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Robert Vienneau

Articles by Robert Vienneau

Flummery From Robert A. Heinlein

13 days ago

He had been droning along about ‘value,’ comparing the Marxist theory with the orthodox ‘use’ theory.
Mr. Dubois had said, ‘Of course, the Marxian definition of value is ridiculous. All the work one cares to
add will not turn a mud pie into an apple tart; it remains a mud pie, value zero. By corollary, unskillful
work can easily subtract value; an untalented cook can turn wholesome dough and fresh green apples,
valuable already, into an inedible mess, value zero. Conversely, a great chef can fashion of those same
materials a confection of greater value than a commonplace apple tart, with no more effort than an
ordinary cook uses to prepare an ordinary sweet.’

‘These kitchen illustrations demolish the Marxian theory of value — the fallacy from which the entire
magnificent fraud of

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20 days ago

[embedded content]The Banach-Tarski ParadoxThe Hahn-Banach theorem is related to how mainstream economics model perfect competition. The video above is mind-bending math.
The Mountain Goat blog.
A profile of some economists at Berkeley, some of who I have read when they collaborated with Thomas Piketty or A. Dube. I have read deLong, as well, of course.
If you cannot name ‘capitalism’, ‘neoliberalism’, or ‘neoclassical economics’, it is difficult to criticize them. Here is a popular account about right-wingers crying about researchers daring to use such terms.
I conclude with a recent talk, below, by Yanis Varoufakis on the need for pluralism in economics. He argues, at least (I still have more to watch):
Economic theory can be performative, counter-performative, or reflexive

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The Production Function In A Discrete Technology

26 days ago

Figure 1: Isoquants For The Production Function1.0 Introduction

I often assume a discrete technology in my demonstrations that what many mainstream economists teach is mostly incoherent balderdash.
Some incompetents have told me that such well-established results "just show
that the particular production functions that you have chosen don’t work. This is not a generic result."
So, for my amusement, I will go through a simple
example here to explain how any continuously differentiable production function can be approximated arbitrarily closely
by the production function for a discrete technology.

By the way as far as I know, capital-reversing is consistent with continuously differentiable production functions.
Does the late Emmanuel Farhi’s work on this theme make progress on Wolfgang

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Private Truths, Public Lies In Mainstream Economics?

March 16, 2021

I sometimes wonder if most mainstream economists think that most of what they were taught, teach, and research are
some combination of false, incoherent, and useless for understanding actually existing capitalism. But they go
along out of some sense of professionalism and a belief that their colleagues do not share their views.
That is many privately think they are a minority of one, but publically espouse the orthodoxy.

As far as professionalism goes, I suppose some believe that those who go on from their microeconomics class, for example, are expected
to have been exposed to certain material. I would hope that some question the ethics of not letting the
students know that they are being taught one approach, named marginalism, and other approaches

Maybe one of these days, I

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Bushwa From Jeffrey Clemens In The Journal of Economic Perspectives

March 8, 2021

"The labor
supply curve slopes upward, reflecting differences in workers’ reservation wages (as
driven by outside opportunities related, perhaps, to leisure, home production, and
economic assistance that can be received while out of work). The labor demand
curve slopes downward, tracing out the relationship between the quantity of labor
employed and the marginal revenue product of that labor. This, in turn, reflects the
assumption of a constant price (due, perhaps, to a perfectly competitive market for
the firm’s output) and a production function in which, holding capital and technology
fixed, labor has diminishing marginal productivity.

In a perfectly competitive labor market, a freely set wage will adjust to equilibrate
supply and demand…"

— Jeffrey Clemens.

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Vienneau (2005) Is A Necessary Resource For Arguments About A Minimum Wage

February 27, 2021

Maybe, perhaps, that is a bit hyperbolic. But it has been known for at least half a century that,
even in competitive markets, wages and employment cannot be explained by the interaction of
well-behaved supply and demand curves for labor. If you do not want to read me, check out, for example,
Garegnani (1970) or Opocher and Steedman (2015). Shove (1933) illustrates how far awareness
of the difficulties go. White (2001) is a demonstration that I am not the only one
to draw practical conclusions from the theory.

Cohort after cohort, generation after generation, in the supposedly best schools
promulgate falsehoods, ignorance, and incoherent nonsense.

Garegnani, Pierangelo. 1970. Heterogeneous capital, the production function and the theory of distribution. Review of Economic

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Neoclassical Economists Being Wrong

February 20, 2021

What is neoclassical economics?
(This post draws on something I wrote on Usenet more than a decade ago.)
I believe I might have introduced this list of three
key assumptions, as noted by Roy Weintraub, into the wikipedia article on
the topic:
People have rational preferences between outcomes that can be identified and associated with values.
Individuals maximize utility and firms maximize profits.
People act independently on the basis of full and relevant information.

One should recognize that neoclassical economics is associated
with mathematical formalism. So neoclassical economists speaking
among the clergy would prefer the language of topology and the
algebra of relations for stating their assumptions.

The point of neoclassical economics is to build a theory on
those assumptions

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February 2, 2021

A start (see links on the left) of advice to a student interested in how to introduce an evolutionary approach into economics.
A podcast severely critical of mainstream economics.
A substack post of an avowed creed for neoliberals. I don’t think the author has studied the scholarly literature on the topic.

These links do not present a hopeful picture.

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Greg Mankiw Should Try To Make A Honest Living

January 23, 2021

[embedded content]A Discussion On The Best (or Worst) Of Mankiw
Peter Bofinger
has expanded a series of tweets to point out some stuff that is just wrong in Mankiw’s introductory textbook.
The video above is a virtual panel discussion in which Mankiw graciously pretends to respond to Bofinger.
Rüdiger Bachmann and Anna Reisch also participate. I do not know the host, Thomas Fricke. Questions from the
audience are fielded towards the end. I concentrate on Sascha Buetzer (1:07:45) below. Other questions are
from Janina Urban (1:18:41) and Thomas Kopp (1:21:29). I am probably missing something.

I wonder whether Anna Reisch knows about
Adolph Lowe’s political economics. I know of this through his
1965 book On Economic Knowledge. I gather Lowe thought it was the task of economists to

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On The Empirical Verification Of The Cambridge Capital Controversy

January 16, 2021

1.0 Introduction

My consistent position is that Sraffa and his followers, besides
recovering an alternate approach to value and distribution found
in classical economics and Marx, demonstrated the logical invalidity
of marginalist economics.
Empirical results are irrelevant to questions of logical validity.

Wage curves, as constructed from input-output matrices, are rational
functions with the numerator and denominator both being some high order
polynomial functions. I would have liked to see some more wobbles in
those constructed empirically and more examples of reswitching and
capital-reversing. Nevertheless, the finding that frontiers are
close to linear functions, with only a few switch points, is not
consistent with an emphasis on widespread marginal adjustments.
It is more

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Books To Make You More Muddled

January 13, 2021

I have not read all of these, and you might think I am being unfair with this post title.
If you want critiques of post modernism, try the Amin and Eagleton referenced at the end
of this post.
Sokal, after the cited book, participated in interesting colloquia with those who were scholars of
what he was attacking and mocking. If you want to see how little I know about this area, you can look at
my posts on
Wittgenstein, or

Gellner, Ernest. 1959. Words and Things: A Critical Account of Linguistic Philosophy and a Study in Ideology. London: Gollantz.
Gross, Paul R. and Norman Levitt. 1998. Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrels with Science. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press.
Hicks, Stephen R. C. 2004. Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism

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John Roemer’s Reproducible Solution

January 9, 2021

Can I adapt Roemer’s work, suitably taking into account later work by D’Agata and Zambelli, to found
approach to markup pricing? As a start, I here quote Roemer on a reproducible solution (RS), before
he takes into account unequal rates of profits and a choice of technique. Given the role of
endowments, is this a neoclassical approach, like Hahn’s 1984 CJE paper? Even so, is it a valid
justification for Sraffa’s price equations? Notice there
are no subscripts for time below.

"There are N capitalists; the νth one is endowed with a vector of produced
commodity endowments ων … Capitalist ν starts with
capital ων, which he seeks to turn in more wealth at the highest
rate of return. Thus the program of capitalist ν is

Facing prices p, to

choose xν ≥ 0 to

max (p – (p A + L)) xν

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23 February 1981: King Juan Carlos Becomes A Spanish National Hero

January 7, 2021

I only know about this at the level
of a Wikipedia article.
Or maybe a short newspaper article.
Some of you doubtlessly know more.

Some Spanish military officers, pining for the certainty of a fascist authortarian state,
assaulted the Congress of Deputies in 1981. They held the deputies hostage. Some showed real physical courage. The prime minister and deputy
prime minister refused to sit down when ordered so, despite having guns pointed at them.

I’d like to conclude that, despite this failed coup attempt, Spain is a thriving democracy today. But I think
political parties today are addressing problems
more connected with austerity after 2008 than with nostalgia for Franco. I conclude with a couple
references about violence in politics.

Hannah Arendt. 1969. On violence. In Crises of

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The Tractor-Corn Model: A Start

January 2, 2021

1.0 Introduction

In my ROBE article, I consider fluke switch points arising from perturbations of coefficients of
production in the Samuelson-Gargenani model, but in the case with only circulating capital.
An obvious generalization is to consider fixed capital. This generalization is
simplified by restricting oneself to the case in which machines operate with constant
efficiency. Steedman (2020) analyzes this case, and this post is a start on working through
elements of the corn-tractor model he leaves as homework. I do not know how far I will
go in rewriting my paper for this case.

2.0 Technology for a Technique

In the model, corn is produced by labor working working with a specified type of tractor.
And that type of tractor is itself produced by labor working with that type of

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The Truncation Of The Economic Lives Of Machines

December 29, 2020

‘Paradoxes’ and ‘Perversities’
PhenomenonExampleRegionReswitching’One good’5Schefold reswitching3Schefold roundabout3Baldone8Recurrence of technique (without reswitching)Baldone9Recurrence of truncation (without reswitching or recurrence of technique)Two sectors with fixed capital2Non-monotonic variation of economic life of machine (without reswitching or recurrence of technique or of truncation)Baldone10’Non-continuous’ variation in economic life of machine associated with infinitesimal variation in rate of profits’One good’1, 5Baldone7, 8, 9, 10, 11Increased economic life of machine associated with lower capital intensity’One good’1, 3, 4Schefold reswitching2Two sectors with fixed capital1, 2, 3, 4Baldone9, 10, 11A lower rate of profits associated with a decreased economic life of a

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More On Baldone Example

December 21, 2020

Figure 1: A Two-Dimensional Pattern Diagram, Enlarged1.0 Introduction

This post further generalizes an example from
Salvatore Baldone..
Like an example from
Bertram Schefold,
I find that Baldone’s example is in a wedge near the edge of the appropriate region in one of my partitions of a
parameter space. I have some very complicated spreadsheets that allow me to quickly visualize the effects of
varying parameters. Baldone and Schefold were working long before Visicalc, Microsoft Excel, or LibreOffice.
Finding these numeric examples must have been tedious.

I think Baldone created this example to illustrate recurrence of truncation. Recurrence of truncation
does not necessarily require the recurrence of techniques, but in this example recurrence of truncation
occurs with recurrence of

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An Extension Of An Example From Salvatore Baldone

December 12, 2020

Figure 1: A Pattern Diagram, Enlarged1.0 Introduction

This post looks at and generalizes an example of the recurrence of techniques by Salvatore Barone. It is
an example with fixed capital illustrating the recurrence of the period of truncation.
In the generalization, I find what I call patterns over the axis for the rate of profits, a patern over the
wage axis, a three-technique pattern, and a reswitching pattern.

Barone’s example demonstrates that
around a switch point, a lower rate of profits can be associated with both an increase and a decrease in
the economic life of a machine and an increased life of a machine can be associated with both an increase
and a decrease in the capital-intensity of a technique.
From other examples, I know the variability in the direction of the period

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Political Novels?

December 4, 2020

I would like suggestions to add to this list:
Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby or the New Generation.
Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now.
Allen Drury, Advise and Consent: A Novel of Washington Politics.
John Ehrlichman, The Company.
Anonymous (Joel Klein) Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics.

This is not for Christmas, but some of my personal reading.
I am aware that Coningsby is the first of a trilogy, that Advise and Consent is the first of a series, and that
Primary Colors has a sequel. Ehrlichman’s novel did not make a lasting impression on me. As usual, I find it hard
to define what I think groups these together.

Disraeli writing his novels in the midst of trying to climb the greasy pole is hard to fathom:

"The Duke talks to me of Conservative principles; but he does not

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Triple Switching and Fluke Switch Points

December 1, 2020

Figure 1: A Pattern Diagram with Triple Switching
In demonstrating the lack of foundation for claims of the Austrian school about the supposed relationships between a greater supply of capital, a consequent lower rate of profits, and a longer period of production, I have so far only presented examples in which the economic life of an existing machine can be extended or truncated. Schefold (1980: 170) interprets a more roundabout technique as one in which a long-lived machine is used to produce a finished good that previously was produced directly without the aid of fixed capital or, at least, with a different and inferior machine. The example in this post extends Schefold’s illustration of the difficulty in sustaining the Austrian claim.

I am disappointed that
in briefly exploring the

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A Three-Technique Pattern Over The Wage Axis

November 28, 2020

Figure 1: Wage Frontier for a Fixed Capital Example
This post presents a perturbation of parameters in a ‘one good’ model of fixed capital.
The coefficients of production differ from those in
this reswitching example.
But the model has the same structure.

Consider a one-commodity economy in which labor and widgets are used to produce new widgets, the only consumption good.
(The use of the term ‘widget’ to designate the single produced commodity emphasizes how unrealistic this model is.)
New widgets last several years when used in producing widgets. In this particular answer to Steedman’s homework assignment,
they last three years. And their efficiency can vary throughout their technical lifetime. Accordingly, Tables 1 and 2 specify
the coefficients of production for three processes.

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The LTV And Commodity Fetishism

November 26, 2020

You will occasionally come upon supposed refutations of Marx’s theory of value that I find just ignorant.
One might talk about two divers. One comes up with a handful of sand, and the other comes up with a
pearl. They have put in the same labor, but their products are of quite different exchange values.
Or consider the labor that goes into making a useless product, something that cannot be sold as
a commodity on a market. Obviously, labor does not create value.

A refutation can only be effective, at least among serious people, if it attempts to start with an understanding
of the idea being attacked. A critique could be immanent and transcend the position it starts with.
Or it can end up just rejecting that position.

I am not sure why I included a bit about
commodity fetishism
in my

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Visualizing The Effects Of Parameter Perturbations In Models Of Joint Production

November 21, 2020

A Temporal Path
I have a new
working paper.

Abstract: This article illustrates the analysis of prices of production with joint production by a
numerical example. The example is used to illustrate the applicability of techniques to identify and
visualize qualitative changes in the choice of technique with parameter perturbations. Patterns of
switch points are knife-edge or fluke cases in which any perturbation of parameters results in such
a qualitative change. This article identifies a new case, called a pattern for requirements for use,
in which prices are indeterminate. If the proportions specified by requirements for use are varied at
all, this indeterminancy vanishes.

I need more examples of flukes in models of pure joint production.

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Elsewhere On 2020 ‘Nobel Prize’

November 18, 2020

Edward Nik-Khan and Philip Mirowski in the New Statesman.
National Public Radio’s Planet Money.

I should have a link to somethingn written by Glen Weyl, not just hom being interviewed.

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Fluke Switch Points At Both The Maximum Wage And The Maximum Rate Of Profits

November 12, 2020

Figure 1: Wage Frontier for a Fixed Capital Example1.0 Introduction

I continue to explore the simplest multisector model
of the production of commodities by means of commodities in which circulating and fixed capital is used in both sectors.
In previous explorations, I locate a four-technique pattern, observe recurrence of truncation, and provide an example in which truncating all machines is

I think my taxonomy of fluke switch points and methods of visualizing the effects of perturbing parameters, such as coefficients of
production, applies unchanged to models of the production of commodities with fixed capital, maybe with certain simplifying assumptions.
So I want to, at least, show fluke swith points of co-dimension one in models of fixed capital.

Every switch point is

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Fields Impacted By The Cambridge Capital Controversy (CCC)

November 9, 2020

Some of these should have been more impacted:

Macroeconomics: Measures of Total Factor Productivity, every model with an aggregate production function, and a belief
that business cycles are to be explained by sticky or rigid prices or other imperfections are all shown to be questionable.
Marxist economics: Steedman’s Marx after Sraffa made a splash, with many writing afterwards. Lately, I’ve read a bit of Riccardo Bellofiore, but a bibliography here could go on and on.
Monetary economics: Sraffa’s work undermines the concept of the natural rate of interest and the concept of a neutral monetary policy. Colin Rogers’ Money, interest and capital: A Study in the foundations of monetary theory goes into this.
Labor economics: Here I point to my own stuff.
Theory of the firm: Opocher

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Infeasibility Of All Machines Truncated

November 5, 2020

Figure 1: Factor Wage Curves For Feasible Techniques
There are 12 coefficients that can be varied in my
minimum multisector model
in which production in all sectors can require both fixed and circulating capital. I do not think I am being
very orderly in exploring this twelve-dimensional space.

This is a fluke case in which the maximum rate of profits is zero for both the Alpha and the Beta techniques.
If only new machines are used as means of production in producing new machines and in producing corn, no surplus
product is available to pay out as wages and profits. Likewise, if a machine is run for its full physical lifetime
of two years in the machine sector, but truncated in the corn sector, no surplus product is, once again,
available. But this is a feasible technology in that a

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Recurrence Of Truncation In A Perturbation Analysis

November 3, 2020

Figure 1: Variation of Choice Of Technique with a Coefficient of Production
This post continues the analysis of this example. The coefficients of production and the techniques are the same as in the linked post, except here
I consider the results of varying a1, 2, the amount of corn needed as circulating capital in operating Process II
at unit level. Figure 1 above shows how the choice of technique varies with this parameter. This is a two-sector model, in
which new machines and corn are produced in both sectors. Corn acts as circulating capital, as the sole consumption good, and
as the numeraire. Machines act as fixed capital. Managers of firms have the ability to run machines for two years in both sectors,
but old machines cannot be transferred between sectors.

Table 1: Variation in

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Noah Smith Claims To Have A View On The Cambridge Capital Controversy

October 31, 2020

I have been reading Noah Smith, off and on, for years. He has expressed scepticism about
the obvious unrealism of macroeconomics, but I have not found him knowledgaable
about heterodox economics.

Noah Smith claims to have a view on the Cambridge Capital Controversy. He is asked, "Is there someplace that help me learn Sraffa?
The stuff I’ve read from him is interesting, but is often difficult conceptually." His
response is, "Just read Sraffa."

And he is asked, "Which side are you on re the Cambridge Capital Controversy?" Smith
says, "Samuelson."

Smith has the honor of being mentioned in Edward Nik-Khah and Philip Mirowski’s "The ghosts of Hayek in orthodox microeconomics: markets as information processors". If Smith tries to say something about the CCC in a Bloomberg column, I’d

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A Four-Technique Pattern In A Model With Fixed Capital

October 29, 2020

Figure 1: A Wage Frontier1.0 Introduction

This post presents a numberic example of
a non-interlocked
system with fixed capital and no superimposed joint production. This seems to be the minimum multiple-sector model:

Of the production of commodities by means of comodities
With both circulating and fixed capital,
In which the fixed capital consists of machines of non-constant efficiency with a physical lifetime of more than one period.

This is a
step in my
research agenda
of exploring perturbations in the analysis of the choice of technique, including perturbations of fluke
switch points. This post presents a fluke switch point in which four techniques are simultaneously
cost-minimizing at a switch point.

2.0 Technology

In this economy, firms produce machines and corn. Corn is the

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Sraffa’s PoCbMoC At 60

October 21, 2020

[embedded content]Seminar
I finally watched Production of Commodities at 60. Our host and moderator is Matias Vernengo. Seminar participants are Franklin Serrano, Antonella Palumbo, and Ed Nell, who
present in that order. They take questions at the end.

I cannot recall who made these points; they generally agreed. But here are some I noted. Sraffa is not only about an
internal critique of marginalist theory, but a setting out of an alternative theory. This is a rediscovery of the classical
theory of value.

Sraffa’s theory is not restricted to perfect competition. Paul Sweezy was wrong to think that the advent of monopoly
capitalism meant that only qualitative assertions could be made about value.

Ed Nell talks about linear programming, as contrasted to prices that support the

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