Planning and Paying for Full Employment

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

DEVELOPMENTAL SCHEMES, PLANNING, AND FULL EMPLOYMENT (ECONOMIC THEORY OF TVA)

By EDUARD HEIMANN


I

THERE is a growing discrepancy between the theoretical schemes for a planned economy and the popularly imagined ideas, however vague, of the good society. The issue is similar to the one which has increasingly and disastrously estranged public opinion from academic economics; it is part of that larger development. In both cases a picture of the economic system in equilibrium--full employment equilibrium--is presented as the objective to be achieved. In strict scholarly language it appears as a system of equations, the last dollar invested or the last man hired in any one industry contributing as much to the community as they would have done in any other industry. Thus no shift of factors of production between one industry and another can improve the condition; it is an optimum.

And it is brought about both in the free market economy and the planned systems by the incentive of gain; of private gain in a private enterprise economy as well as in a controlled economy where the plants are in private management, of gain for the individual socialized plant in a socialist system in which plants are in individual management, and of a book gain in case it is a government agency which is in charge of directing factors of production to the place of highest utility. As long as the agent in charge of a unit of labor or capital can make a gain by investing it rather than keeping it idle, or by shifting it from one place of use to another, he will do so; and as these gains are the signals of relative shortage, so the elimination of them indicates equilibrium, an even distribution of resources, between the industries, and between use and non-use. All this is unobjectionable as far as it goes; it is pure economic logic.

The theory of employment and re-employment policy fits perfectly into this pattern of thinking. This theory consists of preserving or

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