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Should increase in income be an embarrassment?
This is a sad state for any nation to be in, and in an affluent society surpassingly strange to have come this far into the twentieth century with economists interpreting the alleged increase in our real income as 'enrichment' or, more sagaciously, as 'an extension of the area of choice', and then to be told almost daily that we have no choice.

THIS IS a sad state for any nation to be in, and in an affluent society surpassingly strange to have come this far into the twentieth century with economists interpreting the alleged increase in our real income as ‘enrichment’ or, more sagaciously, as ‘an extension of the area of choice’, and then to be told almost daily that we have no choice; that if we are to pay our way in the world we must work harder than ever. This is enough surely to tax the credulity of any being whose judgment has not yet been swept away by torrents of economic exhortation.


But of course we have a choice, a wide range of choice! The main purpose of this essay is to uncover the kinds of choices that face us, or any modern community, and to make it apparent that the so-called policy of economic growth as popularly understood is hardly more than a policy of drifting quickly — of snatching at any technological innovation that proves marketable with scant respect for the social consequences.

In the formulation of the ends of economic policy the word need is not to be invoked. Markets do not need to expand — although, of course, businessmen dearly like to see them expand (whether through increasing per capita income, increasing domestic population or increased immigration). It is quite possible to arrange things so as to produce a good deal fewer gadgets and instead to enjoy more leisure. And, although blasphemous to utter, it is also possible to train fewer scientists and engineers without our perishing from the face of the earth.

Nor do we need to capture world markets in the hope of being able to lower costs; or to lower costs in the hope of capturing world markets. We can, while acting as rational beings, deliberately choose to reduce our foreign trade and in some lines, therefore, to produce smaller quantities at a somewhat higher cost. We can even decide to reduce the strains of competition and opt for an easier life. All these choices and many others can be translated into perfectly practicable alternatives whenever public opinion is ready to consider them.

And one has no objection to our bright young men dubbing all suggested alternatives to the sweat-and-strain doctrine as ‘irresponsible’ provided they agree to use the word want instead of need. This simple switch of words will serve to remind us that policies radically different from those we habitually pursue are actually open to us all the time — though some people may well feel uncertain of, or disapprove of, some of their consequences.

There follows a digression on the balance of payments which the reader may omit on a first reading. It was felt necessary to make a brief incursion into this territory because of the disproportionate attention paid to foreign trade in our newspapers, and because of such widespread fallacies as the belief that we have to work harder if we are to ‘pay our way’ in the world, or the belief that unless we grow faster we shall run further into international debt or become ‘insolvent’, Such fallacies render the public more vulnerable to the thesis of the hard-boiled school, that we have no choice but to thrust ahead vigorously, and render them more tolerant, therefore, of those growing disamenities inflicted on society by the tacit acceptance of purely commercial criteria.


Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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