Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Political Aspects of Full Employment II, 3.

by Michal Kalecki

The dislike of business leaders for a government spending policy grows even more acute when they come to consider the objects on which the money would be spent: public investment and subsidizing mass consumption.

The economic principles of government intervention require that public investment should be confined to objects which do not compete with the equipment of private business (e.g. hospitals, schools, highways). Otherwise the profitability of private investment might be impaired, and the positive effect of public investment upon employment offset, by the negative effect of the decline in private investment. This conception suits the businessmen very well. But the scope for public investment of this type is rather narrow, and there is a danger that the government, in pursuing this policy, may eventually be tempted to nationalize transport or public utilities so as to gain a new sphere for investment.[*]

One might therefore expect business leaders and their experts to be more in favour of subsidising mass consumption (by means of family allowances, subsidies to keep down the prices of necessities, etc.) than of public investment; for by subsidizing consumption the government would not be embarking on any sort of enterprise. In practice, however, this is not the case. Indeed, subsidizing mass consumption is much more violently opposed by these experts than public investment. For here a moral principle of the highest importance is at stake. The fundamentals of capitalist ethics require that 'you shall earn your bread in sweat'-unless you happen to have private means.
[*]It should be noted here that investment in a nationalized industry can contribute to the solution of the problem of unemployment only if it is undertaken on principles different from those of private enterprise. The government must be satisfied with a lower net rate of return than private enterprise, or it must deliberately time its investment so as to mitigate slumps.


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1 comment:

Brenda Rosser said...

"The dislike of business leaders for a government spending policy grows even more acute when they come to consider the objects on which the money would be spent: public investment and subsidizing mass consumption....I'm not sure which world Michal Kalecki lives in, but it doesn't seem to be this one.

Governments have been subsidising mass consumption by providing a top up to low wages paid by employers. They've also been quite considerably engaged in 'public investment' in the areas of roads, airports, bridges, railways, public toilets etc.

"The fundamentals of capitalist ethics require that 'you shall earn your bread in sweat'-unless you happen to have private means...."

"capitalist ethics"?? When did capitalists insist that THEY must earn their bread in sweat when their private means failed?