Promoting mass purchasing power

Chris Burford cburford at
Sun Sep 20 01:44:55 PDT 1998

At 12:30 PM 9/19/98 -0400, you wrote:
>if we're going to continue to discuss this topic, I wish people would be
>precise about what we/they mean by "Keynes" and "Keynesian" - the writings
>of JMK himself, the various schools (neo-, post-, New) that have borrowed
>his name, or the popular version of "Keynes" which boils down to deficit
>spending. And if we're talking about the writings of JMK himself, which
>Keynes - the Treatise? the General Theory? the author of the essay on
>national self-sufficiency?

I am aware of your frustration with this confusion, and the detailed work you have done on Keynesianism. "Wall Street" appears to have something like 100 pages drawing on this, not concentrated together entirely but integrated with the analysis. Quite honestly I calculated that I would not be able to get my head around this distinction rapidly, and wanted to participate in the discussion of the global economic system.

So although I was not the one to introduce the K word to this thread, I think it may be best to assume it is being used in a lay way, perhaps, if you like to mean deficit financing plus or minus frills.

The general point however remains. These (often muddled) interventions by individual governments became increasingly unviable over the last 20 years. But what is not discussed centrally is whether that means such an initiative is unviable at *global* level. Politically difficult of course, unless it is the western countries ganging together to print themselves billions of SDR's at the time of the oil price rises in the 70's, but not logically, economically, impossible at a *global* level.

It is true that nowadays the western capitalists are shouting at the Japanese capitalists that they should get their house in order to stimulate the Japanese economy. The latter are supposed to promote purchasing power in this economy, *at the same time* as their stock of capital is supposed to take major hits, be written off, and get set up again in a slimmer form so that the rate of profit rekindles the capitalist virtuous circle.

It looks very difficult for Japan to do this.

But I do suggest in a muddled sort of way that if Clinton survives, he and Blair are the sort of reformist people who will come up with a millenium plan for the global economy that will feature, say, 1000 billion dollars of IMF Special Drawing Rights to be bid against for development projects that will assist the human or natural environment across the world.

I do NOT think that will solve or abolish the contradictions of world capitalist system, but to the extent it mitigates them, it might partially work by a) increasing again the total amount of exchange of goods and services in the global economy, and b) impose an invisible across the board deflation of the value of each individual unit of capital relative to the sum total of global Value. So an inflation tax on a global level.

Such a frankly reformist capitalist solution would be beneficial to working people a) because it would increase the real wealth of the world by reactivating the productive forces, b) more importantly in terms of class power, by making a compromise with the capitalist class to bring it about, it would establish that it is not acceptable to trust the invisible hand of capitalist market forces; the global economy must be brought under control, and ultimately must be subject to democratic criticism and accountability.

This is the thin end of a big wedge. Whether such a reform is revolutionary or reformist lies in the eye of the beholder, and how it is used, and campaigned for.

Chris Burford


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