Chapter 4 — Goods


Do goods exist? Do they exist in sufficient quantity to satisfy all of the consumers' basic needs?

Mankind has gone through periods of food shortage; famines covered big countries, and one lacked the appropriate means of transportation to bring to these countries the wealth from other sections of the planet.

It is no longer the case today. There is an overabundance of everything. It is abundance — no longer scarcity — that creates the problem.

It is not at all necessary to go into detail to demonstrate this fact. It is not in the least bit necessary to quote cases of voluntary destruction on a large scale “to stabilize markets”, by making stocks disappear.

The example of two world wars sufficiently proves the point.

From 1914 to 1918, and from 1939 to 1945, millions of human beings, in the prime of life — the ones most capable of producing — were rerouted from the production of useful things, and were employed at destruction. Industries, powerful machines were subjected to the same fate. And in spite of that, mankind still had in front of itself the necessities of life.

Famines are now nothing more than an artificial scarcity, wanted by some men. It takes minefields, submarines, torpedoes, blockades organized by force, to prevent abundance from overflowing to all the countries.

When one considers postwar problems, one never wonders where one will find wheat for the next day, or materials and workers. It is a different matter altogether, which bewilders statesmen and sociologists: What will they do with all these arms, machines, producing inventions, that the end of the war puts back into availability?

If, between both wars, all homes did not live in affluence, it was certainly not due to a lack of goods or the inability to produce. It was solely because the consumers did not have the means to order the goods that were produced.

Active production was far from being oriented in accordance with the real needs of the country's men and women. It was production calculated mostly to make a profit, goods of no use for the ordinary man and woman, goods that were, in certain cases, even harmful.

A multitude of parasitic occupations, agencies, advertising campaigns — of which the existence is due to the incapacity of the consumers to express effectively their wishes — could have been employed usefully to serve consumers capable of expressing their wishes.

Without leaving our country, we can truly affirm that there exist no obstacles of material or technical order to satisfy the legitimate needs of ALL consumers.

Two kinds of goods

It is useful, in order to understand several price and purchasing-power problems, to distinguish between two kinds of goods.

On the one hand, there are goods which serve to support or embellish life. These goods are offered directly to the consumers for their use, and that is why they are called consumer goods.

Food, clothing, fuel, foodstuffs that one finds on the market, the doctor's services, are consumer goods.

On the other hand, there are goods which are not put up for sale to the public, which are kept by producers precisely to produce consumer goods. Thus, a factory is not a consumer good. It is nevertheless a good, since it serves to produce consumer goods. The machines to make books, to manufacture shoes or clothing, to carry merchandise, fall in the same category as the factory.

These factories, machines, means of transportation, the goods that we do not buy, but which serve to produce other goods, are called capital goods. They are in fact the producers' real capital. A farm is a capital good. It is the farmer's capital.

Capital goods serve in production. We use the term “capital goods” and not “producer goods” in order to minimize confusion, because these goods include items which do not serve directly in production. Examples of these are roads, public buildings, and armaments.

To clarify this distinction between consumer goods and capital goods, as well as to show what is the use of this distinction, let us give an example of the different ways in which these two kinds of goods behave in relation to the consumers' standard of living, at least under the present system.

One knows that to buy the products which are on the market, one must have money. Money is obtained mostly through wages and salaries. Wages and salaries are distributed to employees, whether they work to produce capital goods or consumer goods.

A man produces salable goods, let us say, shoes. With his wages, he can buy shoes, but never all the shoes that he makes. Another man works in an arms factory. With his wages, he buys neither shells nor machine guns, but salable goods, such as shoes. The two-combined wages can buy more of the production of the first wage-earner.

This means that the wages obtained for the production of capital goods, added to the wages obtained for the production of consumer goods, allow consumer goods — the only ones put up for sale —to be sold more easily.

It is the reason why industrial developments, which bring about new construction, or wars, which bring about the manufacture of armaments, create a kind of prosperity by allowing people to buy goods that they otherwise could not buy, because of the lack of money. This is why one says that when things are going well in the construction business, everything goes well. Whence comes this reflection which could appear cynical but which nevertheless expresses a factual trend: A good war would bring back prosperity (through employment).

For this reason, war is much more effective than construction. For example, if one talks about an ordinary industrial development, like a factory, once finished, it throws on the market goods which must recover the expenses of the factory. The problem of the lack of purchasing power then becomes more acute. War and arms factories put no products on the market; they even destroy or restrict the production of useful things by mobilizing manpower and machines while continuing to distribute wages and salaries to those who work at nothing but destruction.


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