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The Dynamics of Capitalism


  • Scherer, Frederic Michael


This paper, written for a larger compendium edited by Dennis Mueller, examines key dynamic features of capitalistic economies and how prominent economists such as Schumpeter, Marx, Keynes, and von Mises perceived them. The emphasis is on the growth in real per capita income achieved by capitalistic economies during the past two centuries. A Gedankenexperiment exploring what might have happened if the growth experience began earlier, in the year 800, shows how astonishing the record has been. Technological innovation, in large part endogenous to the capitalist system, is a key explanation for the growth achieved. A briefer discursion deals with breaks in growth trajectories, notably, in the form of business downturns and business fluctuations more generally. They are shown to be small relative to the longer-term growth pattern. An equally important issue is how the gains from growth have been distributed. Contrary to Marx's "immiserization" prediction, the gains have for the most part been widely shared among capitalists and workers alike. However, stagnation of real income growth for American production workers since the 1970s introduces new and troubling questions, several of whose provisional explanations are investigated.

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  • Scherer, Frederic Michael, 2010. "The Dynamics of Capitalism," Scholarly Articles 4454157, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:4454157

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gene M. Grossman (ed.), 1996. "Economic Growth," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, volume 0, number 553.
    2. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2006. "The Polarization of the U.S. Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 189-194, May.
    3. F. M. Scherer, 1967. "Research and Development Resource Allocation Under Rivalry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(3), pages 359-394.
    4. Cain, Louis P. & Paterson, Donald G., 1981. "Factor Biases and Technical Change in Manufacturing: The American System, 1850–1919," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(02), pages 341-360, June.
    5. Frank Levy & Peter Temin, 2007. "Inequality and Institutions in 20th Century America," NBER Working Papers 13106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Raymond Vernon, 1966. "International Investment and International Trade in the Product Cycle," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(2), pages 190-207.
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