formal declaration of independence is bad history”, sure, but Loomis doesn’t do that (nor myself). And when Loomis writes about “how racism influenced the American revolution” (those are in fact his words), “influence” is not a weasel word, it is a way to express that complex historical processes are usually multicausal and influenced by various, often contradictory forces and interests. That racism played a role in the political development of a society fundamentally based on the displacement and decimation of native communities and the enslavement of black people is so obvious it shouldn’t be controversial at all. Of course it doesn’t monocausally explain everything, duh.

You state correctly that “most teachers are already teaching what the Florida law mandates”, i. e. the distortion of history which has it that America is the home of freedom and democracy and slavery and racism and the decimation of natives and so on are either non-existent or just unimportant side-shows to the real story of American exceptionalism.
Yes of course that is true. It is obvious, all Americans alive have been spoon-fed this sanitized version of history. What is new is the passing of laws that make this historical lie mandatory and threaten teachers that try to challenge it with firing, and the threat is entirely serious as we have already seen.

That such laws are now deemed necessary, whereas in the past it could be safely assumed that American schools are teaching White American greatness, is precisely what the whole CRT controvery is about.


MisterMr 07.21.21 at 12:36 pm

@J-D 23

In 17, you say “the appropriate remedy is not to say ‘Well, we’ll have to treat those concepts as sensible then’, the appropriate remedy is to develop better models not relying on those concepts.”

My point is that the older model, the LTV/classical/Sraffa approach, does not rely on the wrong concept; this concept was introduced later during the marginalist revolution.
So in many ways the remedy is not so much to develop a better model, but to reharse the older (pre marginalist revolution) one, though presumably remodernising it in many details.


steven t johnson 07.21.21 at 5:37 pm

Every front pager at Lawyers Guns and Money endorses the articles they link to, that’s why they link to them.(It’s why skimming LGM is a way of sampling the acceptable opinions and current slogans of a Democratic Party milieu, fairly upscale with pretensions/aspirations to the “left” as seen through the Overton Window this morning.) It is likely that no front pager necessarily agrees with every word, of course. That’s why occasionally one will actually say that, even Farley, who mostly does only links. The others largely quote the parts they like, not the parts they disagree with.

This is all tediously obvious, but Tm requires it, sorry.

As to the specific claims that “influenced” wasn’t a weasel word? That the quote is offered for our delight because it shows the “complex” and “multicausal?” No, the quote reduces all issues to the declaration of independence, which is simplistic, not “complex,” no matter what Tm posts. It pretends to know that no one was thinking independence long before Dunmore’s proclamation, as if there were nothing to fear from calling for independence! That it “knows” that something that came after the revolution was the cause of the revolution, because RACISM! is an absurdity. Folly doesn’t help anyone.

“That racism played a role in the political development of a society fundamentally based on the displacement and decimation of native communities and the enslavement of black people is so obvious it shouldn’t be controversial at all. Of course it doesn’t monocausally explain everything, duh.” The fear of the native communities and the greed for land did indeed requires ideological justification, “racism,” but it was a different kind of “racism” than that required to justify enslavement of Africans. Those were two different projects. Throwing in an “and” doesn’t make them the same thing. (And for that matter anti-Semitism is another kind of project.) And the inability ever to reproduce the class society of the old country was something else too.

It is CRT, which is apparently what this is, that is monocausal, some vast undifferentiated, ahistorical mental phenomenon that is structured into white brains and is the monocause of everything about America, that it’s all and always the product of white agency aimed at the same goal. I suggest that land hunger had something to do with westward expansion and the particular kind of racism directed at justifying that came afterward. That the desire to make money from exporting plantation crops came first and the particular racism meant to justify continued slavery came after. That’s not ignoring racism, it’s just not incompetent history.

It is incompetent history, despite the weasel wording of “influenced” and “many people.” In this particular example, the real role of racism is falsified, I think. (Perhaps deliberately, there’s a lot of blatant dishonesty at LGM I think, not just stupidity.) The South, contrary to the delusions of the author Lemieux, er, Loomis, approves so much, was the place where Loyalists were so strong they could field armies.

Why? Because, despite the real fury at Dunmore—and the disapproval of Black soldiers in the North, too, by the way—in the end, it was a class society with a government strongly committed to defense of property and strong enough to do so successfully, that the planters wanted. That is, the Loyalists thought in the end things would be more of the same with the English. And yes, I believe that we must attribute some of that to the desire to racism, ideas embraced as generalization of their experience as slaveholders.

Last and least, again, every teacher in Florida who wishes to can cite the Declaration of Independence against everything the authors of the law presumably wanted to protect.


J-D 07.21.21 at 11:26 pm

My point is that the older model, the LTV/classical/Sraffa approach, does not rely on the wrong concept; this concept was introduced later during the marginalist revolution.

It is not clear to me which concept you are referring to in this sentence and as a result your point remains unclear to me.


John Quiggin 07.22.21 at 6:29 am

” if you couldn’t read the ballot, and if no one was allowed to assist, then how were you supposed to make a choice?”

Australia, which pioneered the ballot in the 19th century, also invented a simple solution to the problem – the How To Vote card. You collect it from the party of your choice outside the polling place (and from everyone else if you don’t want to advertise your preference), then copy it out. This works even with complex alternative vote systems, requiring a complete sequential ordering. In a plurality system, it would be even easier.


Tm 07.22.21 at 9:28 am

stj 27. “No, the quote reduces all issues to the declaration of independence”, no clearly it doesn’t. There is hardly a single statement in this rant that is not obviously wrong so I won’t waste any more time on this. It remains a mystery to me why the mention of certain undeniable facts about US history whips up all that rage in stj. It’s hard to not mistake this for some right-wing rant.


MisterMr 07.22.21 at 4:22 pm

@J-D 28

The concept I’m referring to is that at some point the marginal worker’s wage will be equal to his/her’s marginal productivity, and that point is “full employment”, and that the economy naturally tends to reach that point.

I refer back to my first comment, the difference between world A and world B.

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