Fundamental Economic Problems of Urbanized Society

The European leftists, the folks admired by the hard left in this country, oppose consumerism but offer no realistic alternative. Just do away with the economy, then life will be a perpetual vacation according to this group.
First a quote from Sixties radicals in France. See link for much more.

"Proposals to spread the work around by implementing a slightly shorter workweek seem at first sight to address the matter rationally. But such proposals do not face the fundamental irrationality of the whole social system based on market relations. While reacting to one manifestation of this irrationality (the fact that some people work long hours while others are jobless), they tend at the same time to reinforce the illusion that most present-day work is normal and necessary, as if the only problem were that for some strange reason it is divided up unequally. The absurdity of 90% of existing jobs is never mentioned.
It’s absurd to demand the “creation of jobs.” Enough riches already exist to take care of everyone’s basic needs; they only need to be shared around. As for all the production that serves no real purpose, a social revolution will close more factories and eliminate more stupid jobs in twelve hours than capitalism does in twelve years. We will no longer have any reason to produce such things as food colorings, aircraft carriers or insurance contracts. We don’t want “full employment,” we want full lives!
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It is both morally and strategically justified to make particular demands, such as for higher unemployment benefits or free public services. But a social movement should not limit itself to such demands. To do so amounts to asking for justice from the very forces that are based on injustice---Whether we are workers, students or unemployed, what we all really need is the space and time to meet, to share dreams, to recreate our lives. We should demand full enjoyment, not full employment!"

Capitalism’s Headache
This economist gives the counter argument to the radical’s argument about the evils of consumerist capitalism by claiming that it is the only engine of long term prosperity, the other being massive investments in infrastructure, public works and exports which is ultimately unsustainable. Since economic development is the only known successful way out of poverty, what validity do anti-consumerists sentiments have?

Comparing Japan and China’s Economy

"The two countries have experienced similar cycles. A decade ago, a mainland investment boom led to a Chinese nonperforming loan crisis even bigger than Japan's 1990s bust. A massive, painful restructuring of China's debt-laden state-owned enterprises ensued. Now, China risks a repeat of that painful adjustment. The good news is that, in stark contrast to Tokyo's decade of denial, Premier Wen Jiabao and other leaders have publicly recognized that today's imbalances must be addressed.

As in Japan, consumer spending is too low to keep the economy motoring ahead. In China, consumption was only 50% of GDP in the 1980s and today an astonishingly low 37%. Typically, poor countries devote about 60% of GDP to personal consumption. The problem is not lack of desire to spend, but lack of money: Household disposable income has been shrinking as a share of GDP. The annual flow of 10 million workers from countryside to city has suppressed wage growth while regulated rates give consumers negligible returns on their savings deposits.

Up to a point, less consumption meant China could devote more resources to investment, and thereby grow faster. Back in 1980, most Chinese citizens lived on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank. By 2015, only 13% of the population will do so. The issue is not that consumption is not rising fast enough on an absolute scale. Rather, as in Japan, a development strategy that brought enormous success has been taken to an unhealthy and unsustainable extreme. With consumption not growing as fast as GDP, China had to find other sources of demand.

Total investment -- residential, business and public works -- has been pushed to a sky-high 45% of GDP. Even that is still not enough to absorb all of China's output. To avoid recession, China lends money to foreigners to buy Chinese exports, giving China a trade surplus of 9% of GDP, way up from the 2-3% of GDP that prevailed during most of 1990-2004. As Japan's experience shows, this strategy is unsustainable. Excess investment is likely to be wasteful investment, which eventually ends up undermining growth while building up nonperforming loans.

Meanwhile, China can only keep increasing its trade surplus if other countries increase their deficits, but the main deficit country, the U.S., has been sharply decreasing its price-adjusted deficit."

See Link To Wall Street Journal

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