Home > economics, General Comment, political-economy, politics, shorter work time > Is serious left criticism of government’s share of GDP possible? (2)

Is serious left criticism of government’s share of GDP possible? (2)

Continued from here:

Let play a game:

You’re the President, and it is 1914.

Yes, you’re President Woodrow Wilson.

But, you’re also the CEO of America Inc., company which produces what we will call widgets, but, which really are the total material social product of the American economy in 1914 – in proportion as needed, food, clothing, housing, all capital goods, factories etc.

  1. To produce these widgets, requires a work force of industrial workers.
  2. Now, once those widgets produced, they have to transported to the place where they will be used, and offered for sale. They also have to run – power of varying sorts. And, all of this requires a work force of service workers to perform
  3. America Inc. also has to be managed, and this too requires so many people doing jobs which are not directly providing any of the things listed above – medical care, funds for retirement of those no longer able to work, what Michael T. Ware euphemistically calls “protection,” etc.

Three different sectors of the economy, with their associated work forces each of which perform functions which evolve over time, and which may change as a proportion of the work force over time as the needs of the customer – the America Inc. work force – evolve.

Yep, American Inc. is the company, the work force, and the customer. Aside from imports and exports, America Inc. produces and consumes everything.

Since the industrial work force produces everything, the needs of the services work force, and the government work force are completely supplied by their output – food, clothing, housing, etc.

The industrial work force, therefore, cannot simply stop working when they have met their own needs for goods; they must work longer to supply the goods needed by the service work force, and the government work force, in return for which, they receive such things as medical care, education for themselves and their kids, and, “protection.”

Now, because work in 1914 is mostly a pain, and not at all pleasant, by and large, nobody wants to work to a minute longer than they need. The faster all the work is done, the sooner everyone can go home and enjoy that new fangled device the phonograph.

Unfortunately, they still would have to wait patiently for another 70 years before Public Enemy released their first CD, “Yo! Bum Rush The Show,” in 1987.

The important thing here, however, is not the absence of decent rap music in 1914, but that after all the work of producing things like food, clothing, shelter, and phonographs, we had to work additionally to provide, education, medical care, etc. (however rudimentary these were at this time) and, the “protection” services of government.

As in any company, the cost of provisioning for such things for America Inc. appears as an additional cost borne by the customer at the time of purchase.

Which is to say this: if Mattel were to suddenly decide to provide enough for its China employees to afford food, clothing, and housing, and, were also to provide healthcare coverage, education benefits for those employees and their children, AND, patrol the Persian Gulf with its own aircraft carriers to ensure its control of global oil supplies, the cost of all these additional expenditures would simply be added to the cost of all the made in China products it offers for sale at Wal*Mart.

Not that we would be complaining, here. Anytime children can get medical attention for common ailments, preventative care, and, boo-boos, we are just happy with the world!

Okay, we might object to being forced to pay for those aircraft carriers, even though they make it possible for us to drive our Lincoln Navigators with the windows down and the air conditioner running full open, as we talk on our cell phones ordering pizza, because because we are so busy working we can’t get home in time to fix dinner for our kids, who we neglect not out of some fucking spite that they are sucking away our youth, but because if we don’t kill ourselves generating two incomes in our families, our precious little ones will end up in a FUCKING HOMELESS SHELTER!

Sorry…lost it there for a minute.

What I meant to say was this: If Mattel were to provide the above, the cost of those things would end up in the prices of the products it sells.

And, the same is true of America Inc.: All the costs associated with services and government expenditures end up in the prices of the goods we purchase.

In 1914, that additional cost was about 35 percent of the prices of goods.

By 2002, that cost was about 85 percent of the prices of goods.

You read me right: Eighty-five percent of the prices of goods in this economy reflects the cost of government and other services.

That may or may not be of interest to you, but this will be: that eighty-five percent in excess costs, represents 34 hours a week of additional time you spend at work neglecting your kids, and stuck in a car commuting with your ear pressed against a cell phone ordering pizza for dinner.

Have I got your attention yet?

Is it clear now that the cost of government is something with which to be concerned?

Is the possibility of a shorter work week enough of left concern to be a necessary component of the debate over the size of government?

To be continued…

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