There's a big issue in this country: there's no growth; the economy is shrinking. The state maintains a billion dollar government stimulus package is necessary to stimulate the economy and make us all happy with positive growth numbers. So its a good time to ask: what is growth and why is it so important? And, above all, who is this “we” who, according to Obama, so urgently needs new growth?
The market economy's fans claim that its special advantage consists in an enormous supply of wonderful and useful goods, and growth is needed for this; but if that's the case, the current concern makes no sense. If it's really about the provision of a sufficient amount of useful goods – where's the problem? Five per cent less growth corresponds approximately to the economic output of 2006 – and this was considered a good year and nobody talked then about a lack of computers, cars, services, etc. And nobody would deny that one could get by very well with the same productive output as 2006, if it is really about the supply of goods. But this is obviously an idle thought.
As everyone knows, the growth which the whole world is now so worried about consists not of an increase of useful goods, but an increase of the Gross National Product – this is the all-important number. The GNP doesn't add up items, pounds or calories, but prices; and this sum, the addition of pure amounts of money, must be increased from year to year. It is not about the goods which can supply humankind, but commodities. And that means: the compulsion to have to pay for commodities precedes any supply; it is not about desire or need, but whether one has money: the capitalist producer anticipates this before he brings out his commodities, and of course a profit must pop out for him. Whether goods are produced depends entirely on whether they can be profitably sold as commodities on the market, and what an entrepreneur produces interests him solely under this viewpoint.
This indifference to the material usefulness of a good is striking when an entrepreneur gives up its production and invests his capital in another sphere because a higher profit rate beckons there. Even a natural disaster or an increase in car accidents is good for growth because these are commercial opportunities for capitalists: certainly, values are destroyed, but they are replaced with commodities or services, hence sales for capitalists, which expand their capital, and these sales allow the Gross National Product to swell.
The capitalists are the agents and representatives of what wealth is in this society: not the accumulation of useful goods, but the money for which these goods are sold – this is the wealth of a capitalist society. All social life – cares, desires, needs – is subordinated to the private power of money and serves its purpose: to make more money from money. The money that the ordinary person has in his pocket, if it is enough to buy the commodities he needs to live, exists for this purpose – after he spends it, it is gone and invariably ends up in the hands of those who produced these commodities. They continue production if their money has increased with the return flow; if not, they give it up.
— In other words: a capitalist organizes production only for the purpose of increasing his capital; whether and what goods are produced completely depends on whether they perform the service of increasing capital.
— Put another way: what was previously considered an idle thought – that the society could be very well served by the productive output of 2006 – is an absurdity for the capitalist: his purpose would not be fulfilled by this at all; on the contrary: if his capital does not increase, this is the same for him as the destruction of his capital.
This is precisely what happens in the crisis and logically goes with a completely different absurdity: here he has produced too much, ie unsalable, commodities, and for him this is the real problem: he has not realized his capital. His invested capital is not recovered, so it is also too much. Of course, he wouldn't dream of giving away these goods; he deals in a different way with his problem – everyone else would be delighted with free commodities, thus goods – : he dumps the commodities, taking rather a loss of quality; he lowers the price, something that is already an emergency measure; and this is why he then lowers production or stops it completely. He paralyzes already created wealth and the sources of wealth because they do not prove themselves as sources of money. This means that suddenly there is also too much work, namely in the form of people who are no longer needed for the production of the commodities and who therefore lose their livelihood. To go back to the claim by the market economy fans: it is not only not true that growth is needed to bring about the best possible supply of goods; in fact – this becomes glaringly clear in the crisis – this is in direct conflict with supply.
A second claim spread by the advocates of the market economy is: with growth, and only with growth, is there “prosperity for all.” The condition for this “prosperity” is thriving business, thus the growing wealth of the capitalists. It is thereby certain that “we all” are also dependent on this, and for this very reason one should, and also must, make it one's own concern and be all for it, so that this prosperity works out, so that the capitalists' growth takes place. And for this, they must find positive conditions. One favorable condition, which the employer's representatives constantly remind everybody of and which the state actively accepts, quite definitely contradicts “prosperity for all”: the workers who the entrepreneurs want to use must be profitable; meaning, must submit to the demands of profit with the corresponding consequences for performance requirements and wage demands: low wages, flexible work times, part-time work, lay offs.
Now there is a crisis, but for the workers this only means that all the usual capitalist imperatives must take hold more than ever – so that the crisis is overcome: again low wages, flexible work times, part time work, layoffs, temporary work and whatever other capitalist impertinences are demanded. For the benefit of growth, one's own wishes and needs always have to take a back seat. Humility is called for so that the economy improves; “prosperity for all” means the same thing as renouncing one's own prosperity. Humility is enforced in practice and demanded as a virtue – this is the maxim under which the life of a wage laborer has to be led:
— If “recovery” comes after the crisis, in no case will wage demands be tolerated.
— And if the economy really booms and prices rise across the board, then there will be a true barrage from the employers` associations and economic experts: one price, namely the wage, may not rise in any case, because this would bust the beautiful boom, and the Federal Reserve will still contribute high-minded arguments about the “wage-price spiral”: if wages rise along with the general rise in prices, the other prices can do nothing else than rise even more – so if one wants to be spared rising prices as a working person, one must keep one's own price low.
The maxim “wage restraint!” applies in all phases of growth. And in all phases, one and the same reason is given why this is good for the “wage dependent employees”: only this protects jobs! This is interesting: if the “wage dependent employees” can expect something from growth, then it is just this – a job; what the wage brings, what is demanded in work effort and how long such a “job” will last – this is not an issue. “The main thing is work” – the “prosperity” of the wage-laborers consists of this, and for this they have to diligently restrain themselves.
To summarize: in all phases of the course of business, workers are addressed as people whose highest good fortune is to “have” a job, and they must be prepared in this dismal figure of a dependent variable of the calculations of those who really have the jobs, because they are the ones who establish them.