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John Passant

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December 2012



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



What capital has joined together, let not Marx rent asunder: Mark 1

This is a link to a rough first draft paper on the taxation of resource rents in Australia.  This gets you to the abstract and then in the middle of the page is a link to download the paper.  That gets you to the rambling 13000 words.


In this paper I introduce readers to some basic Marxist ideas to help you understand Marx’s thinking on rent and its applicability to the taxation of economic rent, specifically resource rents. I argue that because of the high levels of capital investment in the mining industry, Marx’s concept of absolute rent does not apply but that what he describes as monopoly rent, and differential rent I and II are components of resource rents. The process of taxing resource rents involves a battle between the state as landlord and mining capital as both a new landlord and exploiter of the minerals. That battle is over the split up of the resource monopoly rent inhered in the land but also between the state and mining capital over a share of the monopoly rent mining capital extracts in the process of production from other capital. The taxation of this latter aspect of resource rents acts as an imperfect substitute for competition by lowering the super profits the specific monopolists and oligopolists receive and thus helping to equalise profit rates. Company tax cuts redistribute the monopoly rents obtained during the production process to the other sectors of capital from whom the rent has in their eyes been monopolised.

To have your say or see what others are saying hit the comments button under the heading. Comments close after 7 days.



Comment from Chris Warren
Time December 19, 2012 at 9:41 am

very good and we need a lot more of such work.

However in Section IV “Some basic Marx” Sects. B C, you seem to presenting 3 types of value. “Exchange”, “use” and “socially necessary labour”.

Is this what you wanted to imply?

Comment from Mick
Time December 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm

As I started reading this, I prayed it would not become too heavy for me to comprehend. A few minutes later, my eyes glazed over, as I realised this was not for me.

I’m sure all the experts in economics and associated fields would find it very interesting, but for this mere person, thanks but no thanks.

This leads me to the topic of “the mere person and tax”. The average Australian worker (most of us) endeavours each year to minimise our tax, and some actually avoid paying any at all. This may have short term benefit for the individual, but it has long term implications for the survival of the human race.

This is explained in a brief (222 words) analysis on my blog, and I challenge anyone with a calculator to find a flaw in its logic.




Comment from John
Time December 19, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Thanks Chris. To me there are 3 types of value – exchange, use and value. The latter is the abstraction Marx develops for the socially necessary labour time in market products. Is that what you mean? I thought the paper got iffy around prices of production and sale above or below them and above or below value. I don’t think I explained that very well, partly because I am still trying to nut it out myself.

Comment from John
Time December 19, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Well, Mick, I doubt most mainstream economists or tax experts would agree with it. Workers don’t avoid tax. It is taken out at source by their employer so the best they can do is fiddle a few dollars. Some workers set up as independent contractors and claim business deductions but there are rules that limit that. Big business avoids tax. 40% pay no income tax. Or big business benefits from tax exemptions along with their rich mates. Workers too have exemptions like the non-taxation of the family home.

Comment from John
Time December 20, 2012 at 11:08 am

Chris, I wrote this in response to someone else making much the same point elsehwere.

OK I am not sure what you have read so I may be teaching you to suck eggs. My apologies if I am. You could read Choonara in his little book Unravelling Capitalism for a brief intro. But my take on it is this. Marx begins Capital by looking at the commodity which has both a use value and an exchange value. A use value crudely just means it satisfies some human need – food, clothes, housing are some basic ones. What is exchange value? Choonara says it is the amount of one commodity you can get for another. That exchange is mediated through the universal equivalent, money. But where does this exchange value come from? It comes from the abstraction Marx calls value. This is the thing all commodities have in common. At its most basic that is labour, but under capitalist production and exchange it has to be the socially necessary labour time required to produce the product, otherwise the more efficient less competitive would be rewarded more. Choonara says value is like gravity. You can’t see, touch or smell either. But the concept of gravity allows you to understand why the planets go around the sun. Similarly value allows us to understand as Choonara puts it why two commodities have the same exchange value. Or why ten thousand Mars Bars are the equivalent of a cheap car.

In other words value is an abstraction, a starting point for the discussion. It puts Marx’s method at the core – rising from the abstract to the concrete. That then enables us to examine the appearances of capitlaism, the surface phenomena. As Callinicos says, the law of free fall in gravity for example only applies in a vacuum. Does that help? For easy to understand explanations I found David Harvey’s explanation in The Limits To Capital useful too.Callinicos in the Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx is good, especially from about page 130 on, and also pages 86-87

However he responded with ‘ If something’s value is the socially necessary labour time that goes into it, and it’s exchange value is how many other commodities you can get for it, I mean, it’s really just describing the same thing isn’t it?’. My answer would be no because one is an abstraction and the other is not. But I might have to think some more about this.

Comment from Dave
Time December 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm

If you don’t make a distinction between concrete and abstract value Marx’s theory doesn’t make sense or just acts as a continuation of Ricardo. This abstraction comes into being because of the fetish quality of the commodity-form
To quote myself (sorry for the typos)
‘Capital is a social relationship consisting of how creativity is organised, a social relationship that becomes embodied in the form of things. The ‘cell-form’ of this is the commodity. Since creativity is organised in capitalism in a way that means businesses are split from each other, and workers are split from both the means of production, the products they produce and each other, the wealth we create takes the form of something to be sold. Since commodities are exchangeable, Marx argues that they must have something in common. What they have in common is they are all products of human creativity in an active metabolism with nature. Thus their common dominator is labour; specifically labour-time. That is the time it takes to make and shape things (including immaterial things).
But the value of the labour-time in a commodity can’t arise from the actually concrete labour-process that makes a commodity, because the work of making a car or working in a call centre is not comparable. Rather value is the ‘socially necessary labour time’ of a commodity, a reflection of the productivity of making something and the demand for it and this that is only calculated through the processes of exchange. As Bonefeld writes ‘Expenditure of labour is expenditure of concrete labour within a certain time frame. In order to be valid, and to count as such concrete labour, it has to be objectified as abstract labour in exchange.’ (As Marx progresses through the three volumes of Capital this becomes more complex due to the creation of an average rate of profit).
This means that all the efforts of humanity as they become commodities become objectifications of the same thing. All the distinct acts that produced them seem to retreat or disappear. Thus the efforts of workers in Chinese factories, car makers in Germany, musicians in the US, macadamia butter makers in Australia and on and on and all become different embodiments of the same thing, all labour becomes abstracted, homogenised. As Heinrich writes the relationship of a single commodity is not just a relationship with the money it is exchanged for but rather through this exchange it is ‘a relationship between the individual labor of producers and the total labour of society.’ This society is now increasingly global.
(Of course this raises questions: for example what is the nature of the work performed for wages that doesn’t produce a commodity? I think we can talk about this in discussion. )
All the wealth around us, good and bad, cupcakes and coal-powered energy plants, only can exist because of the countless activities of countless people. Holloway calls this ‘the social flow of doing’. But as commodities, as things for sale, we don’t see the human effort that creates all this wealth. The labour that created these commodities only exists for capital if the product it produces can be exchanged. If creativity doesn’t create something that can be sold, for capital it quite literally doesn’t have a value. We know this as workers who only have our labour-power to sell: if we can’t find a job we are made valueless, if we can our specifics skills and talents get squashed and shaped so we can act in a way that conforms to the accumulation of value.
Both Holloway and Bonefeld, in line with Marx, emphasise how this accumulation of value, the abstraction of labour rules our lives. Bonefeld emphasis how actually processes of production are then shaped and disciplined by attempting to conform to this reality of abstraction. ‘Our capitalist, this personification of value in process, money in process, and as such capital’, is thus spurred into action, frantically seeking to make the expenditure of concrete labour time under his command count socially as expenditure of necessary social labour time.’ This is the original cause of all the discipline we experience in the work place. Holloway argues this abstraction is the basis of the totality of the domination of capital throughout society. ‘

Comment from Dave
Time December 21, 2012 at 8:26 pm

…and also commodities don’t sell in relationship to their values but their prices of production, at the start of Capital Marx is talking about the basic dynamics of capitalism by setting up a thought experiment of how things work in ‘simple commodity production’ whilst in volume 3 he is trying to actually describe capitalism

Comment from John
Time December 21, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Which is a point I make in the article. And in doing so doesn’t undermine the labour theory of value but reinforces it.

Comment from John
Time December 21, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Brilliant. Thanks.

Comment from Dave
Time December 22, 2012 at 11:23 am

Sorry I must have missed it but I didn’t see you make the distinction between concrete and abstract value in the article. Personally since Marx doesn’t use the idea of the ‘labour theory of value’ but rather the ‘law of value’ I don’t really see the need to use it either

Comment from John
Time December 22, 2012 at 11:50 am

Dave, I meant I mention prices of production. I was replying to your second response. My ‘Brilliant’ comment was in response to your suggestions about abstract and concrete labour. I will have to improve the draft with that. So thanks. It is true Marx doesn’t refer to the LTV. He uses ‘the law of value’, but later writers, including many many Marxists, use the phrase LTV for a range of reasons including the fact that ‘the law of value’ could be understood in a non-Marxist sense.

Comment from Dave
Time December 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Well I guess the choice of LTV is also about siding with an internal debate within Marxism – is Marx’s work a radicalisation of or a break with Ricardo? Is Marx’s work part of a bigger approach that could be called ‘the labour theory of value’? I think Rubin makes a quip that Marx has a ‘value theory of labour’ which actually makes more sense, as he is showing how the social relations of capital coordinate labour via the commoditification of wealth and thus their transformation into objectifications of value.
Do you have access to Rubin’s book?

Comment from John
Time December 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Essay’s on Marx’s Theory of Value you mean? Yes, somewhere amongst my unread to read books. Might bring it up the list a bit now.

Comment from Dave
Time December 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Yeah, that’s the one. I really didn’t understand Marx on value till I read it. Heinrich’s newly translated ‘Introduction to the Three Volumes Karl Marx’s Capital’ is amazingly good at make the complexity of value crystal clear

Comment from Mary
Time December 24, 2012 at 4:32 pm

This is a very macho list nof comments what happened to mine a few days ago. Whatever Marx ‘s philosphy was it has been taken over my agender bias that IGNORES WOMEN’S RIGHTS. There is still not equal pay for women and in India genicide of women is acceptable by their status quo.
Capitalism is anti women so is economic corporatism today is most countries.

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