METAPHYSICS OF THE ECONOMIC VALUE
Metaphysics is an elastic word and, in the history of philosophy and of language, has taken various meanings; however it is a necessary word, so much more when, in the actual times the science seems to be the dominant if not the only source of learning does not exist. But, without metaphysical concepts does never exists the learning does not exist. Hegel is right when he asserts, as remembers us Hans Georg Gadamer, that a people without metaphysics is as deprived temple of sanctuary. A temple without sanctuary is only a building in which does not succeed in praying, i.e. to think.
In these notes I mean for metaphysics a general theory posted to basis of a science and specially the possibility to make to exist a concept of value that does not derive simplistically from a quantitative expression, as instead accustomed us a science more and more mathematized, that ends, so, to be self-referential and therefore unverifiable. But, is it true that the number justifies itself? Perhaps is it not possible that a metaphysic of mathematics exists too?
a) Is it possible that a metaphysics value exists?
Can metaphysics of economics exist and, assuming that the economic value is its heart, can a metaphysics of economic value exist?
Metaphysics is a multi-sense word: we can go from a subject that studies the last essence of the things to an abstruseness, from an Aristotelian “what a being cannot be” to the Kantian “science of the pure concepts”, from the meaning of the life in the language of the general sciences to its identity with ontology. To me no matter that is a science and it is prior in regard to others, but that it is purified by superstructures, so, if it applied to economics, it is identifiable as a subject that analyzes the economic concepts of formal elaboration mathematics particularly. I believe that, in these conditions, it is possible to talk of metaphysics of the economics and, therefore, of the metaphysics of the economic value.
But it is not sufficient, because the word “value” can be understood in contradiction with the definition of metaphysics, since in economics we mean “value” with an exclusively quantitative expression: tot euro, tot produced pieces, tot worked hours, et cetera. Have I to go against the common sense codified by distinguished economists since three century at least and, besides, to frustrate or to overcome the efforts to cover the value with a quantitative dress? However, if we do not make the effort to disengage the concept of value from the quantitative form, we take the chance to be not able to go back the substance. So, it is necessary to remove the dress, to strip the value, because it reveals its truth, that is a form too, but not modified by the suit. The value is as a beautiful woman, shaped by a dress wonderful fabric fashioned by an genial tailor: if we do not fall in deception it needs to do not dazzled by the suit! Or rather: it needs to know before what to look, if the suit or the model. Here, I incline for that.
b) Etymology of “value”
Let us begin with etymology of “value”. We know it derives from the Latin language valeo, that comes from Accadicus baltu and expresses a positive meaning of “to have force, strength”, so that it is employed in phrases of greeting too (in Latin, valete: be well) in the sense “the strength and the health help you”. We, as practical men, use the term in the quantitative references, and we express a scale in which, put the dividing line equal zero, we distinguish the positive numerals with a “positive value” and those negative with a “negative value”; but in metaphysic exist the values and no-values in the terms more than quantitative. Besides it is revealing in the ancient Greek language exists an equivalent of “price” (Latin: pretium): axia (with dual meaning) and timh (Accadicus: simu), and for value audreia in the meaning of “fortitude”. For the two meanings, quantitative and qualitative, the Greeks employed two different terms. In our language, although “price” and “value” exist, the meaning in economics at least, it is for both quantitative, even if the formative process can be different (“price” on the market generally, “value” off the market too). Then, how to shun in economics is it possible to talk about a value in terms no-quantitative and at the same time to stay within such subject, without going up to a summum genus? Obviously by trying to go up to a metaphysics of the economic value, as we have proposed by the initial question.
c) Cause of value
To test previously if it is possible to talk about a metaphysics of the economic value, it is required to investigate if it is a fundamental cause, of that the economic value can be considered an effect. Many authors have considered that the cause of value is into the utility of the things and therefore considered “of value” and under the condition of their narrowness. From here the observation that the air is useful, but because it is unlimited in normal conditions, is devoid of value, because there is not need to buy it. This is an evidently historical observation, because now with air pollution must be add the further condition “provided that it is breathable without damages for the health”. The historicization of the utility means the elasticity on the time too. For example, if the gladius of a Roman soldier had the value of its use in the time in that it was forged, found after the battle by a farmer, it had the value of the few ounces of metal, able to use as a large nail, if it is again lost and found in the XXI century, should assume a value for collection equal to thousand times its first value. But, we can note, this criticism against the cause of utility does not solve the problem of the no-quantification of the value. In fact, staying in the example, the original value, the next its loss and the present rescue are phenomena of historical evolution, which prescind from quantitative and qualitative aspects.
Here I intend to put some fundamental points:
a) if we want to raise the value to a metaphysical concept not put on necessarily a quantitative dress;
b) the value does not exist in an absolute sense, even if we should define it in a metaphysical meaning, because it does not stay fixed in the time. In economic theory we use to consider the gold as the most right meter of the value, for its relative staticness in the time. But also the value of the gold is subdued to the alternations in the time and it changes little by little the technology, the employments and the uses change. So the value is relative to the moment in which we consider it. This alternation and the relative oscillations are a phenomenon for the all things and of all concepts. In Eraclito opinion panta rei, everything passes and changes, even if the laws of the1rmodynamics count, that no-energy cancels out;
c) the value is an effect, not a cause. The cause is the time, which, passing, reduces and expands, freezes and retrieves the value;
d) the time in not of the watch one, but that of events and these explain the alternation of the value expression;
e) the economic value is always referred to things, differently than moral, for example, of the virtue.
f) it seems the value of thing does not depends by the time, but by its utility. In the example of the Roman gladius it seems that the value disappears and comes up again under the form of archaeological find, because the collecting is a type of utility for who practices it. But in a deep analysis this consideration is only an appearance. The gladius, stayed a thing also in the long time it remained buried and neglected, has been always a thing and during the time of its temporary disappearance has gone to have a potential value, as it was waiting to recover the value. I do not think that it is possible to argue that in the during the gladius had no value, even if in that during it was without utility. Consequently that value does not depend on the utility. The same can be about an oilfield not found yet. They claim that Italy in the thirties knew that under the area of the Libya, so-called “caisson of sand”, there was some oil; but it had not the technology to pull out from a big depth. This is the cause why Italy was set on Libya! But the “caisson of sand” seemed without a value in that time;
g) the actuality and the potentiality do not explain the economic value, otherwise it should assert there are some times in which the potentiality is “potentiality of nothingness”, that is an insuperable self-contradiction. On this point it is necessary to attract the definition of metaphysics. First of all I do not share its identification with the ontology and I consider the attempt to pass the separation between quantitative and qualitative point aspects does not counter with the attempt to the idea to move nearer the concept of economic value to metaphysics, because in substance, if we are over the distinction between qualitative and quantitative, we can reach to a consequence to a pure concept in accordance with a Kantian position.
The idea the time keeps for the forgotten things a potential value, ready to manifest itself in any next moment, it makes it objective, in the sense that, then, the time is no more a psychological framework, is no more as man who creates it, as an insight a priori, but a being able to be cause. It is the contrary of the time of Kant, because it is able of own life taken out of man, over the man. It is not necessary to think an “absolute” time from Newtonian memory. It suffices to consider it as the many another things, which exist apart from man. This is possible, if we renounce the concept of time as a quantity, as an expression of a mathematic measure. Indeed, to request a concept of time as a mere idea of man, has been for Kant, in my opinion, the need to try an extra-dimensional expression. A kind of concept by revolt. Except that there is no need to reduce the time slave of man, because that means falling again in to a concept of man creator of the same nature, which is simply absurd. I think the true and admissible meaning is nevertheless the Heraclitean concept of panta rei: we cannot get soaked twice in the same water of the river. We could wonder: is the time which passes or the cause is the gradient of the bed of the river? If it was an oxbow, would we still accept the theory of Heraclitus? The Greek philosopher did not know the present science and for that he chose the metaphor of the river and not of the bath. But, to get soaked twice in the same bath does it frustrate him theory? Chemistry says no, because the change is continuous. The water molecule is always H2O, but in the water there is not only that molecule, which is a formal expression. With passing of time change other components and it is the time that permits this objective change. That is for the utility over cited that we can think as the oxbow of the river. The principal cause is always the time.
d) Time as value
Suppose that a value or a series of values be determined by one that we can define a “fundamental” one for the moment.
Can these “derived” values still be defined values, if they are determined by other ones? May they be considered like the “fundamental” value under difference aspects? If it is so, it means when the fundamental value changes also the derived ones change. However, when those values at the beginning derived cut their umbilical cord and they put on an autonomous position and a relation of influence does not exist anymore, then it is possible that the individual sub-values have become somehow full autonomous values. Besides, a value that cannot be defended is not a value anymore.
The defensibleness of the value is its primary condition. An indefensible value either it does not deserve a protection or it is not a value anymore.
Think of a Christian martyr: for him the life is a value, but the faith in Christ is a superior value than the life itself, so that he is inclined to sacrifice it, in order to protect the Christ value. The value of life is in turn the basis for other values: the prohibition to commit suicide and homicide is a test of the basic value of the human life. From here we have the ordering of values, that is the peculiar feature of the philosophy of Max Scheler.
Consider that the value is a subjective conviction. Imagine that things have a value only when they pass through a conscious moment; Indeed, if they are dictated by law and we do not aknowledge them, we will break the law, but still the value cannot take root; and even if we consider collective values, they must pass through our conscience, because even if we reject it, we must have assessed it and considered it as a no-value or a negative value.
Imagine, for an absurd example, that law orders me to kill a fellow man. If we consider the value of life is more sacred than common judgment put into the law, it will happen I will disobey, because the first value, that of the life, goes into our consciousness and there it remains, while the second is refused, or the better: after being passed and judged as a negative value, it is rejected.
So, if this is true, this observation may be extended to the economic sphere; in economics there are some values assigned to goods that, for the collective and widespread appreciation, can become into the prices (and the market work with this aim), because it is the synthesis of the uniform and widespread assessments to the economic goods. But the price must be an admission too, i.e. a hold over the consciousness of any individual man. If the market awards the value 100 to a good, so that price can be accepted by me too, it must have a passage through my consciousness too. Then, what is the market if it is not the entry and the restoration of a judgment by the individuals and by a lot of the individuals? Is the walrasian tâtonnement just a continuous process of test and verification, that at the very end an input and output of conscience opinions?
But then, if it is that, which is the relation between the economic value (often also price) of goods and the time? Has the time its own autonomous value? If it is so, then time is the soul of the value, that is it is the value from which all economic values derive. But, which kind of time? Not the past, that has only an historical dimension and it is used by the consciousness to express the present values, like in an empirical analysis; not the present, that is an exhaustion under way; but the future, because only the future time has a value. The present is just stating a fact, it is a pleasure, but it has not value.
But how it possible that something that is not existing yet has a value? There are more ways to conclude the future has its own value even if it still does not exist.
First of all, we can argue that the future has a value, if we can imagine what would happen if either it would not exist or it would cease to exist. If the rest of the world is worth less when something is missing, it means that this “something” has a value. It is a kind of a negative observation, that prevents the risk of an overvaluation, when this “something” would suddenly appear. Think, for example, of the absence of freedom. When we get it, it may happen an inebriation of the freedom and even an overvaluation. In economics think a new source of energy as a substitute for the oil on the way to exhaustion. Its value could be higher than oil. Indeed, an electric car is not a viable alternative for the petrol engine, but the hope it can be the alternative product can justify the production, even not in an experimental way. However, this hypothesis is worth as the hope and this is its limit. We could argue for this meaning the value of the time is a sub-value; a derivative from another basic, that is the hope indeed.
Besides, we argue that the future has a value, a fortiori, when we are sure it will emerge, i.e. it will come true. This certainty is the element that let mathematicians and financial analysts state that a security that will be due in a certain year, it yields x today through a discounting back process and without using probability elements.
But the future has a value also under uncertainty. Financial mathematicians insert in the above mentioned processes some probabilistic elements and they still get results of mathematical discounting.
But in the previous case, note that the future has not an independent value, because it depends on hope. And if there is no hope? Then it is necessary to demonstrate that the future time has an its sheer value apart from the certainty of an event. We should explain why the segment connecting x to (x+y) “is a value” and it “has a value”, absolute in mathematical meaning; i.e. apart from the plus or minus sign. We can answer by using a tautology: since nothing is given pointlessly, the just fact that it exists it means that segment has a value. But, we repeat, it would be a tautology and, at least in the field of economics, the tautologies are no use. To prove that segment has a value and it is a value, it is necessary to demonstrate that it just seems a segment, but actually it is a sequence of points (seconds) put in a row, i.e. diachronic. Now, in all the seconds, i.e. on the passage from a point to another of the segment, the initial value (since it is necessary to have a value at the beginnings, otherwise you could not even havea segment!) changes in positive or negative. A new good has an immediately lower value as time goes by (even a short lapse of time!) because it becomes “a used one”, even if it is not used. A used and relegated good in a storehouse can become an historical piece and it can acquire a positive value (the classic examples are the “historic” car and the paintings of an artist, that increase on value after the death of the painter) and the more the seconds pass by and the more values change. But, in these cases, we can argue that a segment is itself a value: the historic car has a higher value because is bursted out fashion and a painting is worth more because the painter is dead. So we cannot demonstrate that the segment (the time) is a cause in itself. But then, where is, if any, this “pure” cause? By considering the time as an interpretation, we do not explain anything, because everything becomes a conscious and psychological phenomenon, i.e. subjective. Instead, we look for an objective value. This does not mean that we refuse the subjectivity, but, on the contrary, we assert the importance of the necessity of a validation process between the subjective (particular and individual) phenomenon and its general objective paradigm, that is analogous, in a certain sense, to process of validation of the jurist. So, the value is “pure” if it is objective, that is deprived by the subjective and psychological components, and from here we should wonder whether it has a value (value of value), disregarding any consideration on its positiveness or negativness. Now, we know that individual (or social), animal (or vegetable or mineral), chemical (or physical) life exists if the events exist.
This consideration, that is indeed a statement of fact, overthrows most of the Kant’s Copernican revolution, without however making a dent in what forces us to reflect, that we need to intend like one of the most stimulating provocative thing of the human thought, in its connections of aporias, and it should be considered as a stimulus to go further.
But, we should wonder another basic question: are the events that create the time or is the time that allows to events to happen? The risk of circularity of a reasoning is obvious. If we answer that the events create the time, we should ask us again what allows the events to happen and we should admit that we have not made any step forward and we are stuck in a tautology or in a circularity. Then, time allows the events to happen; at the most we can admit that the events are a measure of the time, but not its cause. So, the time comes first and it exists. Neither it is necessary to explain it. Many things cannot be explained but we admit they exist. In fact, what is the scientific discovery – and even a non scientific discovery – if finding an explanation about something that already exists and of the reason of its existence? We said before that on this question we should avoid any interpretation, otherwise we would loose the objectivity. Here we say: no interpretation, but explanation of the sequence. Someone could object this sequence is analogous to the ontological argument on the existence of God. No ontological argument have had success. In summary: either you believe or do not, there is no need to argue, since there is nothing that needs to be tested. But, this does not apply to time, because differently from God and excluding a trivial pantheistic idea on Him, the time is under our eyes and it is not a metaphysical but physical reality. Think, for example, about an event that is tied exclusively to my will or my freedom of merely potestative type: tomorrow I can go for a walk. Tomorrow comes and I decide to stay at home and read a book. Tomorrow will pass without that event and at dusk I will realize that the day is gone in spite of my freedom, because, if I walk or read a book, my cells are undergone or changed and so the entire physical world. There is no need of mathematics to state the time, as Kant declared; this implies that there is nothing more anti-Kantian in this proposition. Then, if the time is what allows the events to happen, it means that, whichever the explanation we provide, the time is a value and it has a value and we can point out: being the cause that makes the events possible, it is a value and it has a “basic value”.
But, what time? The diachronic or the circular ? The circular does not exist: it is above all an idea of the Ancients, which realizing the recurrence of certain phenomena, thought it was repetition, but it is not so and it would not be possible to be. The concept of time as a circularity is a nonsense.
If the time is the result of other causes or effects directly, then it derived phenomena, which although known, described and analyzed by economists of the past three centuries, they not found in the time the principal cause and a metaphysical significance, which means build up. It is availed the example of John Hicks, great economist and scientist of an exemplary intellectual honesty, as proved by the abolition imposed by himself in the latest edition of his famous “Capital and Growth“, eliminating the formal analysis about the accumulation of the capital with constant rate, because it did not convince him. And what other authors have never had so much self-criticism.? Hicks wrote also another famous book “Capital and time“, but neither in this the time is analyzed in its essence, but as a quantitative tool, for explaining the production processes in terms of Austrian school.
Then let us consider the relationship between time and the fundamental economics phenomena: production, consumption, saving and capital, because around these revolves the economy, but we could say the history of the man without for that to fall in a Marxian concept, that it could involve the acceptance of a determinism, that I refuse.
e) Time and production
Production is a sequence of acts and facts that, under normal conditions, increases the value of the goods and the services used. Under normal conditions, also the goods in stock should increase in value, as time passes; Economists argue that the increase should be at least equal to the interest on the value of the goods produced . Things are not so: speculations, contractions and expansions of demand, change of the fashion, predictive capabilities of the producer can move the value, but this does not deny the basic reality that the time is the essence of the value.
The increase of production is a phenomenon that goes with the whole human history. You need to have the greatest possible quantity of material goods, that can explain a lot of historical facts: wars, migrations, invasions, inventions. Surely there are also ideological and religious pushes, nationalist aspirations. The theory that history is essentially history of freedom is not unfounded. But freedom is often from something, that is the primary need to satisfy survival. It is said that you need 2.000 calories for day to do a revolution and that you think better on a full stomach. If we give to economy its function, also not exclusive, of the motor of history, we have to recognize that wars, migrations, invasions, do not increase the available of goods for humanity, but, at most and in the best cases, only for the winner. The only cause that can improve the welfare of all populations is the growth in production of goods and services, obtained by the man ingenuity, always looking for tools more and more efficient and by the utilization of the resources, results in an effective use of caloric converters. But, on this point engages the keystone to our question. To increase the production without a diminution of times it might be a nonsense, unless it is to saturate an existing productive capacity, without to change fully or to integrate the fixed capital framework. If to produce one-meter of cloth by a mechanic loom you spend the same time as the production by the manual loom, then the production could not increase. So that passes we must produce more meters of cloth on a work hour; but that gives us to realize that to produce on meter of cloth we have to spent under one hour; that is you have cut the time and you step up the output in the equal time, that we can also represent by claiming that the work hour, conditions being equal, raises the value. This phenomenon can be seen as a continuous increase of the speed of the productive processes.
Now, since I have affirmed that the absolute time does not exist, because it is measurable, not so much with the watch as the events and the production is a sequence of events, we could doubt that the time does not give value to production, it is the production that gives value to the time. But it is not, so, because, if we erase the production, the time would continue to exist and to run, while if were dispose of the time, the production would not be inconceivable. Thus is the time, that, as cause, gives value to the economic phenomena.
The uselessness of any static representation is the immediate consequence on the economic analysis of any representation, even if it is theoretical and for reason of mere simplification. To cut the time means to represent unreal every analysis. What would remain of economy if we would think the time out? Nothing, because what is out every reality it is not fit for any function. The only possibility for a development of economy, also only theoretical, is to think it in dynamic terms, but dynamics is essentially time, measured or thought, quantitative or qualitative.
f) Time and saving
The saving is generally defined not spent income for the consumption, that could be a definition for elimination or remaining, but, whatever may be the definition, it is evident that who saves he gives to the future goods, of which will be himself consumer, a more importance than he gives to the current goods, to the point that he decides to give up them to dispose of larger goods in future. The saving is an objective phenomenon, even if every saver can have different reasons or perceptions and therefore subjective. Unless to come at the pathological forms as the disease of the miser, I think it is evident that, if the future goods were be equal or lower than the homologous present goods, no rational person would save. But, if his forecast is a growth in value at least for himself, then the saving starts, that is ideally an exchange of utilities between saver and user of saving. Saving is a valuation of the future utility for the saver more than the consumer gives it, who, vice versa, prefers the present and he does not give any importance there is or not a direct comparison between two actors of the saving, because, also in the presence of the interposition of a financial broker, two different motivations are anyway present in the single operators. This is a simple and obvious synthesis of the saving and of the its use for the consumption, but also in the industrial processes of goods and services it is valid, because the borrower forecasts an increase of the future capital, so that he thinks reasonable to run the risk of the present borrowing. And what is the borrowing if not a recourse to the saving? And this remains a valid concept also in the presence of the credit multiplier by the banks, that without basic savings cannot feed itself.
But two different and opposite utilities of saver and borrower that explain the saving, because the borrower attaches to the future of this major utility, rather greater than that of the saver. If the value to the future is greater for two operators, i.e. if they are not in a position of conflict except the determination of the interest rate contracts, then, the basic point of these two positions is no longer in a divergent utility or in a different calculation of the value, but for the fact the time flows, or better will flows. It is the time that explains really the phenomenon.
The market theory aims to prove that everything rules on the exchange of utilities, but it is an misconception because there is not exchange of utility, but exchange of times: my time against yours; I give you a thing today and you will return to me another thing tomorrow and so on. Without time there is no market, because the utility is only a metaphor. But if it is so, the globalization, becoming exchange of time, becomes exchange of different historical times, because the value of the time for the industrialized countries is not identical to the Third World.
g) Time and consumption
Consumption can be seen as the opposite of the saving, after exceeding the threshold basic needs for which there is not freedom of choice. The consumption as an alternative saving is an evidence of the hollowing-out, incredulity, importance of the future time. The future does not exist, but there is a time of future. It is the old distinction between the behavior of the ant and the cicada. But, with this type of reflection, we end up by meaning the time in subjective way, while our prospect is the objective time.
To give to future an almost void value, such as to push to consume the whole present availability it is a subjective and, so, personal judgment. It seems that for man there is a present time that gives value to everything, to continue to but it is not so, because the present does not exist. What is consumed today is the result of a sequence coming from the past and projecting into the future. The current consumption is engaged in a process that is not only distributive, but also productive: we produce for consuming – also the bombes are consumption – but also we consume to produce or better to continue to produce. It is an uninterrupted chain that exceeds the limits of the individual life even of the generations ones. The distinction, indeed the dialectical contraposition between distribution and consumption, is a fiction or better a simplification, systematically suggested by the economists to analyze two phenomena which are two in appearance. Actually it exists an unique process of production-distribution never circular, if anything, spiral cone-right or upside down. So understood argued, the present loses meaning, not only St. Augustine, because in the same moment in which I say the word present his time has already passed, but because the present is only a transit, a point on the line of the time make sense if it is linked to what comes before and to what will follow after.
h) Time and capital
The title of this section is intentionally the opposite of the title of the book of J. Hicks Capital and time. It is undeniable that the capital value will change over the time, because they are the coordinated sets of goods, but this is because other competing, substitute or surrogate goods, placed before or after the productive processes of the company A, i.e. put in a point over the series of the processes, they change value. There are no absolute values. There are only relative values and that cannot happen because there are so many different times as there are traders. The time flows evenly for all, but it is different, than the use of long ago each individual operators. Indeed, it is the phenomenon that all operators have fallen in the same dimension of time to enable the dynamic that allows you to compare the individual uses of time and is the explanation of the selection – a kind of evolution – which opens the way to the best and discard the les suitable to support the fight for survival and success. If the time uniform for all, the comparisons become unrealistic and would miss the selection. But this homogeneity implies that time is above the values, that is the cause. The values are referred to the goods, i.e. to the things, on condition that the things are organized for producing a positive or negative holism constituted by the coordinating intervention of man. The holism is positive if the value of the universitas is greater than sum of the values of the things that makes up its, but it is negative then the sum gives a lower value. In this holism there is greater complication of the value of the capitals regarding the things. The core of the contemporary economics is the capital. The capital acts as a caloric converter, in the terms that the values of the things come in a highest energy but also the entropy.
Now, it is necessary to distinguish the market economy from the capitalist economy in the political-social meaning, because the market economy is freedom above all, while the capitalist economy leans to force the market to add the capital values. It is true that a market economy out of the capitalist economy is sterile and it is reduced to an illiberal political systems, even tyrannical or government rule and it is equally true that a capitalist economy, even if we can suppose it also in the systems of public government, it does not exist in a democratic sense without market. But if the couple is doomed to coexist like two natures of centaur, the market economy is the weakest of two just because it is naturally liberal, that capitalist is on the contrary organized into lobbies, potentates, centers of cross-party power to coerce the market, even simulating to protect its. So, especially in a liberal state, the clear rules must make, as if protection of the weaker side. The market, protected by a few and set without political purpose rules, becomes, so, battleground in a field that is a breed selection. This selection in a highly technological society like the present, it does not drive to a temporary victory of the best by particular inventions, that, then they exist, are lucky even if a temporary exception, but to a improvement in the best organization of the winning business. The definition of organization as to put fair man in the fair place it is an invariable convention, because it is always true though some doubt in the tautology, but it consists essentially in the utilization of the time. Today protect the systems or single contrivances and machinery becomes more and more difficult and then the winning card is to arrive before others and to take advantage of the time while waiting for the others to arrive, what happens naturally and inevitably. Now, we cannot think the competition on the market as a mountain hike of the group where everyone walks not on the rope, but where the first arrives at the hut sit down on a stone waiting for the others. In the market who comes in first he takes the advantage of the time of waiting others and he tempts to take the advantage in a source of profit, that gives an increase the value of the business capital, but the best exploitation of the time is not in an inactive even if profitable waiting, but in the use of the time to improve own organization continually, a sort of continuous theft of the time. But is theft against who? Certainly not against the time that passes in its flowing and becoming, that is elusive and detached even as a measure of the human actions. Theft again “the rest of the world”. There is an oneiric representation of Jorge Luis Borges: “…our times will merge…” that, perhaps without intention of the author, it explains very well the concept of the time in the competition between the business on the time. Really mainly a theft is a confusion of the individual times and the mixture is dominated by the stronger colored component. Anyway we mean the phenomenon, the objective fact the time of the business A, that is more organized, it is developed as regards its competitors and the result of a greater value of its economic value derives from on the advantage of the best organization, that is saving or strengthening of the time. But which time? Obviously the future, from that we hope the flows of earnings. If the future is reflected on the values of the actual things, then, also it is true that it is a theft which positiveness is in the acceptance and in the respect of the rules.
This concept about “stolen time” is not been sufficiently developed by the economists, but Marx, who has however meant only, even if with good reason, from a political-sociological point of view and in a overturned and conflicting way. According to Marx the time is stolen by the capitalism to masses of the proletarian workers which are forced to slave durations of the work. The results for Marx is the surplus value achieved by that theft. Undoubtedly the Marxian idea to connect the time (stolen) to value (surplus) is a deep insight, beyond political intents, the utopias and the deviations, that here we cannot suggest. It is impossible to steal the time, it is possible to steal its value. However we must also consider that, if to earn the value of a loaf a day, a man is forced to work sixteen hours a day rather than eight, really he is victim of a theft of eight hours during which he should made an other work and so earn to himself the something, but the time remains the same and the clockwise cannot been go back. For the economy considered in its sum, the sixteen hours spent by the worker to earn a loaf they have not produced only one loaf but many, for its fair or iniquitous division contribute many operators in a system so intricate to make impossible every try to give a quantitative or qualitative dimension. The time remains what it is and the recourse to metaphysics could be the acknowledgment of the impossibility to define it outside a purely conceptual scope. The theory of Marx is in short, a theory of value and such it is also in the purpose of the author. However, we can conclude that the thought of Marx is a metaphysics of the time, because it is a concept that exceeds every qualitative and quantitative distinctions.
The time is diachronically constant or uniform, as a straight line. We can lengthen or shorten the segments that form it, but the straight line is not modifiable, if the number of the segments increase or reduce. If we renounce to measure it by the watch, that however is an operation metaphysically without meaning, we can interpret so: if it increase the numbers, it means that an acceleration has been impressed, that is a rise of the speed of the human actions. It means to make more things in the same time or the same things in less times. The “stolen time” of Marx has been replaced by the speed, that organized economy is able to make. The speed is not of the tachometer of the car that our mind forced by the technology thinks now by instinct, but the complex of the actions or the events. We can made more things in the same time and that has a price: the stress, because the speed is unnatural. The speed steals time from the thought for that man has been created and the holidays or shortening of the working hours do not serve to recover from a such sickness, because if the capacity to think is lost, the empty remains. The stolen time is chiefly stolen of our better part. The theft of Marx has been replaced by the stress.
The past does not exist in economy, if not to remember some experiences accumulated, stratified and with a value that is more or less that of the history or to build some didactic comparisons. There are just the present and the future. But the present is transitive and this is the cause of the great importance of the future, that is the waiting. Now, between two these times an incessant exchange exists, as an oscillation of the pendulum, that has however a variable stroke not-stop, but as the present time flows and wears out the future does not postpone likewise.
It may happen it keeps still, as a finishing point or winning line, so, when the time of remaining future becomes present, it is necessary to invent a new future, that is to put a new winning post and that because the time, that is the straight line on which these segments are as placed, it continues regardless its diachronic marsh and by a monotonous motion. But, we can distinguish between suffered time from time dominated by man. So that it can also happen that the point of arrival is already continuously moved forward and that in economy is merit of the organization, that does not wait for a future becomes present, but it propose more and more finishing points, playing in advance as the football fans say. Note that this planning of the time, lowed in the economy, has a quantitative dimension. But it is sufficient to disjoint the finishing point to the calendar so that metaphysical vision is realized. However, out rigorous contractual expirations, the time of the finishing point is never admissible with safety and, then, it may as well the organization is undertaken in a continuous work of new invention as a rule like: “let us always do all our best, after something will happen”. So the time of the economy loses its quantitative dimension and the capital value may be supposed even if with a relative certainty, a dimension with a continuous and monotonous expansion.
If we mean to make reference to quantitative data suggested by historical-statistic experience proposes, it should be regardless of particular situations and then it can be observed that, in the time, the capital value is on the average in a continuous growth. Is it merit of the organization? Also, if we think that is, first of all, “time organization”; but, if we leave out of that and also considering wars and failures of many actions and facts that mark negatively the way of the economic history, or better of the history sic et simpliciter, it is verifiable that the value of the capital has been continuously in growth in the time, because every age treasures the former experience in the residual exploitation and it gives a more value to passed goods – taking away obsolescence – still operating and to hoped future ones bringing up to date. In another way: the line of the time is not only diachronic, but it is tilted in the direction of the top and every its segment follows its slope.
i) Time and determinism
It seems that, meaning the time as “objective” straight line, marked by variously long segments, the extremes of which are signed by events and not by the watch, we could finish to fall in a determinism for that time, unmodifiable and assumed as first cause, it determines the value by leaving aside the intervention of man. But it would be a mistake to see the phenomenon in this meaning. The political economy, reported to the principal moments of production, consumption and saving, is not without man, who has the power to determine the length of the individual segments, but not always even the homogeneous and constant inclination of the straight line of the time. There is also an “economy of the nature”: the climate, the evolution of the species, the natural terribleness that undermine even the earth’s crust, they are not the work of man, who is powerless in front of the manifestations of the brute power of the nature. And this power is not certainly insensitive to have an effect on the values of the things.
The nature can be the cause of many events: an alluvium that creates some new cultivable lands by erasing other uncultivated; an earthquake that creates a natural port along a coast in a point where reinforced concrete of man would be impotent, etc. And what would we say if an earthquake with an Hercynian upthrust would joint up Sicily and Calabria and to make needless every project of bridge over the Straits? The nature gives positive and negative phenomena, but in the long time – and here we fall down again in the time – it seems the balance is positive, from that the inclination top-ward of the straight line of the time. In this orbit man makes one’s share and when he assumes the function of economic man (homo oeconomicus), his role consists precisely to operate in a positive or negative way (but the positive one is prevailing in a long time) to tap or to crush the effects of the “natural economy”.
So, it seems correct to consider that to man is allowed, unlike other animal breeds, not to be prey by an absolute determinism, but he can operate, even if with Sisyphean task, according to his projects and creativity. So it comes to determinate a phenomenon of superposition, but not a condition of absolute losing party: man is in the same time a puppet and a puppeteer, even if the script is wrote by a “Great Puppeteer”, providence, fate or necessity, according to the personal choices.
The puppet-puppeteer, when he makes himself “economic man” (homo oeconomicus), does not erase the principal cause of the value of the things, that remains the time.
l) Value and price
At this point, putting in order the preceding considerations about report cause-effect, we can delineate a chain:
time → utility → value (individual or collective) → price.
We can observe that the time is the first cause, the utility is a dependent cause, the value (first effect) can be the appreciation of the subject who prepares the exchange or a collective appreciation; only in the latter case we have a price (second effect), that is of collective type because it follows from the market. Obviously, in case of significant difference between individual value and price, the single operator will not accept the price and decline the change; in that case value and price do not coincide; but, generally and in normal conditions, the operator will undergo the price established by the market, if he will not isolate himself. In fact, if he is an entrepreneur, he will also face against the market, trouble expulsion from the context of competitors. The aggressive or conservative policies develops in this resistance or taxing power, that derive from the position of the single business in the market. For example, in case of concurrence with dumping, the single business that suffers such presence in the market will decide to not realize exchanges at those conditions, pending who pursues it ceases the aggressive policy or to better his line of production costs by process innovation e/o product innovation. If he wins challenge, the aggressive competitor will be remain defeated, because, while he was pursuing the dumping incorrect concurrence, normally he will not have thought to realize investments fit to change the dumping price in a normal price by targeted investments and, then, the initiative will pass to entrepreneur who will have the capacity to wait or to innovate. All that to assert that value and price are not always synonym nor equal mathematically. We can observe that, though to slip in the dumping, there are markets in that work price maker business to which policies the single entrepreneur devoid of a such power must to conform. Without differences between the concurrence would lose meaning. The value, but also the corresponding price, can be considered in subjective and for that relative terms. Relativity means to find a connection with one or more foundations, meaning that every exchange, to some extent also the barter, the connection is with another good that does basis, because in a certain moment it is though that more regular, but in the opinion interfere other consideration different from parameter or from base..
They can be perceptions not expressive in quantitative terms. For example: Guy owns a golden chain already belonged to his mother, that weighs 20 grams.
Its value computed with reference to gold quotation can be objectively x, but for Guy it values much more, because exists a sentimental component, different than utility, not expressible in an additional y, and that is only one of the very much cases of extra quantitative components. Some of these components unburden themselves on the values and they influence also heavily the prices.
The result is that the prices are not homogeneous in the time, because the bases of reference change, so they are not comparable. When we read certain statistics about trend of prices in the time, we are often deceived by the quantitative appearance that seems them comparable, but we must not forget that the bases or the parameters are dynamic or inconstant in the time.
There we will not treat some criticism against theories on value, of that the economic literature abounds, but simply to warn against easy comparisons in the time, so going back the attention, almost it is a confirmation, on the first component of the outline over written that is the time, like the water that flows in a riverbed in its dynamic and Heraclitean mutability.
But risks and realities of pathology exist in the report value-price.
The value is an effect, because it is the result of one or more opinions, that are cause of it. It follows that, if the cause changes, the effect changes accordingly. That in normal conditions, in which the generatrix causes, of natural type (if we can say): on the psychological plane or of expression of needs or other, play the generator role. But, what occurs if unnatural phenomena intervene, that influence heavily the expression of values above all if they are of collective origin? To stay in the individual field, if a mafia-style pressure threatening the life forces the subject A to transfer his good (shop, business, parcel of shares, et cetera) to B for the price x, fixes by this, appreciably divergent from value of the good awarded by A, worst if this has not intention or need to buy, could we again say that the price expresses a value?
Maybe does the robbery express a price? Then on the collective level, what we can say if the pirate and speculative finance, unbridled over money, commodities, stock shares, distort correct stock exchange expressions? Evidently the connection value-price is distorted, or, better, a defect of the cause unburdens itself with distortion over the effect. These phenomena are not a new thing of our epoch; it is sufficient to test the history, to ascertain it; but, it does reflect over the lawfulness of the cause and it transforms in myth the natural goodness of the market, that is free and efficient only if it is protected by not invasive but protective rules.
In the sciences, and we would that the economy take part of this category, any conclusion does not exist, because is a sort of the building cathedral. But, even if it could be, this issue would have not any closing, because it is only a sort of introduction to extensive and exhaustive elaborations. This assertion is an early reply to the question: if it can be profitable for the developments or the revisions of the economic studies to consider the intention that this subject is developed at the light of the metaphysics of the value, as it was a colored lens, that ends to characterize by its color the things we see. This lens is the time, not of the mathematician ones and for effect over the economists, which now became prey of their own mathematical models, they end up ignoring everything they are not able to input in them. Unfortunately for them, the metaphysical time is a troublesome presence, which disturbs the simplification of economy, as if, by going on a different way than their, it was inscrutable. On the contrary, it is the excess of the simplification that, in the end, when the truth comes out, it obliges to admit the things of world, specially of the economic one, they are and develop differently. To deform the time, it means to make it not understood. To understand it is necessary to hide ourselves in the time and to try to understand for events and not for days, months and years. Without a fit concept of the time also the theory of the value becomes unexplainable and by its importance in the economy, also the economic phenomena become unlikely intelligible.
This idea can appear weird and I do not feel up neither to condemn nor to discharge it against this accusation. But I am persuaded that, if I can acquit it for lack of evidence, others, provided with suitable analytical tools, can try the demonstration here not developed.
The way is to travel and to explore, indeed it is a quaerendo invenietis (you will find with looking).
(Translation by Giulia Bonazza)