Keynes despre factorii obiectivi care încurajează consumul

Texte selectate sau scrise de echipa redacţională: Vasile Ernu, Costi Rogozanu, Florin Poenaru.

Pentru a contribui la dezbaterea proiectului ratele la jumătate, publicăm acest scurt fragment din Keynes: John Maynard Keynes The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

Book III The Propensity to Consume

Chapter 8. The Propensity to Consume: I. The Objective Factors


The principal objective factors which influence the propensity to consume appear to be the following: (1) A change in the wage-unit. — Consumption (C) is obviously much more a function of (in some sense) real income than of money-income. In a given state of technique and tastes and of social conditions determining the distribution of income, a man’s real income will rise and fall with the amount of his command over labour-units, i.e. with the amount of his income measured in wage-units; though when the aggregate volume of output changes, his real income will (owing to the operation of decreasing returns) rise less than in proportion to his income measured in wage-units. As a first approximation, therefore, we can reasonably assume that, if the wage-unit changes, the expenditure on consumption corresponding to a given level of employment will, like prices, change in the same proportion; though in some circumstances we may have to make an allowance for the possible reactions on aggregate consumption of the change in the distribution of a given real income between entrepreneurs and rentiers resulting from a change in the wage-unit. Apart from this, we have already allowed for changes in the wage-unit by defining the propensity to consume in terms of income measured in terms of wage-units. (2) A change in the difference between income and net income. We have shown above that the amount of consumption depends on net income rather than on income, since it is, by definition, his net income that a man has primarily in mind when he is deciding his scale of consumption. In a given situation there may be a somewhat stable relationship between the two, in the sense that there will be a function uniquely relating different levels of income to the corresponding levels of net income. If, however, this should not be the case, such part of any change in income as is not reflected in net income must be neglected since it will have no effect on consumption; and, similarly, a change in net income, not reflected in income, must be allowed for. Save in exceptional circumstances, however, I doubt the practical importance of this factor. We will return to a fuller discussion of the effect on

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consumption of the difference between income and net income in the fourth section of this chapter. (3) Windfall changes in capital-values not allowed for in calculating net income. — These are of much more importance in modifying the propensity to consume, since they will bear no stable or regular relationship to the amount of income. The consumption of the wealth-owning class may be extremely susceptible to unforeseen changes in the money-value of its wealth. This should be classified amongst the major factors capable of causing short-period changes in the propensity to consume. (4) Changes in the rate of time-discounting, i.e. in the ratio of exchange between present goods and future goods. — This is not quite the same thing as the rate of interest, since it allows for future changes in the purchasing power of money in so far as these are foreseen. Account has also to be taken of all kinds of risks, such as the prospect of not living to enjoy the future goods or of confiscatory taxation. As an approximation, however, we can identify this with the rate of interest. The influence of this factor on the rate of spending out of a given income is open to a good deal of doubt. For the classical theory of the rate of interest,[1] which was based on the idea that the rate of interest was the factor which brought the supply and demand for savings into equilibrium, it was convenient to suppose that expenditure on consumption is cet. par. negatively sensitive to changes in the rate of interest, so that any rise in the rate of interest would appreciably diminish consumption. It has long been recognised, however, that the total effect of changes in the rate of interest on the readiness to spend on present consumption is complex and uncertain, being dependent on conflicting tendencies, since some of the subjective motives towards saving will be more easily satisfied if the rate of interest rises, whilst others will be weakened. Over a long period substantial changes in the rate of interest probably tend to modify social habits considerably, thus affecting the subjective propensity to spend — though in which direction it would be hard to say, except in the light of actual experience. The usual type of short-period

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fluctuation in the rate of interest is not likely, however, to have much direct influence on spending either way. There are not many people who will alter their way of living because the rate of interest has fallen from 5 to 4 per cent, if their aggregate income is the same as before. Indirectly there may be more effects, though not all in the same direction. Perhaps the most important influence, operating through changes in the rate of interest, on the readiness to spend out of a given income, depends on the effect of these changes on the appreciation or depreciation in the price of securities and other assets. For if a man is enjoying a windfall increment in the value of his capital, it is natural that his motives towards current spending should be strengthened, even though in terms of income his capital is worth no more than before; and weakened if he is suffering capital losses. But this indirect influence we have allowed for already under (3) above. Apart from this, the main conclusion suggested by experience is, I think, that the short-period influence of the rate of interest on individual spending out of a given income is secondary and relatively unimportant, except, perhaps, where unusually large changes are in question. When the rate of interest falls very low indeed, the increase in the ratio between an annuity purchasable for a given sum and the annual interest on that sum may, however, provide an important source of negative saving by encouraging the practice of providing for old age by the purchase of an annuity. The abnormal situation, where the propensity to consume may be sharply affected by the development of extreme uncertainty concerning the future and what it may bring forth, should also, perhaps, be classified under this heading. (5) Changes in fiscal policy. — In so far as the inducement to the individual to save depends on the future return which he expects, it clearly depends not only on the rate of interest but on the fiscal policy of the Government. Income taxes, especially when they discriminate against “unearned” income, taxes on capital-profits, death-duties and the like are as relevant as the rate of interest; whilst the range of possible changes in fiscal policy may be greater, in expectation at least, than for the rate of interest itself. If fiscal policy is used as a deliberate instrument for the more equal distribution of incomes, its effect in increasing the propensity to consume is, of course, all the greater.[2] We must also take account of the effect on the aggregate propensity to consume of Government sinking funds for the discharge of debt paid for out of ordinary taxation. For these represent a species of corporate saving, so that a policy of substantial sinking funds must be regarded in given circumstances as reducing the propensity to consume. It is for this reason that a change-over from a policy of Government borrowing to the opposite policy of providing sinking funds (or vice versa) is capable of causing a severe contraction (or marked expansion) of effective demand. (6) Changes in expectations of the relation between the present and the future level of income. — We must catalogue this factor for the sake of formal completeness. But, whilst it may affect considerably a particular individual’s propensity to consume, it is likely to average out for the community as a whole. Moreover, it is a matter about which there is, as a rule, too much uncertainty for it to exert much influence. We are left therefore, with the conclusion that in a given situation the propensity to consume may be considered a fairly stable function, provided that we have eliminated changes in the wage-unit in terms of money. Windfall changes in capital-values will be capable of changing the propensity to consume, and substantial changes in the rate of interest and in fiscal policy may make some difference; but the other objective factors which might affect it, whilst they must not be overlooked, are not likely to be important in ordinary circumstances. The fact that, given the general economic situation, the expenditure on consumption in terms of the wage-unit depends in the main, on the volume of output and employment is the justification for summing up the other factors in the portmanteau function “propensity to consume”. For whilst the other factors are capable of varying (and this must not be forgotten), the aggregate income measured in terms of the wage-unit is, as a rule, the principal variable upon which the consumption-constituent of the aggregate demand function will depend. Sursa

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