"We Need Growth Again": What is This, Who Needs it and Why Must the Economy Always Really Grow?
There is great concern in this country: growth is gone. The state maintains the necessity of a billion dollar government stimulus package so that the economy may start up again and make us happy with positive growth numbers. Its time for the question: what is growth and why is it so important? Advocates of the market economy claim that its special advantage consists in an enormous supply of beautiful and useful goods, and growth is needed for it: but then the current concern makes no sense. If it is really about the provision of a sufficient amount of useful goods – where is the problem? Five per cent less growth corresponds approximately to the economic output of 2006 – and this was considered a good year and nobody talked about a lack of computers, cars, services, etc.
And probably nobody will deny that one could get by very well with the same production as in 2009, if it really was about the supply of goods. But this is obviously a pointless consideration. As everyone knows, the growth about which the whole world now worries so much exists not in the increase of useful goods, but in the increase of the Gross National Product – this is the crucial reference number. In the GNP, it is not items, pounds or calories that are added up, but prices, and this sum, the addition of pure amounts of money, must be increased from year to year. It is not about the goods which can supply humankind, but commodities. And that means – the compulsion to have to pay for commodities precedes any supply; it is not about desire or need, but whether one has money: the capitalist producer wants to anticipate this before he brings out his commodities, and of course a profit must pop out for him. Whether goods are produced depends entirely on whether they can be profitably sold as commodities on the market, and what an entrepreneur produces interests him exclusively under this viewpoint.
This indifference to the material usefulness of a good is impressively shown when the entrepreneur, because a higher profit beckons elsewhere, gives up its production and casts his capital into another sphere. Even a natural disaster or an increase of car accidents is favorable to growth because, for capitalists, these are commercial opportunities: certainly, values are destroyed, but they are replaced with commodities or services, hence sales for capitalists, which they utilize their capital, and the sales allow the Gross National Product to swell.
The capitalists are the agents and representatives of what wealth is in this society: not the accumulation of useful goods, but the money for which these goods are sold – this is the wealth of a capitalist society. All social life – care, desire, need – is subjected to the private power of money and serves its purpose, to make more money from money. The money that the ordinary person has in their pocket, if they have the luck to buy the commodities they need to live, is there for this purpose – then their money is gone and regularly lands hard and fast with those who have produced these commodities. They continue production if their sum of money has increased by the return flow; if not, then they give it up.
- In other words: a capitalist organizes production only for the purpose of increasing his capital; whether and what goods are produced completely depends on whether they perform the service of increasing capital.
- Put yet another way: what was considered above to be an idle thought, that the society could nevertheless be very well served by the productive output of 2006, is for the capitalist an absurdity: his purpose would not be fulfilled by this at all; on the contrary: if his capital does not increase, this is the same for him as the destruction of his capital.
Exactly this happens in the crisis and goes logically with an absurdity of a completely different caliber: here he has produced too many, thus unsalable, commodities, and this for him is the real problem: he has not realized his capital. His capital, which is inserted in it, does not realize itself, thus is also too much. Of course, he does not dream of giving away these goods, he deals with his problem – everyone else would be delighted with free commodities, thus goods – in a different way: he sends the commodities to the dump, takes rather a loss of quality; he lowers the price, something that is already an emergency measure; and this is why he then lowers production or stops it completely. He paralyzes already created wealth and the sources of wealth because they do not prove themselves as sources of money. This means that suddenly there is also too much work, namely in the form of people who are no longer needed for the production of the commodities and therefor lose their livelihood. To come back to the claim by the fans of the market economy: it is not only not true that growth is needed for bringing about the best possible supply of goods; in fact – in the crisis this becomes glaringly clear – this is in direct conflict with this supply.
A second claim spread by the advocates of the market economy is: with growth and only with growth is there “prosperity for all.” The condition for this “prosperity” is a flourishing economy, thus the growing wealth of the capitalists. The fact that “we all” are also dependent on this is thereby certain, and for that very reason one should and also must make it one's own concern and be for it, so that this prosperity works out, that the capitalists carry out their growth. For it, they must find positive conditions. One favorable condition, which the employer's representatives constantly send reminders of and which the state energetically takes care of, certainly quite definitely contradicts “prosperity for all”: the workforce who the entrepreneurs want to use must be profitable, which means: submits to the demands for profit with the corresponding consequences for performance requirements and wage demands: low wages, flexible work times, part time work, lay offs.
Now there is crisis, but for the workforce this only means that all the usual capitalist imperatives now must take hold more than ever – on behalf of overcoming the crisis: again low wages, flexible work times, part time work, layoffs, temporary work and whatever else capitalist impertinences are given. For the benefit of growth, one's own wishes and needs always have to take a back seat. Humility is called for so that the economy makes progress, “prosperity for all” means the same thing as the renunciation of one's own prosperity. Humility is enforced in practice and demanded as a virtue – this is the maxim under which a life of wage labor has to be led:
- If “recovery” comes after the crisis, in no case are wage demands tolerated.
- And if the economy really booms and prices rise across the board, then there is a true barrage from the employers` associations and the economic experts: one price, namely the wage, may not rise in any case, because this would bust the beautiful boom, and the Federal Reserve still contributes the high-class argument of the “wage-price spiral”: if the wage rises with the general rise in prices, the other prices can do nothing else than rise even more – if, as a working person, one wants to be spared rising prices, one must keep one's own price low.
The maxim “wage restraint!” applies in all phases of growth. And in all phases one and the same reason is given for why this is good for the “wage dependent employees”: only this protects jobs! This is an interesting confession: if the “wage dependent employees” can expect something from growth, then it is just this – a job; what the wage brings, what is demanded in work effort and how long such a “job” will last – this is not an issue. “The main thing is work” – the “prosperity” of the wage-laborers consists of this and for this they have to diligently restrain themselves.