LightNovesOnl.com

Economics in One Lesson Part 2

Economics in One Lesson - LightNovelsOnl.com

You're reading novel online at LightNovelsOnl.com. Please use the follow button to get notifications about your favorite novels and its latest chapters so you can come back anytime and won't miss anything.

Yet it is a misconception to think of the function or result of machines as primarily one of creating jobs. The real result of the machine is to increase production production, to raise the standard of living, to increase economic welfare. It is no trick to employ everybody, even (or especially) in the most primitive economy. Full employment-very full employment; long, weary, back-breaking employment-is characteristic of precisely the nations that are most r.e.t.a.r.ded industrially. Where full employment already exists, new machines, inventions and discoveries cannot-until there has been time for an increase in population-bring more more employment. They are likely to bring more employment. They are likely to bring more un unemployment (but this time I am speaking of voluntary voluntary and not involuntary unemployment) because people can now afford to work fewer hours, while children and the overaged no longer need to work. and not involuntary unemployment) because people can now afford to work fewer hours, while children and the overaged no longer need to work.

What machines do, to repeat, is to bring an increase in production and an increase in the standard of living. They may do this in either of two ways. They do it by making goods cheaper for consumers (as in our ill.u.s.tration of the overcoats), or they do it by increasing wages because they increase the productivity of the workers. In other words, they either increase money wages or, by reducing prices, they increase the goods and services that the same money wages will buy. Sometimes they do both. What actually happens will depend in large part upon the monetary policy pursued in a country. But in any case, machines, inventions and discoveries increase cheaper for consumers (as in our ill.u.s.tration of the overcoats), or they do it by increasing wages because they increase the productivity of the workers. In other words, they either increase money wages or, by reducing prices, they increase the goods and services that the same money wages will buy. Sometimes they do both. What actually happens will depend in large part upon the monetary policy pursued in a country. But in any case, machines, inventions and discoveries increase real real wages. wages.

4.

A warning is necessary before we leave this subject. It was precisely the great merit of the cla.s.sical economists that they looked for secondary consequences, that they were concerned with the effects of a given economic policy or development in the long run and on the whole community. But it was also their defect that, in taking the long view and the broad view, they sometimes neglected to take also the short view and the narrow view. They were too often inclined to minimize or to forget altogether the immediate effects of developments on special groups. We have seen, for example, that many of the English stocking knitters suffered real tragedies as a result of the introduction of the new stocking frames, one of the earliest inventions of the Industrial Revolution.

But such facts and their modern counterparts have led some writers to the opposite extreme of looking only only at the immediate effects on certain groups. Joe Smith is thrown out of a job by the introduction of some new machine. "Keep your eye on Joe Smith," these writers insist. "Never lose track of Joe Smith." But what they then proceed to do is to keep their eyes at the immediate effects on certain groups. Joe Smith is thrown out of a job by the introduction of some new machine. "Keep your eye on Joe Smith," these writers insist. "Never lose track of Joe Smith." But what they then proceed to do is to keep their eyes only only on Joe Smith, and to forget Tom Jones, who has just got a new job in making the new machine, and Ted Brown, who has just got a job operating one, and Daisy Miller, who can now buy a coat for half what it used to cost her. And because they think only of Joe Smith, they end by advocating reactionary and nonsensical policies. on Joe Smith, and to forget Tom Jones, who has just got a new job in making the new machine, and Ted Brown, who has just got a job operating one, and Daisy Miller, who can now buy a coat for half what it used to cost her. And because they think only of Joe Smith, they end by advocating reactionary and nonsensical policies.

Yes, we should keep at least one eye on Joe Smith. He has been thrown out of a job by the new machine. Perhaps he can soon get another job, even a better one. But perhaps, also, he has devoted many years of his life to acquiring and improving a special skill for which the market no longer has any use. He has lost this investment in himself, in his old skill, just as his former employer, perhaps, has lost been thrown out of a job by the new machine. Perhaps he can soon get another job, even a better one. But perhaps, also, he has devoted many years of his life to acquiring and improving a special skill for which the market no longer has any use. He has lost this investment in himself, in his old skill, just as his former employer, perhaps, has lost his his investment in old machines or processes suddenly rendered obsolete. He was a skilled workman, and paid as a skilled workman. Now he has become overnight an unskilled workman again, and can hope, for the present, only for the wages of an unskilled workman, because the one skill he had is no longer needed. We cannot and must not forget Joe Smith. His is one of the personal tragedies that, as we shall see, are incident to nearly all industrial and economic progress. investment in old machines or processes suddenly rendered obsolete. He was a skilled workman, and paid as a skilled workman. Now he has become overnight an unskilled workman again, and can hope, for the present, only for the wages of an unskilled workman, because the one skill he had is no longer needed. We cannot and must not forget Joe Smith. His is one of the personal tragedies that, as we shall see, are incident to nearly all industrial and economic progress.

To ask precisely what course we should follow with Joe Smith-whether we should let him make his own adjustment, give him separation pay or unemployment compensation, put him on relief, or train him at government expense for a new job-would carry us beyond the point that we are here trying to ill.u.s.trate. The central lesson is that we should try to see all all the main consequences of any economic policy or development-the immediate effects on special groups, and the long-run effects on all groups. the main consequences of any economic policy or development-the immediate effects on special groups, and the long-run effects on all groups.

If we have devoted considerable s.p.a.ce to this issue, it is because our conclusions regarding the effects of new machinery, inventions and discoveries on employment, production and welfare are crucial. If we are wrong about these, there are few things in economics about which we are likely to be right.

1Gunnar Myrdal, The Challenge of World Poverty The Challenge of World Poverty (New York: Pantheon Books, 1970), pp. 400401 and (New York: Pantheon Books, 1970), pp. 400401 and pa.s.sim pa.s.sim.

Chapter VIII.

SPREAD-THE-WORK SCHEMES.

I HAVE REFERRED HAVE REFERRED to various union make-work and featherbed practices. These practices, and the public toleration of them, spring from the same fundamental fallacy as the fear of machines. This is the belief that a more efficient way of doing a thing destroys jobs, and its necessary corollary that a less efficient way of doing it creates them. to various union make-work and featherbed practices. These practices, and the public toleration of them, spring from the same fundamental fallacy as the fear of machines. This is the belief that a more efficient way of doing a thing destroys jobs, and its necessary corollary that a less efficient way of doing it creates them.

Allied to this fallacy is the belief that there is just a fixed amount of work to be done in the world, and that, if we cannot add to this work by thinking up more c.u.mbersome ways of doing it, at least we can think of devices for spreading it around among as large a number of people as possible.

This error lies behind the minute subdivision of labor upon which unions insist. In the building trades in large cities the subdivision is notorious. Bricklayers are not allowed to use stones for a chimney: that is the special work of stonemasons. An electrician cannot rip out a board to fix a connection and put it back again: that is the special job, no matter how simple it may be, of the carpenters. A plumber will not remove or put back a tile incident to fixing a leak in the shower: that is the job of a tile-setter.

Furious "jurisdictional" strikes are fought among unions for the exclusive right to do certain types of borderline jobs. In a statement prepared by the American railroads for the Attorney-General's Committee on Administrative Procedure, the roads gave innumerable examples in which the National Railroad Adjustment Board had decided that each separate operation on the railroad, no matter how minute, such as talking over a telephone or spiking or unspiking a switch, is so far an exclusive property of a particular cla.s.s of employee that if an employee of another cla.s.s, in the course of his regular duties, performs such operations he must not only be paid an extra day's wages for doing so, but at the same time the furloughed or unemployed members of the cla.s.s held to be ent.i.tled to perform the operation must be paid a day's wages for not having been called upon to perform it.

It is true that a few persons can profit at the expense of the rest of us from this minute arbitrary subdivision of labor-provided it happens in their case alone. But those who support it as a general practice fail to see that it always raises production costs; that it results on net balance in less work done and in fewer goods produced. The householder who is forced to employ two men to do the work of one has, it is true, given employment to one extra man. But he has just that much less money left over to spend on something that would employ somebody else. Because his bathroom leak has been repaired at double what it should have cost, he decides not to buy the new sweater he wanted. "Labor" is no better off, because a day's employment of an unneeded tile-setter has meant a day's disemployment of a sweater knitter or machine handler. The householder, however, is worse off. Instead of having a repaired shower and a sweater, he has the shower and no sweater. And if we count the sweater as part of the national wealth, the country is short one sweater. This symbolizes the net result of the effort to make extra work by arbitrary subdivision of labor.

But there are other schemes for "spreading the work," often put forward by union spokesmen and legislators. The most frequent of these is the proposal to shorten the working week, usually by law. The belief that it would "spread the work" and "give more jobs" was one of the main reasons behind the inclusion of the penalty-overtime provision in the existing Federal Wage-Hour Law. The previous legislation in the states, forbidding the employment of women or minors for more, say, than forty-eight hours a week, was based on the conviction that longer hours were injurious to health and morale. Some of it was based on the belief that longer hours were harmful to efficiency. But the provision in the federal law, that an employer must pay a worker a 50 percent premium above his regular hourly rate of wages for all hours worked in any week above forty, was not based primarily on the belief that forty-five hours a week, say, was injurious either to health or efficiency. It was inserted partly in the hope of boosting the worker's weekly income, and partly in the hope that, by discouraging the employer from taking on anyone regularly for more than forty hours a week, it would force him to employ additional workers instead. At the time of writing this, there are many schemes for "averting unemployment" by enacting a thirty-hour week or a four-day week.

What is the actual effect of such plans, whether enforced by individual unions or by legislation? It will clarify the problem if we consider two cases. The first is a reduction in the standard working week from forty hours to thirty without any change in the hourly rate of pay. The second is a reduction in the working week from forty hours to thirty, but with a sufficient increase in hourly wage rates to maintain the same weekly pay for the individual workers already employed.

Let us take the first case. We a.s.sume that the working week is cut from forty hours to thirty, with no change in hourly pay. If there is substantial unemployment when this plan is put into effect, the plan will no doubt provide additional jobs. We cannot a.s.sume that it will provide sufficient additional jobs, however, to maintain the same payrolls and the same number of man-hours as before, unless we make the unlikely a.s.sumptions that in each industry there has been exactly the same percentage of unemployment and that the new men and women employed are no less efficient at their special tasks on the average than those who had already been employed. But suppose we do make these a.s.sumptions. Suppose we do a.s.sume that the right number of additional workers of each skill is available, and that the new workers do not raise production costs. What will be the result of reducing the working week from forty hours to thirty (without any increase in hourly pay)? that in each industry there has been exactly the same percentage of unemployment and that the new men and women employed are no less efficient at their special tasks on the average than those who had already been employed. But suppose we do make these a.s.sumptions. Suppose we do a.s.sume that the right number of additional workers of each skill is available, and that the new workers do not raise production costs. What will be the result of reducing the working week from forty hours to thirty (without any increase in hourly pay)?

Though more workers will be employed, each will be working fewer hours, and there will, therefore, be no net increase in man-hours. It is unlikely that there will be any significant increase in production. Total payrolls and "purchasing power" will be no larger. All that will have happened, even under the most favorable a.s.sumptions (which would seldom be realized) is that the workers previously employed will subsidize, in effect, the workers previously unemployed. For in order that the new workers will individually receive three-fourths as many dollars a week as the old workers used to receive, the old workers will themselves now individually receive only three-fourths as many dollars a week as previously. It is true that the old workers will now work fewer hours; but this purchase of more leisure at a high price is presumably not a decision they have made for its own sake: it is a sacrifice made to provide others others with jobs. with jobs.

The labor union leaders who demand shorter weeks to "spread the work" usually recognize this, and therefore they put the proposal forward in a form in which everyone is supposed to eat his cake and have it too. Reduce the working week from forty hours to thirty, they tell us, to provide more jobs; but compensate for the shorter week by increasing increasing the hourly rate of pay by 33.33 percent. The workers employed, say, were previously getting an average of $226 a week for forty hours work; in order that they may still get $226 for only thirty hours work, the hourly rate of pay must be advanced to an average of more than $7.53. the hourly rate of pay by 33.33 percent. The workers employed, say, were previously getting an average of $226 a week for forty hours work; in order that they may still get $226 for only thirty hours work, the hourly rate of pay must be advanced to an average of more than $7.53.

What would be the consequences of such a plan? The first and most obvious consequence would be to raise costs of production. If we a.s.sume that the workers, when previously employed for forty hours, were getting less than the level of production costs, prices and profits made possible, then they could have got the hourly increase and most obvious consequence would be to raise costs of production. If we a.s.sume that the workers, when previously employed for forty hours, were getting less than the level of production costs, prices and profits made possible, then they could have got the hourly increase without without reducing the length of the working week. They could, in other words, have worked the same number of hours and got their total weekly incomes reducing the length of the working week. They could, in other words, have worked the same number of hours and got their total weekly incomes increased by one-third increased by one-third, instead of merely getting, as they are under the new thirty-hour week, the same weekly income as before. But if, under the forty-hour week, the workers were already getting as high a wage as the level of production costs and prices made possible (and the very unemployment they are trying to cure may be a sign that they were already getting even more than this), then the increase in production costs as a result of the 33.33 percent increase in hourly wage rates will be much greater than the existing state of prices, production and costs can stand.

The result of the higher wage rate, therefore, will be a much greater unemployment than before. The least efficient firms will be thrown out of business, and the least efficient workers will be thrown out of jobs. Production will be reduced all around the circle. Higher production costs and scarcer supplies will tend to raise prices, so that workers can buy less with the same dollar wages; on the other hand, the increased unemployment will shrink demand and hence tend to lower prices. What ultimately happens to the prices of goods will depend upon what monetary policies are then followed. But if a policy of monetary inflation is pursued, to enable prices to rise so that the increased hourly wages can be paid, this will merely be a disguised way of reducing real real wage rates, so that these will return, in terms of the amount of goods they can purchase, to the same real rate as before. The result would then be the same as if the working week had been reduced wage rates, so that these will return, in terms of the amount of goods they can purchase, to the same real rate as before. The result would then be the same as if the working week had been reduced without without an increase in hourly wage rates. And the results of that have already been discussed. an increase in hourly wage rates. And the results of that have already been discussed.

The spread-the-work schemes, in brief, rest on the same sort of illusion that we have been considering. The people who support such schemes think only of the employment they might provide for particular persons or groups; they do not stop to consider what their whole effect would be on everybody. support such schemes think only of the employment they might provide for particular persons or groups; they do not stop to consider what their whole effect would be on everybody.

The spread-the-work schemes rest also, as we began by pointing out, on the false a.s.sumption that there is just a fixed amount of work to be done. There could be no greater fallacy. There is no limit to the amount of work to be done as long as any human need or wish that work could fill remains unsatisfied. In a modern exchange economy, the most work will be done when prices, costs and wages are in the best relations with each other. What these relations are we shall later consider.

Chapter IX.

DISBANDING TROOPS AND BUREAUCRATS.

WHEN, AFTER EVERY great war, it is proposed to demobilize the armed forces, there is always a great fear that there will not be enough jobs for these forces and that in consequence they will be unemployed. It is true that, when millions of men are suddenly released, it may require time for private industry to reabsorb them-though what has been chiefly remarkable in the past has been the speed, rather than the slowness, with which this was accomplished. The fears of unemployment arise because people look at only one side of the process. great war, it is proposed to demobilize the armed forces, there is always a great fear that there will not be enough jobs for these forces and that in consequence they will be unemployed. It is true that, when millions of men are suddenly released, it may require time for private industry to reabsorb them-though what has been chiefly remarkable in the past has been the speed, rather than the slowness, with which this was accomplished. The fears of unemployment arise because people look at only one side of the process.

They see soldiers being turned loose on the labor market. Where is the "purchasing power" going to come from to employ them? If we a.s.sume that the public budget is being balanced, the answer is simple. The government will cease to support the soldiers. But the taxpayers will be allowed to retain the funds that were previously taken from them in order to support the soldiers. And the taxpayers will then have additional funds to buy additional goods. Civilian demand, in other words, will be increased, and will give employment to the added labor force represented by the former soldiers.

If the soldiers have been supported by an unbalanced budget-that is, by government borrowing and other forms of deficit financing-the case is somewhat different. But that raises a different question: we shall consider the effects of deficit financing in a later chapter. It is enough to recognize that deficit financing is irrelevant to the point that has just been made; for if we a.s.sume that there is any advantage in a budget deficit, then precisely the same budget deficit could be maintained as before by simply reducing taxes by the amount previously spent in supporting the wartime army. deficit financing-the case is somewhat different. But that raises a different question: we shall consider the effects of deficit financing in a later chapter. It is enough to recognize that deficit financing is irrelevant to the point that has just been made; for if we a.s.sume that there is any advantage in a budget deficit, then precisely the same budget deficit could be maintained as before by simply reducing taxes by the amount previously spent in supporting the wartime army.

But the demobilization will not leave us economically just where we were before it started. The soldiers previously supported by civilians will not become merely civilians supported by other civilians. They will become self-supporting civilians. If we a.s.sume that the men who would otherwise have been retained in the armed forces are no longer needed for defense, then their retention would have been sheer waste. They would have been unproductive. The taxpayers, in return for supporting them, would have got nothing. But now the taxpayers turn over this part of their funds to them as fellow civilians in return for equivalent goods or services. Total national production, the wealth of everybody, is higher.

2.

The same reasoning applies to civilian government officials whenever they are retained in excessive numbers and do not perform services for the community reasonably equivalent to the remuneration they receive. Yet whenever any effort is made to cut down the number of unnecessary officeholders the cry is certain to be raised that this action is "deflationary." Would you remove the "purchasing power" from these officials? Would you injure the landlords and tradesmen who depend on that purchasing power? You are simply cutting down "the national income" and helping to bring about or intensify a depression.

Once again the fallacy comes from looking at the effects of this action only on the dismissed officeholders themselves and on the particular tradesmen who depend upon them. Once again it is forgotten that, if these bureaucrats are not retained in office, the taxpayers will be permitted to keep the money that was formerly taken from them for the support of the bureaucrats. Once again it is forgotten that the taxpayers' income and purchasing power go up by at least as much as the income and purchasing power of the former officeholders go down. If the particular shopkeepers who formerly got the business of these bureaucrats lose trade, other shopkeepers elsewhere gain at least as much. Was.h.i.+ngton is less prosperous, and can, perhaps, support fewer stores; but other towns can support more. again it is forgotten that, if these bureaucrats are not retained in office, the taxpayers will be permitted to keep the money that was formerly taken from them for the support of the bureaucrats. Once again it is forgotten that the taxpayers' income and purchasing power go up by at least as much as the income and purchasing power of the former officeholders go down. If the particular shopkeepers who formerly got the business of these bureaucrats lose trade, other shopkeepers elsewhere gain at least as much. Was.h.i.+ngton is less prosperous, and can, perhaps, support fewer stores; but other towns can support more.

Once again, however, the matter does not end there. The country is not merely as well off without the superfluous officeholders as it would have been had it retained them. It is much better off. For the officeholders must now seek private jobs or set up private business. And the added purchasing power of the taxpayers, as we noted in the case of the soldiers, will encourage this. But the officeholders can take private jobs only by supplying equivalent services to those who provide the jobs-or, rather, to the customers of the employers who provide the jobs. Instead of being parasites, they become productive men and women.

I must insist again that in all this I am not talking of public officeholders whose services are really needed. Necessary policemen, firemen, street cleaners, health officers, judges, legislators and executives perform productive services as important as those of anyone in private industry. They make it possible for private industry to function in an atmosphere of law, order, freedom and peace. But their justification consists in the utility of their services. It does not consist in the "purchasing power" they possess by virtue of being on the public payroll.

This "purchasing power" argument is, when one considers it seriously, fantastic. It could just as well apply to a racketeer or a thief who robs you. After he takes your money he has more purchasing power. He supports with it bars, restaurants, night clubs, tailors, perhaps automobile workers. But for every job his spending provides, your own spending must provide one less, because you have that much less to spend. Just so the taxpayers provide one less job for every job supplied by the spending of officeholders. When your money is taken by a thief, you get nothing in return. When your money is taken through taxes to support needless bureaucrats, precisely the same situation exists. We are lucky, indeed, if the needless bureaucrats are mere easygoing loafers. They are more likely today to be energetic reformers busily discouraging and disrupting production. his spending provides, your own spending must provide one less, because you have that much less to spend. Just so the taxpayers provide one less job for every job supplied by the spending of officeholders. When your money is taken by a thief, you get nothing in return. When your money is taken through taxes to support needless bureaucrats, precisely the same situation exists. We are lucky, indeed, if the needless bureaucrats are mere easygoing loafers. They are more likely today to be energetic reformers busily discouraging and disrupting production.

When we can find no better argument for the retention of any group of officeholders than that of retaining their purchasing power, it is a sign that the time has come to get rid of them.

Chapter X.

THE FETISH OF FULL EMPLOYMENT.

THE ECONOMIC GOAL of any nation, as of any individual, is to get the greatest results with the least effort. The whole economic progress of mankind has consisted in getting more production with the same labor. It is for this reason that men began putting burdens on the backs of mules instead of on their own; that they went on to invent the wheel and the wagon, the railroad and the motor truck. It is for this reason that men used their ingenuity to develop a hundred thousand labor-saving inventions. of any nation, as of any individual, is to get the greatest results with the least effort. The whole economic progress of mankind has consisted in getting more production with the same labor. It is for this reason that men began putting burdens on the backs of mules instead of on their own; that they went on to invent the wheel and the wagon, the railroad and the motor truck. It is for this reason that men used their ingenuity to develop a hundred thousand labor-saving inventions.

All this is so elementary that one would blush to state it if it were not being constantly forgotten by those who coin and circulate the new slogans. Translated into national terms, this first principle means that our real objective is to maximize production. In doing this, full employment-that is, the absence of involuntary idleness-becomes a necessary byproduct. But production is the end, employment merely the means. We cannot continuously have the fullest production without full employment. But we can very easily have full employment without full production.

Primitive tribes are naked, and wretchedly fed and housed, but they do not suffer from unemployment. China and India are incomparably poorer than ourselves, but the main trouble from which they suffer is primitive production methods (which are both a cause and a consequence of a shortage of capital) and not unemployment. Nothing is easier to achieve than full employment, once it is divorced from the goal of full production and taken as an end in itself. Hitler provided full employment with a huge armament program. World War II provided full employment for every nation involved. The slave labor in Germany had full employment. Prisons and chain gangs have full employment. Coercion can always provide full employment. from which they suffer is primitive production methods (which are both a cause and a consequence of a shortage of capital) and not unemployment. Nothing is easier to achieve than full employment, once it is divorced from the goal of full production and taken as an end in itself. Hitler provided full employment with a huge armament program. World War II provided full employment for every nation involved. The slave labor in Germany had full employment. Prisons and chain gangs have full employment. Coercion can always provide full employment.

Yet our legislators do not present Full Production bills in Congress but Full Employment bills. Even committees of businessmen recommend "a President's Commission on Full Employment," not on Full Production, or even on Full Employment and and Full Production. Everywhere the means is erected into the end, and the end itself is forgotten. Full Production. Everywhere the means is erected into the end, and the end itself is forgotten.

Wages and employment are discussed as if they had no relation to productivity and output. On the a.s.sumption that there is only a fixed amount of work to be done, the conclusion is drawn that a thirty-hour week will provide more jobs and will therefore be preferable to a forty-hour week. A hundred make-work practices of labor unions are confusedly tolerated. When a Petrillo threatens to put a radio station out of business unless it employs twice as many musicians as it needs, he is supported by part of the public because he is after all merely trying to create jobs. When we had our WPA, it was considered a mark of genius for the administrators to think of projects that employed the largest number of men in relation to the value of the work performed-in other words, in which labor was least efficient.

It would be far better, if that were the choice-which it isn't-to have maximum production with part of the population supported in idleness by undisguised relief than to provide "full employment" by so many forms of disguised make-work that production is disorganized. The progress of civilization has meant the reduction of employment, not its increase. It is because we have become increasingly wealthy as a nation that we have been able virtually to eliminate child labor, to remove the necessity of work for many of the aged and to make it unnecessary for millions of women to take jobs. A much smaller proportion of the American population needs to work than that, say, of China or of Russia. The real question is not how many millions of jobs there will be in America ten years from now, but how much shall we produce, and what, in consequence, will be our standard of living? The problem of distribution, on which all the stress is being put today, is after all more easily solved the more there is to distribute. we have been able virtually to eliminate child labor, to remove the necessity of work for many of the aged and to make it unnecessary for millions of women to take jobs. A much smaller proportion of the American population needs to work than that, say, of China or of Russia. The real question is not how many millions of jobs there will be in America ten years from now, but how much shall we produce, and what, in consequence, will be our standard of living? The problem of distribution, on which all the stress is being put today, is after all more easily solved the more there is to distribute.

We can clarify our thinking if we put our chief emphasis where it belongs-on policies that will maximize production.

Chapter XI.

WHO'S "PROTECTED" BY TARIFFS?

A MERE RECITAL MERE RECITAL of the economic policies of governments all over the world is calculated to cause any serious student of economics to throw up his hands in despair. What possible point can there be, he is likely to ask, in discussing refinements and advances in economic theory, when popular thought and the actual policies of governments, certainly in everything connected with international relations, have not yet caught up with Adam Smith? For present-day tariff and trade policies are not only as bad as those in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but incomparably worse. The real reasons for those tariffs and other trade barriers are the same, and the pretended reasons are also the same. of the economic policies of governments all over the world is calculated to cause any serious student of economics to throw up his hands in despair. What possible point can there be, he is likely to ask, in discussing refinements and advances in economic theory, when popular thought and the actual policies of governments, certainly in everything connected with international relations, have not yet caught up with Adam Smith? For present-day tariff and trade policies are not only as bad as those in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but incomparably worse. The real reasons for those tariffs and other trade barriers are the same, and the pretended reasons are also the same.

Since The Wealth of Nations The Wealth of Nations appeared more than two centuries ago, the case for free trade has been stated thousands of times, but perhaps never with more direct simplicity and force than it was stated in that volume. In general Smith rested his case on one fundamental proposition: "In every country it always is and must be the interest of the great body of the people to buy whatever they want of those who sell it cheapest." "The proposition is so very manifest," Smith continued, "that it seems ridiculous to take any pains to prove it; nor could it ever have been called in question, had not the interested sophistry of appeared more than two centuries ago, the case for free trade has been stated thousands of times, but perhaps never with more direct simplicity and force than it was stated in that volume. In general Smith rested his case on one fundamental proposition: "In every country it always is and must be the interest of the great body of the people to buy whatever they want of those who sell it cheapest." "The proposition is so very manifest," Smith continued, "that it seems ridiculous to take any pains to prove it; nor could it ever have been called in question, had not the interested sophistry of merchants and manufacturers confounded the common-sense of mankind." merchants and manufacturers confounded the common-sense of mankind."

From another point of view, free trade was considered as one aspect of the specialization of labor: It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family, never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy. The tailor does not attempt to make his own shoes, but buys them of the shoemaker. The shoemaker does not attempt to make his own clothes, but employs a tailor. The farmer attempts to make neither the one nor the other, but employs those different artificers. All of them find it for their interest to employ their whole industry in a way in which they have some advantage over their neighbors, and to purchase with a part of its produce, or what is the same thing, with the price of a part of it, whatever else they have occasion for. What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.

But whatever led people to suppose that what was prudence in the conduct of every private family could could be folly in that of a great kingdom? It was a whole network of fallacies, out of which mankind has still been unable to cut its way. And the chief of them was the central fallacy with which this book is concerned. It was that of considering merely the immediate effects of a tariff on special groups, and neglecting to consider its long-run effects on the whole community. be folly in that of a great kingdom? It was a whole network of fallacies, out of which mankind has still been unable to cut its way. And the chief of them was the central fallacy with which this book is concerned. It was that of considering merely the immediate effects of a tariff on special groups, and neglecting to consider its long-run effects on the whole community.

2.

An American manufacturer of woolen sweaters goes to Congress or to the State Department and tells the committee or officials concerned that it would be a national disaster for them to remove or reduce the tariff on British sweaters. He now sells his sweaters for $30 each, but English manufacturers could sell their sweaters of the same quality for $25. A duty of $5, therefore, is needed to keep him in business. He is not thinking of himself, of course, but of the thousand men and women he employs, and of the people to whom their spending in turn gives employment. Throw them out of work, and you create unemployment and a fall in purchasing power, which would spread in ever-widening circles. And if he can prove that he really would be forced out of business if the tariff were removed or reduced, his argument against that action is regarded by Congress as conclusive. to remove or reduce the tariff on British sweaters. He now sells his sweaters for $30 each, but English manufacturers could sell their sweaters of the same quality for $25. A duty of $5, therefore, is needed to keep him in business. He is not thinking of himself, of course, but of the thousand men and women he employs, and of the people to whom their spending in turn gives employment. Throw them out of work, and you create unemployment and a fall in purchasing power, which would spread in ever-widening circles. And if he can prove that he really would be forced out of business if the tariff were removed or reduced, his argument against that action is regarded by Congress as conclusive.

But the fallacy comes from looking merely at this manufacturer and his employes, or merely at the American sweater industry. It comes from noticing only the results that are immediately seen, and neglecting the results that are not seen because they are prevented from coming into existence.

The lobbyists for tariff protection are continually putting forward arguments that are not factually correct. But let us a.s.sume that the facts in this case are precisely as the sweater manufacturer has stated them. Let us a.s.sume that a tariff of $5 a sweater is necessary for him to stay in business and provide employment at sweater-making for his workers.

We have deliberately chosen the most unfavorable example of any for the removal of a tariff. We have not taken an argument for the imposition of a new tariff in order to bring a new industry into existence, but an argument for the retention of a tariff that has already brought an industry into existence that has already brought an industry into existence, and cannot be repealed without hurting somebody.

The tariff is repealed; the manufacturer goes out of business; a thousand workers are laid off; the particular tradesmen whom they patronized are hurt. This is the immediate result that is seen. But there are also results which, while much more difficult to trace, are no less immediate and no less real. For now sweaters that formerly cost retail $30 apiece can be bought for $25. Consumers can now buy the same quality of sweater for less money, or a much better one for the same money. If they buy the same quality of sweater, they not only get the sweater, but they have $5 left over, which they would not have had under the previous conditions, to buy something else. With the $25 that they pay for the imported sweater they help employment-as the American manufacturer no doubt predicted-in the sweater industry in England. With the $5 left over they help employment in any number of other industries in the United States. buy the same quality of sweater, they not only get the sweater, but they have $5 left over, which they would not have had under the previous conditions, to buy something else. With the $25 that they pay for the imported sweater they help employment-as the American manufacturer no doubt predicted-in the sweater industry in England. With the $5 left over they help employment in any number of other industries in the United States.

But the results do not end there. By buying English sweaters they furnish the English with dollars to buy American goods here. This, in fact (if I may here disregard such complications as fluctuating exchange rates, loans, credits, etc.) is the only way in which the British can eventually make use of these dollars. Because we have permitted the British to sell more to us, they are now able to buy more from us. They are, in fact, eventually forced forced to buy more from us if their dollar balances are not to remain perpetually unused. So as a result of letting in more British goods, we must export more American goods. And though fewer people are now employed in the American sweater industry, more people are employed-and much more efficiently employed-in, say, the American was.h.i.+ng-machine or aircraft-building business. American employment on net balance has not gone down, but American and British production on net balance has gone up. Labor in each country is more fully employed in doing just those things that it does best, instead of being forced to do things that it does inefficiently or badly. Consumers in both countries are better off. They are able to buy what they want where they can get it cheapest. American consumers are better provided with sweaters, and British consumers are better provided with was.h.i.+ng machines and aircraft. to buy more from us if their dollar balances are not to remain perpetually unused. So as a result of letting in more British goods, we must export more American goods. And though fewer people are now employed in the American sweater industry, more people are employed-and much more efficiently employed-in, say, the American was.h.i.+ng-machine or aircraft-building business. American employment on net balance has not gone down, but American and British production on net balance has gone up. Labor in each country is more fully employed in doing just those things that it does best, instead of being forced to do things that it does inefficiently or badly. Consumers in both countries are better off. They are able to buy what they want where they can get it cheapest. American consumers are better provided with sweaters, and British consumers are better provided with was.h.i.+ng machines and aircraft.

3.

Now let us look at the matter the other way round, and see the effect of imposing a tariff in the first place. Suppose that there had been no tariff on foreign knit goods, that Americans were accustomed to buying foreign sweaters without duty, and that the argument were then put forward that we could there had been no tariff on foreign knit goods, that Americans were accustomed to buying foreign sweaters without duty, and that the argument were then put forward that we could bring a sweater industry into existence bring a sweater industry into existence by imposing a duty of $5 on sweaters. by imposing a duty of $5 on sweaters.

There would be nothing logically wrong with this argument so far as it went. The cost of British sweaters to the American consumer might thereby be forced so high that American manufacturers would find it profitable to enter the sweater business. But American consumers would be forced to subsidize this industry. On every American sweater they bought they would be forced in effect to pay a tax of $5 which would be collected from them in a higher price by the new sweater industry.

Americans would be employed in a sweater industry who had not previously been employed in a sweater industry. That much is true. But there would be no net addition to the country's industry or the country's employment. Because the American consumer had to pay $5 more for the same quality of sweater he would have just that much less left over to buy anything else. He would have to reduce his expenditures by $5 somewhere else. In order that one industry might grow or come into existence, a hundred other industries would have to shrink. In order that 50,000 persons might be employed in a woolen sweater industry, 50,000 fewer persons would be employed elsewhere.

But the new industry would be visible visible. The number of its employes, the capital invested in it, the market value of its product in terms of dollars, could be easily counted. The neighbors could see the sweater workers going to and from the factory every day. The results would be palpable and direct. But the shrinkage of a hundred other industries, the loss of 50,000 other jobs somewhere else, would not be so easily noticed. It would be impossible for even the cleverest statistician to know precisely what the incidence of the loss of other jobs had been-precisely how many men and women had been laid off from each particular industry, precisely how much business each particular industry had lost-because consumers had to pay more for their sweaters. For a loss spread among all the other productive activities of the country would be comparatively minute for each. It would be impossible for anyone to know precisely how each consumer business each particular industry had lost-because consumers had to pay more for their sweaters. For a loss spread among all the other productive activities of the country would be comparatively minute for each. It would be impossible for anyone to know precisely how each consumer would would have spent his extra $5 if he had been allowed to retain it. The overwhelming majority of the people, therefore, would probably suffer from the illusion that the new industy had cost us nothing. have spent his extra $5 if he had been allowed to retain it. The overwhelming majority of the people, therefore, would probably suffer from the illusion that the new industy had cost us nothing.

4.

It is important to notice that the new tariff on sweaters would not raise American wages. To be sure, it would enable Americans to work in the sweater industry in the sweater industry at approximately the average level of American wages (for workers of their skill), instead of having to compete in that industry at the British level of wages. But there would be no increase of American wages at approximately the average level of American wages (for workers of their skill), instead of having to compete in that industry at the British level of wages. But there would be no increase of American wages in general in general as a result of the duty; for, as we have seen, there would be no net increase in the number of jobs provided, no net increase in the demand for goods, and no increase in labor productivity. Labor productivity would, in fact, be as a result of the duty; for, as we have seen, there would be no net increase in the number of jobs provided, no net increase in the demand for goods, and no increase in labor productivity. Labor productivity would, in fact, be reduced reduced as a result of the tariff. as a result of the tariff.

And this brings us to the real effect of a tariff wall. It is not merely that all its visible gains are offset by less obvious but no less real losses. It results, in fact, in a net loss to the country. For contrary to centuries of interested propaganda and disinterested confusion, the tariff reduces reduces the American level of wages. the American level of wages.

Let us observe more clearly how it does this. We have seen that the added amount which consumers pay for a tariff-protected article leaves them just that much less with which to buy all other articles. There is here no net gain to industry as a whole. But as a result of the artificial barrier erected against foreign goods, American labor, capital and land are deflected from what they can do more efficiently to what they do less efficiently. Therefore, as a result of the tariff wall, the average productivity of American labor and capital is reduced.

If we look at it now from the consumer's point of view, we find that he can buy less with his money. Because he has to pay more for sweaters and other protected goods, he can buy less of everything else. The general purchasing power of his income has therefore been reduced. Whether the net effect of the tariff is to lower money wages or to raise money prices will depend upon the monetary policies that are followed. But what is clear is that the tariff-though it may increase wages above what they would have been in the protected industries the protected industries-must on net balance, when all when all occupations are considered, occupations are considered, reduce real wages reduce real wages-reduce them, that is to say, compared with what they otherwise would have been.

Only minds corrupted by generations of misleading propaganda can regard this conclusion as paradoxical. What other result could we expect from a policy of deliberately using our resources of capital and manpower in less efficient ways than we know how to use them? What other result could we expect from deliberately erecting artificial obstacles to trade and transportation?

For the erection of tariff walls has the same effect as the erection of real walls. It is significant that the protectionists habitually use the language of warfare. They talk of "repelling an invasion" of foreign products. And the means they suggest in the fiscal field are like those of the battlefield. The tariff barriers that are put up to repel this invasion are like the tank traps, trenches and barbed-wire entanglements created to repel or slow down attempted invasion by a foreign army.

And just as the foreign army is compelled to employ more expensive means to surmount those obstacles-bigger tanks, mine detectors, engineer corps to cut wires, ford streams and build bridges-so more expensive and efficient transportation means must be developed to surmount tariff obstacles. On the one hand, we try to reduce the cost of transportation between England and America, or Canada and the United States, by developing faster and more efficient planes and s.h.i.+ps, better roads and bridges, better locomotives and motor trucks. On the other hand, we offset this investment in efficient transportation by a tariff that makes it commercially even more difficult to transport goods than it was before. We make it a dollar cheaper to s.h.i.+p the sweaters, and then increase the tariff by two dollars to prevent the sweaters from being s.h.i.+pped. By reducing the freight that can be profitably carried, we reduce the value of the investment in transport efficiency. by a tariff that makes it commercially even more difficult to transport goods than it was before. We make it a dollar cheaper to s.h.i.+p the sweaters, and then increase the tariff by two dollars to prevent the sweaters from being s.h.i.+pped. By reducing the freight that can be profitably carried, we reduce the value of the investment in transport efficiency.

5.

The tariff has been described as a means of benefiting the producer at the expense of the consumer. In a sense this is correct. Those who favor it think only of the interests of the producers immediately benefited by the particular duties involved. They forget the interests of the consumers who are immediately injured by being forced to pay these duties. But it is wrong to think of the tariff issue as if it represented a conflict between the interests of producers as a unit against those of consumers as a unit. It is true that the tariff hurts all consumers as such. It is not true that it benefits all producers as such. On the contrary, as we have just seen, it helps the protected producers at the expense of all other American producers, and particularly of those who have a comparatively large potential export market and particularly of those who have a comparatively large potential export market.

We can perhaps make this last point clearer by an exaggerated example. Suppose we make our tariff wall so high that it becomes absolutely prohibitive, and no imports come in from the outside world at all. Suppose, as a result of this, that the price of sweaters in America goes up only $5. Then American consumers, because they have to pay $5 more for a sweater, will spend on the average five cents less in each of a hundred other American industries. (The figures are chosen merely to ill.u.s.trate a principle: there will, of course, be no such symmetrical distribution of the loss; moreover, the sweater industry itself will doubtless be hurt because of protection of still other other industries. But these complications may be put aside for the moment.) industries. But these complications may be put aside for the moment.) Now because foreign industries will find their market in America totally totally cut off, they will get no dollar exchange, and therefore they will be cut off, they will get no dollar exchange, and therefore they will be unable to buy any American goods at all unable to buy any American goods at all. As a result of this, American industries will suffer in direct proportion to the percentage of their sales previously made abroad. Those that will be most injured, in the first instance, will be such industries as raw cotton producers, copper producers, makers of sewing machines, agricultural machinery, typewriters, commercial airplanes, and so on.

Click Like and comment to support us!

RECENTLY UPDATED NOVELS

About Economics in One Lesson Part 2 novel

You're reading Economics in One Lesson by Author(s): Henry Hazlitt. This novel has been translated and updated at LightNovelsOnl.com and has already 553 views. And it would be great if you choose to read and follow your favorite novel on our website. We promise you that we'll bring you the latest novels, a novel list updates everyday and free. LightNovelsOnl.com is a very smart website for reading novels online, friendly on mobile. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] or just simply leave your comment so we'll know how to make you happy.