The minimum wage, Keynesian fallacies and leftwing malice

Gerard Jackson

It is a fundamental economic law that pricing the services of any product above its market clearing price will create a surplus for that product. It should therefore be a self-evident truth that this economic law applies to labour with equal force. Regardless of what a many people think, labour is not special nor is it bought and sold. What employers actually do is pay rent to labour for the use of its services. How much rent must be paid for those services depends on the supply of labour and the value of its marginal product. The lower the supply (given an unchanged demand) the higher will be the wage, and vice versa.

The demand curve for labour consists of a descending array of marginal productivities. The point at which the wage rate is determined is where we find marginal workers, those it only just pays to hire. It is at this point that minimum wage laws* do their damage. These workers are the first to go when the effective minimum is raised. It follows that what really matters is not the minimum wage per se but the effective minimum rate, the rate that exceeds the market clearing price of labour. Hence it is this rate that causes unemployment. Continue reading The minimum wage, Keynesian fallacies and leftwing malice

Recessions, investment and total spending: an Austrian perspective

Gerard Jackson

I think it’s pretty clear that Keynesians and their votaries in the media have learnt nothing from the last recession. Their absolute faith in the fallacy that consumption drives economies is sufficient proof of that. Time and time again I keep reading that consumer spending is 70 per cent or so of GDP which means, according to them, that if consumer spending falls the economy will slide into recession. Austrian economics has continually pointed out how dangerously wrong this view is.

What really matters is total spending, of which business spending is by far the largest and most important component. The problem is that the commentariat unthinkingly swallowed the fallacy that including spending between stages of production would be a case of double-counting with the result that national income figures seriously underestimate actual spending. Continue reading Recessions, investment and total spending: an Austrian perspective

Austrian economics, economic growth and the Laffer curve

Gerard Jackson

It was 1962 when Jack Kennedy stated that “it is a paradoxical that tax rates are too high and tax revenues too low”. In other words, high taxes were retarding investment and output, thus keeping the American standard of living lower than it would otherwise be. It was this belief that motivated the 1963 tax cuts. The result was a surge in investment. From 1959 to 1963 only 27.8 per cent of what is termed ‘investment’ went to business and 38.5 per cent to real estate. In 1967, thanks to the cuts, the proportion going to business had jumped to 58.6 per cent while the amount going to real estate had dropped to 11.2 per cent and the demand for labour jumped. In addition, revenue from the income tax rose from $48.7 billion in 1964 to $68.7 billion in 1968. (The Kennedy’s tax cuts were enormous and, as a proportion of national income, about twice as large as the Bush cuts).

But from whom did Kennedy obtain his wisdom on the value of tax cuts? Keynesians, that’s who. Prominent among these was Walter Heller who believed that tax cuts could increase tax receipts. As he himself said: Continue reading Austrian economics, economic growth and the Laffer curve

Consumer spending, investment and the trade cycle

Gerard Jackson

This is a general response to a comment posted by Nottrampis. Once I began to write I realised my reply would be better as a post rather than a comment.

No matter what Keynesians argue, investment is not driven by consumer spending. This fallacy is based on a total misunderstanding of the nature of derived demand. (I shall deal with this fact in later posts). Investment is driven by the prospect of profit. In a free market the rate of interest determines the length of investment projects. Consumer spending has nothing to do with it. Continue reading Consumer spending, investment and the trade cycle

Why economic policies promoting consumer spending are bad for an economy

Gerard Jackson

Some readers, still swayed by the current orthodoxy, are a little puzzled by the argument that government policies that bring about increased consumption come at the expense of economic growth (capital accumulation). The classical economists fully understood that economic growth was forgone consumption, meaning that investment, spending on capital goods, can only take place by directing resources away from consumption. It follows that the reverse must be true. Promoting consumption at the expense of savings results in resources being redirected from investment.

Unfortunately, policy-makers, not to mention a huge number of economists, genuinely believe that increasing the demand for consumer goods, by whatever means, will raise profits and thereby raise the demand for more capital goods which in turn would lead to an increased demand for labour. This Alice-in-Wonderland thinking (meaning the Keynesian multiplier) leads to the absurd conclusion that massively raising the spending power of the unemployed would generate enormous growth. Continue reading Why economic policies promoting consumer spending are bad for an economy