Saturday, December 08, 2007

Simple and Expanded Reproduction

1.0 Introduction
This post presents a model in which a capitalist economy smoothly reproduces itself. The purpose of such a model is not to predict that capitalist economies will converge to some such path as illustrated in the model. Rather, the model provides a basis for the analysis of where things can go wrong.

This sort of model has a long history. My exposition is close to Marx (1956), with the difference that Marx sets out the conditions of simple and expanded production in terms of labor values, not in terms of prices of production. Rosa Luxemburg (1951) and Michal Kalecki (1969) used Marx's department break-down to develop a Keynes-like model of the long run and the short run. Shigeto Tsuru (1942) apparently exposed this model to english-speaking academics when few were looking at Marx's analysis. Joan Robinson (1962) drew on these ideas, among others, in her models of metallic ages. Goodwin's generalization (1949) of Keynes to a multisectorial model and Pasinetti's (1981, 1993) analyses of vertically integrated sectors also seem to me to bear family resemblances to this model. Doubtless, my references could be extended in many directions.

Table 1: Definition of Variables
The person-years of labor hired per unit output (e.g., ton steel) in the first sector.
The person-years of labor hired per unit output (e.g., bushel corn) in the second sector.
The capital goods used up per unit output in the first (steel-producing) sector.
The capital goods used up per unit output in the second (corn-producing) sector.
The price of unit output in the first sector.
The price of unit output in the second sector.
The rate of profits.
The savings rate out of profits.
The wage, that is, the price of hiring a person-year.
The number of units (tons steel) produced in the first sector.
The number of units (bushels corn) produced in the second sector.

2.0 Two Departments
This model considers a capitalist economy with no government and no foreign trade. The outputs of this economy are grouped into two great departments. In the first department, capitalists direct workers to produce means of production (also known as capital goods) with the means of production in that department. In the second department, the workers are directed to produce means of consumption (also known as consumption goods) with the means of production in that department.

For ease of exposition, I make certain additional simplifying assumptions. The workers consume all of their wages. Only the capitalists save, and they save only in the case of expanded reproduction. All capital is circulating capital. That is, there is no fixed capital, such as long-lived machinery. In other words, all capital goods are totally used up each year in producing the yearly output. No technological innovations are introduced.

I think introducing technological innovations and fixed capital makes the possibility of smooth reproduction more incredible. A govenrment can be introduced as a third department, or perhaps by dividing government output among the two departments shown. Foreign trade introduces the possibility of correcting imbalances in domestic demand from outside the domestic economy. But then one could recast the model as of the world economy.

3.0 Prices
A necessary condition for smooth reproduction of a competitive capitalist economy is that the same rate of profit be made in all departments. Otherwise, some capitalists are finding that the expectations on which investments were made are being unfulfilled. They would want to have contracted some departments and expanded others. I also impose the condition that spot prices remain stationary. Equations 1 and 2 express these conditions:


I suppose one could put time indices on the prices in Equations 1 and 2, thereby defining a dynamic system for prices. Suppose distribution and the ratios of physical quantity flows remain unchanged year after year. Then the steady-state prices expressed in Equations 1 and 2 (without time indices) would be a limit point of the dynamic process so defined. It is this caveat, I think, that allows me to ignore that constant prices are, perhaps, not a necessary condition for smooth reproduction.

Table 2: Values of Outputs By Department and Distribution
Capital Goods
Consumption Commodities

4.0 In Balance
4.1 Simple Reproduction
The economy is in simple reproduction when it is replicated on the same scale year after year. A necessary condition for an economy in simple reproduction is that the production of capital goods each year be equal to the capital goods used up each year. In the model shown here, the value of the capital goods used up each year must equal the value of the output of the first department:
Equation 3 can be simplified:
Equation 4 is easily summarized in words. It states that the value of capital goods demanded from the second department matches the demand for consumption goods from the first department. In a sense, Equation 4 is a generalization of Keynes' idea of effective demand. The condition that all workers looking for a job are able to find one at the going wage is a separate condition, not stated here. In a sense, this model generalizes Keynes' theory, in some sense, to the long-run.

An alternate method of deriving Equation 4 is available. Start from the equation of the value of total demand for consumption goods and the value of the output of the department producing consumption goods. This condition, when simplified, also yields Equation 4.

4.2 Expanded Reproduction
The economy experiences expanded reproduction when it consistently expands each year. In this case, the demand for capital goods from the second department includes the savings of the capitalists receiving profits from that department. Likewise, the demand for consumption goods from the first department excludes the savings of the capitalists in that department. Observing these qualifications, it is easy to mathematically express the condition that the demand for capital goods from the second department match the demand for consumption goods from the first department:
Focus on the left-hand side of Equation 6. Is it apparent that the rate of growth in expanded reproduction in this model is the product of the capitalists' saving propensity and the rate of profit? In other words, the rate of profit along a warranted growth path is the quotient of the rate of growth and the saving propensity of the capitalists. So this model points to a Post Keynesian theory of distribution.

5.0 Conclusion
In the model, capitalists independently decide on what department to enter, and how much to produce in that department. A collective result of those decisions is the total output of each department. For those decisions to be validated, the value of consumer goods demanded by workers and capitalists in the department producing capital goods must match the value of capital goods demanded by the capitalists in the department producing consumption goods.

The model is silent on how such an equality can come about. Supply and demand seems like an inadequate answer to me.

  • Richard M. Goodwin (1949). "The Multiplier as Matrix", Economic Journal, V. 59, N. 236 (Dec.): 537-555
  • M. Kalecki (1969). Theory of Economic Dynamics: An Essay on Cyclical and Long-Run Changes in Capitalist Economy, Second Edition, Augustus M. Kelly
  • Rosa Luxemburg (1951). The Accumulation of Capital (Trans. by Agnes Schwarzschild), Yale University Press
  • Karl Marx (1956). Capital, Volume 2, Progress Publishers
  • Luigi L. Pasinetti (1981). Structural Change and Economic Growth: A Theoretical Essay on the Dynamics of the Wealth of Nations, Cambridge University Press
  • Luigi L. Pasinetti (1993). Structural Economic Dynamics: A Theory of the Economic Consequences of Human Learning, Cambridge University Press
  • Joan Robinson (1962). Essays in the Theory of Economic Growth, Macmillan
  • Shigeto Tsuru (1942). "On Reproduction Schemes", Appendix A in Paul Sweezy's The Theory of Capitalist Development, Monthly Review Press [This reference I haven't read]


Anonymous said...

Hey Robert,
Don't have time to engage properly, but just wanted to say, good stuff. I've been reading postwar growth theory stuff for my thesis so on the same wavelength. Like you say this can go in many directions... where are you thinking?

My thesis is on inflation and anti-policy so I'm most interested in what growth theory says about those things. Since the 1950s or 1960s growth and inflation have been in different theoretical compartments. But it's interesting to me that the early burst of Keynesian growth theory was concerned with inflation.

From here, I'm interested in where you might go in introducing money and the price level, and in bringing in government. Both being Keynesian developments missing from Marx (his reproduction schema at least) but important.

Speaking of Kaldor in the last comment thread, I notice he's not in your refs here... but his stuff is really interesting, similar to Joan Robinson. Check out his two-part lecture in 1959 Economica. Also you might be interested in recent stuff by Anwar Shaikh synthesising Marxian/classical and Keynesian growth and cycle theory. At his website:

Mike Beggs

Anonymous said...

oops - should read "inflation and anti-inflation policy"

Robert Vienneau said...

I'm not thinking of developing this further. I wanted to present an exposition illustrating my claim that Marx provides tools for the analysis of capitalist societies.

I agree Kaldor did work that fits in with the model in my post.

I think it is challenging to fit money into this framework. I don't think I can give you good advice. The New School certainly has researchers to look at. You might find Jan Kregel's "Hamlet with the Prince" (American Economic Review, May 1985) article of interest. Also, see the work of economists known as circuitists.

Anonymous said...

Hey Robert,

After commenting I followed the links in the post and discovered you're an old hand at this... my references are redundant, sorry! I'll check out those references, cheers.