ABC OF ECONOMICS BY EZRA POUND

Note to the reader: if you go to my main page and look along the right side you will see ABC of Economics. Click on that and you will get Pound’s entire pamphlet from end to beginning. Helvena

The aim of this brochure is to express the fundamentals of economics so simply and clearly that even people of different economic schools and factions will be able to understand each other when they discuss them.

After about forty pages I shall not ‘descend’, but I shall certainly go into, ‘go down int’ repetitions and restatements in the hope of reaching this clarity and simplicity.

PART ONE

Chapter I

I shall have no peace until I get the subject off my chest, and there is no other way of protecting myself against charges of unsystematized, uncorrelated thought, dilettantism, idle eclecticism, etc., than to write a brief formal treatise.

1. Dissociations:  Or preliminary clearance of the ground.

I beg the reader not to seek implications.  When I express a belief I will say so.  When I am trying to prove something, I will say so.  At the start I am attempting merely to get the reader to distinguish between certain things, for the sake of his own mental clarity, before he attempts to solve anything.

I shall use the term property as distinct from the term capital.

‘Capital’ for the duration of this treatise implies a sort of claim on others, a sort of right to make others work.  Property does not.

For example.  My bust by Gaudier is my property.  Nobody is expected to do anything about it.

My bond of the X and Y railroad is capital.  Somebody is supposed to earn at least 60 dollars a year and pay it to me because I own such a bond.

Therefore:  it would be possible to attack the ‘rights’ or ‘privileges’ of capital without attacking the rights or privileges of property.

Once again, please do not imply.  Please do not think I mean one whit more than what I have written.  When I want to mean something further I will say it.

Dissociation 2. Overproduction did not begin with the industrial system.  Nature habitually overproduces.  Chestnuts go to waste on the mountain side, and it has never yet caused a world crisis.

Chapter II

Sane engineers and wise men tell us that the question of production is solved.  The world’s producing plants can produce everything the world needs.

There is not the faintest reason to doubt this.

2.  As mechanical efficiency increases, the above-mentioned production will require progressively less human time and effort.

3.  Sane economy demands that this effort should be, for various reasons, apportioned to a very considerable number of people.  This is not absolutely necessary, but it is advisable.  It is not necessary, since a few million slaves or temperamentally busy human beings could indubitably do the whole work for the lot of us.  They did it for the Roman Empire and nobody objected save an occasional slave.

4.  Objections to slavery are in part ideal and sentimental.  Openly avowed slavery has nevertheless gone out of fashion.

5.  It is pure dogma to assert that an adult human being should be ready to do a reasonable amount of work for this keep.  It is empiric opinion that a man who is constantly trying to sponge on others and who is unwilling to do anything whatever conducive to the general comfort or to the maintenance of civilization is a mere skunk and that he ultimately becomes a blasted bore not only to others but to his own blasted self.

6.  I assert a simple dogma;  Man should have some sense of responsibility to the human congeries.

7.  As a mater of observation, very few men have any such sense.

8.  No social order can exist very long unless a few, at least a few, men have such a sense.

9.  These encroachments in so far as they were political; in so far as they were special privileges handed down from mediaeval chaos and feudal arrangements have been from time to time more or less put in order.  Jefferson and John Adams observed that in their young days very few men had thought about ‘government’.  There were very few writers on ‘government’.  The study of economics is a later arrival.  An economic library in 1800 could have been packed in a trunk.

10.  Some economic problems could perhaps be considered via political analogy, but a greater number cannot.

Probably the only economic problem needing emergency solution in our time is the problem of distribution.  There are enough goods, there is superabundant capacity to produce goods in superabundance.  Why should anyone starve?

That is the crude and rhetorical question.  It is as much our question as Hamlet’s melancholy was the problem of the renaissance dyspeptic.

And the answer is that nobody should.  The ‘science’ or study of economics is intended to make sure no one does.

There is Enough

How are you going to get it from where it is, or can be, to where it is not and is needed?

I spare the reader the old history of barter, etc.  Apples for rabbits;  slips of paper from the owner ordering his servants to give to the bearer two barrels of beer;  generalized tokens of gold, leather;  paper inscribed with a ‘value’ as of 16 ounces of copper;  metal by weight;  cheques with fantastic figures; all serve or have served to shift wealth, wheat and beef from one place to another or to move wool cloth from Flanders to Italy.

Who is to have these Tokens?

Obviously certain men deserve well of humanity or of other limited numbers of men.

Those who grow wheat, those who make cloth and harness, those who carry these things from where they are in superfluity to where they are needed, by pushcarts and airplanes, etc.

AND ALSO THOSE who know where things are, or who discover new and easier means of getting them ‘out’, coal from the earth, energy from an explosion of gasoline.

Makers, transporters, facilitators and those who contribute to their pleasure or comfort or whom it pleases them favour..usual sequence of children, if they have or want children, aged parents who have earned their affection.

All of which would seem perfectly simple and idyllic, but then we come to the jam.

Some of these people who work or who could and would work are left without paper tokens.

Someone else has got all the tokens;  or someone else has done all the work ‘needed’.

CURIOUSLY ENOUGH, despite the long howls of those who used to complain about being oppressed and overworked, the last thing human beings appear to wish to share is WORK.

The last thing the exploiters want to let their employees divide is labour.

IT IS NEVERTHELESS UNDENIABLE  that if no one were allowed to work (this year 1933) more than five (5) hours a day, there would be hardly anyone out of a job and no family without paper tokens potent enough to permit them to eat.

The objections to this solution are very mysterious.  I have never yet seen a valid one, though I have seen some very complicated “explanations’ about increase in costs.

I would be willing to set it out as simple dogma that the shortening of the working day (day of paid labour) is the first clean-cut to be made I admit it is not the whole answer, but it would go a long way to keep credit distributed among a great part of the ponatipulo (of any country whatsoever), and thereby to keep goods, necessities, luxuries, comforts, distributed and in circulation.

It is not the whole answer;  not the whole answer to the present emergency nor does it constitute the whole science of economics.

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s