Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Twenty-something things they don't tell you about our glorious economic system, part one

I realise I haven’t posted for a while. I’m currently engulfed in reviewing two books on Marxian economics, The Endless Crisis and The Failure of Capitalist Production – which is a bit of a challenge. In the meantime, I thought that, as this blog was originally intended to review books about capitalism in an in-depth way, I’d share some counter-intuitive and little known facts I’ve encountered along the way.

 1 Between 1980 and 2007 the global labour force grew from 1.9 billion to 3.1 billion, a rise of 63%. 73% of the labour force is located in the developing world and 40% in China and India alone. This has happened primarily because of ‘depeasantisation’ – peasants leave or are forced to leave the land and urban slums expand dramatically. 46 million workers join the labour force, across the world, every year.

2 In every region of the world, economic growth was higher between 1950 and 1973 than between 1973 and 2008. Growth more than halved in Western Europe, Latin America and Africa. Overall world growth stood at 2.9% between 1950 and 1973 and 1.8% between 1973 and 2008. (This data is gleaned from a table on page 53 of Andrew Kliman's The Failure of Capitalist Production)

3 Due to the expansion of credit, in the four years before the financial crisis (2003-2007), global growth averaged 4-5%, higher than at any time since the 1960s.

4 The 2008 crash was the second largest economic crisis in history, after the Great Depression of the 1930s. Without government bail-outs and stimulus, it would have been the largest.

6 7-8% of the labour force in Brazil and 9% of the labour force in Egypt are employed as domestic servants. In England and Wales it is 0.3%. 30-50% of the non-agricultural workforce is self-employed in developing countries, in developed countries it is 12.8%. But as proletarianisation is increasing in the developing world (see point one) and self-employment increasing in the developed world, this balance will likely change.

7  35% of the workforce in Britain in the early 1970s worked in manufacturing. Now it is just over 10%.

8 0.1% of the Chinese and Indian populations are thought to be psychopaths. In Britain and America it is between 2 and 4%

10  Life expectancy for civilians increased in Britain by twice as much during the First and Second World Wars, as it did during the rest of the twentieth century.

11 Trade union membership peaked in Britain at 13.5 million in 1979. By 2009, it was down to 6.7m.

12 Had the share of GDP going to wages in the 1970s been maintained, UK consumers would currently have an extra £100 billion at their disposal, and US consumers £500 billion.