A Merely Theoretical Possibility and Simple-Minded Moralists

(In the basic expansion) … There is the same automatic mechanism as before.  Prices fall.  This has the double effect of increasing the purchasing power of income and bringing about an egalitarian shift in the distribution of monetary income. The increase in purchasing power is obvious.  On the other hand, the egalitarian shift in the distribution of income is, in the main, a merely theoretical possibility.  The fall of prices, unless quantities increase proportionately and with equal rapidity, brings about a great reduction in total rates of payment.  Receipts fall, outlay falls, income falls. [CWL 15, 138-39]

The incidence of the fall of income, in the first instance, upon the entrepreneurial class, and so in the main it is a reduction of surplus income.  Thus we have the same scissors action as before: purchasing power of income increases, and the proportion of basic to surplus income increases; the rate of saving is adjusted to the rates of production as soon as the price level falls sufficiently.  But just as there is an upwardprice spiral to blunt the edge of the mechanism when the rate of saving is increasing, so there is a downward spiral to have the same effect when the rate of saving should be decreasing.  Falling prices tend to be regarded as a signal that expansion has proceeded too far, that contraction must be the order of the day.  Output is reduced; the income of the lower brackets is reduced; the adjustment of the rate of saving fails to take place; prices fall further; the same misinterpretation arises, and prices fall again.  Eventually, however, the downward spiral achieves the desired effect; surplus income is reduced to the required proportion of total income; and the prices cease to fall. [CWL 15, 138-39]

In equity (the basic expansion following the surplus expansion) should be directed to raising the standard of living of the whole society.  It does not.  And the reason why it does not is not the reason on which simple-minded moralists insist.  They blame greed.  But the prime cause is ignorance.  The dynamics of surplus and basic expansion, surplus and basic incomes are not understood, not formulated, not taught….. [CWL 15, 82]

When intelligence is a blank, the first law of nature takes over: self-preservation.  It is not primarily greed but frantic efforts at self-preservation that turn the recession into a depression, and the depression into a crash. [CWL 15, 82]

our inquiry differs radically from traditional economics, in which the ultimate premises are not production and exchange but rather exchange and self-interest, or later, exchange and a vaguely defined psychological situation.  Our aim is to prescind from human psychology (so) that, in the first place, we may define the objective situation with which man has to deal, and, in the second place, define the psychological attitude that has to be adopted if man is to deal successfully with economic problems.  Thus something of a Copernican revolution is attempted: instead of taking man as he is or as he may be thought to be and from that deducing what economic phenomena are going to be, we take the exchange process in its greatest generality and attempt to deduce the human adaptations necessary for survival. [CWL 21,42- 43]

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