Saturday, August 11, 2018

Michael Hudson on whether Marx was right or wrong

Fromthree years ago The Paradox of Financialized Industrialization
All three kinds of crisis that Marx described are occurring. But the West is now in a chronic depression – what has been called Debt Deflation. Instead of banking being industrialized as Marx expected, industry is being financialized. Instead of democracy freeing economies from land rent, natural resource rent and monopoly rent, the rentiers have fought back and taken control of Western governments, legal systems and tax policy. The result is that we are seeing a lapse back to the pre-capitalist problems that Marx described in Volumes II and III of Capital and Theories of Surplus Value.
Bertell follows Marx in focusing on the production sector: hiring labor to produce products, but trying to get as much markup as possible – while underselling rivals. This is Marx’s great contribution to the analysis of capitalism and its mode of production – employing wage labor at a profit. I agree with this analysis.
However, my focus is on the causes of today’s crisis that are independent and autonomous from production: rentier claims for economic rent, for income without work – “empty” pricing without value. This focus on rent and interest is where I differ from that of Ollman, and also of course from that of Roemer. Any model of the crisis must tie together finance, real estate (and other rent-seeking) as well as industry and employment.
In retrospect, Marx was too optimistic about the future of industrial capitalism. As noted above, he viewed its historical mission as being to free society from rent and usurious interest. Today’s financial system has generated an overgrowth of credit, while high rents are pricing American labor out of world markets. Wages are stagnating, while the One Percent have monopolized the growth in wealth and income since 1980 – and are not investing in new means of production. So we still have the Volume II and III problems, not just a Volume I problem.“
I wonder whether Michael Hudson is ignoring the reach of technology and our capacity for overproduction which made this inevitable.

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