**Summary:**

1.0 Introduction This post illustrates a derivation of prices of production, based on certain properties of duality theory as applied to linear programming. I strive to be more concise and elementary than previous expositions. This exposition is based on John Roemer's Reproducible Solution (Analytical Foundations of Marxian Economic Theory, Cambridge University Press, 1981). You will find no utility maximization or supply and demand functions below. I have no need for such hypotheses. Nevertheless, one can read this derivation as consistent with marginalism. 2.0 Technology and Endowments Two commodities, iron and corn, are produced in this example. Managers of firms know a technology consisting of the processes defined in Table 1. Each column shows the inputs and outputs for a

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**1.0 Introduction**

This post illustrates a derivation of prices of production, based on certain properties of duality
theory as applied to linear programming. I strive to be more concise and elementary
than previous expositions.
This exposition is based on John Roemer's Reproducible Solution (*Analytical Foundations of Marxian Economic Theory*,
Cambridge University Press, 1981).

You will find no utility maximization or supply and demand functions below. I have no need for such hypotheses. Nevertheless, one can read this derivation as consistent with marginalism.

**2.0 Technology and Endowments**

Two commodities, iron and corn, are produced in this example. Managers of firms know a technology consisting of the processes defined in Table 1. Each column shows the inputs and outputs for a process operated at a unit level. All processes take a year to complete and provide their output at the end of the year. Each process exhibits constant returns to scale (CRS). For convenience, assume all coefficients of production defined in the table are positive. The inputs to production are totally used up by operating these processes.

INPUTS | Processes | |||

Iron Industry | Corn Industry | |||

a | b | c | d | |

Labor | a_{0,1}(a) | a_{0,1}(b) | a_{0,2}(c) | a_{0,2}(d) |

Iron | a_{1,1}(a) | a_{1,1}(b) | a_{1,2}(c) | a_{1,2}(d) |

Corn | a_{2,1}(a) | a_{2,1}(b) | a_{2,2}(c) | a_{2,2}(d) |

OUTPUT | 1 ton iron | 1 ton iron | 1 bushel corn | 1 bushel corn |

The endowments of iron and corn in the firm's inventory at the start of the year are also given parameters. Table 2 lists the remaining variables in this post. Presumably, the endowments are from production during the previous year. They are unlikely to be in the proportions needed to continue production. For example, if the managers of a firm decide to specialize in producing corn, they will have no endowments of iron.

Additional Parameters | |

ω_{1} | Endowment of iron (in tons) for the firm. |

ω_{2} | Endowment of corn (in bushels) for the firm. |

Parameters taken as given by managers of the firm | |

p | Price of iron (in bushels per ton). |

w | The wage (in bushels per person-year). |

Decision Variables | |

q_{1}(a) | Quantity of iron (in tons) produced by the first process. |

q_{1}(b) | Quantity of iron (in tons) produced by the second process. |

q_{2}(c) | Quantity of corn (in bushels) produced by the third process. |

q_{2}(d) | Quantity of corn (in bushels) produced by the fourth process. |

r | The rate of profits. |

**3.0 The Primal Linear Program**

Managers of firms choose the quantities to produce with each process to maximize
the increment *z* in value, subject to the constraint that they can buy
the needed inputs at the start of the year out of the revenue obtained by selling
their endowment. The objective function for the primal linear program is:

z= {p- [pa_{1,1}(a) +a_{2,1}(a) +wa_{0,1}(a)]}q_{1}(a)+ {p- [pa_{1,1}(b) +a_{2,1}(b) +wa_{0,1}(b)]}q_{1}(b)+ {1 - [pa_{1,2}(c) +a_{2,2}(c) +wa_{0,2}(c)]}q_{2}(c)+ {1 - [pa_{1,2}(d) +a_{2,2}(d) +wa_{0,2}(d)]}q_{2}(d)

The quantities in the square brackets above are the costs of operating each process at a unit level. A bushel corn is taken as numeraire. The quantities in the squiggly brackets are the net revenues (also known as accounting profits) of operating each process at a unit level. Scaling these net revenues by the level of operation for each process results in the total accounting profit for the firm.

The constraints are:

[pa_{1,1}(a) +a_{2,1}(a)]q_{1}(a)+ [pa_{1,1}(b) +a_{2,1}(b)]q_{1}(b)+ [pa_{1,2}(c) +a_{2,2}(c)]q_{2}(c)+ [pa_{1,2}(d) +a_{2,2}(d)]q_{2}(d) ≤pω_{1}+ ω_{2}

q_{1}(a) ≥ 0,q_{1}(b) ≥ 0,q_{2}(c) ≥ 0,q_{2}(d) ≥ 0

The statement of the constraints is based on the assumption that wages are paid at the end of the year, not advanced at the start.

**4.0 The Dual Linear Program**

The above linear program has a dual. In the dual, the rate of profits *r* is chosen to minimize the charge *y* on endowments:

y= (pω_{1}+ ω_{2})r

Such that:

[pa_{1,1}(a) +a_{2,1}(a)](1 +r) +wa_{0,1}(a) ≥p

[pa_{1,1}(b) +a_{2,1}(b)](1 +r) +wa_{0,1}(b) ≥p

[pa_{1,2}(c) +a_{2,2}(c)](1 +r) +wa_{0,2}(c) ≥ 1

[pa_{1,2}(d) +a_{2,2}(d)](1 +r) +wa_{0,2}(d) ≥ 1

r≥ 0

Each constraint in the dual specifies that the revenues obtained from operating a process at the unit level do not exceed the costs, where costs include a charge for the going rate of profits. In other words, no super-normal profits can be obtained.

**5.0 Some Observations About Duality**

The value of the objective functions are equal in the solutions to the primal and dual LPs. In other words, the increment in value obtained by the decisions of the manager of a firm is charged to the value of the endowment.

Suppose the solution of the primal LP results in some process being operated at a positive level. Then the corresponding constraint in the dual LP is met with equality in its solution. Likewise, if a constraint in the dual is met with inequality, then that process will not be operated in the dual.

If the rate of profits in the solution to the dual is positive, then the constraint in the primal LP will be met with equality. That is, the whole value of the endowment will be used for further production.

**6.0 Prices of Production**

I introduce a final assumption. The solution to these LPs must be such that the economy can continue. In the context of this exposition, some firms must produce iron, and some must produce corn. Thus, one of the first two constraints in the dual LP must be met with equality. One of next two constraints must also be met with equality.

Consider the case when only one of the processes for producing iron is operated, and the same is true of the processes for producing corn. The dual LP yields a system of two equations in three variables: the price of iron, the wage, and the rate of profits. This system specifies prices of production.

This formulation solves for the choice of the technique, as well as prices of production. It can be generalized to allow for the production of many more commodities and many more processes for producing each commodity. A generalization can allow for heterogeneous labor. Another generalization allows for the production and use of fixed capital, that is, machines that last for many years. For a given wage, prices and the rate of profits drop out of the equations for prices of production for the chosen technique. These prices do not support the parables often told in introductory economics classes with supply and demand. For example, unemployment cannot necessarily be eliminated by lowering the wage and encouraging firms to thereby hire more labor.

**7.0 Conclusion**

The above illustrates some elements of a theory of value. This is neither a labor theory of value, nor Marx's theory of value. The theory is focused on production and has implications about how labor is allocated among industries, a central concern of Karl Marx.