lunes, 5 de noviembre de 2012

La sociedad opulenta

De nuevo uso el blog para reconocer mis pecados. En este caso, no haberme leído el libro de Galbraith hasta este año, imperdonable por mi parte. Pero nunca es tarde si la dicha es buena, y en este caso lo es. Aunque con un estilo algo recargado para mi gusto, el libro está repleto de sentido común y buen análisis. Y además, es más que sorprendentemente actual. Me parece increíble lo poco que se ha citado a Galbraith en esta crisis, cuando escribe párrafos como este:
An increase in consumer debt is all but implicit in the process by which wants are now synthesized. …The relation of emulation to indebtedness is even more direct...The great increase in consumer indebtedness in our time has been widely viewed as reflecting some original or unique change in popular attitudes or behavior. People have changed their view of debt. The process of persuading people to incur debt, and the arrangements for them to do so, are as much a part of modern production as the making of the goods and the nurturing of the wants.
Y, para los que siguen este blog, también es de interés lo que tiene que decir respecto a alguno de nuestros temas habituales:

Sobre innovación:
Men and women…are the source of technological change. Without them investment in material capital will still bring growth, but it will be the inefficient growth that is combined with technological stagnation. 
We come now to the nub of the problem. Investment in material capital is distributed to the various claimant industries by decision within the private sector…This allocation system works, it would appear, with tolerable efficiency…But while this flow operates as between different material claimants on investment funds, it operates only with manifest uncertainty and inefficiency as between material and personal capital. Nearly all of the investment in individuals is in the public domain.
Sobre el papel del sector público (relacionado con las externalidades, claro):
It follows that there is a remarkable discrimination between different classes of goods and services in the ease with which they can be financed. For some, and by any abstract test not the least important, debt is greatly encouraged. For others, and not the least important, it is closely controlled and penuriously viewed. Here, as also in pages to come, we see the most singular feature of the affluent society taking form. It is the great and comprehensive contrast between the care and encouragement which it lavishes on the production of private goods and the severe restraint which it imposes on those that must emerge from the public sector. 
Specifically we must find a way to remedy the poverty that afflicts us in public services – those in particular that are unrelated to industrial need or power – and which is in such increasingly bizarre contrast with our affluence in public goods….To create the demand for automobiles, we must contrive elaborate and functionless changes each year and then subject the consumer to ruthless psychological pressures to persuade him of their importance…In the meantime, there are large ready-made needs for schools, hospitals, slum clearance and urban redevelopment, sanitation, parks, playgrounds, police and other pressing public services. Of these needs, almost no one must be persuaded. 

Sobre sostenibilidad:
Were we deeply concerned about survival, we would question the wisdom of these arrangements and we would work relentlessly to persuade as to their danger. But if economic performance is our primary concern – if production qua production is the thing that counts – then survival naturally takes second place. And so it does. Only as we get matters into better perspective will our priorities become more consistent with life itself. 
If such is the nature of our system that we have production only because we first create the wants that require it, we will have few resources to spare. We will be rich but never quite rich enough to spare anything for the poor – including our own.
Sobre regulación de mercados:
The elimination of economic insecurity was pioneered by the business firm in respect of its own operations. The greatest source of insecurity, as noted, lay in competition and the free and unpredictable movement of competitive market prices. From the very beginning of modern capitalist society, businessmen have addressed themselves to the elimination or the mitigation of this source of insecurity. … The development of the modern business enterprise can be understood only as a comprehensive effort to reduce risk. It is not going too far to say that it can be understood in no other terms.

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