During the 1980 election campaign, terms like "supply-side economics" and "reindustrialization" were heard, as they say, across the land. To hear advocates of these terms tell it, their ideas would usher in the rebuilding of stagnant US industries, stimulate production, reduce unemployment, and slash inflation.
As we enter the heady days of a new administration, with a more conservative Congress, these terms are likely to be heard more frequently. Yet, with the Japanese continuing to improve on America's improvements, the Europeans fighting for an increasing share of world markets, and developing countries insisting on their part of the world's wealth and resources, can the US achieve the economic changes it wants, while participating in and taking advantage of changes around the world?
Ronald E. Muller tries to answer this question in his book, which he could have called "Revitalizing the World" if that hadn't seemed too ambitious a title.
Total revitalization, says Dr. Muller (coauthor with Richard Barnet of "Global Reach," on multinational corporations), cannot be accomplished during the Reagan administration, even if it should last a eight years. While the 1970 s were the stagflationm decade, he writes, the 1980s will be the adjustmentm decade, when a partnership among US government, business, and labor lays the groundwork for real improvements to be realized in the 1990s.
Dr. Muller looks at three bases of Keynesian economics -- "the existence of a classical competitive marketplace," the ability of government to control spending through political consensus, and its ability to implement effective tax and monetary policy -- and finds them no longer applicable. These assumptions have been rendered useless, he argues, by the rise of interest-group politics, Proposition-13 attitudes toward taxes, locked-in government expenditures (like interest payments and pensions), and the concentration of economic power in fewer and fewer corporate hands.
At the same time, the third world, led by OPEC, has discovered new power in the ability to control prices of raw materials, and is demanding not only higher payments, but the tools and resources for its own industrialization.
To serve these new realities, Dr. Muller advocates a global Marshall Plan, modeled on the program for the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. Then, through enlightened self-interest, the United States provided the capital and expertise to help rebuild the ravaged industries of Europe.
Today's Marshall Plan would require the combined efforts of all industrialized Western nations, which should realize that their own growth depends, at least in part, on the growth and prosperity of the so-called underdeveloped countries. By helping these nations build their industries, the West would be supplying itself with new markets for its manufactured goods as these countries became more prosperous. Some of the developing nations would find uses for their growing supplies of capital, much of which has been earned from the West.
As in the 1940s, Muller argues, the US must be both willing and equipped to take the lead in this effort, if it is to succeed.
To help US industry launch a global Marshall Plan, Dr. Muller advocates more democratic investment practices, involving workers as well as executives and private individuals; more worker control over production practices; and establishment of domestic development banks to help finance particular reindustrialization efforts.
Though he pays perhaps too little attention to the profit motive as a force for business decisions, many of the ideas in this thorough and ambitious work deserve study. The operative word here seems to be cooperation. Emphasizing this virtue over compe tition will be difficult, but Muller argues persuasively that it is worth the effort.