Economic Democracy - Deficiency of Effective Demand

Deficiency of Effective Demand

In chapter 3 of his book, "Community Organizing: Theory and Practice", Douglas P. Biklen discusses a variety of perspectives on "The Making of Social Problems". One of those views suggests that "writers and organizers who define social problems in terms of social and economic democracy see problems not as the experiences of poor people, but as the relationship of poverty to wealth and exploitation". Biklen states that, according to this viewpoint:

"orporate power, upper class power, uneven distribution of wealth and prejudice cause social problems... he problem is not one of poverty, but of enormous wealth. The problem is not one of gaps or cracks in an otherwise fine system but of a system which perpetuates prejudicial views concerning race, sex, age, and disability. The problem is not one of incompetence but of barriers to education, jobs, and power. Accordingly, as long as there is a deep gulf between social classes, both in terms of wealth, power, and outlook, traditional social programs will act merely as palliatives to oppression and not as a way of ending large scale human misery. This perspective is, above all, eclectic. It embraces Marx's criticism of social class inequality but is not only a social class analysis. It is anti-racist, but it is not only a theory of race equality. It favors democratic distribution of power but is also an economic theory. It can be called a social and economic democracy perspective."

According to many analysts, the most fundamental economic problem is that modern society does not earn enough income to purchase its output. For example, geographer David Harvey claims, "Workers spending their wages is one source of effective demand, but the total wage bill is always less than the total capital in circulation (otherwise there would be no profit), so the purchase of wage goods that sustain daily life (even with a suburban lifestyle) is never sufficient for the profitable sale of the total output." While balanced mixed economies have existed briefly throughout history, veteran Project Manager for the U.S. Treasury Department, Richard C. Cook, and other critics claim that command economies are predominate, citing state capitalism and imperialism as related. As common resources are monopolized by imperial centers of wealth and power, conditions of scarcity are imposed artificially upon the majority, resulting in large-scale socio-economic imbalance.

In the Georgist view of any economic system, "wealth" includes all material things produced by labor for the satisfaction of human desires and having exchange value. Land, labor and capital are generally considered the essential factors in producing wealth. Land includes all natural opportunities and forces. Labor includes all human exertion. Capital includes the portion of wealth devoted to producing more wealth. While the income of any individual might include proceeds from any combination of these three sources—land, labor, and capital are generally considered mutually exclusive factors in economic models of the production and distribution of wealth. According to Henry George, "People seek to satisfy their desires with the least exertion". Human beings interact with nature to produce goods and services that other human beings need or desire. The laws and customs that govern the relationships among these entities constitute the economic structure of a given society.

Alternately, David Schweickart asserts in his book, After Capitalism: "The structure of a capitalist society consists of three basic components:

  • "The bulk of the means of production are privately owned, either directly by individuals or by corporations that are themselves owned by private individuals.
  • "that is to say, goods and services are bought and sold at prices determined for the most part by competition and not by some governmental pricing authority. Individual enterprises compete with one another in providing goods and services to consumers, each enterprise trying to make a profit. This competition is the primary determinant of prices.
  • "Most of the people who work for pay in this society work for other people, who own the means of production. Most working people are 'wage labourers'."

Supply and demand are generally accepted as market functions for establishing prices. Organisations typically endeavor to 1) minimize the cost of production; 2) increase sales; in order to 3) maximize profits. But, according to David Schweickart, if "those who produce the goods and services of society are paid less than their productive contribution", then as consumers they cannot buy all the goods produced, and investor confidence tends to decline, triggering declines in production and employment. Such economic instability stems from a central contradiction: Wages are both a cost of production and an essential source of effective demand (needs or desires backed with purchasing power), resulting in deficiency of effective demand.

Read more about this topic:  Economic Democracy

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