Tendency of the rate of profit to fall

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The tendency of the rate of profit to fall (TRPF) is a hypothesis in the crisis theory of political economy, according to which the rate of profit—the ratio of the profit to the amount of invested capital—decreases over time. This hypothesis gained additional prominence from its discussion by Karl Marx in Chapter 13 of Capital, Volume III,[1] but economists as diverse as Adam Smith,[2] John Stuart Mill,[3] David Ricardo[4] and Stanley Jevons[5] referred explicitly to the TRPF as an empirical phenomenon that demanded further theoretical explanation, although they differed on the reasons why the TRPF should necessarily occur.[6]

Marx regarded the TRPF as proof that capitalist production could not be an everlasting form of production since in the end the profit principle itself would suffer a breakdown.[7] However, because the tendency is said to be hard to prove or disprove theoretically, and hard to test and measure the rate of profit, Marx's TRPF theory has been a topic of global controversy for more than a century.

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References

  1. It is also referred to by Marx as the "law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall" (LTRPF). As explained in the article, there are disputes about whether there is such a law or not. Other terms used include "the falling rate of profit" (FROP), the "falling tendency of the rate of profit" (FTRP), "decline of the rate of profit" (DROP), and the "tendential fall of the rate of profit" (TFRP). The average rate of profit on production capital is usually written as r = S/(C+V).
  2. Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Chapter 9. See also Philip Mirowski, "Adam Smith, Empiricism, and the Rate of Profit in Eighteenth-Century England." History of Political Economy, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 1982, pp. 178–198.
  3. John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy (1848), Book 4, Chapter 4. Bela A. Balassa, "Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill." Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv, Bd. 83 (1959), pp. 147–165.
  4. David Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, Chapter 6. Maurice Dobb, "The Sraffa system and critique of the neoclassical theory of distribution." In : E.K. Hunt & Jesse G. Schwartz, A Critique of Economic Theory. Penguin, 1972, p. 211–213.
  5. W. Stanley Jevons (1871), The Theory of Political Economy. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1970, pp. 243–244.
  6. Aspromourgos, Tony, "Profits", in: James D. Wright (ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioural Sciences. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2015, 2nd edition, Vol. 19, pp. 111–116.
  7. Karl Marx, Capital, Volume III, Penguin ed. 1981, p. 350 and 368.