Economics in One Lesson校译之21. “Enough to Buy Back the Product” (4-3,4)

第21章 “足以买回产品”



But now let us suppose that the increase in wage rates is accompanied or followed by a sufficient increase in money and credit to allow it to take place without creating serious unemployment. If we assume that the previous relationship between wages and prices was itself a “normal” long-run relationship, then it is altogether probable that a forced increase of, say, 30 percent in wage rates will ultimately lead to an increase in prices of approximately the same percentage.


The belief that the price increase would be substantially less than that rests on two main fallacies. The first is that of looking only at the direct labor costs of a particular firm or industry and assuming these to represent all the labor costs involved. But this is the elementary error of mistaking a part for the whole. Each “industry” represents not only just one section of the productive process considered “horizontally,” but just one section of that process considered “vertically.” Thus the direct labor cost of making automobiles in the automobile factories themselves may be less than a third, say, of the total costs; and this may lead the incautious to conclude that a 30 percent increase in wages would lead to only a 10 percent increase, or less, in automobile prices. But this would be to overlook the indirect wage costs in the raw materials and purchased parts, in transportation charges, in new factories or new machine tools, or in the dealers’ mark-up.


Government estimates show that in the fifteen-year period from 1929 to 1943, inclusive, wages and salaries in the United States averaged 69 percent of the national income. In the five-year period 1956—1960 they also averaged 69 percent of the national income! In the five-year period 1972—1976 wages and salaries averaged 66 percent of national income, and when supplements are added, total compensation of employees averaged 76 percent of national income. These wages and salaries, of course, had to be paid out of the national product. While there would have to be both deductions from these figures and additions to them to provide a fair estimate of “labor’s” income, we can assume on this basis that labor costs cannot be less than about two-thirds of total production costs and may run above three-quarters (depending upon our definition of labor). If we take the lower of these two estimates, and assume also that dollar profit margins would be unchanged, it is clear that an increase of 30 percent in wage costs all around the circle would mean an increase of nearly 20 percent in prices.

政府的计算数字表明,从1929年到1943年这15年间,美国的薪资收入平均占国民收入的69%。从1956年到1960年这5间,这个比重同样是69%。从1972年到1976年的5年里,工资收入平均占国民收入的66%,再加上各种补贴,员工的总收入平均占国民收入的76%。{书后注:关于当前工资和薪金收入占国民收入的百分比,参看书后注第8条。}这些工资薪金当然必须从国民生产(national product)去支付。现在我们要据此合理地估计“劳工”的收入,虽然需要在这些数字上进行增减,我们还是可以大概假设:人工成本应该不低于总生产成本的2/3,甚至超过3/4(取决于我们对于劳动力的定义)。我们取其中较低的估计值,并且同样假设以货币衡量的边际利润是不变的,那么工资成本全面升高30%, 价格显然会上涨20%左右。

But such a change would mean that the dollar profit margin representing the income of investors, managers and the self-employed, would then have, say, only 84 percent as much purchasing power as it had before. The long-run effect of this would be to cause a diminution of investment and new enterprise compared with what it would otherwise have been, and consequent transfers of men from the lower ranks of the self-employed to the higher ranks of wage-earners, until the previous relationships had been approximately restored. But this is only another way of saying that a 30 percent increase in wages under the conditions assumed would eventually mean also a 30 percent increase in prices.

然而,这样的一个变化意味着,代表投资人、职业经理人和个体工商户的人们收入的货币边际利润只相当于,嗯,从前购买力的84%(译者注:利润的相对购买力在假设以货币衡量不变的情况下相对下降为原业的83.33%,即1元钱的产品,现在要卖1.2元,而利润仍然是33分钱,33分钱占1.2元的份额只有原业33分钱占1元钱份额的83.33%)。这种状况的长 期影响,是导致投资和创业达不到应有的水准,准备创业的人会放弃创业:与其自己当小老板,不如去当高级打工仔;这种影响会延续到工资与物价的关系恢复到以 前的正常水平。以上我们只不过在用另一种表达方式,说明在那些假设的状况下,工资上升30%,最后也会使价格上涨30%。

It does not necessarily follow that wage-earners would make no relative gains. They would make a relative gain, and other elements in the population would suffer a relative loss, during the period of transition. But it is improbable that this relative gain would mean an absolute gain. For the kind of change in the relationship of costs to prices contemplated here could hardly take place without bringing about unemployment and unbalanced, interrupted or reduced production. So that while labor might get a wider slice of a smaller pie, during this period of transition and adjustment to a new equilibrium, it may be doubted whether this would be greater in absolute size (and it might easily be less) than the previous narrower slice of a larger pie.

这并不等于说工薪族得不到相对利益。在过渡期间,他们会相对获利,其他人则会承受相对损失。但是这种相对获利不可能使工薪族总体上绝对获利。因为我们讨论的这种成本相对于价格的关系发生变化后,会引起失业,会引起生产出现失衡、停产或减产。因此,在经济调整到新均衡状态的过渡期间,劳工虽然可能从更 小的蛋糕分得更大的一块,但是和以前从更大的蛋糕分得更小的一块相比,现在的一块是不是比以前那一块大(多半要小一些)就值得怀疑了。


This brings us to the general meaning and effect of economic equilibrium. Equilibrium wages and prices are the wages and prices that equalize supply and demand. If, either through government or private coercion, an attempt is made to lift prices above their equilibrium level, demand is reduced and therefore production is reduced. If an attempt is made to push prices below their equilibrium level, the consequent reduction or wiping out of profits will mean a falling off of supply or less production. Therefore any attempt to force prices either above or below their equilibrium levels (which are the levels toward which a free market constantly tends to bring them) will act to reduce the volume of employment and production below what it would otherwise have been.


To return, then, to the doctrine that labor must get “enough to buy back the product.” The national product, it should be obvious, is neither created nor bought by manufacturing labor alone. It is bought by everyone—by white collar workers, professional men, farmers, employers, big and little, by investors, grocers, butchers, owners of small drugstores and gasoline stations—by everybody, in short, who contributes toward making the product.


As to the prices, wages and profits that should determine the distribution of that product, the best prices are not the highest prices, but the prices that encourage the largest volume of production and the largest volume of sales. The best wage rates for labor are not the highest wage rates, but the wage rates that permit full production, full employment and the largest sustained payrolls. The best profits, from the standpoint not only of industry but of labor, are not the lowest profits, but the profits that encourage most people to become employers or to provide more employment than before.


If we try to run the economy for the benefit of a single group or class, we shall injure or destroy all groups, including the members of the very class for whose benefit we have been trying to run it. We must run the economy for everybody.


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