Chapter 4 — Goods
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.
is no longer the case today. There is an overabundance of everything. It
is abundance — no longer scarcity — that creates the problem.
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
example of two world wars sufficiently proves the point.
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
leaving our country, we can truly affirm that there exist no obstacles
of material or technical order to satisfy the legitimate needs of ALL
kinds of goods
is useful, in order to understand several price and purchasing-power
problems, to distinguish between two kinds of goods.
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
clothing, fuel, foodstuffs that one finds on the market, the doctor's
services, are consumer goods.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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).
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.