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No one is alone: Strategic complementarities, capacity utilization, growth, and distribution


  • Daniele Tavani
  • Luke Petach


A longstanding criticism to Keynesian and Kaleckian growth theories is the question: why would firms operating with underutilized capacity still accumulate capital stock? This paper offers an answer by analyzing the choice of capacity utilization and accumulation in a strategic setting. The argument hinges on the Keynesian notion of user cost of capital. We argue that firms have incentives to wait to see what other firms are doing before adjusting their own utilization, which we capture through a marginal user cost of own utilization decreasing in average utilization. Accordingly, interactions among firms involve strategic complementarities: it is profit-maximizing to increase own utilization with average utilization. Since the latter is a reasonable proxy for demand, (i) the analysis provides a rationale for treating desired utilization as endogenous to demand at the firm level. In general equilibrium: (ii) capital accumulation coexists with underutilization; (iii) if firms were able to coordinate on a common utilization rate, utilization would be strictly higher than in equilibrium. The implications for growth and distribution depend on how the model is closed: (iv) with a distributive closure, equilibrium growth and profitability are both strictly below their socially-coordinated counterpart; (v) with an exogenous labor supply closure, the equilibrium labor share is strictly smaller than under coordination. Hence, (vi) there are mutually beneficial bargaining opportunities for both capital and labor. Moreover, (vii) demand policies have multiplier effects. The slow recovery from the Great Recession in the US provides a prime example of the relevance of equilibrium underutilization. Finally, we use stateby-sector data from the BEA to validate our hypothesis: (viii) our estimation results provide strong and robust support for the relevance of strategic complementarities in the US.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniele Tavani & Luke Petach, 2018. "No one is alone: Strategic complementarities, capacity utilization, growth, and distribution," FMM Working Paper 19-2018, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:imk:fmmpap:19-2018

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Luigi L. Pasinetti, 1962. "Rate of Profit and Income Distribution in Relation to the Rate of Economic Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 267-279.
    2. Nash, John, 1950. "The Bargaining Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 18(2), pages 155-162, April.
    3. Evan Totty, 2017. "The Effect Of Minimum Wages On Employment: A Factor Model Approach," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(4), pages 1712-1737, October.
    4. Daniele Tavani & Luca Zamparelli, 2013. "Endogenous Technical Change, Employment and Distribution in the Goodwin Model," IMK Working Paper 127-2013, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    5. Anwar Shaikh, 2009. "Economic Policy In A Growth Context: A Classical Synthesis Of Keynes And Harrod," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 455-494, July.
    6. Dutt, Amitava Krishna, 1984. "Stagnation, Income Distribution and Monopoly Power," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 25-40, March.
    7. Skott,Peter, 2008. "Conflict and Effective Demand in Economic Growth," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521066310.
    8. Dumenil, Gerard & Levy, Dominique, 1999. "Being Keynesian in the Short Term and Classical in the Long Term: The Traverse to Classical Long-Term Equilibrium," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 67(6), pages 684-716, December.
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    More about this item


    Capacity Utilization; Factor Shares; Growth; Strategic Complementarities;

    JEL classification:

    • B50 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - General
    • E12 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Keynes; Keynesian; Post-Keynesian; Modern Monetary Theory
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution

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