This is C/294 in the Sraffa archives. Rudiger Soltwedel had his own letterhead. D 66 Saarbrucken 3, 28. Febr. 1968 Waldhausweg 7 Evangelisches Studentenheim Professor Piero Sraffa Trinity College Cambridge Dear Sir, I am student of economics at the University of Saarbrucken and I just began my finals work for my diploma. The topic of this study that Prof. E. Schmen formulated is your essay and its title is exactly that of your book: ‘Sraffa’s production of commodities by means of commodities’. My task is to state the intention of your book and to explain its relation to input-output analysis. After looking around in literature I only found three reviews (AER: Reder; Ec. Journ.: Harrod; Jorn. Of Pol. Econ.: Quandt; all 1961) but nothing beyond that. I would be very
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This is C/294 in the Sraffa archives. Rudiger Soltwedel had his own letterhead.
D 66 Saarbrucken 3, 28. Febr. 1968
Professor Piero Sraffa
I am student of economics at the University of Saarbrucken and I just began my finals work for my diploma.
The topic of this study that Prof. E. Schmen formulated is your essay and its title is exactly that of your book: ‘Sraffa’s production of commodities by means of commodities’.
My task is to state the intention of your book and to explain its relation to input-output analysis.
After looking around in literature I only found three reviews (AER: Reder; Ec. Journ.: Harrod; Jorn. Of Pol. Econ.: Quandt; all 1961) but nothing beyond that.
I would be very indebted to you if you could give me some hints of literature directly concerned with your book or with its subject.
At the moment, I think the aim of your study not to be a theory of distribution or a development of input-output analysis, but rather a theory of price-determination in input-output models, given the physical amount of the surplus, economy in equilibrium and infinite elasticity of factor supply. The outcome is an antithesis to what Dorfman/Samuelson/Solow said about relative prices in the Leontief-model: "... in a Leontief-technology relative prices can’t change". (Lin. Programming …, p. 224) in saying that they have to change with changes in distribution of the surplus, And, finally, the profitability of distinct methods of production is dependent on the distribution of the surplus to wages or profits respectively.
This is a bird-eye look on your essay and it is not equivalent to a complete understanding of it. In particular it is the chapter V that charges my brains with its argumentation of extreme density.
I hope that you are willing to excuse my attack on the ‘pater spiritorum’ and would be very thankful for some advice on your part.
Underlines are presumably Sraffa's. "in equilibrium" and "elasticity of factor supply" have underlines in squiggly lines, while the others are solid lines.
Dear Mr. Soltwedel,
Thank you for your letter. I shall try to help you as far as I can in a short letter. As regard my aims, I have kept them in the background in the hope that the constructions offered might be of use to others, who have different standpoints. I have given hints in the Preface and in Appendix IV. The reviews you have are not very helpful. Reder, in particular, is a string of misunderstandings. A good review is that of Peter Newman, in Schweitrerische Zeitschrift fur Volkswirtschaft u. Statistik, No. 1 of 1962, p. 58-75. I disagree with many of his points & had some correspondence with him; we came only to partial agreement, but his review is a good piece of work. There were also good reviews in the Economic Record (Australia, Sept. 1964, p. 442 ff. by Harcourt and Massaro) and in the Economic Weekly (Indian, 24 Aug. 1963, by Krishna R. Bharadwaj). By the way, I replied to Harrod in the June 1962 number of the Economic Journal (p. 477-9).
As regard your own your own interpretation, I must say frankly that you have gone astray the moment you speak of "equilibrium" or of "elasticity of factor supply": all the quantities considered are what can be observed by taking a photograph. There are no rates of change, etc. This point of view was that of the classical economists (e.g. Ricardo) whereas supply & demand curves were introduced in the middle of the 19th century. Economists are now obsessed with them and cannot think without them. My chapter V, which gives you such a headache, could be understood as an attempt to solve a problem set out by Ricardo, & which I described in my Introduction (sections IV & V) of Vol. I of the Works of Ricardo, 1951.
With good wishes for your work,
Any errors in journal names, numbers, pages are presumably from my transcription.
66 Saarbrucken 3, 12. ??. 1968
I thank you very much for your kind reply to my letter.
There was good progress in my work based on your remarks and on the reviews mentioned, in particular the mathematical proof of some propositions in the work of Newman was of great help.
But there is a point in nearly all reviews I don’t agree with and that receives illumination by your book: the claim of the rates of profits being the same in all industries is interpreted as a condition of long run competitive equilibrium prices. Now the structure of your economy is far away from ??determined by competition that this approach does not fit the problem. It looks like a challenge consequent upon a distinct notion of justice in distribution (that could, however, be attained through perfect competition). Unfortunately, your book provides no explanation.
I hope it not to be too unconscionable asking for another explanation.
Sraffa has handwritten “given up” on the top of this letter.