tisdag 27 augusti 2013

En recension av Desais bok Real Wages in Germany 1860-1913

År 1968 kom Ashok V. Desai ut med boken Real Wages in Germany 1860-1913. Den recenserades i Journal of Economic History av Gerhard Bry och jag citerar Bry:
"Dr. Desai has set himself an ambitious goal: to improve the record of money wages, living costs, and real wages for the German Reich before World War I, and to offer a new explanation for the slackening of growth in real wages during part of that period. The intellectual stimulus for this task originates in the well-known thesis of E. H. Phelps Brown and Sheila V. Hopkins ("The Course of Wage Rates in Five Countries, 1860-1939," Oxford Economic Papers, June 1950) positing that a wage climacteric occurred in several major industrial countries toward the end of the nineteenth century. According to these authors a deceleration of real wages can be observed in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. It can be traced to slower advances in productivity which, in turn, reflect shifts from process inventions to product inventions.
The evidence of the climacteric has been challenged. In any case, there is good reason to assume that it was less pronounced than the statistics used by Phelps Brown and Hopkins indicate. In fact, their publication provided additional stimulus for a thorough review of those real wage records which lacked plausibility. For the United States, such reviews by Clarence D. Long and Albert Rees demonstrate that, largely as a consequence of downward revisions of living cost increases between 1890 and 1913, the observed deceleration of real wages during that period, as compared to prior decades, becomes minimal. Since historical living-cost statistics tend to suffer from a common disease—overrepresentation of the food component—it was suspected that review of these statistics for the other countries might also modify the observed deceleration of real wages.
For Germany, the evidence for the wage climacteric is largely based on Jiirgen Kuczynski's data collections and computations. Since available wage data are far from comprehensive and since Kuczynski's living-cost index consists primarily of foods and rent, Desai attempts to "settle the doubts" raised by the inadequacies of these data. He uses earnings inferred from insurance statistics with a rather broad coverage, and he computes a more comprehensive cost-of-living index from available price series. The resultant real wages rise more rapidly, particularly after 1900, than Kuczynski and Phelps Brown and Hopkins assumed, but some deceleration can still be clearly detected. /.../
In view of our knowledge on output, productivity, unionization, and other labor market conditions, Desai's findings on real wage increases after 1900 are more plausible than the virtual stagnation of real wages previously asserted or accepted. His explanations of the remaining evidence of a real wage climacReviews of Books 663 teric in Germany are detailed and well documented. Hence, it may appear ungracious to suggest that we are still on shaky ground. But we are!"
Phelps Brown och Hopkins (1950) studerade Frankrike, Tyskland, Sverige, Storbritannien och USA. Enligt dem var reallönerna i Sverige 1913 3 gånger så hög som 1860 års nivå, i Frankrike 1.6, Tyskland 1.6, Storbritannien 1.9 och USA 1.5 ggr. Löneökningstakten avtog efter ca 1886/1890, vad de kallar löneutvecklingens "climacteric" (s 238) (jfr Feinstein 1990). Deras källa till svenska löner är Bagge, Lundberg och Svennilson (1933).

Enrico Levrero i sin artikel "Worker bargaining power and real wages from 1870 to 1913: Phelps Brown reconsidered" (Review of Political Economy, 1999) diskuterar vilken distributionsteori Phelps Brown egentligen hade -- det är en doktrinhistorisk artikel.

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