Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Review of Measuring the Wealth of Nations: The Political Economy of National Accounts by Anwar Shaikh, E. Ahmet Tonak

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics
Intriguing Connections = Capitalism, Socialism, their Alternatives and Critiques

Elaborate Description

What we define as wealth has implication on how we measure it. One of the major issues the Shaikh and Tonak describe is the implication between the difference in productive and unproductive labor, or as they prefer to state it, production and nonproduction labor. All labor produces an outcome that can be extremely valuable to society, but not all labor has an output. Production labor add to the total wealth of society, while nonproduction labor either transfers wealth of society or is just a form of social consumption. Under this framework, changes in employment have different effects depending on the type of labor.

The current Neoclassical framework of measuring production is to include many forms of labor that are actually meant to be social consumption. Making anything that someone is willing to pay for a production activity. The problem with this view, that the authors point out, is the implication on investments change. Increasing social consumption, in the authors framework would reduce the available investment.

The authors pose an alternative way of measuring production. They use a variety of models and charts to show the way their alternative measure would look like. Their methodology is based on the Classical perspective, more of from the view of Marx. Their measures differ from Marx, but are based on Marx. The authors use an input-output account framework, rather than the national-income-and=product account, as it enables greater coverage by tracking the whole product.

The problem with the book is that the general discussion is relegated to a minority position. The impact of particular measures of wealth and the politics of measuring wealth is not the dominant theme. The book is not an easy read and deeply mathematical. Most of the book is trying to explain the math and outputs of the various alternative measures of wealth. The equations become harder to read as the explanation to them is reduced. Although the authors meticulously explain their equation and charts, there appears to be a huge disconnect between the math’s and their meanings.

Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780521564793
Pages to read:   361
Publication:     1996
1st Edition:      1994
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          3
Overall           3