So, for instance, Mises will tell you that mercantilist policies such as high tariffs or exchange-rate manipulation do not just reward exporters, but also punish consumers. Mises will not, however, tell you whether such a policy is good or bad for a country containing both exporters and consumers.

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Influenced by the attitudes of development economists in the postwar years, many newly independent countries set up quite socialist economies, with much government ownership of industries and extensive regulation of private industry.

They saw the establishment of a large manufacturing sector as the path to higher living standards, which they tried to bring about by adopting a strategy of import-replacement. That is, they protected their fledgling manufacturers against competition from imports, doing so at the expense of their agricultural export industries.

They were convinced that pretty much the only way to increase production was to acquire more capital equipment. Despite their fixed exchange rates, they adopted expansionary fiscal and monetary policies in the hope of spurring investment.

So they mainly generated inflation and ended up with overvalued exchange rates. This damaged their exporting farmers, who were also hit by high prices for their inputs and price controls on their output.

Eventually, however, the developing countries noticed the failure of agriculture to grow as expected. The peasants had been given poor incentives and had reacted accordingly. The more the economic managers tried to suppress market forces, the more trouble they had with black markets, smuggling, tax evasion and bribery of officials. Their infant industries never grew up to be able to survive and export without protection. But countries had trouble paying for the imports they still needed.

In the mid-1950s, Taiwan became the first developing country to abandon the import-replacement model and switch to export-oriented growth. South Korea followed in 1960. It cut protection, moved to a more realistic exchange rate, abandoned price controls, reformed tax structures, reduced budget deficits and raised interest rates.

The results were spectacular. In Korea, real wages and income per person increased sevenfold between 1960 and 1995, while the unemployment rate fell from 25 to 5 per cent. Little wonder China had started down the same track by 1980 and India by the early 1990s.

The rediscovery of the supply side is transforming the world economy. Over the 50 years to 2000, real income per person rose much more than fivefold in Asia, compared with less than threefold for the world as a whole. And with increased income came a rise in life expectancy of more than 20 years for the developing countries, as well as a doubling in the rate of literacy.


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Pauper ubique jacet, said our famous Queen Elizabeth, when in her progress thro' the kingdom she saw the vast throngs of the poor, flocking to see and bless her; and the thought put her Majesty upon a continu'd study how to recover her people from that poverty, and make their labour more profitable to themselves in particular, and the nation in general.

This was easie then to propose, for that many useful manufactures were made in foreign parts, which our people bought with English money, and imported for their use.

The Queen, who knew the wealth and vast numbers of people which the said manufactures had brought to the neighbouring countries then under the King of Spain, the Dutch being not yet revolted, never left off endeavouring what she happily brought to pass, viz. the transplanting into England those springs of riches and people.

She saw the Flemings prodigiously numerous, their cities stood thicker than her peoples villages in some parts; all sorts of useful manufactures were found in their towns, and all their people were rich and busie, no beggars, no idleness, and consequently, no want was to be seen among them.

She saw the fountain of all this wealth and workmanship, I mean the wool, was in her own hands, and Flanders became the seat of all these manufactures, not because it was naturally richer and more populous than other countries, but because it lay near England, and the staple of the English wool which was the foundation of all their wealth, was at Antwerp in the heart of that country.

From hence, it may be said of Flanders, it was not the riches and the number of people brought the manufactures into the Low Countries, but it was the manufactures brought the people thither, and multitudes of people make trade, trade makes wealth, wealth builds cities, cities enrich the land round them, land enrich'd rises in va1ue, and the value of lands enriches the Government.

Many projects were set on foot in England to erect the woollen manufacture here, and in some places it had found encouragement, before the days of this Queen, especially as to making of cloath, but stuffs, bays, says, serges, and such like wares were yet wholly the work of the Flemings.

At last an opportunity offer'd perfectly unlook'd for, viz. the persecution of the Protestants, and introducing the Spanish inquisition into Flanders, with the tyranny of the Duke D'Alva.

It cannot be an ungrateful observation, here to take notice how tyranny and persecution, the one an oppression of property, the other of conscience, always ruine trade, impoverish nations, depopulate countries, dethrone princes, and destroy peace.

When an English man reflects on it, he cannot without infinite satisfaction look up to Heaven, and to this Honourable House, that as the spring, this as the stream from and by which the felicity of this nation has obtain'd a pitch of glory, superior to all the people in the world.

Your Councils especially, when blest from Heaven, as now we trust they are, with principles of unanimity and concord, can never fail to make trade Sourish, war successful, peace certain, wealth Sowing, blessings probable, the Queen glorious, and the people happy.

Our unhappy neighbours of the Low Countries were the very reverse of what we bless our selves for in you.

Their kings were tyrants, their governours persecutors, their armies thieves and blood-hounds.

Their people divided, their councils confus'd, and their miseries innumerable.

D'Alva the Spanish Governor, besieg'd their cities, decimated the inhabitants, murther'd their nobility, proscrib'd their princes, and executed 18,000 men by the hand of the hang-man.

Conscience was trampl'd under foot, religion and reformation hunted like a hare upon the mountains, the inquisition threaten'd, and foreign armies introduc'd.

Property fell a sacrifice to absolute power, the countrey was ravag'd, the towns plunder'd, the rich confiscated, the poor starv'd, trade interrupted, and the 10th penny demanded.

The consequence of this was, as in all tyrannies and persecutions it is, the people fled and scatter'd themselves in their neighbours countries, trade languish'd, manufactures went abroad, and never return'd, confusion reign'd and poverty succeeded.

The multitude that remain'd push'd to all extremities, were forc'd to obey the voice of nature, and in their own just defence to take arms against their governours.

Destruction it self has its uses in the world, the ashes of one city rebuilds another, and God Almighty, who never acts in vain, brought the wealth of England, and the power of Holland into the world from the ruine of the Flemish liberty.

The Dutch in defence of their liberty revolted, renounc'd their tyrant prince, and prosper'd by Heaven and the assistance of England, erected the greatest commonwealth in the world.

Innumerable observations would flow from this part of the present subject, but brevity is my study, I am not teaching; for I know who I speak to, but relating and observing the connexion of Causes, and the wonderous births which lay then in the womb of Providence, and are since come to life.

Particularly how Heaven directed the oppression and tyranny of the poor should be the wheel to turn over the great machine of trade from Flanders into England.

And how the persecution and cruelty of the Spaniards, against religion should be directed by the secret overruling Hand, to be the foundation of a people, and a body that should in ages then to come, be one of the chief bulwarks of that very liberty and religion they sought to destroy.

In this general ruine of trade and liberty, England made a gain of what she never yet lost, and of what she has since encreas'd to an inconceivable magnitude.

As D'Alva worried the poor Flemings, the Queen of England entertain'd them, cherish'd them, invited them, encourag'd them.

Thousands of innocent people fled from all parts from the fury of this merciless man, and as England, to her honour has always been the sanctuary of her distress'd neighbours, so now she was so to her special and particular profit.

The Queen who saw the opportunity put into her hands which she had so long wish'd for, not only received kindly the exil'd Flemings, but invited over all that would come, promising them all possible encouragement, privileges and freedom of her ports and the like.

This brought over a vast multitude of Flemings, Walloons, and Dutch, who with their whole families settled at Norwich, at Ipswich, Colchester, Canterbury, Exeter, and the like. From these came the Walloon Church at Canterbury, and the Dutch Churches at Norwich, Colchester, and Yarmouth; from hence came the true born English families at those places with foreign names; as the De Vinks at Norwich, the Rebows at Colchester, the Papilons, &c. at Canterbury, families to whom this nation are much in debt for the first planting those manufactures, from which we have since rais'd the greatest trades in the world.

This wise Queen knew that number of inhabitants are the wealth and strength of a nation, she was far from that opinion, we have of late shown too much of in complaining that foreigners came to take the bread out of our mouths, and ill treating on that account the French Protestants who fled hither for refuge in the late persecution.

Some have said that above 50,000 of them settled here, and would have made it a grievance, tho' without doubt 'tis easie to make it appear that 500,000 more would be both useful and profitable to this nation.

Upon the setling of these forreigners, the scale of trade visibly turn'd both here and in Flanders.

The Flemings taught our women and children to spin, the youth to weave, the men entred the loom to labour instead of going abroad to seek their fortunes by the war, the several trades of bayes at Colchester, sayes and perpets, at Sudbury, Ipswich, &c. stuffs at Norwich, serges at Exeter, silks at Canterbury, and the like, began to flourish.

All the counties round felt the profit, the poor were set to work, the traders gain'd wealth, and multitudes of people flock'd to the several parts where these manufactures were erected for employment, and the growth of England, both in trade, wealth and people since that time, as it is well known to this Honourable House; so the causes of it appear to be plainly the introducing of these manufactures, and nothing else.

Nor was the gain made here by it more visible than the loss to the Flemings, from hence, and not as is vainly suggested from the building the Dutch fort of Lillo on the Scheld, came the decay of that flourishing city of Antwerp. From hence it is plain the Flemings, an industrious nation, finding their trade ruin'd at once, turn'd their hands to other things, as making of lace, linnen, and the like, and the Dutch to the sea affairs and fishing.

From hence they became poor, thin of people, and weak in trade, the flux both of their wealth and trade, running wholly into England.

I humbly crave leave to say, this long introduction shall not be thought useless, when I shall bring it home by the process of these papers to the subject now in hand, viz. The providing for and employing the poor.

Since the times of Queen Elizabeth this nation has gone on to a prodigy of trade, of which the encrease of our customs from 400,000 crowns to two millions of pounds sterling per ann. is a demonstration beyond the power of argument; and that this whole encrease depends upon, and is principally occasion'd by the encrease of our manufacturers is so plain, I shall not take up any room here to make it out.

This breach of the circulation of trade must necessarily distemper the body, and I crave leave to give an example or two.

I'll presume to give an example in trade, which perhaps the gentlemen concern'd in this bill may, without reJection upon their knowledge, be ignorant of.

The city of Norwich, and parts adjacent, were for some ages employ'd in the manufactures of stuffs and stockings.

The latter trade, which was once considerable, is in a manner wholly transpos'd into London, by the vast quantities of worsted hose wove by the frame, which is a trade within this 20 years almost wholly new.

Now as the knitting frame performs that in a day which would otherwise employ a poor woman eight or ten days, by consequence a few frames perform'd the work of many thousand poor people; and the consumption being not increased, the effect immediately appear'd; so many stockings as were made in London so many the fewer were demanded from Norwich; till in a few years the manufacture there wholly sunk, the masters there turn'd their hands to other business; and whereas the hose trade from Norfolk once return'd at least 5,000s. per week, and as some say twice that sum, 'tis not now worth naming.

'Tis in fewer years, and near our memory, that of Spittlefields men have fallen into another branch of the Norwich trade, viz., making of stuffs, drugets, &c.

If any man say the people of Norfolk are yet full of employ, and do not work; and some have been so weak as to make that reply, avoiding the many other demonstrations which could be given, this is past answering, viz. That the combers of wool in Norfolk and Suffolk, who formerly had all, or ten parts in eleven of their yarn manufactur'd in the country, now comb their wool indeed, and spin the yarn in the country, but send vast quantities of it to London to be woven; will any man question whether this be not a loss to Norwich; can there be as many weavers as before? And are there not abundance of workmen and masters too remov'd to London?

If it be so at Norwich, Canterbury is yet more a melancholy instance of it, where the houses stand empty, and the people go off, and the trade dyes, because the weavers have follow'd the manufacture to London; and whereas there was within few years 200 broad looms at work, I am well assur'd there are not 50 now employ'd in that city.

These are the effects of transposing manufactures, and interrupting the circulation of trade.

All methods to bring our trade to be manag'd by fewer hands than it was before, are in themselves pernicious to England in general, as they lessen the employment of the poor, unhinge their hands from the labour, and tend to bring our hands to be superior to our employ, which as yet they are not.

If the bringing the Flemings to England brought with them their manufacture and trade, carrying our people abroad, especially to a country where the people work for little or nothing, what may it not do towards instructing that populous nation in such manufactures as may in time tend to the destruction of our trade, or the reducing our manufacture to an abatement in value, which will be felt at home by an abatement of wages, and that in provisions, and that in rent of land; and so the general stock sinks of course.

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The third thing Chanos gets wrong about China is the notion that the yuan is likely to appreciate. In the short term, it would be disastrous for China to let that happen, as I wrote in "Why Krugman Is Wrong About The Yuan." [] It would cause China's exports to plunge, swell the Chinese unemployment rolls by millions, and destabilize the financial system. In the long term, however, once the world's economy stabilizes, appreciation of the yuan might make sense. Getting exposure to Chinese assets now would benefit an investor when that time comes.

[Compare and contrast with Krugman/Samuelson material.]

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Krugman believes appreciation would allow the Chinese people to buy more American exports. But what American exports? Everything is already made in China. America exported its manufacturing jobs years ago. Even if China's currency were to appreciate, production would just move to cheaper countries like Vietnam, not back to America.

A weaker dollar won't help create more exports. It will just make things more expensive for Americans. Foreign companies will produce elsewhere, because it is still cheaper to produce in low-cost labor markets like Vietnam.

Rather than wasting time pushing China to strengthen the yuan, the president and Krugman should figure out how to strengthen the dollar by paying down our debts. A strong dollar, not a strong yuan, is what's important for America's future.

[Compare and contrast with Krugman/Samuelson material.]

Read full version 142 pages (article by Paul Krugman)

China the one to watch, and worry about
January 4, 2010

Comments 33
Yuan hundred.

Yuan hundred.

It's the season when pundits traditionally make predictions about the year ahead. Mine concerns international economics: I predict that 2010 will be the year of China. And not in a good way.

Actually, the biggest problems with China involve climate change. But today I want to focus on currency policy.

China has become a major financial and trade power, but it doesn't act like other big economies. Instead, it follows a mercantilist policy, keeping its trade surplus artificially high. And in today's depressed world, that policy is, to put it bluntly, predatory.

Here's how it works: Unlike the dollar, the euro or the yen, whose values fluctuate freely, China's currency is pegged by official policy at about 6.8 yuan to the US dollar. At this exchange rate, Chinese manufacturing has a large cost advantage over its rivals, leading to huge trade surpluses.

Under normal circumstances, the inflow of dollars from those surpluses would push up the value of China's currency, unless it was offset by private investors heading the other way. And private investors are trying to get into China, not out of it. But China's government restricts capital inflows, even as it buys up dollars and parks them abroad, adding to a $US2 trillion-plus hoard of foreign exchange reserves.

This policy is good for China's export-oriented state-industrial complex, not so good for Chinese consumers. But what about the rest of us?

In the past, China's accumulation of foreign reserves, many of which were invested in US bonds, was arguably doing us a favour by keeping US interest rates low - although what we did with those low interest rates was mainly to inflate a housing bubble. But right now the world is awash in cheap money, looking for some place to go.

Short-term interest rates are close to zero; long-term interest rates are higher, but only because investors expect the zero-rate policy to end some day. China's bond purchases make little or no difference.

Meanwhile, that trade surplus drains much-needed demand away from a depressed world economy. My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that for the next couple of years, Chinese mercantilism may end up reducing US employment by around 1.4 million jobs.

The Chinese refuse to acknowledge the problem. Recently Prime Minister Wen Jiabao dismissed foreign complaints: ''On one hand, you are asking for the yuan to appreciate, and on the other hand, you are taking all kinds of protectionist measures.'' Indeed: other countries are taking (modest) protectionist measures precisely because China refuses to let its currency rise. And more such measures are entirely appropriate. Or are they? I usually hear two reasons for not confronting China over its policies. Neither holds water.

First, there's the claim that we can't confront the Chinese because they would wreak havoc with the US economy by dumping their hoard of dollars. This is all wrong, and not just because in so doing the Chinese would inflict large losses on themselves. The larger point is that the same forces that make Chinese mercantilism so damaging right now also mean that China has little or no financial leverage.

Again, right now the world is awash in cheap money. So if China were to start selling dollars, there's no reason to think it would significantly raise US interest rates. It would probably weaken the dollar against other currencies - but that would be good, not bad, for US competitiveness and employment. So if the Chinese do dump dollars, we should send them a thank-you note.

Second, there's the claim that protectionism is always a bad thing, in any circumstances. If that's what you believe, however, you learnt economics 101 from the wrong people - because when unemployment is high and the government can't restore full employment, the usual rules don't apply.

Let me quote from a classic paper by the late Paul Samuelson, who more or less created modern economics: ''With employment less than full . . . all the debunked mercantilistic arguments'' - that is, claims that nations that subsidise their exports effectively steal jobs from other countries - ''turn out to be valid''.

He then went on argue that persistently misaligned exchange rates create ''genuine problems for free-trade apologetics''. The best answer to these problems is getting exchange rates back to where they ought to be. But that's exactly what China is refusing to let happen.

The bottom line is that Chinese mercantilism is a growing problem, and the victims of that mercantilism have little to lose from a trade confrontation. So I'd urge China's Government to reconsider its stubbornness. Otherwise, the very mild protectionism it is currently complaining about will be the start of something much bigger.

Paul Krugman was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 2008. He is a columnist with The New York Times and professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University.

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6. Exchange rates and the balance of payments: A bit of personal storytelling: Most people who work in international trade tend to lose the thread when the discussion turns to exchange rates and the balance of payments; as I’ve sometimes put it, the real trade people regard international macro as voodoo, while the international macro people regard real trade as boring and irrelevant (and when I’m in a sour mood, I suggest that both are right). But I was saved from all that when I read Dornbusch, Fischer, and Samuelson (1977) on Ricardian trade, which among other things showed how trade and macro, exchange rates and the balance of payments, the possibility of gains from trade but also the possibility of unemployment, all fit together.

What I learned later was that Samuelson grasped these issues much earlier, although the neatness of the DFS formulation surely helped get them across. Here’s what he wrote in his [May] 1964 paper “Theoretical notes on trade problems” []: “With employment less than full and Net National Product suboptimal, all the debunked mercantilist arguments turn out to be valid.” And he went on to mention the appendix to the latest edition of his Economics, “pointing out the genuine problems for free-trade apologetics raised by overvaluation”. The solution, of course, was to end the overvaluation rather than restrict trade; Samuelson understood that good macroeconomic policies are a prerequisite for good microeconomic policies. More on that in a minute.

Read full version 142 pages (May 1964 paper downloaded as Samuelson_Theoretical_Notes_on_Trade_Problems.pdf) contains on page 3 (internally numbered as page 146) the following paragraphs:-

6. <I>Deficits, Overvaluation, and Mercantilism.</I> It is well known that costs alone cannot determine, even in a barter system, where the real equilibrium <I>(W/R)/w</I> ratio must fall. (This acts like a terms-of-trade parameter for us; any simple change <I>abroad</I> which raises its equilibrium level makes "us" better off.)

Tastes and demands must enter into the reciprocal-demand schedules. Even worse, once we leave barter equilibrium aside and admit capital movements and gold flows into the picture, the sky becomes the limit for <I>R</I> and <I>(W/R)/w</I>. If our wage levels stay high enough, we can be undersold in every good. Without transport protections, our employment could be zero. The whole of our imports would then have to be financed by capital movements or gold.

With employment less than full and Net National Product suboptimal, all the debunked mercantilist arguments turn out to be valid. Tariffs can then reduce unemployment, can add to the NNP, and increase the <I>total</I> of real wages earned (or do the same for non-labor factors in an extended model).

Every teacher of elementary economics realizes the difficulty in selling free-trade notions when a bright student has realized that overvaluation of the currency may be involved. That is why the new sixth edition of my <I>Economics</I> (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1964) has an appendix pointing out the genuine problems for free-trade apologetics raised by overvaluation - such as prevailed for non-dollar nations in 1948, and may have been prevailing for us in recent years.

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Newson, the following may or may not help you get started. Consider a process with a parameter that yields according to this table:-

Output: 21 26 29 30 29 26 21

Parameter: 5 10 15 25 30 35 40

(I hope this is WYSIWYG enough that the table comes out properly.) The optimum comes with parameter 25, and output drops off to either side - but not linearly, rather it drops off ever faster as things get farther from optimal. Conversely, small variances aren't very important. Now, that table was made up for purposes of illustration, but it's fairly typical behaviour for most performance curves because it would take weird underlying structure to behave any other way (it's a mathematical/physical thing).

The African poll tax examples didn't relate to their underlying economics, rather the cash economies were constructed in a way that reflected labour content in the fiat currency. If the USA were occupied by a conqueror that chose to issue a fiat currency in that way, the same would apply there - but it would be a wasteful use of resources. Which might be the point, if the conqueror wanted to run US military-industrial capacity down using its own resources to do it. The African cases were starting at the other end, aiming to transition from unsophisticated subsistence economies to ones more useful from a colonial policy point of view (e.g. better markets for the home country, less of a drain on the home treasury for administering and garrisoning, and more resources coming out for home industry more cheaply - but colonies were almost always cost centres even after improvements).

Interestingly, I recently read an article in the Australian Financial Review that claimed that the Soviet command economy didn't suffer so much from the "calculation problem" as from a reluctance to replace plant as it became obsolescent if it was still working, which was in turn a consequence of state industries being monopolies.

By the way, the original Bessemer process didn't work. Bessemer just got lucky in the ore he used, that had a blend that was capable of being processed. When he released the technology (licensed? sold? I'm not sure), his customers couldn't make it work. It took a lot more development and research to find the problem and how to blend ores and add cleansing materials to fix it. If he hadn't got lucky with his first go, there would have been a long struggle with no money coming in and no certainty of ultimate success; the Bessemer process might never have gone into production. One of the advantages of the open-hearth method was that it was less sensitive to materials that way - if you used a lot of scrap steel as input. It too would have had trouble getting going if it had been the first entrant, for want of scrap steel. [Another example of a tipping point?]

Published: January 12, 2008 2:35 AM


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Newson, I can make two observations on the Labour Theory of Value that start rather nearer empirical evidence (though the second does have a layer of inference on top of it).

The first is that there actually were some special cases where it was implemented in setting up a cash economy. Fiat currencies were introduced in African colonies, backed by taxes. In some colonies, poll taxes were used. This was equivalent to backing the fiat currency with the opportunity cost of individual taxpayers' time during each tax period, particularly if the tax could be paid off by working on government projects like road building (having this fallback meant a rough de facto sliding scale, with taxpayers having one cash payment option and one work payment option). It would have worked even better if people who couldn't pay in cash actually got small cash wages for their work rather than garnisheeing all their notional pay as tax, since that would have trickled cash into the new cash economy, but I don't know if that was done. An analogy that helped me was, providing reactive volt amps so that induction motors can do regenerative braking, but if you don't know electrical engineering that will just be one more thing to understand first. But poll taxes work unevenly because people's opportunity cost of time (a proxy for the "value" of their labour) varies; that's why poll taxes worked better with sliding scales, and why hut taxes were often used instead.

That brings us to the second observation. For this I was helped when I finally understood why - not how - a certain feature of car automatic transmissions worked. Gear changes are chosen according to how much power is being delivered, among other things. But this can't easily be measured directly, or even inferred easily. Instead, the transmission uses the inlet manifold pressure as a proxy for the power. For a long time I couldn't see the connection, because I could see how that could easily be a poor proxy in some circumstances. However, I eventually realised that the inlet manifold pressure is a good proxy for the oxygen supply, which is a good proxy for the power from combustion, and the power developed is a nearly fixed proportion of that; the last two are true when the engine is working optimally or close to it (because at first efficiency doesn't drop off much as you move away from the optimal), which the automatic transmission arranges. In other words, when you are near optimal, the inlet manifold pressure is a good proxy, and feedback stops you drifting too far from optimal, but it's not an absolute law sort of thing, it's the result of the feedback. My initial concerns were sound, it was just that matters were arranged to keep them from coming true.

What has this to do with associating labour with value? Value does not derive from labour as such, but when an economy is working properly, actual value will end up properly correlated with labour inputs (after allowing for different sorts of labour having different value, a sliding scale again), because it always will end up properly allocated. Somebody who distorts things, say by paying people to dig holes and fill them in again, doesn't thereby make that valuable, but if there were a value there, say for archaeological research, then it would pay someone to hire workers to do it, and their labour would be an observable indicator of that value. This only works out because of the near optimality of the properly working economy, because that means the workers have to be drawn away from other productive uses, and their pay has to be too.

Result: although labour content does not confer value, in a reasonably sound economy and subject to a sliding scale it indicates it, which is for many purposes the same thing - unless you go and distort the economy, say by making policy assuming the former, which is like expecting a car to go faster if you bend the speedometer needle.

Published: January 11, 2008 7:09 AM


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S A I E ..I N C.. A B N.. 4 3.. 9 4 0 ..1 0 8.. 0 1 3.... F O U N D I N G.. P A T R O N.. S I R ..R U P E R T.. H A M E R.. A C.. K C M G.. E D