[p2p-research] Feedback on a Summary/Explanation of John Maynard Keynes' General Theory

Kevin Carson free.market.anticapitalist at gmail.com
Sat Nov 28 19:48:55 CET 2009

On 11/21/09, Paul D. Fernhout <pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:

>  Essentially, Keynes seems to assume (with some of these reading between the
> lines, others he says explicitly):
>  * people won't do good stuff unless they are paid to do it
>  * the only right way to get stuff or services is to buy them
>  * the only right way for people to get money is to earn it working
>  * the quality of the actual "work" in terms of enjoyability is ignored
>  * like most economists, promoting "community" is ignored
>  * it is good that banks are the first to get newly created money
>  * supply should come before demand
>  * innovation is not an important issue to consider in economies

Schumpeter, in his history of economic thought, classifies Keynes
along with J.A. Hobson, Marxist theoreticians of late capitalism,
etc., into the general category of "stagnationists."

Where both Hobson and the neo-Marxists (esp. the Monthly Review group)
are vastly superior to Keynes IMO is in dealing with the issue of
overaccumulation, which Keynes completely neglects.  Keynes focuses
entirely on issues of income and expenditure, and treats capital
investment as just another form of expenditure.

And he treats chronic underconsumption as some sort of automatic
byproduct of economic development, rather than the result of the
promotion of one kind of economic development at the expense of
others.  (But Hobson and the neo-Marxists also do this).

IMO the stagnationist problem results from two major causes.

The first, and older, cause is economic privilege, which prevents
labor from fully internalizing all the benefits of its productivity.
Artificial scarcity of land and capital force labor to pay a
significant portion of its natural wage to the rentier classes, and IP
prevents productivity increases from innovation from being passed on
quickly to the consumer.  E.g., instead of the price of Tom Peters'
Minolta camera simply falling by 90% in the face of market
competition, it has a price ten times higher that consists mainly of
"intellect" and "ephemera" rather than parts and labor.

The second cause is built into the specific structure of mass
production industry, which reflects institutional forces created by
collusion between government and industry since the beginning of the
corporate revolution and the second industrial revolution around 150
years ago.  Government has systematically promoted centralized,
capital-intensive mass production, with product-specific machinery,
and push distribution and planned obsolescence to amortize the costs.
Absent these institutional forces IMO what we'd have wound up with
instead is the integration of general-purpose electrical machinery
into local industrial economies, organized on a demand-pull basis.
And that would have been almost entirely free from the problem of
overaccumulation and idle capacity the neo-Marxists describe.

Kevin Carson
Center for a Stateless Society http://c4ss.org
Mutualist Blog:  Free Market Anti-Capitalism
Studies in Mutualist Political Economy
Organization Theory:  A Libertarian Perspective

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