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William Nordhaus, 2018 “Nobel” Laureate, On Labor Values

Summary:
Suppose one wants to quantitatively measure the growth in productivity over centuries. And one wants to look at specific commodities that can be said to have existed over such a long time. Think of a lumen of light or a food calorie. How can one do this? The definition of a price index over such a long time period is questionable. Adam Smith addressed this problem. Some would find his approach common sense. One could ask how long must a common laborer work to be able to afford the commodity in question. More recently, William Nordhaus considered the question. He, too, advocated the use of a Smithian labor-commanded standard to measure technological change. (I haven't read the reference below in decades.) William D. Nordhaus (1997). Traditional Productivity Estimates are Asleep at the

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Suppose one wants to quantitatively measure the growth in productivity over centuries. And one wants to look at specific commodities that can be said to have existed over such a long time. Think of a lumen of light or a food calorie. How can one do this? The definition of a price index over such a long time period is questionable.

Adam Smith addressed this problem. Some would find his approach common sense. One could ask how long must a common laborer work to be able to afford the commodity in question. More recently, William Nordhaus considered the question. He, too, advocated the use of a Smithian labor-commanded standard to measure technological change. (I haven't read the reference below in decades.)

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