Economics in One Lesson校译之13. “Parity” Prices

“Parity” Prices

第13章 “等位”价格

SPECIAL INTERESTS, as the history of tariffs reminds us, can think of the most ingenious reasons why they should be the objects of special solicitude. Their spokesmen present a plan in their favor; and it seems at first so absurd that disinterested writers do not trouble to expose it. But the special interests keep on insisting on the scheme. Its enactment would make so much difference to their own immediate welfare that they can afford to hire trained economists and public relations experts to propagate it in their behalf. The public hears the argument so often repeated, and accompanied by such a wealth of imposing statistics, charts, curves and pie-slices, that it is soon taken in. When at last disinterested writers recognize that the danger of the scheme’s enactment is real, they are usually too late. They cannot in a few weeks acquaint themselves with the subject as thoroughly as the hired brains who have been devoting their full time to it for years; they are accused of being uninformed, and they have the air of men who presume to dispute axioms.


This general history will do as a history of the idea of “parity” prices for agricultural products. I forget the first day when it made its appearance in a legislative bill; but with the advent of the New Deal in 1933 it had become a definitely established principle, enacted into law; and as year succeeded year, and its absurd corollaries made themselves manifest, they were enacted too.

农产品“等位价格”的历史,正是照上述进程写就的。我记不起等位价格第一次作为立法议案提出具体是哪一天,但是1933年新政实施时,它已经成为既定的原则,并作为法律颁布;而且,年复一年,等位价格的衍生论调也被陆续颁订为法律。{校注:等位价格(Parity Price),是美国农业经济中的名词,是美国农民出售某些农产品的价格。政府调整农产品的价格,使它具有同过去一定时期(基期,1909~1914年)的农产品价格相同的购买力。在每个市场年度开始时,如果市场分配额得到了三分之二的合格农民投票同意,美国农业部就宣布将维持的基本农产品价格水平,若生产量超过了按这些价格所能卖出的数量,价格便由无偿贷款或与农民签订的购买协议来维持。以农民所得的价格指数除以他们所付的价格指数所得出的称为等位价格率。}

The argument for parity prices ran roughly like this. Agriculture is the most basic and important of all industries. It must be preserved at all costs. Moreover, the prosperity of everybody else depends upon the prosperity of the farmer. If he does not have the purchasing power to buy the products of industry, industry languishes. This was the cause of the 1929 collapse, or at least of our failure to recover from it. For the prices of farm products dropped violently, while the prices of industrial products dropped very little. The result was that the farmer could not buy industrial products; the city workers were laid off and could not buy farm products, and the depression spread in ever-widening vicious circles. There was only one cure, and it was simple. Bring back the prices of the farmer’s products to a parity with the prices of the things the farmer buys. This parity existed in the period from 1909 to 1914, when farmers were prosperous. That price relationship must be restored and preserved perpetually.


It would take too long, and carry us too far from our main point, to examine every absurdity concealed in this plausible statement. There is no sound reason for taking the particular price relationships that prevailed in a particular year or period and regarding them as sacrosanct, or even as necessarily more “normal” than those of any other period. Even if they were “normal” at the time, what reason is there to suppose that these same relationships should be preserved more than sixty years later in spite of the enormous changes in the conditions of production and demand that have taken place in the meantime? The period of 1909 to 1914, as the basis of parity, was not selected at random. In terms of relative prices it was one of the most favorable periods to agriculture in our entire history.


If there had been any sincerity or logic in the idea, it would have been universally extended. If the price relationships between agricultural and industrial products that prevailed from August 1909 to July 1914 ought to be preserved perpetually, why not preserve perpetually the price relationship of every commodity at that time to every other?


When the first edition of this book appeared in 1946, I used the following illustrations of the absurdities to which this would have led:

A Chevrolet six-cylinder touring car cost $2,150 in 1912; an incomparably improved six-cylinder Chevrolet sedan cost $907 in 1942; adjusted for “parity” on the same basis as farm products, however, it would have cost $3,270 in 1942. A pound of aluminum from 1909 to 1913 inclusive averaged 22.5 cents; its price early in 1946 was 14 cents; but at “parity” it would then have cost, instead, 41 cents.

在1912年,一辆雪佛兰(Chevrolet)六缸房车的生产成本为2 150美元;而1942年,改进型六缸雪佛兰房车的成本是907美元,若参照当时农产品等位价格来调整,售价应该是3 270美元。1909年到1913年(含首尾两年),金属铝的平均价格是每磅22.5美分;1946年初是14美分,若按照“等位”价 格,则应该是41美分。 

It would be both difficult and debatable to try to bring these two particular comparisons down to date by adjusting not only for the serious inflation (consumer prices have more than tripled) between 1946 and 1978, but also for the qualitative differences in automobiles in the two periods. But this difficulty merely emphasizes the impracticability of the proposal.

时至今日,要不断以新的数据更新上面所作的两种比较,这种努力是既困难又颇值得争议的事情。因为,我们除了必须考虑1946年到1978年间严重的 通货膨胀(消费物价指数上涨了三倍多),还必须考虑前后两个时期汽车品质上的差异。这种困难,显然表明了等位价格的提议行不通。

After making, in the 1946 edition, the comparison quoted above, I went on to point out that the same type of increase in productivity had in part led also to the lower prices of farm products. “In the five year period 1955 through 1959 an average of 428 pounds of cotton was raised per acre in the United States as compared with an average of 260 pounds in the five-year period 1939 to 1943 and an average of only 188 pounds in the five year ‘base’ period 1909 to 1913. When these comparisons are brought down to date, they show that the increase in farm productivity has continued, though at a reduced rate. In the five-year period 1968 to 1972, an average of 467 pounds of cotton was raised per acre. Similarly, in the five years 1968 to 1972 an average of 84 bushels of corn per acre was raised compared with an average of only 26.1 bushels in 1935 to 1939, and an average of 31.3 bushels of wheat was raised per acre compared with an average of only 13.2 in the earlier period.



Costs of production have been substantially lowered for farm products by better application of chemical fertilizer, improved strains of seed and increasing mechanization. In the 1946 edition I made the following quotation:*


“On some large farms which have been completely mechanized and are operated along mass production lines, it requires only one-third to one-fifth the amount of labor to produce the same yields as it did a few years back.”


Yet all this is ignored by the apostles of “parity” prices.


The refusal to universalize the principle is not the only evidence that it is not a public-spirited economic plan but merely a device for subsidizing a special interest. Another evidence is that when agricultural prices go above parity, or are forced there by government policies, there is no demand on the part of the farm bloc in Congress that such prices be brought down to parity, or that the subsidy be to that extent repaid. It is a rule that works only one way.



Dismissing all these considerations, let us return to the central fallacy that specially concerns us here. This is the argument that if the farmer gets higher prices for his products he can buy more goods from industry and so make industry prosperous and bring full employment. It does not matter to this argument, of course, whether or not the farmer gets specifically so-called parity prices.


Everything, however, depends on how these higher prices are brought about. If they are the result of a general revival, if they follow from increased prosperity of business, increased industrial production and increased purchasing power of city workers (not brought about by inflation), then they can indeed mean increased prosperity and production not only for the farmers, but for everyone. But what we are discussing is a rise in farm prices brought about by government intervention. This can be done in several ways. The higher price can be forced by mere edict, which is the least workable method. It can be brought about by the government’s standing ready to buy all the farm products offered to it at the parity price. It can be brought about by the government’s lending to farmers enough money on their crops to enable them to hold the crops off the market until parity or a higher price is realized. It can be brought about by the government’s enforcing restrictions in the size of crops. It can be brought about, as it often is in practice, by a combination of these methods. For the moment we shall simply assume that, by whatever method, it is in any case brought about.


What is the result? The farmers get higher prices for their crops. In spite of reduced production, say, their “purchasing power is thereby increased. They are for the time being more prosperous themselves, and they buy more of the products of industry. All this is what is seen by those who look merely at the immediate consequences of policies to the groups directly involved.


But there is another consequence, no less inevitable. Suppose the wheat which would otherwise sell at $2.50 a bushel is pushed up by this policy to $3. 50. The farmer gets $1 a bushel more for wheat. But the city worker, by precisely the same change, pays $1 a bushel more for wheat in an increased price of bread. The same thing is true of any other farm product. If the farmer then has $1 more purchasing power to buy industrial products, the city worker has precisely that much less purchasing power to buy industrial products. On net balance industry in general has gained nothing. It loses in city sales precisely as much as it gains in rural sales.


There is of course a change in the incidence of these sales. No doubt the agricultural-implement makers and the mail-order houses do a better business. But the city department stores do a smaller business.


The matter, however, does not end there. The policy results not merely in no net gain, but in a net loss. For it does not mean merely a transfer of purchasing power to the farmer from city consumers, or from the general taxpayer, or from both. It also frequently means a forced cut in the production of farm commodities to bring up the price. This means a destruction of wealth. It means that there is less food to be consumed. How this destruction of wealth is brought about will depend upon the particular method pursued to bring prices up. It may mean the actual physical destruction of what has already been produced, as in the burning of coffee in Brazil. It may mean a forced restriction of acreage, as in the American AAA plan, or its revival. We shall examine the effect of some of these methods when we come to the broader discussion of government commodity controls.


But here it may be pointed out that when the farmer reduces the production of wheat to get parity, he may indeed get a higher price for each bushel, but he produces and sells fewer bushels. The result is that his income does not go up in proportion to his prices. Even some of the advocates of parity prices recognize this, and use it as an argument to go on to insist upon parity income for farmers. But this can only be achieved by a subsidy at the direct expense of taxpayers. To help the farmers, in other words, it merely reduces the purchasing power of city workers and other groups still more.



There is one argument for parity prices that should be dealt with before we leave the subject. It is put forward by some of the more sophisticated defenders. ‘Yes,” they will freely admit, “the economic arguments for parity prices are unsound. Such prices are a special privilege. They are an imposition on the consumer. But isn’t the tariff an imposition on the farmer? Doesn’t he have to pay higher prices on industrial products because of it? It would do no good to place a compensating tariff on farm products because America is a net exporter of farm products. Now the parity-price system is the farmer’s equivalent of the tariff. It is the only fair way to even things up.


The farmers that asked for parity prices did have a legitimate complaint. The protective tariff injured them more than they knew. By reducing industrial imports it also reduced American farm exports, because it prevented foreign nations from getting the dollar exchange needed for taking our agricultural products. And it provoked retaliatory tariffs in other countries. Nonetheless, the argument we have just quoted will not stand examination. It is wrong even in its implied statement of the facts. There is no general tariff on all “industrial” products or on all nonfarm products. There are scores of domestic industries or of exporting industries that have no tariff protection. If the city worker has to pay a higher price for woolen blankets or overcoats because of a tariff, is he “compensated” by having to pay a higher price also for cotton clothing and for foodstuffs? Or is he merely being robbed twice?


Let us even it all out, say some, by giving equal “protection” to everybody. But that is insoluble and impossible. Even if we assume that the problem could be solved technically—a tariff for A, an industrialist subject to foreign competition; a subsidy for B, an industrialist who exports his product—it would be impossible to protect or to subsidize everybody “fairly” or equally. We should have to give everyone the same percentage (or should it be the same dollar amount?) of tariff protection or subsidy, and we could never be sure when we were duplicating payments to some groups or leaving gaps with others.


But suppose we could solve this fantastic problem? What would be the point? Who gains when everyone equally subsidizes everyone else? What is the profit when everyone loses in added taxes precisely what he gains by his subsidy or his protection? We should merely have added an army of needless bureaucrats to carry out the program, with all of them lost to production.


We could solve the matter simply, on the other hand, by ending both the parity-price system and the protective-tariff system. Meanwhile they do not, in combination, even out anything. The joint system means merely that Farmer A and Industrialist B both profit at the expense of Forgotten Man C.


So the alleged benefits of still another scheme evaporate as soon as we trace not only its immediate effects on a special group but its long-run effects on everyone.


Economics in One Lesson校译之12. The Drive for Exports

The Drive for Exports

第12章 出口狂热

EXCEEDED ONLY BY the pathological dread of imports that affects all nations is a pathological yearning for exports. Logically, it is true, no thing could be more inconsistent. In the long run imports and exports must equal each other (considering both in the broadest sense, which includes such “invisible” terms as tourist expenditures, ocean freight charges and all other items in the “balance of payments”). It is exports that pay for imports, and vice versa. The greater exports we have, the greater imports we must have, if we ever expect to get paid. The smaller imports we have, the smaller exports we can have. Without imports we can have no exports, for foreigners will have no funds with which to buy our goods. When we decide to cut down our imports, we are in effect deciding also to cut down our exports. When we decide to increase our exports, we are in effect deciding also to increase our imports.


The reason for this is elementary. An American exporter sells his goods to a British importer and is paid in British pounds sterling. But he cannot use British pounds to pay the wages of his workers, to buy his wife’s clothes or to buy theater tickets. For all these purposes he needs American dollars. Therefore his British pounds are of no use to him unless he either uses them himself to buy British goods or sells them (through his bank or other agent) to some American importer who wishes to use them to buy British goods. Whichever he does, the transaction cannot be completed until the American exports have been paid for by an equal amount of imports.


The same situation would exist if the transaction had been conducted in terms of American dollars instead of British pounds. The British importer could not pay the American exporter in dollars unless some previous British exporter had built up a credit in dollars here as a result of some previous sale to us. Foreign exchange, in short, is a clearing transaction in which, in America, the dollar debts of foreigners are canceled against their dollar credits. In England, the pound sterling debts of foreigners are canceled against their sterling credits.


There is no reason to go into the technical details of all this, which can be found in any good textbook on foreign exchange. But it should be pointed out that there is nothing inherently mysterious about it (in spite of the mystery in which it is so often wrapped), and that it does not differ essentially from what happens in domestic trade. Each of us must also sell something, even if for most of us it is our own services rather than goods, in order to get the purchasing power to buy. Domestic trade is also conducted in the main by crossing off checks and other claims against each other through clearing houses.


It is true that under the international gold standard discrepancies in balances of imports and exports were sometimes settled by shipments of gold. But they could just as well have been settled by shipments of cotton, steel, whisky, perfume, or any other commodity. The chief difference is that when a gold standard exists the demand for gold is almost indefinitely expansible (partly because it is thought of and accepted as a residual international “money” rather than as just another commodity), and that nations do not put artificial obstacles in the way of receiving gold as they do in the way of receiving almost everything else. (On the other hand, of late years they have taken to putting more obstacles in the way of exporting gold than in the way of exporting anything else; but that is another story.)

在国际金本位制度下,进出口贸易差额有时确实可以靠交运黄金的来结算,但也可以用交运棉花、钢铁、威士忌、香料,或其他普通商品来结算。这里主要的 区别在于,当金本位制存在的时候,黄金的需求几乎可以无限扩张(部分原因是黄金被公认为是终极国际“货币”,而不仅仅是另一种普通商品),各国不象限制其它任何商品进口那样限制黄金的输入。(另一方面,近年来,它们限制黄金的输出,采取的措施甚于限制其它任何商品出口,那却是另一码事。)

Now the same people who can be clearheaded and sensible when the subject is one of domestic trade can be incredibly emotional and muddleheaded when it becomes one of foreign trade. In the latter field they can seriously advocate or acquiesce in principles which they would think it insane to apply in domestic business. A typical example is the belief that the government should make huge loans to foreign countries for the sake of increasing our exports, regardless of whether or not these loans are likely to be repaid.


American citizens, of course, should be allowed to lend their own funds abroad at their own risk. The government should put no arbitrary barriers in the way of private lending to countries with which we are at peace. As individuals we should be willing to give generously, for humane reasons alone, to people who are in great distress or in danger of starving. But we ought always to know clearly what we are doing. It is not wise to bestow charity on foreign people under the impression that one is making a hardheaded business transaction purely for one’s own selfish purposes. That could only lead to misunderstandings and bad relations later.

不消说,美国的公民们拿自己的钱去冒险,放贷到国外的,政府不应该设置任何障碍,阻止民间贷款给我们的友邦。作为个人,仅仅出于人道的考虑,我们就应该慷慨解囊,资助处于严重贫困和饥饿威胁之下的人们。不过,我们必须自始至终明了我们这种行为的性质。我们对于国外民族予以慈善救济时,却给人以正 在做着一笔精明的纯粹是基于自己商业利益的交易的印象,那就太不明智了。这只会造成以后的误解和恶劣关系。

Yet among the arguments put forward in favor of huge foreign lending one fallacy is always sure to occupy a prominent place. It runs like this. Even if half (or all) the loans we make to foreign countries turn sour and are not repaid, this nation will still be better off for having made them, because they will give an enormous impetus to our exports.


It should be immediately obvious that if the loans we make to foreign countries to enable them to buy our goods are not repaid, then we are giving the goods away. A nation cannot grow rich by giving goods away. It can only make itself poorer.


No one doubts this proposition when it is applied privately. If an automobile company lends a man $5,000 to buy a car priced at that amount, and the loan is not repaid, the automobile company is not better off because it has “sold” the car. It has simply lost the amount that it cost to make the car. If the car cost $4,000 to make, and only half the loan is repaid, then the company has lost $4,000 minus $2,500, or a net amount of $1,500 It has not made up in trade what it lost in bad loans.3

把这种说法用在私营企业身上,没人质疑其正确性。如果一家汽车公司贷款5,000美元给一个人买等价的车子,而这个买家最后没有偿清贷款,那么这家汽车公司不可能因为“售出”这辆车子而增加收益。它损失的是生产这辆车的所有成本。如果这辆车的生产成本是4,000美元,而买家只还一半的贷款,那么这家汽车公司的净损失是4,000美元减去2,500美元,也就是1,500美元。坏账造成的损失,并没有从它的销售业绩中赚回来。{书后注3:黑兹利特用的5 000美元这个数字并不确切。现在一辆新车的平均价格要20 000美元左右。(戴维·亨德森(David R. Henderson)的〈同通胀娱乐与博弈〉(Fun and Games With Inflation),刊于《财富》1996年3月18日,第36页)}

If this proposition is so simple when applied to a private company, why do apparently intelligent people get confused about it when applied to a nation? The reason is that the transaction must then be traced mentally through a few more stages. One group may indeed make gains—while the rest of us take the losses.


It is true, for example, that persons engaged exclusively or chiefly in export business might gain on net balance as a result of bad loans made abroad. The national loss on the transaction would be certain, but it might be distributed in ways difficult to follow. The private lenders would take their losses directly. The losses from government lending would ultimately be paid out of increased taxes imposed on everybody. But there would also be many indirect losses brought about by the effect on the economy of these direct losses.


In the long run business and employment in America would be hurt, not helped, by foreign loans that were not repaid. For every extra dollar that foreign buyers had with which to buy American goods, domestic buyers would ultimately have one dollar less. Businesses that depend on domestic trade would therefore be hurt in the long run as much as export businesses would be helped. Even many concerns that did an export business would be hurt on net balance. American automobile companies, for example, sold about 15 percent of their output in the foreign market in 1975. It would not profit them to sell 20 percent of their output abroad as a result of bad foreign loans if they thereby lost, say, io percent of their American sales as the result of added taxes taken from American buyers to make up for the unpaid foreign loans.


None of this means, I repeat, that it is unwise for private investors to make loans abroad, but simply that we cannot get rich by making bad ones.


For the same reasons that it is stupid to give a false stimulation to export trade by making bad loans or outright gifts to foreign countries, it is stupid to give a false stimulation to export trade through export subsidies. An export subsidy is a clear case of giving the foreigner something for nothing, by selling him goods for less than it costs us to make them. It is another case of trying to get rich by giving things away.


In the face of all this, the United States government has been engaged for years in a “foreign economic aid” program the greater part of which has consisted in outright government-to-government gifts of many billions of dollars. Here we are interested in just one aspect of that program—the naive belief of many of its sponsors that this is a clever or even a necessary method of “increasing our exports” and so maintaining prosperity and employment. It is still another form of the delusion that a nation can get rich by giving things away. What conceals the truth from many supporters of the program is that what is directly given away is not the exports themselves but the money with which to buy them. It is possible, therefore, for individual exporters to profit on net balance from the national loss — if their individual profit from the exports is greater than their share of taxes to pay for the program.


Here we have simply one more example of the error of looking only at the immediate effect of a policy on some special group, and of not having the patience or intelligence to trace the long-run effects of the policy on everyone.


If we do trace these long-run effects on everyone, we come to an additional conclusion—the exact opposite of the doctrine that has dominated the thinking of most government officials for centuries. This is, as John Stuart Mill so clearly pointed out, that the real gain of foreign trade to any country lies not in its exports but in its imports. Its consumers are either able to get from abroad commodities at a lower price than they could obtain them for at home, or commodities that they could not get from domestic producers at all. Outstanding examples in the United States are coffee and tea. Collectively considered, the real reason a country needs exports is to pay for its imports.


Economics in One Lesson校译之11. Who’s “Protected” by Tariffs? (6-4,5,6)

第11章 关税“保护”了哪些人?



It is important to notice that the new tariff on sweaters would not raise American wages. To be sure, it would enable Americans to work in the sweater industry at approximately the average level of American wages (for workers of their skill), instead of having to compete in that industry at the British level of wages. But there would be no increase of American wages in general as a result of the duty; for as we have seen, there would be no net increase in the number of jobs provided, no net increase in the demand for goods, and no increase in labor productivity. Labor productivity would, in fact, be reduced as a result of the tariff.


And this brings us to the real effect of a tariff wall. It is not merely that all its visible gains are offset by less obvious but no less real losses. It results, in fact, in a net loss to the country. For contrary to centuries of interested propaganda and disinterested confusion, the tariff reduces the American level of wages.


Let us observe more clearly how it does this. We have seen that the added amount which consumers pay for a tariff-protected article leaves them just that much less with which to buy all other articles. There is here no net gain to industry as a whole. But as a result of the artificial barrier erected against foreign goods, American labor, capital and land are deflected from what they can do more efficiently to what they do less efficiently. Therefore, as a result of the tariff wall the average productivity of American labor and capital is reduced.


If we look at it now from the consumer’s point of view, we find that he can buy less with his money. Because he has to pay more for sweaters and other protected goods, he can buy less of everything else. The general purchasing power of his income has therefore been reduced. Whether the net effect of the tariff is to lower money wages or to raise money prices will depend upon the monetary policies that are followed. But what is clear is that the tariff—though it may increase wages above what they would have been in the protected industries—must on net balance, when all occupations are considered, reduce real wages—-reduce them, that is to say, compared with what they otherwise would have been.


Only minds corrupted by generations of misleading propaganda can regard this conclusion as paradoxical. What other result could we expect from a policy of deliberately using our resources of capital and manpower in less efficient ways than we know how to use them? What other result could we expect from deliberately erecting artificial obstacles to trade and transportation?


For the erection of tariff walls has the same effect as the erection of real walls. It is significant that the protectionists habitually use the language of warfare. They talk of “repelling an invasion” of foreign products. And the means they suggest in the fiscal field are like those of the battlefield. The tariff barriers that are put up to repel this invasion are like the tank traps, trenches and barbed-wire entanglements created to repel or slow down attempted invasion by a foreign army.


And just as the foreign army is compelled to employ more expensive means to surmount those obstacles — bigger tanks, mine detectors, engineer corps to cut wires, ford streams and build bridges—so more expensive and efficient transportation means must be developed to surmount tariff obstacles. On the one hand, we try to reduce the cost of transportation between England and America, or Canada and the United States, by developing faster and more efficient planes and ships, better roads and bridges, better locomotives and motor trucks. On the other hand, we offset this investment in efficient transportation by a tariff that makes it commercially even more difficult to transport goods than it was before. We make it a dollar cheaper to ship the sweaters, and then increase the tariff by two dollars to prevent the sweaters from being shipped. By reducing the freight that can be profitably carried, we reduce the value of the investment in transport efficiency.


The tariff has been described as a means of benefiting the producer at the expense of the consumer. In a sense this is correct. Those who favor it think only of the interests of the producers immediately benefited by the particular duties involved. They forget the interests of the consumers who are immediately injured by being forced to pay these duties. But it is wrong to think of the tariff issue as if it represented a conflict between the interests of producers as a unit against those of consumers as a unit. It is true that the tariff hurts all consumers as such. It is not true that it benefits all producers as such. On the contrary, as we have just seen, it helps the protected producers at the expense of all other American producers, and particularly of those who have a comparatively large potential export market.


We can perhaps make this last point clearer by an exaggerated example. Suppose we make our tariff wall so high that it becomes absolutely prohibitive, and no imports come in from the outside world at all. Suppose, as a result of this, that the price of sweaters in America goes up only $5. Then American consumers, because they have to pay $5 more for a sweater, will spend on the average five cents less in each of a hundred other American industries. (The figures are chosen merely to illustrate a principle: there will, of course, be no such symmetrical distribution of the loss; moreover, the sweater industry itself will doubtless be hurt because of protection of still other industries. But these complications may be put aside for the moment.)


Now because foreign industries will find their market in America totally cut off, they will get no dollar exchange, and therefore they will be unable to buy any American goods at all. As a result of this, American industries will suffer in direct proportion to the percentage of their sales previously made abroad. Those that will be most injured, in the first instance, will be such industries as raw cotton producers, copper producers, makers of sewing machines, agricultural machinery, typewriters, commercial airplanes, and so on.


A higher tariff wall, which, however, is not prohibitive, will produce the same kind of results as this, but merely to a smaller degree.


The effect of a tariff, therefore, is to change the structure of American production. It changes the number of occupations, the kind of occupations, and the relative size of one industry as compared with another. It makes the industries in which we are comparatively inefficient larger, and the industries in which we are comparatively efficient smaller. Its net effect, therefore, is to reduce American efficiency, as well as to reduce efficiency in the countries with which we would otherwise have traded more largely.


In the long run, notwithstanding the mountains of argument pro and con, a tariff is irrelevant to the question of employment. (True, sudden changes in the tariff, either upward or downward, can create temporary unemployment, as they force corresponding changes in the structure of production. Such sudden changes can even cause a depression.) But a tariff is not irrelevant to the question of wages. In the long run it always reduces real wages, because it reduces efficiency, production and wealth.


Thus all the chief tariff fallacies stem from the central fallacy with which this book is concerned. They are the result of looking only at the immediate effects of a single tariff rate on one group of producers, and forgetting the long-run effects both on consumers as a whole and on all other producers.


(I hear some reader asking: “Why not solve this by giving tariff protection to all producers?” But the fallacy here is that this cannot help producers uniformly, and cannot help at all domestic producers who already “outsell” foreign producers: these efficient producers must necessarily suffer from the diversion of purchasing power brought about by the tariff.)



On the subject of the tariff we must keep in mind one final precaution. It is the same precaution that we found necessary in examining the effects of machinery. It is useless to deny that a tariff does benefit—or at least can benefit—special interests. True, it benefits them at the expense of eveiyone else. But it does benefit them. If one industry alone could get protection, while its owners and workers enjoyed the benefits of free trade in everything else they bought, that industry would benefit, even on net balance. As an attempt is made to extend the tariff blessings, however, even people in the protected industries, both as producers and consum ers, begin to suffer from other people’s protection, and may finally be worse off even on net balance than if neither they nor anybody else had protection.


But we should not deny, as enthusiastic free traders have so often done, the possibility of these tariff benefits to special groups. We should not pretend, for example, that a reduction of the tariff would help everybody and hurt nobody. It is true that its reduction would help the country on net balance. But somebody would be hurt. Groups previously enjoying high protection would be hurt. That in fact is one reason why it is not good to bring such protected interests into existence in the first place. But clarity and candor of thinking compel us to see and acknowledge that some industries are right when they say that a removal of the tariff on their product would throw them out of business and throw their workers (at least temporarily) out of jobs. And if their workers have developed specialized skills, they may even suffer permanently, or until they have at long last learnt equal skills. In tracing the effects oftariffs, as in tracing the effects of machinery, we should endeavor to see all the chief effects, in both the short run and the long run, on all groups.


As a postscript to this chapter I should add that its argument is not directed against all tariffs, including duties collected mainly for revenue, or to keep alive industries needed for war; nor is it directed against all arguments for tariffs. It is merely directed against the fallacy that a tariff on net balance “provides employment,” “raises wages,” or “protects the American standard of living.” It does none of these things; and so far as wages and the standard of living are concerned, it does the precise opposite. But an examination of duties imposed for other purposes would carry us beyond our present subject.


Nor need we here examine the effect of import quotas, exchange controls, bilateralism and other means of reducing, diverting or preventing international trade. Such devices have, in general, the same effects as high or prohibitive tariffs, and often worse effects. They present more complicated issues, but their net results can be traced through the same kind of reasoning that we have just applied to tariff barriers.


Economics in One Lesson校译之11. Who’s “Protected” by Tariffs? (6-1,2,3)

Who’s “Protected” by Tariffs?

第11章 关税“保护”了哪些人?
A MERE RECITAL of the economic policies of governments all over the world is calculated to cause any serious student of economics to throw up his hands in despair. What possible point can there be, he is likely to ask, in discussing refinements and advances in economic theory, when popular thought and the actual policies of governments, certainly in everything connected with international relations, have not yet caught up with Adam Smith? For present-day tariff and trade policies are not only as bad as those in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but incomparably worse. The real reasons for those tariffs and other trade barriers are the same, and the pretended reasons are also the same.


Since The Wealth of Nations appeared more than two centuries ago, the case for free trade has been stated thousands of times, but perhaps never with more direct simplicity and force than it was stated in that volume. In general Smith rested his case on one fundamental proposition: “In every country it always is and must be the interest of the great body of the people to buy whatever they want of those who sell it cheapest.” “The proposition is so very manifest,” Smith continued, “that it seems ridiculous to take any pains to prove it; nor could it ever have been called in question, had not the interested sophistry of merchants and manufacturers confounded the common-sense of mankind.”


From another point of view, free trade was considered as one aspect of the specialization of labor:


It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family, never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy.

The tailor does not attempt to make his own shoes, but buys them of the shoemaker. The shoemaker does not attempt to make his own clothes, but employs a tailor. The farmer attempts to make neither the one nor the other, but employs those different artificers. All of them find it for their interest to employ their whole industry in a way in which they have some advantage over their neighbors, and to purchase with a part of its produce, or what is the same thing, with the price of a part of it, whatever else they have occasion for. What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.


But whatever led people to suppose that what was prudence in the conduct of every private family could be
folly in that of a great kingdom? It was a whole network of fallacies,
out of which mankind has still been unable to cut its way. And the
chief of them was the central fallacy with which this book is
concerned. It was that of considering merely the immediate effects of a
tariff on special groups, and neglecting to consider its long run
effects on the whole community.

An American manufacturer of woolen sweaters goes to Congress or to the State Department and tells the committee or officials concerned that it would be a national disaster for them to remove or reduce the tariff on British sweaters. He now sells his sweaters for $30 each, but English manufacturers could sell their sweaters of the same quality for $25. A duty of $5, therefore, is needed to keep him in business. He is not thinking of himself, of course, but of the thousand men and women he employs, and of the people to whom their spending in turn gives employment. Throw them out of work, and you create unemployment and a fall in purchasing power, which would spread in ever-widening circles. And if he can prove that he really would be forced out of business if the tariff were removed or reduced, his argument against that action is regarded by Congress as conclusive.


But the fallacy comes from looking merely at this manufacturer and his employees, or merely at the American sweater industry. It comes from noticing only the results that are immediately seen, and neglecting the results that are not seen because they are prevented from coming into existence.


The lobbyists for tariff protection are continually putting forward arguments that are not factually correct. But let us assume that the facts in this case are precisely as the sweater manufacturer has stated them. Let us assume that a tariff of $5 a sweater is necessary for him to stay in business and provide employment at sweater-making for his workers.


We have deliberately chosen the most unfavorable example of any for the removal of a tariff. We have not taken an argument for the imposition of a new tariff in order to bring a new industry into existence, but an argument for the retention of a tariff that has already brought an industry into existence, and cannot be repealed without hurting somebody.


The tariff is repealed; the manufacturer goes out of business; a thousand workers are laid off; the particular tradesmen whom they patronized are hurt. This is the immediate result that is seen. But there are also results which, while much more difficult to trace, are no less immediate and no less real. For now sweaters that formerly cost retail $30 apiece can be bought for $25. Consumers can now buy the same quality of sweater for less money, or a much better one for the same money. If they buy the same quality of sweater, they not only get the sweater, but they have $5 left over, which they would not have had under the previous conditions, to buy something else. With the $25 that they pay for the imported sweater they help employment—as the American manufacturer no doubt predicted — in the sweater industry in England. With the $5 left over they help employment in any number of other industries in the United States.


But the results do not end there. By buying English sweaters they furnish the English with dollars to buy American goods here. This, in fact (if I may here disregard such complications as fluctuating exchange rates, loans, credits, etc.) is the only way in which the British can eventually make use of these dollars. Because we have permitted the British to sell more to us, they are now able to buy more from tis. They are, in fact, eventually forced to buy more from us if their dollar balances are not to remain perpetually unused. So as a result of letting in more British goods, we must export more American goods. And though fewer people are now employed in the American sweater industry, more people are employed—and much more efficiently employed—in, say, the American washing-machine or aircraft-building business. American employment on net balance has not gone down, but American and British production on net balance has gone up. Labor in each country is more fully employed in doing just those things that it does best, instead of being forced to do things that it does inefficiently or badly. Consumers in both countries are better off. They are able to buy what they want where they can get it cheapest. American consumers are better provided with sweaters, and British consumers are better provided with washing machines and aircraft.



Now let us look at the matter the other way round, and see the effect of imposing a tariff in the first place. Suppose that there had been no tariff on foreign knit goods, that Americans were accustomed to buying foreign sweaters without duty, and that the argument were then put forward that we could bring a sweater industry into existence by imposing a duty of $5 on sweaters.


There would be nothing logically wrong with this argument so far as it went. The cost of British sweaters to the American consumer might thereby be forced so high that American manufacturers would find it profitable to enter the sweater business. But American consumers would be forced to subsidize this industry. On every American sweater they bought they would be forced in effect to pay a tax of $5 which would be collected from them in a higher price by the new sweater industry.


Americans would be employed in a sweater industry who had not previously been employed in a sweater industry. That much is true. But there would be no net addition to the country’s industry or the country’s employment. Because the American consumer had to pay $5 more for the same quality of sweater he would have just that much less left over to buy anything else. He would have to reduce his expenditures by $5 somewhere else. In order that one industry might grow or come into existence, a hundred other industries would have to shrink. In order that 50,000 persons might be employed in a woolen sweater industry, 50,000 fewer persons would be employed elsewhere.

一些原来并不受雇于羊毛衫产业的美国人现在改入这一行,这当然是事实。但是整个国家的从业人数或就业机会并无任何净增长。由于消费者不得不多花5美元去购买同品质的羊毛衫,可用于购买其他产品的钱就少了5美元。他将不得不因此缩减相应的开支。为了使一个产业发展或生存而开征关税,很多其他产业将不得不萎缩。为了让50 000人能够受雇于羊毛衫产业而开征关税,其他产业的从业人数将不得不因此损失50 000人。

But the new industry would be visible. The number of its employees, the capital invested in it, the market value of its product in terms of dollars, could be easily counted. The neighbors could see the sweater workers going to and from the factory every day. The results would be palpable and direct. But the shrinkage of a hundred other industries, the loss of 50,000 other jobs somewhere else, would not be so easily noticed. it would be impossible for even the cleverest statistician to know precisely what the incidence of the loss of other jobs had been—precisely how many men and women had been laid off from each particular industry, precisely how much business each particular industry had lost—because consumers had to pay more for their sweaters. For a loss spread among all the other productive activities of the country would be comparatively minute for each. It would be impossible for anyone to know precisely how each consumer would have spent his extra $5 if he had been allowed to retain it. The overwhelming majority of the people, therefore, would probably suffer from the illusion that the new industry had cost us nothing.

然而,新产业是容易看得见的。其从业人数、投入的资本、产品市场规模,测评起来都很容易。邻居们每天都能看见羊毛衫厂的工人上下班。这些结果直接并且明显。但是,许多其他产业的萎缩、及其损失的50 000个工作机会,却不是能够很容易被觉察到的。即使是对最聪明的统计专家来讲,要确切地了解因为消费者不得不在羊毛衫上多花一些钱而给其他产业造成的损失——确切地知道有多少男女工人被某一个别的行业所解雇,确切地知道每一个行业所丢掉的生意——也是不可能的。因为损失被分摊到了美国其他所有生产活动中,人们一时很难看出某种生产活动承受损失前后的明显差别。要知道倘使那5美元可以被留下来,每个消费者原本怎么花掉它是不可能的。因此,绝大多数人都可能会罹患此种错觉,以为新产业并没有使他们付出任何代价。


Economics in One Lesson校译之10. The Fetish of Full Employment

The Fetish of Full Employment

第10章 盲目崇拜全面就业

THE ECONOMIC GOAL of any nation, as of any individual, is to get the greatest results with the least effort. The whole economic progress of mankind has consisted in getting more production with the same labor. It is for this reason that men began putting burdens on the backs of mules instead of on their own; that they went on to invent the wheel and the wagon, the railroad and the motor truck. It is for this reason that men used their ingenuity to develop a hundred thousand labor-saving inventions.


All this is so elementary that one would blush to state it if it were not being constantly forgotten by those who coin and circulate the new slogans. Translated into national terms, this first principle means that our real objective is to maximize production. In doing this, full employment—that is, the absence of involuntary idleness—becomes a necessary byproduct. But production is the end, employment merely the means. We cannot continuously have the fullest production without full employment. But we can very easily have full employment without full production.


Primitive tribes are naked, and wretchedly fed and housed, but they do not suffer from unemployment. China and India are incomparably poorer than ourselves, but the main trouble from which they suffer is primitive production methods (which are both a cause and a consequence of a shortage of capital) and not unemployment. Nothing is easier to achieve than full employment, once it is divorced from the goal of full production and taken as an end in itself. Hitler provided full employment with a huge armament program. World War II provided full employment for every nation involved. The slave labor in Germany had full employment. Prisons and chain gangs have full employment. Coercion can always provide full employment.


Yet our legislators do not present Full Production bills in Congress but Full Employment bills. Even committees of businessmen recommend “a President’s Commission on Full Employment,” not on Full Production, or even on Full Employment and Full Production. Everywhere the means is erected into the end, and the end itself is forgotten.


Wages and employment are discussed as if they had no relation to productivity and output. On the assumption that there is only a fixed amount of work to be done, the conclusion is drawn that a thirty-hour week will provide more jobs and will therefore be preferable to a forty-hour week. A hundred make-work practices of labor unions are confusedly tolerated. When a Petrillo threatens to put a radio station out of business unless it employs twice as many musicians as it needs, he is supported by part of the public because he is after all merely trying to create jobs. When we had our WPA, it was considered a mark of genius for the administrators to think of projects that employed the largest number of men in relation to the value of the work performed—in other words, in which labor was least efficient.


It would be far better, if that were the choice—which it isn’t—to have maximum production with part of the population supported in idleness by undisguised relief than to provide “full employment” by so many forms of disguised make-work that production is disorganized. The progress of civilization has meant the reduction of employment, not its increase. It is because we have become increasingly wealthy as a nation that we have been able virtually to eliminate child labor, to remove the necessity of work for many of the aged and to make it unnecessary for millions of women to take jobs. A much smaller proportion of the American population needs to work than that, say, of China or of Russia. The real question is not how many millions of jobs there will be in America ten years from now, but how much shall we produce, and what, in consequence, will be our standard of living? The problem of distribution on which all the stress is being put today, is after all more easily solved the more there is to distribute.


We can clarify our thinking if we put our chief emphasis where it belongs—on policies that will maximize production.


Economics in One Lesson校译之8. Spread-the-Work Schemes

Spread-the-Work Schemes

第8章 摊享工作机会

I HAVE REFERRED to various union make-work and featherbed practices. These practices, and the public toleration of them, spring from the same fundamental fallacy as the fear of machines. This is the belief that a more efficient way of doing a thing destroys jobs, and its necessary corollary that a less efficient way of doing it creates them.


Allied to this fallacy is the belief that there is just a fixed amount of work to be done in the world, and that, if we cannot add to this work by thinking up more cumbersome ways of doing it, at least we can think of devices for spreading it around among as large a number of people as possible.


This error lies behind the minute subdivision of labor upon which unions insist. In the building trades in large cities the subdivision is notorious. Bricklayers are not allowed to use stones for a chimney: that is the special work of stonemasons. An electrician cannot rip out a board to fix a connection and put it back again: that is the special job, no matter how simple it may be, of the carpenters. A plumber will not remove or put back a tile incident to fixing a leak in the shower: that is the job of a tile-setter.


Furious “jurisdictional” strikes are fought among unions for the exclusive right to do certain types of borderline jobs. In a statement prepared by the American railroads for the Attorney-General’s Committee on Administrative Procedure, the roads gave innumerable examples in which the National Railroad Adjustment Board had decided that


each separate operation on the railroad, no matter how minute, such as talking over a telephone or spiking or unspiking a switch, is so far an exclusive property of a particular class of employee that if an employee of another class, in the course of his regular duties, performs such operations he must not only be paid an extra day’s wages for doing so, but at the same time the furloughed or unemployed members of the class held to be entitled to perform the operation must be paid a day’s wages for not having been called upon to perform it.

铁路上的各项独立作业,无论多么微不足道,例如接听铁路专用电话或者扳道,至今都是特定职业雇工的专属权。倘若其他工种的工人,在当班时代 行了这类专属操作的话,那么,干这个活儿的人不但要得到一天额外的工资,而且公司还必须向有权操作的休假待岗的工人支付一天的工 资,因为没有召唤他们来做此项工作。

 It is true that a few persons can profit at the expense of the rest of us from this minute arbitrary subdivision of labor— provided it happens in their case alone. But those who support it as a general practice fail to see that it always raises production costs; that it results on net balance in less work done and in fewer goods produced. The householder who is forced to employ two men to do the work of one has, it is true, given employment to one extra man. But he has just that much less money left over to spend on something that would employ somebody else. Because his bathroom leak has been repaired at double what it should have cost, he decides not to buy the new sweater he wanted. “Labor” is no better off, because a day’s employment of an unneeded tile-setter has meant a day’s disemployment of a sweater knitter or machine handler. The householder, however, is worse off. Instead of having a repaired shower and a sweater, he has the shower and no sweater. And if we count the sweater as part of the national wealth, the country is short one sweater. This symbolizes the net result of the effort to make extra work by arbitrary subdivision of labor.


But there are other schemes for “spreading the work,” often put forward by union spokesmen and legislators. The most frequent of these is the proposal to shorten the working week, usually by law. The belief that it would “spread the work” and “give more jobs” was one of the main reasons behind the inclusion of the penaltyovertime provision in the existing Federal Wage-Hour Law. The previous legislation in the states, forbidding the employment of women or minors for more, say, than forty-eight hours a week, was based on the conviction that longer hours were injurious to health and morale. Some of it was based on the belief that longer hours were harmful to efficiency. But the provision in the federal law, that an employer must pay a worker a 50 percent premium above his regular hourly rate of wages for all hours worked in any week above forty, was not based primarily on the belief that forty-five hours a week, say, was injurious either to health or efficiency. It was inserted partly in the hope of boosting the worker’s weekly income, and partly in the hope that, by discouraging the employer from taking on anyone regularly for more than forty hours a week, it would force him to employ additional workers instead. At the time of writing this, there are many schemes for “averting unemployment” by enacting a thirty-hour week or a four-day week.


What is the actual effect of such plans, whether enforced by individual unions or by legislation? It will clarify the problem if we consider two cases. The first is a reduction in the standard working week from forty hours to thirty without any change in the hourly rate of pay. The second is a reduction in the working week from forty hours to thirty, but with a sufficient increase in hourly wage rates to maintain the same weekly pay for the individual workers already employed.


Let us take the first case. We assume that the working week is cut from forty hours to thirty, with no change in hourly pay. If there is substantial unemployment when this plan is put into effect, the plan will no doubt provide additional jobs. We cannot assume that it will provide sufficient additional jobs, however, to maintain the same payrolls and the same number of man-hours as before, unless we make the unlikely assumptions that in each industry there has been exactly the same percentage of unemployment and that the new men and women employed are no less efficient at their special tasks on the average than those who had already been employed. But suppose we do make these assumptions. Suppose we do assume that the right number of additional workers of each skill is available, and that the new workers do not raise production costs. What will be the result of reducing the working week from forty hours to thirty (without any increase in hourly pay)?


Though more workers will be employed, each will be working fewer hours, and there will, therefore, be no net increase in man-hours. It is unlikely that there will be any significant increase in production. Total payrolls and “purchasing power” will be no larger. All that will have happened, even under the most favorable assumptions (which would seldom be realized) is that the workers previously employed will subsidize, in effect, the workers previously unemployed. For in order that the new workers will individually receive three-fourths as many dollars a week as the old workers used to receive, the old workers will themselves now individually receive only three-fourths as many dollars a week as previously. It is true that the old workers will now work fewer hours; but this purchase of more leisure at a high price is presumably not a decision they have made for its own sake: it is a sacrifice made to provide others with jobs.


The labor union leaders who demand shorter weeks to “spread the work” usually recognize this, and therefore they put the proposal forward in a form in which everyone is supposed to eat his cake and have it too. Reduce the working week from forty hours to thirty, they tell us, to provide more jobs; but compensate for the shorter week by increasing the hourly rate of pay by 33.33 percent. The workers employed, say, were previously getting an average of $226 a week for forty hours work; in order that they may still get $226 for only thirty hours work, the hourly rate of pay must be advanced to an average of more than $7.53.


What would be the consequences of such a plan? The first and most obvious consequence would be to raise costs of production. If we assume that the workers, when previously employed for forty hours, were getting less than the level of production costs, prices and profits made possible, then they could have got the hourly increase without reducing the length of the working week. They could, in other words, have worked the same number of hours and got their total weekly incomes increased by one-third, instead of merely getting, as they are under the new thirty-hour week, the same weekly income as before. But if under the forty-hour week, the workers were already getting as high a wage as the level of production costs and prices made possible (and the very unemployment they are trying to cure may be a sign that they were already getting even more than this), then the increase in production costs as a result of the 33.33 percent increase in hourly wage rates will be much greater than the existing state of prices, production and costs can stand.


The result of the higher wage rate, therefore, will be a much greater unemployment than before. The least efficient firms will be thrown out of business, and the least efficient workers will be thrown out of jobs. Production will be reduced all around the circle. Higher production costs and scarcer supplies will tend to raise prices, so that workers can buy less with the same dollar wages; on the other hand, the increased unemployment will shrink demand and hence tend to lower prices. What ultimately happens to the prices of goods will depend upon what monetary policies are then allowed. But if a policy of monetary inflation is pursued, to enable prices to rise so that the increased hourly wages can be paid, this will merely be a disguised way of reducing real wage rates, so that these will return, in terms of the amount of goods they can purchase, to the same real rate as before. The result would then be the same as if the working week had been reduced without an increase in hourly wage rates. And the results of that have already been discussed.


The spread-the-work schemes, in brief, rest on the same sort of illusion that we have been considering. The people who support such schemes think only of the employment they might provide for particular persons or groups; they do not stop to consider what their whole effect would be on everybody.


The spread-the-work schemes rest also, as we began by pointing out, on the false assumption that there is just a fixed amount of work to be done. There could be no greater fallacy. There is no limit to the amount of work to be done as long as any human need or wish that work could fill remains unsatisfied. In a modern exchange economy, the most work will be done when prices, costs and wages are in the best relations with each other. What these relations are we shall later consider.


Economics in One Lesson校译之7. The Curse of Machinery (4-3,4)


Not all inventions and discoveries, of course, are “labor-saving” machines. Some of them, like precision instruments, like nylon, lucite, plywood and plastics of all kinds, simply improve the quality of products. Others, like the telephone or the airplane, perform operations that direct human labor could not perform at all. Still others bring into existence objects and services, such as X-ray machines, radios, TV sets, air-conditioners and computers, that would otherwise not even exist. But in the foregoing illustration we have taken precisely the kind of machine that has been the special object of modern technophobia.


It is possible, of course, to push too far the argument that machines do not on net balance throw men out of work. It is sometimes argued, for example, that machines create more jobs than would otherwise have existed. Under certain conditions this may be true. They can certainly create enormously more jobs in particular trades. The eighteenth century figures for the textile industries are a case in point. Their modern counterparts are certainly no less striking. In 1910, 140,000 persons were employed in the United States in the newly created automobile industry. In 1920, as the product was improved and its cost reduced, the industry employed 250,000 In 1930, as this product improvement and cost reduction continued, employment in the industry was 380,000. In 1973 it had risen to 941,000. By 1973, 514,000 people were employed in making aircraft and aircraft parts, and 393,000 were engaged in making electronic components. So it has been in one newly created trade after another, as the invention was improved and the cost reduced.2

反过来,那些认为机器总体而言不会让人失业的主张也有可能说过头。例如,有时人们主张,机器能创造更多的工作机会。在某些情况下,这种说法可能符合事实。在某些特定行业中,机器绝对能创造远多于从前的工作机会。18世纪的纺织业便是一个很好的例子。现代的新兴产业与之相比有过之而无不及。1910年,在美国有14万人受雇于新兴的汽车制造业。到1920年,由于产品改进和成本降低,有25万人受雇于这个行业。到1930年,随着产品继续改良,成本继续降低,整个业界的从业人员达到了38万人。1973年,这个数字上升到94.1万。同样在1973年,有51.4万人受雇飞机及其机零部件制造业,39.3万人从事电子元件制造。因此,随着发明的不断进步和成本的降低,在一个接一个的新兴产业中,的确都出现了上述就业增长的情形。{尾注:经济学家迈克尔·考克斯(W. Michael Cox)和理查德·阿尔姆(Richard Alm)在1992年为达拉斯联邦储备银行写了一篇文章,在文中,这两位作者指出工作机会是一个不断创造的过程。经济学家熊彼特第一个提出“创造性破坏”,即科技创新能把劳动力从过时的工作中解放出来,进而创造新的就业机会。考克斯和阿尔姆考查了20世纪就业的迅猛增长的全过程。在这一过程中,1900年美国有2 900万工人,在1991年工人人数已达1.16亿。(考克斯和阿尔姆的〈流失〉(The Churn),达拉斯联邦储备委员会年报,1992年)}

There is also an absolute sense in which machines may be said to have enormously increased the number of jobs. The population of the world today is four times as great as in the middle of the eighteenth century, before the Industrial Revolution had got well under way. Machines may be said to have given birth to this increased population; for without the machines, the world would not have been able to support it. Three out of every four of us, therefore, may be said to owe not only our jobs but our very lives to machines.


Yet it is a misconception to think of the function or result of machines as primarily one of creating jobs. The real result of the machine is to increase production, to raise the standard of living, to increase economic welfare. It is no trick to employ everybody, even (or especially) in the most primitive economy. Full employment—very full employment; long, weary, backbreaking employment—is characteristic of precisely the nations that are most retarded industrially. Where full employment already exists, new machines, inventions and discoveries cannot—until there has been time for an increase in population — bring more employment. They are likely to bring more unemployment (but this time I am speaking of voluntaiy and not involuntary unemployment) because people can now afford to work fewer hours, while children and the overaged no longer need to work.

然而,把机器的主要功用或是成果看作是创造就业却是一种错误的观念。机器的真正成果是增加生产、提高生活水平、增加经济福利。要让人人都有活儿干,即使(或尤其是)在最原始的社会中,也易如反掌。全面就业(full employment)——真正的全面就业,起早摸黑、全年无休、累死累活的就业状态——是工业发展最落后的国家的特色。对于已经达到这种全面就业的地方,新机器、新发明和新发现并没有办法带来更多就业机会,必须要等到人口有所增长才有办法。新机器的确有可能使失业增加(但这里谈的是自愿性失业,而不是非自愿性失业),毕竟,人们如今可以不必工作那么长的时间,孩童和老人也不用再工作。

What machines do, to repeat, is to bring an increase in production and an increase in the standard of living. They may do this in either of two ways. They do it by making goods cheaper for consumers (as in our illustration of the overcoats), or they do it by increasing wages because they increase the productivity of the workers. In other words, they either increase money wages or, by reducing prices, they increase the goods and services that the same money wages will buy. Sometimes they do both. What actually happens will depend in large part upon the monetary policy pursued in a country. But in any case, machines, inventions and discoveries increase real wages.


A warning is necessary before we leave this subject. It was precisely the great merit of the classical economists that they looked for secondary consequences, that they were concerned with the effects of a given economic policy or development in the long run and on the whole community. But it was also their defect that, in taking the long view and the broad view, they sometimes neglected to take also the short view and the narrow view. They were too often inclined to minimize or to forget altogether the immediate effects of developments on special groups. We have seen, for example, that many of the English stocking knitters suffered real tragedies as a result of the introduction of the new stocking frames, one of the earliest inventions of the Industrial Revolution.


But such facts and their modern counterparts have led some writers to the opposite extreme of looking only at the immediate effects on certain groups. Joe Smith is thrown out of a job by the introduction of some new machine. “Keep your eye on Joe Smith,” these writers insist. “Never lose track of Joe Smith.” But what they then proceed to do is to keep their eyes only on Joe Smith, and to forget Tom Jones, who has just got a new job in making the new machine, and Ted Brown, who has just got a job operating one, and Daisy Miller, who can now buy a coat for half what it used to cost her. And because they think only of Joe Smith, they end by advocating reactionary and nonsensical policies.


Yes, we should keep at least one eye on Joe Smith. He has been thrown out of a job by the new machine. Perhaps he can soon get another job, even a better one. But perhaps, also, he has devoted many years of his life to acquiring and improving a special skill for which the market no longer has any use. He has lost this investment in himself, in his old skill, just as his former employer, perhaps, has lost his investment in old machines or processes suddenly rendered obsolete. He was a skilled workman, and paid as a skilled workman. Now he has become overnight an unskilled workman again, and can hope, for the present, only for the wages of an unskilled workman, because the one skill he had is no longer needed. We cannot and must not forget Joe Smith. His is one of the personal tragedies that, as we shall see, are incident to nearly all industrial and economic progress.


To ask precisely what course we should follow with Joe Smith —whether we should let him make his own adjustment, give him separation pay or unemployment compensation, put him on relief, or train him at government expense for a new job—would carry us beyond the point that we are here trying to illustrate. The central lesson is that we should try to see all the main consequences of any economic policy or development—the immediate effects on special groups, and the long-run effects on all groups.


If we have devoted considerable space to this issue, it is because our conclusions regarding the effects of new machinery, inventions and discoveries on employment, production and welfare are crucial. If we are wrong about these, there are few things in economics about which we are likely to be right.


Economics in One Lesson校译之7. The Curse of Machinery (4-2)




But the opposition to labor-saving machinery, even today, is not confined to economic illiterates. As late as 1970, a book appeared by a writer so highly regarded that he has since received the Nobel Prize in economics. His book opposed the introduction of laborsaving machines in the underdeveloped countries on the ground that they “decrease the demand for labor”!* The logical conclusion from this would be that the way to maximize jobs is to make all labor as inefficient and unproductive as possible. It implies that the English Luddite rioters, who in the early nineteenth century destroyed stocking frames, steam-power looms, and shearing machines, were after all doing the right thing.

然而,即便是在今天,反对省力机械的论调仍然并不限于那些经济学盲。直到1970年还出了一本这样的书,其作者受到了高度评价,并荣获了诺贝尔经济学奖。在这本书中,该作者反对在经济欠发达国家使用省力机械,理由是机器会“减少对劳动力的需求”![脚注:冈纳·缪尔达尔(Gunnar Myrdal):《世界贫困的挑战》(The Challenge of World Poverty),(New York: Pantheon Books, 1970), pp. 400-401 处处可见.]按此逻辑得到的的结论就是:要想创造尽可能多的就业机会,就必须让所有劳工尽可能地从事缺乏效率和收益的工作。言下之意,19世纪初捣毁织袜机、蒸汽动力织布机和剪切机的英国卢德暴乱分子们(Luddite)的所作所为,归根到底竟然是对的。

One might pile up mountains of figures to show how wrong were the technophobes of the past. But it would do no good unless we understood clearly why they were wrong. For statistics and history are useless in economics unless accompanied by a basic deductive understanding of the facts—which means in this case an understanding of why the past consequences of the introduction of machinery and other labor-saving devices had to occur. Otherwise the technophobes will assert (as they do in fact assert when you point out to them that the prophecies of their predecessorsturned out to be absurd): “That may have been all very well in the past but today conditions are fundamentally different; and now we simply cannot afford to develop any more labor-saving machines.” Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, indeed, in a syndicated newspaper column of September19, 1945, wrote: “We have reached a point today where labor-saving devices are good only when they do not throw the worker out of his job.”

我们可以用一大堆数字来说明,过去那些恐惧科技进步的人错得有多离谱,但这样做无济于事,除非我们清楚地认识到他们为什么错。因为在经济学中,统计的与历史的东西,如果不与一种对事实作出基本推理的理解相结合的话,它们就是毫无疑义的。就本章分析的情况而言,这种结合意味着要去理解为什么在采用机器和其他的省力装置之后,必然产生那样的结果。要是我们不这样做,那些科技恐惧症患者就会狡辩说:“过去的状况还能忍受,但是今天的状况已经发生了根本性的变化,如今我们根本无法承受开发更多的省力机器。”当有人指出他们的前辈所作的预言被证明是荒谬的时候,他们正是以此来辩解的。1945年9月19日,在某报业集团的专栏中,美国第32任总统夫人埃莉诺·罗斯福(Eleanor Roosevelt)写道:“发展到今天,省力装置只有在不使人失业的情况下,对我们才是有利的。”

If it were indeed true that the introduction of labor-saving machinery is a cause of constantly mounting unemployment and misery, the logical conclusions to be drawn would be revolutionary, not only in the technical field but for our whole concept of civilization. Not only should we have to regard all further technical progress as a calamity; we should have to regard all past technical progress with equal horror. Every day each of us in his own activity is engaged in trying to reduce the effort it requires to accomplish a given result. Each of us is trying to save his own labor, to economize the means required to achieve his ends. Every employer, small as well as large, seeks constantly to gain his results more economically and efficiently— that is, by saving labor. Every intelligent workman tries to cut down the effort necessary to accomplish his assigned job. The most ambitious of us try tirelessly to increase the results we can achieve in a given number of hours. The technophobes, if they were logical and consistent, would have to dismiss all this progress and ingenuity as not only useless but vicious. Why should freight be carried from Chicago to New York by railroad when we could employ enormously more men, for example, to carry it all on their backs?


Theories as false as this are never held with logical consistency, but they do great harm because they are held at all. Let us, therefore, try to see exactly what happens when technical improvements and labor-saving machinery are introduced. The details will vary in each instance, depending upon the particular conditions that prevail in a given industry or period. But we shall assume an example that involves the main possibilities.


Suppose a clothing manufacturer learns of a machine that will make men’s and women s overcoats for half as much labor as previously. He installs the machines and drops half his labor force.


This looks at first glance like a clear loss of employment. But the machine itself required labor to make it; so here, as one offset, are jobs that would not otherwise have existed. The manufacturer, however, would have adopted the machine only if it had either made better suits for half as much labor, or had made the same kind of suits at a smaller cost. If we assume the latter, we cannot assume that the amount of labor to make the machines was as great in terms of payrolls as the amount of labor that the clothing manufacturer hopes to save in the long run by adopting the machine; otherwise there would have been no economy, and he would not have adopted it.


So there is still a net loss of employment to be accounted for. But we should at least keep in mind the real possibility that even the first effect of the introduction of labor-saving machinery may be to increase employment on net balance; because it is usually only in the long run that the clothing manufacturer expects to save money by adopting the machine: it may take several years for the machine to “pay for itself.”


After the machine has produced economies sufficient to offset its cost, the clothing manufacturer has more profits than before. (We shall assume that he merely sells his coats for the same price as his competitors and makes no effort to undersell them.) At this point, it may seem, labor has suffered a net loss of employment, while it is only the manufacturer, the capitalist, who has gained. But it is precisely out of these extra profits that the subsequent social gains must come. The manufacturer must use these extra profits in at least one of three ways, and possibly he will use part of them in all three: (1) he will use the extra profits to expand his operations by buying more machines to make more coats; or (2) he will invest the extra profits in some other industry; or (3) he will spend the extra profits on increasing his own consumption. Whichever of these three courses he takes, he will increase employment.


In other words, the manufacturer, as a result of his economies, has profits that he did not have before. Every dollar of the amount he has saved in direct wages to former coat makers, he now has to pay out in indirect wages to the makers of the new machine, or to the workers in another capital-using industry, or to the makers of a new house or car for himself or for jewelry and furs for his wife. In any case (unless he is a pointless hoarder) he gives indirectly as many jobs as he ceased to give directly.


But the matter does not and cannot rest at this stage. If this enterprising manufacturer effects great economies as compared with his competitors, either he will begin to expand his operations at their expense, or they will start buying the machines too. Again more work will be given to the makers of the machines. But competition and production will then also begin to force down the price of overcoats. There will no longer be as great profits for those who adopt the new machines. The rate of profit of the manufacturers using the new machine will begin to drop, while the manufacturers who have still not adopted the machine may now make no profit at all. The savings, in other words, will begin to be passed along to the buyers of overcoats—to the consumers.


But as overcoats are now cheaper, more people will buy them. This means that, though it takes fewer people to make the same number of overcoats as before, more overcoats are now being made than before. If the demand for overcoats is what economists call “elastic”—that is, if a fall in the price of overcoats causes a larger total amount of money to be spent on overcoats than previously— then more people may be employed even in making overcoats than before the new labor-saving machine was introduced. We have already seen how this actually happened historically with stockings and other textiles.


But the new employment does not depend on the elasticity of demand for the particular product involved. Suppose that, though the price of overcoats was almost cut in half—from a former price, say, of $150 to a new price of $100—not a single additional coat was sold. The result would be that while consumers were as well provided with new overcoats as before, each buyer would now have $50 left over that he would not have had left over before. He will therefore spend this $50 for something else, and so provide increased employment in other lines.


In brief, on net balance machines, technological improvements, automation, economies and efficiency do not throw men out of work.



Economics in One Lesson校译之17. Government Price-Fixing (5-3,4,5)

第17章 政府价格管制



Price-fixing may often appear for a short period to be successful. lt can seem to work well for a while, particularly in wartime, when it is supported by patriotism and a sense of crisis. But the longer it is in effect the more its difficulties increase. When prices are arbitrarily held down by government compulsion, demand is chronically in excess of supply. We have seen that if the government attempts to prevent a shortage of a commodity by reducing also the prices of the labor, raw materials and other factors that go into its cost of production, it creates a shortage of these in turn. But not only will the government, if it pursues this course, find it necessary to extend price control more and more downwards, or “vertically”; it will find it no less necessary to extend price control “horizontally.” If we ration one commodity, and the public cannot get enough of it, though it still has excess purchasing power, it will turn to some substitute. The rationing of each commodity as it grows scarce, in other words, must put more and more pressure on the unrationed commodities that remain. If we assume that the government is successful in its efforts to prevent black markets (or at least prevents them from developing on a sufficient scale to nullify its legal prices), continued price control must drive it to the rationing of more and more commodities. This rationing cannot stop with consumers. In World War II it did not stop with consumers. It was applied first of all, in fact, in the allocation of raw materials to producers.


The natural consequence of a thoroughgoing over-all price control which seeks to perpetuate a given historic price level, in brief, must ultimately be a completely regimented economy. Wages would have to be held down as rigidly as prices. Labor would have to be rationed as ruthlessly as raw materials. The end result would be that the government would not only tell each consumer precisely how much of each commodity he could have; it would tell each manufacturer precisely what quantity of each raw material he could have and what quantity of labor. Competitive bidding for workers could no more be tolerated than competitive bidding for materials. The result would be a petrified totalitarian economy, with every business firm and every worker at the mercy of the government, and with a final abandonment of all the traditional liberties we have known. For as Alexander Hamilton pointed out in the Federalist Papers nearly two centuries ago, “A power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.”

总之,旨在将某种历史价格水平永久化的全面价格管制,其自然结果终必是一种完全专制性的经济。工资必须像物价那样,被强制压低。劳工必须像原材料那样,被强制纳入配给。最后,政府为每一位消费者规定了他能得到的每一种商品的数量,为每一家制造商规定了它能得到原材料的数量、能够雇用的劳工的数量。到那时,厂商竞价购买原材料将不被容许,竞价招揽劳工同样不被容许。结果会形成僵化的极权经济,每家厂商、每个劳工都听任政府支配,而最终,我们将放弃掉曾经拥有的全部传统意义的自由。正如亚历山大·汉密尔顿两个世纪前在《联邦党人文集》(Federalist Papers)一书中所指出的:“控制一个人生计的权力,就是控制一个人意志的权力。”


These are the consequences of what might be described as perfect,” long-continued, and “nonpolitical” price control. As was so amply demonstrated in one country after another, particularly in Europe during and after World War II, some of the more fantastic errors of the bureaucrats were mitigated by the black market. In some countries the black market kept growing at the expense of the legally recognized fixed-price market until the former became, in effect, the market. By nominally keeping the price ceilings, however, the politicians in power tried to show that their hearts, if not their enforcement squads, were in the right place.

这就是所谓“完美的”、长效和“无关政治的”价格控制的后果。 政府管制酿成的一些大错,有一部分被黑市所化解。这个现象在一个又一个国家得到证实,在二战期间以及战后的欧洲尤其如此。在有些国家,黑市的成长壮大是以破坏法定限价市场来实现的,直至前者成为事实上的市场。然而,当权的政客们仍然力图通过维持形同虚设的法定价格来表明,即便其政策实施者们有过失,他们的立意是完全正确的。

Because the black market, however, finally supplanted the legal price-ceiling market, it must not be supposed that no harm was done. The harm was both economic and moral. During the transition period the large, long-established firms, with a heavy capital investment and a great dependence upon the retention of public good-will, are forced to restrict or discontinue production. Their place is taken by fly-by-night concerns with little capital and little accumulated experience in production. These new firms are inefficient compared with those they displace; they turn out inferior and dishonest goods at much higher production costs than the older concerns would have required for continuing to turn out their former goods. A premium is put on dishonesty. The new firms owe their very existence or growth to the fact that they are willing to violate the law; their customers conspire with them; and as a natural consequence demoralization spreads into all business practices.


It is seldom, moreover, that any honest effort is made by the price-fixing authorities merely to preserve the level of prices existing when their efforts began. They declare that their intention is to “hold the line.” Soon, however, under the guise of “correcting inequities” or “social in justices,” they begin a discriminatory price-fixing which gives most to those groups that are politically powerful and least to other groups.


As political power today is most commonly measured by votes, the groups that the authorities most often attempt to favor are workers and farmers. At first it is contended that wages and living costs are not connected; that wages can easily be lifted without lifting prices. When it becomes obvious that wages can be raised only at the expense of profits, the bureaucrats begin to argue that profits were already too high anyway, and that lifting wages and holding prices will still permit a “fair profit.” As there is no such thing as a uniform rate of profit, as profits differ with each concern, the result of this policy is to drive the least profitable concerns out of business altogether, and to discourage or stop the production of certain items. This means unemployment, a shrinkage in production and a decline in living standards.



What lies at the base of the whole effort to fix maximum prices? There is first of all a misunderstanding of what it is that has been causing prices to rise. The real cause is either a scarcity of goods or a surplus of money. Legal price ceilings cannot cure either. In fact, as we have just seen, they merely intensify the shortage of goods. What to do about the surplus of money will be discussed in a later chapter. But one of the errors that lie behind the drive for price-fixing is the chief subject of this book. Just as the endless plans for raising prices of favored commodities are the result of thinking of the interests only of the producers immediately concerned, and forgetting the interests of consumers, so the plans for holding down prices by legal edict are the result of thinking of the short-run interests of people only as consumers and forgetting their interests as producers. And the political support for such policies springs from a similar confusion in the public mind. People do not want to pay more for milk, butter, shoes, furniture, rent, theater tickets or diamonds. Whenever any of these items rises above its previous level the consumer becomes indignant, and feels that he is being rooked.


The only exception is the item he makes himself: here he understands and appreciates the reason for the rise. But he is always likely to regard his own business as in some way an exception. “Now my own business,” he will say, “is peculiar, and the public does not understand it. Labor costs have gone up; raw material prices have gone up; this or that raw material is no longer being imported, and must be made at a higher cost at home. Moreover, the demand for the product has increased, and the business should be allowed to charge the prices necessary to encourage its expansion to supply this demand.” And so on. Everyone as consumer buys a hundred different products; as producer he makes, usually, only one. He can see the inequity in holding down the price of that. And just as each manufacturer wants a higher price for his particular product, so each worker wants a higher wage or salary. Each can see as producer that price control is restricting production in his line. But nearly everyone refuses to generalize this observation, for it means that he will have to pay more for the products of others.


Each one of us, in brief, has a multiple economic personality. Each one of us is producer, taxpayer, consumer. The policies he advocates depend upon the particular aspect under which he thinks of himself at the moment. For he is sometimes Dr. Jekyll and sometimes Mr. Hyde. As a producer he wants inflation (thinking chiefly of his own services or product); as a consumer he wants price ceilings (thinking chiefly of what he has to pay for the products of others). As a consumer he may advocate or acquiesce in subsidies; as a taxpayer he will resent paying them. Each person is likely to think that he can so manage the political forces that he can benefit from a rise for his own product (while his raw material costs are legally held down) and at the same time benefit as a consumer from price control. But the overwhelming majority will be deceiving themselves. For not only must there be at least as much loss as gain from this political manipulation of prices; there must be a great deal more loss than gain, because price-fixing discourages and disrupts employment and production.

简单地说,我们每个人都具备多重经济角色。每个人都是生产者、纳税人,消费者。一个人支持何种政策,取决于他当时从何种身份去为自身利益作考虑。犹如电影《化身博士》(Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde),他有时处于这种身份、有时处于那种身份。作为生产者时,他便希望通货膨胀(这时主要顾及自己提供的服务或产品);作为消费者时,他便希望政府限价(这时主要顾及他不得不掏钱买别人的产品)。作为消费者,他可能拥护或者默许政府实施补贴;而作为纳税人,他会愤慨为此埋单。每个人都很可能认为他能应付各种政治力量,以便能从他自己产出的商品涨价中获利(同时还要他的原材料价格被合法的压低),同时他还可以以消费者的身份受惠于价格管制。但是绝大多数的人都在自欺欺人——利用政治力量操纵价格,注定得不偿失;因为管制价格不可避免地会限制和破坏就业与生产。

Economics in One Lesson校译之17. Government Price-Fixing (5-1,2)

Government Price-Fixing

第17章 政府价格管制
We have seen what some of the effects are of governmental efforts to fix the prices of commodities above the levels to which free markets would otherwise have carried them. Let us now look at some of the results of government attempts to hold the prices of commodities below their natural market levels.

The latter attempt is made in our day by nearly all governments in wartime. We shall not examine here the wisdom of wartime price-fixing. The whole economy, in total war, is necessarily dominated by the State, and the complications that would have to be considered would carry us too far beyond the main question with which this book is concerned.* But wartime price-fixing, wise or not, is in almost all countries continued for at least long periods after the war is over, when the original excuse for starting it has disappeared.

当今各国政府在战时几乎都做过这后一种努力。确实,在战争期间,国民经济全部由国家控制是必然的,我们在这里不会去探究战时管制价格的学问,要去探究就必须考虑战时的复杂状况,这会使我们远离本书所关注的主题。{footnotes: 不过,在这一点上我自己的结论是,尽管在战争期间,政府的优先要求权、分配权或定量配给可能是不可避免的,但管制价格造成的伤害尤为突出。虽然要达到实现最高限价的目的,往往需要结合配给制,但即便就暂时的情况而言,实施配给则不一定要结合最高限价。}不过,无论战时管制价格的做法明智与否,几乎所有的国家在战后很长一段时间内仍在实施价格管制,即使当初启动价格管制的理由已经不复存在。
It is the wartime inflation that mainly causes the pressure for price-fixing. At the time of writing, when practically every country is inflating, though most of them are at peace, price controls are always hinted at, even when they are not imposed. Though they are always economically harmful, if not destructive, they have at least a political advantage from the standpoint of the officeholders.By implication they put the blame for higher prices on the greed and rapacity of businessmen, instead of on the inflationary monetary policies of the officeholders themselves.

Let us first see what happens when the government tries to keep the price of a single commodity, or a small group of commodities, below the price that would be set in a free competitive market.

When the government tries to fix maximum prices for only a few items, it usually chooses certain basic necessities, on the ground that it is most essential that the poor be able to obtain these at a “reasonable” cost. Let us say that the items chosen for this purpose are bread, milk and meat.

The argument for holding down the price of these goods will run something like this: If we leave beef (let us say) to the mercies of the free market, the price will be pushed up by competitive bidding so that only the rich will get it. People will get beef not in proportion to their need, but only in proportion to their purchasing power. If we keep the price down, everyone will get his fair share.

The first thing to be noticed about this argument is that if it is valid the policy adopted is inconsistent and timorous. For if purchasing power rather than need determines the distribution of beef at a market price of $2.25 cents a pound, it would also determine it, though perhaps to a slightly smaller degree, at, say, a legal “ceiling” price of $1.50 cents a pound. The purchasing-power-rather-than-need argument, in fact, holds as long as we charge anything for beef whatever. It would cease to apply only if beef were given away.

But schemes for maximum price-fixing usually begin as efforts to “keep the cost of living from rising.” And so their sponsors unconsciously assume that there is something peculiarly “normal” or sacrosanct about the market price at the moment from which their control starts. That starting or previous price is regarded as “reasonable,” and any price above that as “unreasonable,” regardless of changes in the conditions of production or demand since that starting price was first established.

政府出台限定最高价格的措施时,往往强调是为了“使生活费用不再上涨”。这个说法预设了有个 “正常” 的或神圣不可侵犯的特定价格存在。这个特定价格或以前的低价格,被视为“合理的”,比它高的任何价格都是“不合理的”,而不去管特定价格设定之后,生产或需求状况所发生的变化。


In discussing this subject, there is no point in assuming a price control that would fix prices exactly where a free market would place them in any case. That would be the same as having no price control at all. We must assume that the purchasing power in the hands of the public is greater than the supply of goods available, and that prices are being held down by the government below the levels to which a free market would put them.


Now we cannot hold the price of any commodity below its market level without in time bringing about two consequences. The first is to increase the demand for that commodity. Because the commodity is cheaper, people are both tempted to buy, and can afford to buy, more of it. The second consequence is to reduce the supply of that commodity. Because people buy more, the accumulated supply is more quickly taken from the shelves of merchants. But in addition to this, production of that commodity is discouraged. Profit margins are reduced or wiped out. The marginal producers are driven out of business. Even the most efficient producers may be called upon to turn out their product at a loss. This happened in World War II when slaughter houses were required by the Office of Price Administration to slaughter and process meat for less than the cost to them of cattle on the hoof and the labor of slaughter and processing.


If we did nothing else, therefore, the consequence of fixing a maximum price for a particular commodity would be to bring about a shortage of that commodity. But this is precisely the opposite of what the government regulators originally wanted to do. For it is the very commodities selected for maximum price-fixing that the regulators most want to keep in abundant supply. But when they limit the wages and the profits of those who make these commodities, without also limiting the wages and profits of those who make luxuries or semiluxuries, they discourage the production of the price-controlled necessities while they relatively stimulate the production of less essential goods.


Some of these consequences in time become apparent to the regulators, who then adopt various other devices and controls in an attempt to avert them. Among these devices are rationing, cost-control, subsidies, and universal price-fixing. Let us look at each of these in turn.


When it becomes obvious that a shortage of some commodity is developing as a result of a price fixed below the market, rich consumers are accused of taking “more than their fair share”; or, if it is a raw material that enters into manufacture, individual firms are accused of “hoarding” it. The government then adopts a set of rules concerning who shall have priority in buying that commodity, or to whom and in what quantities it shall be allocated, or how it shall be rationed. If a rationing system is adopted, it means that each consumer can have only a certain maximum supply, no matter how much he is willing to pay for more.


If a rationing system is adopted, in brief, it means that the government adopts a double price system, or a dual currency system, in which each consumer must have a certain number of coupons or “points” in addition to a given amount of ordinary money. In other words, the government tries to do through rationing part of the job that a free market would have done through prices. I say only part of the job, because rationing merely limits the demand without also stimulating the supply, as a higher price would have done.


The government may try to assure supply through extending its control over the costs of production of a commodity. To hold down the retail price of beef, for example, it may fix the wholesale price of beef, the slaughter-house price of beef, the price of live cattle, the price of feed, the wages of farmhands. To hold down the delivered price of milk, it may try to fix the wages of milk truck drivers, the price of containers, the farm price of milk, the price of feedstuffs. To fix the price of bread, it may fix the wages in bakeries, the price of flour, the profits of millers, the price of wheat, and so on.


But as the government extends this price-fixing backwards, it extends at the same time the consequences that originally drove it to this course. Assuming that it has the courage to fix these costs, and is able to enforce its decisions, then it merely, in turn, creates shortages of the various factors — labor, feedstuffs, wheat, or whatever—that enter into the production of the final commodities. Thus the government is driven to controls in ever-widening circles, and the final consequence will be the same as that of universal price-fixing.


The government may try to meet this difficulty through subsidies. It recognizes, for example, that when it keeps the price of milk or butter below the level of the market, or below the relative level at which it fixes other prices, a shortage may result because of lower wages or profit margins for the production of milk or butter as compared with other commodities. Therefore the government attempts to compensate for this by paying a subsidy to the milk and butter producers. Passing over the administrative difficulties involved in this, and assuming that the subsidy is just enough to assure the desired relative production of milk and butter, it is clear that, though the subsidy is paid to producers, those who are really being subsidized are the consumers. For the producers are on net balance getting no more for their milk and butter than if they had been allowed to charge the free market price in the first place; but the consumers are getting their milk and butter at a great deal below the free market price. They are being subsidized to the extent of the difference—that is, by the amount of subsidy paid ostensibly to the producers.


Now unless the subsidized commodity is also rationed, it is those with the most purchasing power that can buy most of it. This means that they are being subsidized more than those with less purchasing power. Who subsidizes the consumers will depend upon the incidence of taxation. But men in their role of taxpayers will be subsidizing themselves in their role of consumers. It becomes a little difficult to trace in this maze precisely who is subsidizing whom. What is forgotten is that subsidies are paid for by someone, and that no method has been discovered by which the community gets something for nothing.