Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts works in the City of London as an economist. He has closely observed the machinations of the global financial system from the dragon’s den. He has been a follower of the Marxist view of society for over 40 years.

21 Responses to “Michael Roberts”

  1. Paul Handover Says:

    Found this place as a result of one of your posts being linked to on Naked Capitalism’s blog site. I’m agnostic when it comes to politics; just seeking a world where truth and integrity are more highly valued than at present.

    Anyway, a Brit living in Oregon has no chance of understanding American politics!😉

  2. Jim Brash Says:

    Michael, I really enjoy your blog comrade. I need a favor to ask of you: In the US McDonald’s workers are fighting for $15 per hour. The city of Seattle just announced a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15. Can you possibly do a blog post on where the minimum wage should be nationally and regionally in the United States? Also, can you do one on he differences or lack of differences between what unionized and non-unionized wages are? Thank you

  3. tom tesoro Says:

    JIM Brash: I too enjoy Michael’s Blog! BUT have you seen the “inequality.org” site which has a great deal of US data and debate on exactly that topic… may be helpful to you.

  4. SWBee Says:

    Michael, all,

    I’m not sure if this is the right place to ask this question or not. Michael, or anyone else, do you have the data from which you extract surplus value, constant and variable capital that you use in your book ? Is it easily available somewhere ?


    • michael roberts Says:

      The data you are referring is related to the US, I think. The data sources are from the Bureau of Economic Analysis website. The Marxist categories are based on data from the NIPA accounts there and the net fixed assets data. Several authors explain how they have used these data but I provide an explanation of the various different ways adopted to measure the categories in a paper http://gesd.free.fr/mrobprof.pdf Also in the joint paper with G Carchedi, we provide sources and methods, http://gesd.free.fr/robcarch13.pdf Then there is the very thorough paper by Basu and Vasu http://gesd.free.fr/basuvasu.pdf who provide all their sources and methods. And so does Kalogerakos here http://gesd.free.fr/kalogerakos13.pdf Finally, of course, Andrew Kliman’s book, The failure of capitalist production, considers all the pitfalls of measurement, reaching his own conclusion on how to measure the US rate.

      As for other countries, I have done work on the UK and the world (10 countries) using national styats, the Extended Penn World Tables and the Eurostat AMECO database http://gesd.free.fr/mrwrate.pdf. I can provide an excel file for my data on this.

      The most comprehensive and recent study for 14 countries is that by Esteban Maito see http://gesd.free.fr/maito14.pdf His data are also available on excel.

      Good luck with all this!

  5. joellazarus Says:

    Hi Michael
    Avid follower of the blog. Absolutely invaluable resource. Thank you.
    Can I ask you if you ever consider a ROP for the UK net of the artificially inflated ROPs for firms benefiting from state subsidies (either direct e.g. rail firms or indirect e.g. workers getting benefits to supplement wages) and outsourcing contracts (e.g. Serco, G4S, Capita and the like which get ridiculous long-term protected returns as part of PFI deals)?
    I think that if this stuff was stripped out then we’d see a significantly reduced ROP. I think this is significant because it’s definitely increased over the past decade or so.

  6. Bastien Says:

    Hi Michael,

    Follower of you blog for about a year now and am always excited when new articles are posted. The 3-part article on AI and robots was very enlightening.

    I was wondering if you’d be interested in tranlating your work into french? I’m willing to do that. Contact me. (Didn’t find another way to contact you !)

  7. Jim Kincaid Says:

    Hi Michael – I’m reading your San Francisco paper with great interest – you mention that the data for your figures is available in Excel on request – I’d very much welcome a copy – best wishes – Jim Kincaid

  8. Jose' Wilkins Says:

    Hi Michael Where can I find a chart that shows annual annual profits and your YOY% profitability. I really like your chart but I am getting pushback because people keep confusing with annual profits are up and I am having a hard time arguing that point. Also, can I get tis data in excel?

    I am trying to use this chart to clearly show that companies have are actually losing profits because they are not following thru with continuous programs. This could do the trick. Any other guidance or words cold also be helpful….

    Thanks Jose’

  9. Rameen Says:

    Michael , you are a true inspiration to young economists world wide . I hope one day to follow in your footsteps .

  10. Ecodeathmarch on Twitter Says:

    “Japanization of the economy” is a term used with increasing frequency. What is your take on all that? I think many of us would find your thoughts helpful. Thank you.


  11. Ben Kunkler Says:

    Hi Michael,

    I follow your blog closely. I am having a disagreement with a friend over the labour theory of value, which my friend says is thoroughly discredited Just wondering if you could shed some light on some aspects of our email exchange.

    I noted (among other things):

    In his enquiry into the source of surplus value in Capital, Marx showed how the accumulation of wealth rested on the lengthening of the working day beyond what a worker needs to work to produce their own needs. In doing so, he also demonstrated that this constituted a form of exploitation, that is to say, that the profit a capitalist makes for themself by means of wage labour is acquired unjustly.) With regard to the pushing down of wages, lower wages means less disposable income in the general population, which means less demand, which leads to a crisis of overproduction.

    He responded:

    Marx didn’t demonstrate anything, because “the accumulation of wealth rested on the lengthening of the working day beyond what a worker needs to work to produce their own needs” is patently false. There’s a million ways to discredit it. Here’s Habermas’s: reflexive labour, i.e. labour to train up more productive labour. There’s just no productivity variable in Marx’s maths. Only time. His idea would be directly contradicted if we saw technology and other developments lead to cutting labour hours in order for companies to be more productive and profitable. Not cutting wages – cutting hours, as the Austrian wants to do. We shouldn’t be in a world now where Mark Zuckerburg can become a billionaire using private property = his computer and the labour hours = his spare time after school to make profit = fuckload if Marx was right. According to Marx, things should have unravelled long ago as the world became more mechanized.

    Any thoughts, or just hints of where I can go in Marx’s oeuvre to develop a response to this would be much appreciated.



    • michael roberts Says:

      Your friend does not recognise that Marx was perfectly aware that the productivity of labour can be increased and so he makes a distinction between absolute surplus value and relative surplus value.
      According to Marx, absolute surplus value is obtained by increasing the amount of time worked per worker in an accounting period. Relative surplus value is obtained mainly by
      increasing the productivity and intensity of labour generally, through mechanisation and rationalisation, yielding a bigger output per hour worked. If value is determined by the hours worked, the number of workers and the average productivity of each worker, then the issue becomes on how that value (measured in money) is divided up between the labour employed and the owners of the means of production. As labour has no control over the means of production, they must sell their labour power in wages for less that total value in hours worked (as measured in money). The difference is the origin of what Marx called surplus value (over and above what labour gets in value to live in wages). The contradiction under capitalism then becomes between the drive to raise the productivity of labour to meet social needs and the requirement that the owners of capital get a surplus on their cost of investment in labour and technology etc. But that’s next story.

      For more reading, try these for a start:


  12. Max Says:

    Dear Michael,

    Thanks a lot for this wonderful blog. I heavily rely on it. Currently reading “The Long Depression.”

    I am also a co-organizer of a Marx reading club. I wonder if you could give us some references to answer the following questions on the labor theory of value that keep emerging during our meetings:

    1. Marx often uses phrases like “20 yards of linen = 1 coat” to motivate the labor theory of value. However, these ratios appear to be mere illustrations. In Marx’s (or perhaps Ricardo’s) time, was somebody trying to empirically investigate the theory?

    2. Are there subsequent empirical studies of the theory?

    3. How did people exchange in pre-capitalist and early capitalist economies?

  13. bassplaysdave Says:

    Hello Mr Roberts —

    I thoroughly enjoyed your newest book, The Long Depression. I’m curious to know a bit more about your calculations for ROP. I’ve only delved into Marxist theory in the past two years, but my understanding is that surplus value is not just ‘profit’ but also the share of value that is redistributed to unproductive/subsumed/noncapitalist sectors like finance/advertising/taxes/etc.

    You say in Appendix I of your book that you can calculate ROP by excluding wages of noncapitalist sectors and even by excluding unproductive positions (middle management) of the productive sector. But in doing so, do you add these values back into the ROP numerator (s) since that’s where these values originate? Or do these values end up as (c) because the productive sector relies on them as an investment to increase sales/rate of exploitation? How do you account for this?

    I apologize if this is a stupid question. Just trying to gain a fuller understanding. It’s just been my understanding — perhaps from a different school of Marxism — that profit is only a fraction of surplus value. The rest of which goes to unproductive/subsumed/noncapitalist sectors in order to perpetuate the status quo.

    All the best,

    • michael roberts Says:

      Hi Dave

      Yes, profit is just part of surplus value – a key point made by Marx against that of Smith and Ricardo, the classical economists and the modern mainstream. There are various ways to measure profit a la Marx. I prefer to measure it as close to a measure of surplus value as possible so I do include the wages of the unproductive sectors in the numerator for ROP. So they are in s. Actually it is also important to identify the size of the unproductive sectors as a guide to the slowdown in accumulation and reproduction of new value and capital which can only come from the productive sector.

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