Planning and Paying for Full Employment

By Frank D. Graham; Abba P. Lerner | Go to book overview

PROSPERITY, DEMOCRACY, AND PLANNING

By CARL LANDAUER

IF WE are to protect our democratic institutions from the destructive effects of economic insecurity, we need more than a device to stave off the so-called postwar slump. Taking the period after the last war as an analogy, we have to expect a serious depression two or three years after the cessation of hostilities. It is imperative to prevent this slump, but we shall gain very little if we do not also succeed in preventing a depression 10 or 12 years later. With the discouraging memory of the Great Depression of the 1930's in the minds of all businessmen and with the technological changes caused by the war in all industries, any slump is likely to develop into a major economic paralysis. With the war experience teaching the common people that full employment is possible, we can expect very little patience if at any future time jobs become scarce, and impatience will grow into despair and destroy the faith in free government. Nothing short of a change which makes our economy depression-proof will satisfy the need.

Although economists have engaged in many controversies on the causes of depression, most of them agree on at least one fundamental proposition: that the cause of depression is always to be found in some disproportion which has developed during prosperity. One element, or group of elements, in the economy has been growing too fast in relation to some other element or elements. Perhaps the growth of profits was too fast in relation to the growth of wages, and therefore the capacity to produce has outstripped the capacity to consume. Perhaps savings have outstripped investments. Perhaps investment projects have been initiated at a rate faster than capital was formed. Each of these explanations has its supporters as well as its opponents. We are not now concerned with their respective merits but with their one common characteristic. They all trace the origin of depression to a process which during the preceding prosperity has made something too large relative to something else. By almost com-

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