Industrial Seigniorage, the Other Face of Competition
This paper tries to develop an original view on industrial practices in competitive capitalist economies. In particular, we question the link between prices, competition and the quality of goods and services. We try to show that it is rational for firms to try to reduce the quality and/or the identity of goods and services while still presenting theses goods and services as the same as before, in order to reduce their prices and so to improve their relative position in the competitive struggle and in order to increase their profits. By reducing quality, we mean the practice that consists of mixing inputs at the margin with cheaper ones or with alternative products that give weight. This practice reminds us of the old Seigneurs who used to mix gold with other metals to produce more coins. That’s why we propose to label this practice 'industrial seigniorage'. The article first tries to delineate the widespread existence of this practice among French firms, and then explains the fundamental elements of (Post Keynesian) consumers' behaviour which allow for this practice to exist. We especially insist on the inability of the consumer to evaluate the quality of goods and services, and his inability to distinguish a good which have been modified at the margin. In a third part, we analyze the phenomenon of industrial seigniorage in a kaleckian model. We show the impact on sectoral profit rates and on prices, as well as the global and macroeconomic consequences on growth, distribution and employment.
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- Lavoie, M., 1992.
"A Post-Keynesian Approach to Consumer Choice,"
9217e, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
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