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Robert Vienneau

Articles by Robert Vienneau

On The Empirical Verification Of The Cambridge Capital Controversy

2 days ago

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

5 days ago

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

9 days ago

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

11 days ago

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

16 days ago

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

20 days ago

‘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

28 days ago

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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Non-Uniform Rates Of Profits

October 15, 2020

This post presents a
of the history of analyzing prices of production with non-uniform rates of profits.
I start from developments in post Sraffian price theory. D’Agata (2018) and Zambelli (2018b) have
argued that Sraffian prices of production can still be defined when rates of profits have regular and
persistent variations among industries. Barriers to entry or idiosyncratic properties of investment
can result in such variations. Steedman (1981) presents the first formulation in post Sraffian price theory
that I know of in English with systematic variations of the rate of profits among industries.
Roemer (1981: 23-29) provides microfoundations for modeling imperfect competition in linear production models.
He assumes different capitalists have different information

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Can We Hear Phil Mirowski In The Media Talk About Paul Milgrom And Robert Wilson?

October 12, 2020

The 2020 "Nobel Prize" in economics goes to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson. I suppose
it is nice that economists acknowledge that markets are not natural entities but
need to be constructed. For example, consider the Federal Communications Commission
of the microwave spectrum.

The 2012 "Nobel Prize" went to Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley. The 1996 "Nobel Prize",
to William Vickrey (a Post Keynesian, by the way) was also for acution theory. The
2002 prize went to Daniel Kahneman and Vernon Smith. Smith’s work included experiments
with markets constructed in the laboratory.

I do not know much about this field. But I am hoping some journalists know of Philip
Mirowski, an expert on the history of information in economics, and get him
to comment on the award this year.

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A Fluke Case For Requirements For Use

October 10, 2020

Figure 1: Prices of Production1.0 Introduction

This post presents a new kind of fluke case in the analysis of the choice of technique, at least new to me.
I call this a pattern for requirements for use, and it can arise only in a case of joint production. My graphs
in this post have some incomprehensible notation, since I am currently exploring perturbing parameters, in
line with my research agenda.
I know that perturbing the requirements for use removes the indeterminancy in this example.

2.0 The Givens

For this example, the data consist of the available technology and the proportions in which the two produced commodities,
corn and silk, enter into the commodity basket specified by the requirements for use. I also choose a numeraire. The example
is a perturbation of problem 8.2 in

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Origins of Selection from the Prision Notebooks?

October 7, 2020

This is C27 in Sraffas archives.

97 Fortis Green
London N2
Tudor 0214

6th August 1966

Dear Piero,

I do not know whether you know Roger Simon, who is Secretary of the Labour
Research Department. At all events he is a great admirer and enthusiast of
Gramsci. Thanks to his initiative, plans are afoot (in which I too am
collaborating) to publish a new volume of Gramsci’s works translated into
English and Lawrence & Wishart have agreed, in principle, to undertake publication.

We would very much welcome views and suggestions from you on how this should be
done. The general idea at present is a bigger book than the L & W. 1957 translation (which is
now out of print), including, if appropriate, passages already translated on that occasion.
One line of thought that we are pursuing is

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Keynes and Henderson Create A Qualitative Multiplier

September 26, 2020

In 1929, John Maynard Keynes and Hubert D. Henderson wrote, Can Lloyd
George Do It? The Pledge Examined. This was published by The Nation
and Athenaeum and is an examination of the pledge by the leader
of the Liberal party, if elected, to dramatically reduce the amount of
unemployment in Great Britain. (I was inspired to look up this work
while reading Zachary Carter’s new book.)

Chapter VI of Keynes and Henderson is concerned with "How Much Employment Will the Liberal Plan Provide?"
The direct employment for each million pounds can be quantified. The authors
divide the resulting indirect employment into two types. The first, in the industries
that directly and indirectly supply road-building, housing, and so on, Keynes
and Henderson think can be quantified:

VI.2 The Importance of

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“When Economists Are Wrong”

September 24, 2020

In a blog associated with the Frankfurter Allegmeine, Gerald Braunberger
the effects of Sraffian political economy on Italian policy in the 1970s. I
rely on google translate and subject matter expertise to make some sense out of this.
By the way, Bertram Schefold shows up in the comments. I would like
to know more about the motivations behind this. Does Braunberger
think the public is increasingly aware that mainstream economics
is broken?

Before I disagree, I note Braunberger seems well-informed on some points. I know of grumbles
about Garegnani’s treatment of Sraffa’s archives. And I have heard that the Trieste
summer schools were torn between those who emphasized long period logic and
Post Keynesians who emphasized uncertainty, money, and historical time.
On another

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Visualizing The Effects Of Markups: A Numeric Example

September 19, 2020

Figure 1: A Pattern Diagram
This post illustrates the numeric example used
The example is of an economy in which two commodities, iron and corn, are
produced by workers from inputs of iron and corn. Two processes
are available for each industry, leading to a choice among four
techniques. I analyze stationary states.

I look at prices of production, with a bushel corn as numeraire
and wages paid out of the surplus at the end of the year.
Prices of production are defined so as to allow for markups
in both industries. Figure 1 shows the variation in switch
points on the wage frontier with variations in the ratio of markups.

I am interested in how variations in markups can bring about
qualitative changes favorable to labor pressing for higher
wages. For example, around the switch

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Visualizing the Effects of Markups on the Choice of Technique

September 13, 2020

I have a working paper.

Abstract: This article extends to unequal rates of profits a derivation of prices of production from a linear program.
A partition of the price-wage space is illustrated in an example with two produced commodities. The variation in the solution
of the LP with perturbations of relative markups is illustrated. This analysis provides an intuitive explanation of
how the reswitching of techniques and of how capital reversing can emerge in non-competitive markets.

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David Graeber (1961 – 2020) On Usenet A Long Time Ago

September 6, 2020

I first became aware of David Graeber as a poster on Usenet back in the 1990s.

Many people who have succeeded in this world have no interest in conducting
honest discussions. I found some places where one could have cheerful
talk, including with harsh disagreement. And I found other places not
so much. I probably fit in with the latter.

Sometime in November 1998, a thread arose, "A Donaldism for David Friedman".
David Friedman is Milton’s son and also promotes plutocracy under the
guise of ‘liberty’. The thread was about how participants should
treat other posters who continually lied and said others secretly
wanted to set up a totalitarian dictatorship where they could kill
those who disagreed with them. Graeber was not having any of this:

[Dan Clore wrote:]


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