Knut Wicksell: Selected Essays in Economics - Vol. 2

By Knut Wicksell; Bo Sandelin | Go to book overview

23

OVERPRODUCTION—OR OVERPOPULATION?

I

Under the heading, ‘Die wirtschaftliche Überproduktion und die Mittel zu ihrer Abhilfe’ [Economic overproduction and the means by which it may be remedied], Mr E.d’Avis has published an article in the Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik (vol. 17, no. 5) that illuminates various aspects of this much discussed problem in a manner I consider very valuable. The findings that emerge as the theoretical result of d’Avis’s exposition are in striking agreement with phenomena actually observed in the present economic period. If we add that his argument is distinguished at almost every point by logical stringency, it seems hardly possible that his practical conclusions, too, his criticism of the standard proposals for eliminating the problem and the remedies he himself suggests, can command anything other than immediate acceptance.

And yet precisely the practical consequences of his theory seem to me of such a kind that they can hardly meet with any response from specialists in the field but muted disbelief. Mr d’Avis speaks first of the numerous arrangements between manufacturers to secure higher prices by curtailing production, and traces the cause of their failure to the fact that ‘the restriction of production as such is certainly not a way for our world to eliminate general overproduction, i.e. overproduction without corresponding underproduction in some other sector’.

Naturally, one can only concur with his general thesis when formulated in this way. However, as far as I can see, there is no basis whatever for his claim that the present overproduction, particularly in Germany, is of just this kind, ‘where, as it were, too much is produced in all branches of industry and too little in no branch’. He himself mentions ‘coal and minerals, iron, steel, jute, paper, liquor’, etc., as being produced in excess of the real need; but of course all these goods and raw materials are intended largely for foreign

Originally published as ‘Überproduktion oder Überbevölkerung’, Zeitschrtft für die gesamte Staats-wissenschaft, 1890.

-117-

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