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Distribution and Growth in an Economy with Limited Needs

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  • Saint-Paul, Gilles

Abstract

This paper studies a model of the distribution of income under bounded needs. Utility derived from any given good reaches a bliss point at a finite consumption level of that good. On the other hand, introducing new varieties always increases utility. It is assumed that each variety is owned by a monopoly. Workers can specialize in material goods production or in the knowledge sector, which designs new varieties. It is shown that if the elasticity of labor supply to the knowledge sector is bounded, as productivity increases, the economy moves from a “Solovian zone” where wages increase with productivity, to a “Marxian” zone where the paradoxically decline with productivity. This is because as consumption of a given good increases, the price elasticity of demand falls, and markups increase to infinity as consumption reaches the unit elasticity point. Such a point typically exists because of the finiteness of needs. It is also shown that if individual creativity is more unevenly distributed then productivity, technical progress always increases inequality. Redistribution from profits to workers in the production sector always benefits arbitrarily poor workers regardless of their distortionary effect on the number of varieties, because diversity is not valued by very poor agents. In contrast, rich agents close enough to their bliss point can only be made better-off by an increase in diversity. If wages are set by monopoly unions rather than set competitively, they are proportional to productivity and the Marxian zone no longer exists. But technical progress always reduces employment in the material goods sector. International trade may reduce wages in poor countries and increase them in rich countries if under autarky the former consume less of each good that the latter.
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Suggested Citation

  • Saint-Paul, Gilles, 2001. "Distribution and Growth in an Economy with Limited Needs," IDEI Working Papers 125, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  • Handle: RePEc:ide:wpaper:1447
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 71-102, October.
    2. Weitzman, Martin L, 1985. "The Simple Macroeconomics of Profit Sharing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 937-953, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Saint-Paul, Gilles, 2004. "Are intellectual property rights unfair?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 129-144, February.
    2. Zeira, Joseph, 2005. "Machines as Engines of Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 5429, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Volker Grossmann, 2003. "A Note on Redistributive Taxation, Labor Supply, and National Income," International Journal of Business and Economics, College of Business and College of Finance, Feng Chia University, Taichung, Taiwan, vol. 2(1), pages 39-48, April.
    4. Reto Foellmi & Josef Zweimuller, 2006. "Income Distribution and Demand-Induced Innovations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(4), pages 941-960.
    5. Foellmi, Reto & Zweimuller, Josef, 2004. "Inequality, market power, and product diversity," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 139-145, January.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • D42 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Monopoly
    • E11 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Marxian; Sraffian; Kaleckian
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • L12 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Monopoly; Monopolization Strategies
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth

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