Monday, May 23, 2016

David F. Ruccio — Markets, power, and the distribution of income

Joseph Stiglitz usefully explains that there’s more than one theory of the distribution of income. One theory, he writes, focuses on competitive markets (according to which “factors of production” receive their marginal contributions to production, the “just deserts” of capitalism); the other, on power (“including the ability to exercise monopoly control or, in labor markets, to assert authority over workers”).…

The only major problem with Stiglitz’s account is he leaves out a third possibility, an approach that combines a focus on market with power, that is, a class analysis of the distribution of income (which the late Stephen Resnick begins to explain in the lecture above).
According to this class or Marxian theory, markets are absolutely central to capitalism—on both the input side (e.g., when workers sell their labor power to capitalists) and the output side (when capitalists sell the finished goods to realize their value). But so is power: workers are forced to have the freedom to sell their labor to capitalists because it has no use-value for them; and capitalists, who have access to the money to purchase the labor power do so because they can productively consume it in order to appropriate the surplus-value the workers create.…
My only point is to point out there’s a third possibility in the debate over the distribution of income—a theory that combines markets and power and is focused on the role of class in making sense of the grotesque levels of inequality we’re seeing in the United States today.
And, of course, that third approach has policy implications very different from the others—not to force workers to increase their productivity in order to receive higher wages through the labor market or to hope that decreasing market concentration will make the distribution of income more equal, but instead to attack the problem at its source. That would mean changing both markets and power and, thus, eliminating class exploitation.
Occasional Links & Commentary
Markets, power, and the distribution of income
David F. Ruccio | Professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame

No comments: