The Debate About Growth

By Klaus Blessing

[This article published in: Freitag 34, August 2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.freitag.de/2005/34/05340403.php.]

Albrecht Mueller unmasks “reform lies” with the help of facts. His argument that growth is the key reality in the struggle against unemployment can in no way be confirmed by the actual economic development in Germany. Albrecht Mueller argues in a fiscally one-sided way and omits the decisive economic reality, the increase of labor productivity. In Germany, apart from a few exceptional years, labor productivity has grown faster than the gross domestic product. In other words, the work volumes necessary for the manufacture of the aggregate social product have fallen absolutely, not only relatively. Despite the economic expansion through reunification, we produce many times more goods and services today with absolutely less labor than in 1969.

As everybody knows, the decisive cause is an enormous productivity increase. This is a socially necessary and desirable development that increases the national wealth. However the capitalist social system is unable to allow all people to share in this positive development. That the productivity thrusts did not lead to an even higher unemployment is mainly because a clear reduction of working hours and employees was won. No one will oppose Albrecht Mueller when he argues there is still much to do. Hundreds of thousands of jobs could arise in health care, education and social services. However even if the current needs can be better satisfied, this does not change the fact that productivity in the economy altogether will continue advancing in the future and jobs will be destroyed.

Therefore the question must be allowed: Why should the economy continue growing in Germany, one of the richest countries of the world with a per capita gross domestic product of $23,000 when the majority of humanity must live with $1,000? Developed industrial countries do not need global economic growth but a better distribution of economic success and a palette of products and services corresponding to the real needs of people.

The dependence of tax revenues and social spending on economic growth is a homemade fairy-tale. In times of the greatest layoffs from work, uncoupling taxes and social security contributions from labor and consumption and connecting them to consumption of resources and outputs is necessary for survival. Unemployment should be combated mainly through further reduction of working hours and strengthening purchasing power in the lower classes of the population. With his stress on constant economic growth, Albrecht Mueller attains exactly what Daniela Dahn criticizes. He “awakens hopes among the stricken unemployed” that he “can never even remotely fulfill.”


The Debate about Growth

By Friedrich Kiss

[This article published in: Freitag 34, August 2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.freitag.de/2005/34/05340402.php]

Growth or redistribution – these two key ideas divide the spirits. Are more investments and more consumption necessary for new jobs and participation chances? Is growth the indispensable foundation for a more just society? Daniela Dahn said No to these questions and urged a radical reform of working life in her article “Working Three Hours a Day is Enough” (Freitag 30, 7/29/2005). Albrecht Mueller describes renunciation on a growth strategy as a great illusion (see Freitag 32, 8/12/2005). We continue this discussion with a twofold protest against Albrecht Mueller.

Albrecht Mueller does not understand the system criticism of Daniela Dahn. He is annoyed that she unmasks faith in economic growth as superstition. He is upset that she doesn’t take seriously the anti-cyclical economic policy advocated by him – raising domestic demand and creating jobs. He sees Daniela Dahn – and growth critics generally – de facto in alliance with those to whom unemployment is used to force down wages and quash employee rights. His article bubbles over with anger.

Dear Albrecht Mueller, perhaps the anti-cyclical course would really help; perhaps thousands upon thousands of jobs could be created for some time. The dissent concerns the mental cage. Daniela Dahn does not want to live in an ideological prison in which the democratically elected representative is only a slave while the masters of money have the real power. All authority comes from the people, our constitution says. All authority comes from the economic powers, we learn in the capitalist mental cage. Daniela Dahn wants human dignity and participation in the social life for everyone.

To fight unemployment only with initiatives for the economy and then to keep one’s fingers crossed in the hope that the capitalist dragon will accept the little people again whom it had thrown out of the production process is not enough for her. She wants the elected government to control the economy in the interest of a human social life together and not vice versa. Albrecht Mueller wants to stimulate he economy in the interest of the unemployed. But the economy does what it wants in its profit interest. Thus we must give the right stimulus to the profit interest so it soars and something falls down for the unemployed, for some or possibly many, Albrecht Mueller says. He is a learned economist. Somehow we all think this way, more or less. We say democracy and accept the superior force of money as a self-evident reality. We say human dignity and equal rights for everyone and then accept like a higher authority that the poor become ever poorer and the rich ever richer.

Caught in the mental cage of capitalist ideology, we lose democracy before it begins. The absurd formula of perpetual growth is one of the building blocks of this ideology. We should believe this formula unconditionally and thus feed the economy through more and more consumption. In this way, we help the masters of the liberal economy make profits. Their profits then help us and the entire world consume more. This helps them make even more profit. Albrecht Mueller wants to know what is so bad about this. What is bad is that we sacrifice the humane idea of social democracy to this chimera.