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Robert Vienneau

Articles by Robert Vienneau

1975 Letter From Krishna Bharadwaj To Piero Sraffa

3 days ago

This letter is an item removed from printed books in Sraffa’s library. It is labeled
Sraffa I/38 in the archives where I stumbled into it.

15th Oct, 75

Centre for Economic Studies,

Nehru University,

New Delhi 57

Dear Piero Sraffa,

How are you? A lot of things have happened since my return in July to Delhi. Personally, my health was
not too good for some time but has now stabilised somewhat. I had considerable teaching load this
term and have had to devote a lot of time to preparation of lectures etc. I am now writing up a part
of my lectures material – mainly on classical theories of value and distribution. My intention is to
focus on conceptual development and the shift to the supply and demand approach and the implications of
such a methodological shift. What I intend to

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On The Emergence of Multiple Cost-Minimizing Techniques

10 days ago

Figure 1: Wage Curves and Rent for an Example of Intensive Rent
The analysis of the choice of technique has above always been based on the construction of a wage-rate of profits
frontier. Given a technology in which requirements for use can be satisfied, prices of production for
an eligible technique are uniquely determined by the given rate of profits. If the rate of profits
is in a range where such prices are non-negative for at least one technique, one of the techniques
is uniquely cost-minimizing, except at switch points. This property does not necessarily hold in models of general
joint production. The first subsection of the first non-introductory chapter on joint production in Bidard (2004) has the title "Not amused".
An examination of local perturbations in an example of intensive

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An Extensive Rent Example

17 days ago

Figure 1: Wage Curves and Rent for an Example of Extensive Rent
The analysis of the choice of technique in models of extensive rent can be based on the construction of wage curves,
even though the outer envelope does not represent the cost-minimizing technique. The orders of fertility and rentability
are emphasized here. The order of fertility is the order in which different qualities of land are introduced into
production as requirements for use expand. The order of rentability specifies the sequence of different qualities of lands
from high rent per acre to low rent per acre. Both orders may vary with the distribution of income. Table 1 presents
coefficients of production for an example. Technical progress is assumed to reduce coefficients of production in each
of the corn-producing

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Fixed Capital And The Emergence Of Reswitching

23 days ago

Figure 1: A Wage Frontier With A Fluke Switch Point
A fluke example with fixed capital illustrates the emergence of the reswitching of techniques. Table 1 presents coefficients of production
in a perturbation of an example from Schefold (1980). With the first process, workers, under the direction of mangers of firms,
manufacture new machines. The remaining two processes are used to produce corn. The last process requires an input of an old machine,
which is jointly produced with corn by the second process. Corn is both a consumption good and a capital good, insofar as it
is an input into all three processes. Technology improves in this example, as usual, with an exponential decline in
specified coefficients of production.

Table 1: The Coefficients of Production
InputMachine IndustryCorn

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The Emergence Of The Reverse Substitution Of Labor

July 9, 2022

Figure 1: A Wage Frontier With Two Fluke Switch Points
This post presents an example with circulating capital alone. Table 1 presents the technology for an economy
in which two commodities, iron and corn, are produced. One process is known for producing iron, and two are
known for producing corn. Each process is specified by coefficients of production, that is, the required inputs
per unit output. The Alpha technique consists of the iron-producing process and the first corn-producing process.
Similarly, the Beta technique consists of the iron-producing process and the second corn-producing process. At any
time, managers of firms face a problem of the choice of technique.

Table 1: The Coefficients of Production
InputIron IndustryCorn IndustryAlphaBetaLabora0,1 = 1a0,2α = 0.7174 e-σ ta0,2β

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Decades Of Empirical Evidence

July 3, 2022

I did not always think that mainstream economists are mostly socialized to be unlettered knaves, deficient in
mathematics and logic. It took decades
of empirical evidence.

These links are mostly to tedious and petty stuff, more for my own archiving. Lots of weird stuff comes from non-economists.
Sometimes you will find a poster not necessarily defending me, but trying to get some other poster to say
something substantial. Some, like Tim Lambert, do not even seem to care about economics. The misrepresentations
by mainstream economists of what they and others say is not confined to discussions with me. Some serious people, like David Graeber,
appear in these discussions independent of me.

Poor teaching of econ (August 2007)
Failure of neoclassical economics (January, 2006).

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My Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granduncle Babbitt Murdered a Native-American

June 25, 2022

The Babbitt family
started in America with Edward Bobet, who died in 1675.

We have now come to that time of terror and disaster to the settlers the uprising of the Indians, known as King Phillip’s War.
It can easily be imagined how many anxious hours were passed by Edward and Sarah Bobet, so far removed from the garrison stockade,
with their large family of children. Judging by the quantities of Indian relics found on his home farm it would seem that it was
a peculiarly favorite haunt of the Indians before Bobet bought it. Finally their position became too dangerous to admit of
further delay and being warned of the commencement of hostilities, on June 25, 1675, they took refuge in the garrison at Taunton,
leaving behind the home which had been the fruit of so much labor in the

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On Sraffian Methodology

June 18, 2022

I do not know if I will keep on, but I thought I might present a series of
posts expanding on this one.
By the way, I should have said there that the maximum rate of profits is the reciprocal of the
organic composition of capital in Sraffa’s standard system, not the actual system.

Sraffa’s model is descriptive, based on objective data that can be observed for one production period. This data,
at least through the first three chapters of
The Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, consists of:

The gross quantities produced over the production period, in physical units.
The proportion of labor employed in each industry.
The commodities that are used as inputs in each industry.
The wage, expressed as a proportion of the value of the net output produced in the period.

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George Babbitt’s Neighbor Is A Yale Economist

June 11, 2022

"On the other side of Babbitt lived Howard Littlefield, Ph.D., in a strictly modern
house whereof the lower part was dark red tapestry brick, with a leaded oriel, the upper
part of pale stucco like spattered clay, and the roof red-tiled. Littlefield was the Great Scholar
of the neighborhood; the authority on everything in the world except babies, cooking, and motors.
He was a Bachelor of Arts of Blodgett College, and a Doctor of Philosophy in economics of Yale.
He was the employment-manager and publicity-counsel of the Zenith Street Traction Company.
He could, on ten hours’ notice, appear before the board of aldermen or the state legislature and
prove, absolutely, with figures all in rows and with precedents from Poland and New Zealand, that
the street-car company loved the Public and

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June 4, 2022

Debate on Marx’s theory of value in World Review of Political Economy.
Carolina Alves on Joan Robinson on Karl Marx in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
John E. King on Joan Robinson in Jacobin.
Jan Toporowski on Michal Kalecki in Jacobin.
Maybe to read: Steve Paxton’s Unlearning Marx: Why the Soviet Failure was a Triumph for Marx .

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Selective Bibliography For The TSSI

May 28, 2022

Is there a book with a focus exclusively on the TSSI more recent than the 2015 one in this list?

Armstrong, Phil (2020). Can Heterodox Economics Make a Difference? Conversations with Key Thinkers Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Potts, Nick and Andrew Kliman (eds.) (2015). Is Marx’s Theory of Profit Right? The Simultaneous-Temporalist Debate. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Kliman, Andrew (2007). Reclaiming Marx’s "Capital": A Refutation of the Myth of Inconsistency. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Freeman, Alan, Andrew Kliman, and Julian Wells (eds.) (2004). The New Value Controversy and the Foundation of Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Freeman, Alan and Gulielmo Carchedi (eds.) (1996). Marx and Non-Equilibrium Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

I am not sure the first should be in this

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Textbooks for Post-Sraffian Price Theory

May 21, 2022

This post provides a list of textbooks:

Syed Ahmad (1991). Capital in Economic Theory: Neo-classical, Cambridge, and Chaos, Edward Elgar.
Christian Bidard (2004). Prices, Reproduction, Scarcity, Cambridge University Press.
Duncan K. Foley, Thomas R. Michl, and Daniele Tavani.(2019). Growth and Distribution (2nd edition), Harvard University Press.
Richard M. Goodwin (1970). Elementary Economics from the Higher Standpoint, Cambridge University Press.
Steve Keen (2011). Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor Dethroned? (Second edition). Zed Books.
Heinz D. Kurz and Neri Salvadori (1995). Theory of Production: A Long-Period Analysis, Cambridge University Press
Arrigo Opocher and Ian Steedman (2015). Full Industry Equilibrium: A Theory of the Industrial Long Run, Cambridge

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Value And Distribution

May 12, 2022

"It is the whole process of production that must be called ‘human labour’,
and thus causes all products and all values. Marx and Ricardo used ‘labour’ in
two different senses: the above and that of one of the
factors of production (‘hours of labour’ or ‘quantity of labour’ has a meaning only
in the latter sense). It is by confusing the two senses that they got mixed up
and said that value is proportional to quantity of labour (in second sense)
whereas they ought to have said that it is due to human labour
(in first sense: a non-measurable quantity or not a quantity at all)."
— Piero Sraffa (D3/12/11:64, as quoted by Kurz and Salvadori)

"I shall begin by giving a short ‘estratto’ of what I believe is the essence
of the classical theories of value, i.e. of those which incluce W. Petty,

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Axel Leijonhufvud, 9 June 1933 – 5 May 2022

May 7, 2022

I think it should be well-known that the Keynesian economics in Paul Samuelson’s textbook, for example, does
not capture
a lot of the theory
in Keynes General Theory. Axel Leijonhufvud, along with Robert Clower, raised this point in the 1960s from
a standpoint outside of the emerging Post Keynesianism of Sidney Weintraub, Paul Davidson and Keynes’ immediate colleagues
at Cambridge.

I do not recall Leijonhufvud’s book well. As I recall, much discussion occurred over the previous few decades around which selection of a few markets
would be good to organize macroeconomics around and whether it mattered. Candidate markets were for goods, bonds, stocks, money, and labor.
Leijonhufvud thought that Keynes organized his theory around a different selection than that selected by Keynesian

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Mark Levin’s American Marxism: Worse Than Worthless

May 1, 2022

Authortarians in the United States are currently competing to see who can publish the most stupid book.
Mark Levin is
Much more drivel exists in the book under review in this post than described here.

Levin goes on about selected philosophers in odd ways.
I haven’t seen others point out his curious grouping of
Rousseau, Hegel, and Marx. They supposedly "argue for the
individual’s subjugation into a general will, or greater good,
or bigger cause built on radical egalitarianism – that is, ‘the collective good’" (p. 18).
He has the usual misassignment of utopian schemes to Marx.
I do not claim to understand Hegel, but I do not see why holding up the Prussia
of his day is a matter of advocating egalitarianism.

The 1619 Project,
created by Nikole Hannah-Jones, was

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Characteristics of Labor Markets Varying with Pertubations of Relative Markups

April 28, 2022

My article with the post title is now available at the
Review of Political Economy. The abstract follows:

Abstract: This article examines a model of long-period
positions with markup pricing.
The variation in certain characteristics of the wage frontier with
perturbations of relative
markups is illustrated. This analysis provides a demonstration of
the emergence of the
reswitching of techniques and of capital reversing,
for example, in non-competitive

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April 23, 2022

[embedded content]Paul Krugman’s Godley-Tobin LectureIngrid Harvold Kvangraven on Samir Amin and Beyond Eurocentrism.
Rebecca Hasdell’s What We Know About Universal Basic Income: A Cross-Synthesis of Reviews.
Jacobo Ferrer-Hernández and Luis Daniel Torres-González have the latest working paper from the Centro Sraffa.

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An Indeterminate Solution In An Example Of Extensive Rent

April 9, 2022

Figure 1: Extra Profits with Given Rent On Type 2 Land1.0 Introduction

This post revisits this example
of extensive rent. I repeat quite a lot from that post.

Prices of production are defined, in models of circulating capital alone, from a given technology, requirements for use, and
either the wage or the rate of profits. I usually take requirements for use as given by net output and assume constant returns
to scale. Since I am concerned with a choice of technique, I am not disagreeing with Sraffa in assuming constant returns.
These givens also determine prices of production in models of pure fixed capital.

The example shows that these givens are insufficient to determine prices of production in special cases in the theory
of extensive rent. The givens can be compatible with a

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March 31, 2022

An applet for Marx’s schemes of simple and expanded reproduction.
Eli Cook, in The American Prospect says mainstream economists need to talk about profits.
Simon Torracinta, in the Boston Review, decries bad (micro)economics.
I should have mentioned Abraham Robinson and non-standard analysis in a previous post.
Paintings by the economist Willaim Baumol.
A painting by the economist Richard Goodwin. Apparently, he had a book.

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I Was Taught That Boys Need Girls And Girls Need Boys; You Say That’s Not True

March 28, 2022

I am not a biologist. In this world of 8 billion people, not all are
men or women, where a man has XY chromosomes and a woman has XX chromosomes.

When fraternal twins are conceived, these two balls of cells may
clump together, and one person develops. Such a
may have a mixture of cells that are both XX and XY.

The SRY gene may cross over from a Y to an X chromosome. And
so some men
may grow up with XX chromosomes.

Klinefelter syndrome occurs in men with XXY chromosomes. Men
can also have XYY or XYYY chromosomes. Women can have XXX chromosomes.

But genetics is not destiny. A long road is traversed in growing up.
Sports, such as the Olympics, is about finding exceptional people who can delight us
with their performances.
Caster Semenya
is one example, who apparently

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Some Stories About Math And Science

March 19, 2022

I find certain stories of achievements in mathematics and science intriguing. In some of those I select,
much that came before was overthrown. At any rate, these are stories about creations of
the human mind that are tough to wrap your head around. I only claim to understand the last story.

Fermat’s last theorem lacked a proof for three and a half centuries.
When he first saw the theorem as a school boy, Andrew Wiles decided he was going to be a mathematican
when he grew up and prove it. And he did.

I have written about the classification of finite simple
groups before.

The twentieth century saw some amazing results in logic, set theory, and model theory.
Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, computability,
the axiom of choice, the (generalized) continuum hypothesis,
and the

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The Spread Of Marxism: A Riddle

March 16, 2022

Karl Marx died on 14 March 1883. Less than 15 people attended his funeral,
and Engels
gave an eulogy.
Marxists existed, a century later, in every country on the face of this planet, and most had
political parties, some powerful, that claimed to follow Marx. How did this change from obscurity
to world-wide recognition come about? What did Marx have to say that was so persuasive?

If economics were a serious subject, these questions would be explored within academic
economics departments. And
the United States can be taken seriously.
But, as I understand it, one cannot expect mainstream economists in North America to be
able to discuss these questions.
One would need to be interested in economic history and the history of economics,
for example, to have an informed

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A Theorem for Capital-Reversing

March 12, 2022

Figure 1: The Wage Frontier for a Numeric Example of a Real Wicksell Effect of Zero
Theorem: Consider a model of an economy in which n commodities are produced
by means of commodities. Let Alpha be a technique in which each of the n commodities
is produced by a fixed-coefficients, constant-returns-to-scale process. Suppose the Beta
technique differs from Alpha only in the process operated in the nth
industry. For simplicity, assume all n commodities are Sraffian basics
in both techniques. Let both techniques undergo technical change, with only labor
coefficients varying through time. The labor coefficients for Alpha decrease at the rate σ1
or σ2, while the labor coefficient for the nth
industry in Beta decreases at the rate σ2.
Then the wage curves for Alpha and Beta intersect at a rate

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March 8, 2022

[embedded content]The Italian Post Keynesian Seminar on GaregnaniThe Problem with Jon Stewart interviews Stephanie Kelton and Rohan Grey.
Samuel Fleischacker explains Adam Smith was not a propertarian.
Jania on econophysics.
A seminar on Stephen Marglin’s Raising Keynes.

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Reminder: Wages, Employment Not Determined By Supply And Demand For Labor

March 2, 2022

Figure 1: The Wage as Functions of Employment by Industry1.0 Introduction

This post repeats a common theme of
It builds on an example I have previously gone on about.
I use this example to graph, given the wage, the amount of labor firms would like to employ in each industry,
per unit of gross output in each industry.
These graphs are derived for an economy in which three commodities are produced: iron, steel, and corn.
I also graph the amount of labor firms would like to employ across
all industries, given that the net output of the economy consists of a unit quantity of corn.
The value of this function is called an employment multiplier.

No doubt, in actual capitalist economies, some firms in some places have market power in hiring
workers. Workers incur search costs in trying

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February 26, 2022

[embedded content]Bob Murphy On InfinityBranko Milanovic on The unexpected immortality of Karl Marx.
Jesse Walker, in Reason, on It’s the end of the neoliberal era, and we still don’t know what neoliberalism is.

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A Theorem For The Reverse Substitution Of Labor

February 21, 2022

Figure 1: The Wage Frontier for a Numeric Example
Theorem: Consider a model of an economy in which n commodities are produced
by means of commodities. Let Alpha be a technique in which each of the n commodities
is produced by a fixed-coefficients, constant-returns-to-scale process. Suppose the Beta
technique differs from Alpha only in the process operated in the nth
industry. For simplicity, assume all n commodities are Sraffian basics
in both techniques. Let both techniques undergo technical change, with only labor
coefficients varying through time. The labor coefficient for the nth
industry declines at the rate ρ for the Alpha technique:

aα0, n(t) = aα0, n(0) e-ρ t

The corresponding labor coefficient for the Beta technique declines at the
rate σ:

aβ0, n(t) = aβ0, n(0) e-σ t


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New York City Subway: A Parable

February 19, 2022

A number of years ago, I was in the subway station under Times Square in New York City.
I must have looked lost, because this fellow came up to me and asked me where I
was going.

I said, "A bookstore, The Strand. I like to see what they have in their economics
section. I am trying to decide if I should take the cross-town shuttle
and go south from Grand Central."

He said, "I am an economist myself. You can have this subway map." And
he handed me a map of the tube in London.

"This map is inaccurate."

"Of course. A map on a one-to-one scale would not be useful."

"I don’t mean that. Here in New York, there is no circle line."

"It’s called ‘abstraction’. We don’t care about curves between stations
that do not matter."

"But this is just wrong for here."

"All models are wrong.

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What Paul Krugman Could Learn From The Post Keynesian Roots Of MMT

February 15, 2022

To the common reader, the distinctions among old Keynesianism, new Keynesian,
and Post Keynesianism might seem confusing. You might find these
are political doctrines, with broad agreement among their followers.
Governments should run deficits in periods of sustained unemployment.
Maybe sometimes fiscal policy should be more emphasized over monetary
policy. After all central banks cannot stimulate the economy by
lowering interest rate when it is zero. In an inflationary
period, central banks can fight it by raising interest rates,
although this is a blunt, crude tool.
What is there to argue

Yet economists argue. Kelton (2020) has a popular book emphasizing
that, given how money and banks work, governments need not be
concerned with balancing their budgets because of a fear

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Some Twitter Feeds

February 10, 2022

Carolina Alves
Riccardo Bellofiore
Scott Carter
Ariel Dvoskin
Steve Keen
Stephanie Kelton
Steve Marglin
J. W. Mason
Louis-Philippe Rochon
Malcolm Sawyer
Anwar Shaikh
Matías Vernengo
Graham White
Ian Wright

Suggestions for more?
There are other feeds from scholars just starting out.
One can also find mainstream economists on twitter who do not know
that almost everything they say was shown to be, at best, wrong
more than half a century ago.

Updated 14 and 15 February 2022

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