The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism

By Daniel Bell | Go to book overview

6
The Public Household: On "Fiscal Sociology and the Liberal Society

I

IN THE classical tradition of economics there are two realms of economic activity. There is the domestic household, including farms, whose products are not valued (a housewife is not paid; the produce consumed on the farm is not always measured in GNP) because they are not exchanged in the market. And there is the market economy, where the value of goods and services is measured by the relative prices registered in the exchange of money. But there is also now a third sector, more important than the other two, which has come to the fore in the last 25 years, and which will play an even more crucial role in the next 25. This is the public household.1 For reasons that I

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1
The phrase "the public household" was commonly used by German and Austrian sociological economists in the 1920s in dealing with problems of state finance. Friedrich von Wieser, the noted Austrian economist, wrote, in a classic essay originally published in 1924: "It is common usage to speak of the public economy as the national household, or, as the case may be, the county household, city household, or generally the public household . . . . the state economy is essentially one of common expenditure; as such, it does at any rate have some resemblance with the private household and to this extent the current term of public household is not inappropriate." Friedrich von Wieser, "The Theory of the Public Economy," in Classics in the Theory of Public Finance, ed. Richard A. Musgrave and Alan T. Peacock ( New York: St. Martin's Press, 1964).

The idea of the public household is the organizing concept use by Richard A. Musgrave standard work, The Theory of Public Finance ( New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959).

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