La falacia sobre la industria

NUEVA YORK – Hace mucho tiempo que los economistas olvidaron el error que cometió Adam Smith cuando sostuvo que se le debería dar primacía a la industria en la economía de un país. De hecho, en el Libro II de La riqueza de las naciones, Smith condenaba como improductivo el trabajo de “los eclesiásticos, los abogados, los médicos, los hombres de letras de todo tipo, los actores, bufones, músicos, cantantes de ópera, bailarines de ópera, etc.”. Podríamos coincidir con Smith (y Shakespeare) respecto de la inutilidad de los abogados tal vez, pero seguramente no con respecto a Olivier, Falstaff y Pavarotti. Pero el encanto industrial siempre reaparece, y la última manifestación se produjo en Estados Unidos tras la crisis reciente.

En la Gran Bretaña de mediados de los años 1960, Nicholas Kaldor, el prestigioso economista de Cambridge e influyente asesor del Partido Laborista, hizo sonar la alarma sobre la “desindustrialización”. Su argumento era que un cambio de valor agregado en curso de la industria a los servicios era nocivo, porque las industrias progresaban tecnológicamente, mientras que los servicios no. Hasta consiguió que un ministro de Hacienda laborista, James Callaghan, introdujera en 1966 un Impuesto de Empleo Selectivo, que gravaba el empleo en servicios más que el empleo en la industria -una medida que se revirtió en 1973, una vez que se tomó conciencia de que afectaría a la industria del turismo, que generaba las tan necesitadas divisas extranjeras. 

El argumento de Kaldor se basaba en la premisa errónea de que los servicios estaban estancados desde un punto de vista tecnológico. Esta opinión sin duda reflejaba un empirismo accidental basado en las pequeñas tiendas familiares y oficinas postales que los catedráticos ingleses veían cuando salían de sus universidades de Oxbridge. Pero iba claramente en contra de los cambios técnicos generalizados que arrasaban en el sector de consumo, y llegado el caso en la industria de las comunicaciones, que en poco tiempo dio lugar a Fedex, los faxes, los teléfonos celulares e Internet.

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