"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Apr 3, 2010

Price Signals

Having squandered my morning attempting to translate the dense language of marginalism, marginal utility and price signals into a form easy enough to discuss without jargon; having failed to do so, since so much of these theories appear to depend on a specialization of language, as jargon, I've decided to focus on one specific knot of the problem:

Price signals.

As I read it, adherents of market pricing (and planning advocates critical of the same) treat with price signals as an independent signifier, somehow emanating a communication to consumers and producers, of a preference for some commodity.

As a message which independently emerges from human decisions, to self-regulate production and exchange.

That seems, on the short and long analysis, like so much hokum, like a belief in humors and demons, used to explain a sniffling nose, or a sneeze.

It erases human agency, the decisions of those attending to the production or sale of a commodity, placing instead a ghost (the signal) in a ghosted machine (some assumption of a macro-economy which exists as an order of magnitude emerging from and independent of human choices).

It reminds me, almost exactly, of the argument that "monopolies are natural," that they develop as a topographical feature of human exchange, piezo-entelechies independent of the persons doing the exchanging.


Ethan said...

On the other end, it's pretty hilarious to think in terms of the price sending a "signal to consumers" to buy less, as though all the changing price tag is is a friendly suggestion aiming to influence a decision, free of all other factors, rather than, for many people, a life-crippling threshold.

I'd never heard of this concept. I'm always interested to learn more about the corporate world's conception of life, so thank you!

Jack Crow said...

That's a perfect description: "life crippling threshold."

I've read (in a long chain of inquiry leading from a China Mieville novel through to a new theory of labor value) that prices operate as a "thanotic modifier." A price fixes a commodity, killing the labor expended in it, isolating the labor from the laborer, so that the dead effort can be sold back to her as her own oppression.

I wish I could remember the original author, to source the quote.