The original epistemological sin of bourgeois economic theory is that it begins with the individual. The fundamental question of economics is to define and determine value – the quidditas, the whatness or essence of prices, what determines them – and its production and distribution. Yet, the aspect of value that is in turn essential to economic enquiry is “exchange value” or “value in exchange”. If indeed we wished to concentrate on human productive activity in terms of universal human interest (here “inter-est” stands for the Latin phrase inter homines esse – being among humans), then there would be no room for the concept of exchange value – quite simply because there can be no “exchange” of productive activity between humanity taken as a whole, as a totality. Exchange, and therefore also value in exchange, can exist only “between” human beings, taken individually or in groups because only that way can the products of human activity “change hands” or be ex-changed.
But once human productive activity is reduced to the activity of sub-groups of humanity, then clearly the ultimate unit of human productive activity becomes the individual. This is so because once we begin to analyze human productive activity in terms of human sub-groups, then the ultimate reference point for a universal economic theory can only be the individual – for the evident reason that any theory based on human sub-groups would end up being peculiar and restricted to the particular “sub-group” that we chose to analyze, be it a tribe or a nation or an enterprise. Even the idea of a “theory of the firm”, first canvassed by Ronald Coase, can yield interesting results but can never become the foundation for a comprehensive “theory” of economic activity.
Thus it is that “exchange” of human productive activity becomes inevitably the original sin of economic theory: - because by concentrating on the “ex-change” of human products between individuals or groups, economic theory (a) wholly neglects the effects of human activity on our living environment, on the ecosphere; and (b) it also introduces the notion of “private property” and consequently of a “marketplace” where human products can be ex-changed. This is so because, quite obviously, no “market” could exist without “exchange for value” and no “value in exchange” would be conceivable without a legal entitlement to the human products that are exchanged in the marketplace – without private property.
The full deleterious effect of this original sin of economic theory can be easily inferred because through it our enquiry into human productive activity must necessarily neglect the interaction or metabolism between this activity and its “object”, the eco-sphere or life-world of humans; and also because this enquiry must take for granted as absolutely fundamental to its enterprise those very “proprietary interests” – the laws that define and protect private property – without which no “exchange’ of human products could ever take place “for value”! Yes, there could be exchange of “gifts” or “presents” between human beings; but without legal rights to products, without private property, such an exchange could never form the basis for the calculation of “value in exchange” because gifts and present by definition (!) could never form the basis of systematic measurable calculation!
Hence, the question arises of what it is exactly that we calculate when we ascribe a value to human products – a value that forms the basis for the pricing of such products. Here it is that value in exchange and corresponding prices must necessarily reduce human productive activity – which, as we all know, is and must be infinitely variable and impossible to define or let alone to calculate – to a “quantity” that can be so defined and calculated in a manner that must also be necessarily arbitrary and entirely contingent, that is to say, entirely political in nature.
The vice of bourgeois economic theory – and a possible pitfall for liberal bourgeois political institutions, including nation-states – is precisely this inability or ideological unwillingness to see economic relations for what they are – political institutions. This is a vice principally because it leaves liberal regimes, especially ones founded on parliamentary democracy, open to abuse by powerful totalitarian regimes that use or abuse liberal market institutions to bolster and strengthen their military-industrial complexes with the ultimate aim to undermine, subvert and eventually dominate societies based on liberal market capitalist institutions.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the specific and historically unprecedented case of the Han Chinese Dictatorship – unprecedented first because of the ruthless will-to-power of this Dictatorship single-mindedly intent on extending its dominion over the entire globe, and second because its existing dominion over one fifth of humanity (over a billion people) gives it the human resources to exploit trade with liberal market economies through mercantilist exploitation of trade that allows it to accumulate product resources and know-how that it turns immediately and purposefully toward the implementation of its global imperialist and genocidal project. It is entirely obvious that this project is reliant, first, in abusing market rules of exchange (which, once more, are not “natural” or “objective” but entirely political in nature, and therefore open to manipulation) with the sole purpose of acquiring sufficient military and industrial power to be able – and here is the second point – to defeat and subjugate eventually those liberal market economies whose “market rules” of trade and exchange it is forced momentarily to observe to reach its final goal of world domination.
Clearly, whilst it is essentially true that Western parliamentary democracies are ready and willing to let their productive systems and trade to operate according to broadly-agreed “market rules”, the same cannot be said of the Han Chinese Dictatorship – and that for the obvious reason that its totalitarian rule and subjugation of its own people and other conquered territories (Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and now projection over Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea) is clearly inconsistent with the operation of bourgeois liberal capitalist market rules within and outside of the existing Han Chinese Empire.