By James M. Buchanan
Publication by way of James M. Buchanan
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When confronted with a question like this, my procedure is to examine the possible contribution that standard economic theory might make toward an answer. Like many economists, for me such an inquiry involves two steps. I try to recall what Adam Smith might have said about the question, and then I look at what modern textbooks say. And whereas Smith is quite clear on the subject, modern textbooks seem, Page 13 perhaps surprisingly, to offer conflicting and contradictory responses. Let me first concentrate on Adam Smith.
Nor need the neoclassical theory of distribution be substantially affected by a recognition of the presence of economywide increasing returns. Page 26 Within the presumptions of given resources and given technology, inputs owners are paid the values of the marginal products of inputs supplied, and, when added up, these payments fully exhaust the total value generated in the economy in full competitive equilibrium. The shift of an input unit away from one productive process tends to reduce the value of product in that process by the payment made to that unit, on the implicit presumption that the input shifts to an alternative process that produces for the market.
I have argued 1Several of the propositions advanced in this paragraph depend critically on the assumed presence of severely restricted conditions. In order for increasing returns to the size of the whole economy to exist simultaneously with constant returns to all subsectors of the economy, the new technology consequent on the expansion in the size of the whole production-exchange nexus must apply to all subsectors. If, instead, the specialization technology made possible by the expansion in the size of the economy should differentially affect a subsector (a single industry or group of industries), increasing returns would, of course, characterize expansion in this subsector, even if implemented at the expense of reductions in the size of other sectors.
Ethics and Economic Progress by James M. Buchanan