Fagan Pennsylvania State University Introduction Augustus is arguably the single most important figure in Roman history. In the course of his long and spectacular career, he put an end to the advancing decay of the Republic and established a new basis for Roman government that was to stand for three centuries. This system, termed the "Principate," was far from flawless, but it provided the Roman Empire with a series of rulers who presided over the longest period of unity, peace, and prosperity that Western Europe, the Middle East and the North African seaboard have known in their entire recorded history. Even if the rulers themselves on occasion left much to be desired, the scale of Augustus's achievement in establishing the system cannot be overstated.
Since this is a competitive capitalist economy, the rate of profits must be constant across industries. Hence prices of production solve the following system of equations: This system of equations shows the capitalists advancing the wages to the workers.
A different formulation would show the workers as advancing their labor power to the capitalists and being paid from the output.
There are four unknowns, but only two equations.
One unknown is fixed by choosing a numeraire, say the net output per worker. The other degree of freedom is typically taken to be the wage-rate of profits frontier. The location on that frontier could be given by taking either the wage or the rate of profits as given data.
Prices of production for this little model economy are: The expressions "costs" and "costs of production" seem to imply that prices of production depend merely on what must be paid for the means of production, wages, and profits.
But this impression is one-sided for commodities that enter directly or indirectly into the production of all other commodities. Their prices of production depend upon their use in the production of other commodities as much as they depend upon the extent into which they enter their own production.
For instance, the price of iron in the second example above depends both on the commodities needed to produce it and on how much iron is used in producing wheat.
The Classical economists, particularly Adam Smith and David Ricardoused the expressions "natural prices" or "necessary prices. Adam Smith had an "adding-up" theory of natural prices: When the price of any commodity is neither more nor less than than what is sufficient to pay the rent of the land, the wages of the labour, and the profits of the stock employed in raising, preparing, and bringing it to market, according to their natural rates, the commodity is then sold for what may be called its natural price.
This Smithian theory is connected with Smith's mistaken belief that a rise in natural wages would cause a rise in all prices. Ricardo assumed natural prices as equal to labor values as an aid to criticism of Smith's theory.
If prices of production were equal to labor values, the rate of profit would be found from the industry producing wage-goods alone, where wage-goods are those commodities which the workers buy with their wages.
Profits in the wage-good industry would be the difference between the labor embodied in wage-goods and the sum of the labor embodied in the means of production and the labor embodied in the wage-goods consumed by the workers in the wage-good industries.
The rate of profits would be the ratio of the labor value of profits in the wage-good industry to the sum of the labor embodied in the means of production and the labor embodied in the wage-goods purchased by the workers producing wage-goods: The use of labor as a measure of both input and output in the production of wage-goods shows the rate of profits as a ratio of physical quantities, independent of valuation.
This makes it apparent that real wages cannot rise without a fall in the rate of profits, given technology.
This conclusion, however, can be shown without the simplifying assumption, while elaborating Ricardo's analysis of the effects of a rise of wage on prices, including a fall in the prices of production of some commodities.
Although Ricardo's approach is an insightful simplification, it can mislead the unwary into confusing labor values and natural prices in Classical economics. Since Marx clearly distinguished between labor values and prices of production, his terminology is adopted here.Absolutely right Joe!
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