|Figure 1: Nell's Diagram|
Over at Naked Keynesian, Matías Vernengo explains some aspects of how he teaches the surplus approach. Vernengo presents a diagram created by Garegnani. Garegnani's diagram shows the logical relations among the endogenous variables and the givens in the Classical theory of value.
I thought I would take this opportunity to present the (complementary?) diagram above. Nell's diagram shows flows among three foci: production, markets, and the social classes comprising the population of an idealized capitalist economy.
Nell represents industrial production with an icon in the lower right of his diagram. The arrows connecting the factories in a circle suggest the production of commodities by means of commodities. Sraffa's book expresses this viewpoint in rigorous theory, and Leontief applied it empirically. Gross industrial output consists of a heterogeneous odd-lot of commodities. This output is divided into:
- The replacement of the existing means of production (represented by the previously mentioned arrows within the icon for industry)
- The surplus (represented by the arrow labeled "Net social product").
- Necessities, consumed by the workers and the Unemployed
- Luxuries, consumed by the owners (i.e., capitalists)
- New capital goods, channeled back into industrial production from the markets on which industrial firms sell them.
The diagram also shows money flows. The diagram illustrates the simplifying assumption that workers consume all their income. And the diagram also abstracts from the existence of government and of foreign trade. (All of these abstractions are removed in more advanced political economy, for example, in Kalecki's work.) Anyway one can identify a couple of accounting identities under these assumptions:
Total Receipts = Worker Consumption + Capitalist Consumption + Investment
Total Receipts = Wages + ProfitsI like the clarity with which monetary flows and commodity flows are distinguished in this approach. It is not the case that capitalists own blast furnaces sitting in their backyard, which they then loan to firms. Mainstream economists are deliberately and consistently obfuscating on this issue, from introductory teaching to beyond. Perhaps there's a reason for this widespread confusion:
"From the point of view of Political Economy, however, the most important fact is that while wages are paid for work, and one can (and in some circumstances should) think of the wage bill, equal here to Worker Consumption, as reproducing the power to work, profits are not paid for anything at all. The flow of profit income is not an exchange in any sense. The Samuelson [circular flow] diagram...is fundamentally misleading; there is no 'flow' from 'household supply' to the factor market for capital. The only flow is the flow of profit income in the other direction. And this, of course, leads straight to that hoary but substantial claim that the payment of wages is not an exchange either, or at any rate, not a fair one. For Wages plus Profits adds up to the Net Income Product; yet profits are not paid for anything, while wages are paid for work. Hence the work of labor (using the tools, equipment, etc., replacement and depreciation of which is already counted in) has produced the entire product. Is labor not therefore exploited? Does it not deserve the whole product?" -- Edward Nell
- Edward Nell (1972). "The Revival of Political Economy"