Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Progressives and macroeconomic policy

Macroeconomic Policy: The Elephant in the Room:
International conferences on poverty and the environment come and go. There’s always a big pachyderm in the meeting room. It’s got the words “macroeconomic policy” written on its forehead. Nobody wants to talk about it. ...

Discussing macroeconomic policies raises awareness about the inner workings of the neo-liberal model and its political economy. Suddenly, the relation between cuts in social expenditures and a primary surplus becomes crystal clear. The rapport between controlling inflation and holding back aggregate demand (all too frequently through repressing real wages) turns out to be self-evident. Pretty soon people are talking about how macroeconomic policy is subordinated to the priorities of financial capital.
It's a philosophical error, however, to talk about macroeconomic policy being specifically "subordinated" to the priorities of financial capital. In a finance capitalist system, macroeconomic policy is the priorities of finance capital. You might as well talk about government policy being "subordinated" to the priorities of the elected officials.

In a capitalist system, the democratic and popular components of the formal government can never serve in anything but an advisory capacity to the true capitalist rulers of society, in much the same sense that unless the monarchy is entirely stripped of its coercive power (the power to raise armies and command the police), a parliament serves only as an advisers to the monarch, and can gain real power only temporarily, when the monarchy is intrinsically weak.

Macroeconomic policy will never be the priorities of the people until the people actually own the capital. Until such time, macroeconomic policy will benefit the people only under those circumstances where the benefit of the people happens to coincide with the benefit of the private owners of capital, or when the private owners are temporarily weak or conflicted (as they were in the 1930s). When those benefits conflict, the private owners of capital will prevail: that's what it means to have private ownership of capital.

(via Mark Thoma)

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