Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mr. Tufnell's Pamphlet Versus Mr. Ewart's Testimony

"What do you suppose to be the chief motive for the operatives here advocating the Ten-Hour Bill?"

The question posed by Edward Carleton Tufnell, examiner for the 1833 Royal Commission on Employment of Children in Factories; the reply to that question from Peter Ewart, master cotton-spinner and weaver of Manchester; and Tufnell's appropriation, revision and condensation of Ewart's reply constitute the fountainhead for the lump-of-labor fallacy claim. Tufnell's appropriation conveniently left out details that would enable the reader to critically assess the argument's validity, reliability and robustness. He also shifted the form of the proposition in question from supposition ("what do you suppose to be the chief motive...") to assertion ("The Union calculated...").

Saturday, February 5, 2011

April Fools

"...a prize competition to identify new and innovative thinking about policies to create jobs..."

The Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution has announced a "Policy Innovation Prize" of "$25,000 Awarded For The Best Proposals to Create Jobs and Enhance Productivity." The deadline for submitting proposals is 5:00 p.m. EST on Friday, April 1, 2011.

Sandwichman wryly observes that the April Fools deadline may be appropriate.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Is the Economic System Self-Adjusting?

JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES, from a 1934 BBC radio address
I was asked recently to take part in a discussion among English economists on the problem of poverty in the midst of potential plenty, which none of us can deny is the outstanding conundrum of today. We all agreed that, whatever the best remedy may be, we must reject all those alleged remedies that consist, in effect, in getting rid of the plenty. It may be true, for various reasons, that as the potential plenty increases, the problem of getting the fruits of it distributed to the great body of consumers will present increasing difficulties. But it is to the analysis and solution of these difficulties that we must direct our minds. To seek an escape by making the productive machine less productive must be wrong. I often find myself in favor of measures to restrict output as a temporary palliative or to meet an emergency. But the temper of mind that turns too easily to restriction is dangerous, for it has nothing useful to contribute to the permanent solution. But this is another way of saying that we must not regard the conditions of supply -— that is to say, our facilities to produce -— as being the fundamental source of our troubles. And, if this is agreed, it seems to follow that it is the conditions of demand that our diagnosis must search and probe for the explanation.