Het begrip ‘onderconsumptie’ (macro is geen micro)

Een aantal mensen krijgt puistjes van het begrip ‘onderconsumptie’. Het idee is dan dat als mensen individueel besluiten minder te gaan besteden in de echte economie en te meer gaan sparen dat juist goed is. Terwijl een begrip als ‘onderconsumptie’ een negatieve bijklank heeft en lijkt aan te geven dat sparen slecht is en dat we het geld maar onbezorgd moeten laten rollen. Tsja. Wat micro-economisch (dus uit het oogpunt van de individuele huishouding of het individuele bedrijf) goed is hoeft dat macro-economisch niet altijd te zijn. En ‘onderconsumptie’ is geen micro macro-economisch begrip en moet dus ook als dusdanig begrepen worden.

Want macro-economie is namelijk geen micro-economie. Als (micro) alleen de AH de lonen 10% verlaagt dan kan dit bedrijf de prijzen verlagen en daardoor meer verkopen – ondanks dat het eigen personeel minder te besteden heeft en wat minder boodschappen zal doen, bij onder andere de AH. Als (macro) alle Nederlandse bedrijven de lonen echter 10% verlagen dan is er grote kans dat, ondanks de lagere prijzen, er juist minder verkocht zal worden. Wat precies is wat er nu gebeurt. Vergeet daarbij niet dat de schulden niet dalen, als de lonen dalen, net zo min als de prijzen van geïmporteerde artikelen of de huren en de rente op de schulden. Macro gaat over de relaties tussen individuele bedrijven en huishoudens, en hoe de bestedingen van de een het inkomen en de balansverhoudingen van de ander beïnvloeden, waarbij individuele rationaliteit (meer sparen) tot collectieve problemen kan leiden (minder bestedingen en meer werkloosheid). Een ecologisch voorbeeld: overbevissing is een vergelijkbaar gebeuren, zij het dan niet gedreven via de inkomens en balansen maar via het winstprincipe.

Natuurlijk kun je, als alle bedrijven de lonen verlagen waardoor de uitgaven dalen, zeggen: ‘dan moet de AH maar meer gaan exporteren!’. Maar wat, als in het buitenland (Spanje, Portugal, Ierland, Griekenland, Italië) de lonen ook verlaagd worden? Het is niet echt zo dat deze landen momenteel meer importeren, integendeel. De importen imploderen zelfs, met kwalijke gevolgen voor onze (en ook de Duitse) bedrijven. Dit effect kan nog versterkt worden als door de lagere uitgaven ook de werkloosheid nog stijgt – waardoor er nog minder besteed wordt. Of dat mensen, wat vaak in een dergelijke situatie gebeurd, meer gaan sparen. Daardoor dalen de bestedingen nog meer. Overigens daalt, als geld gebruikt wordt om leningen af te lossen bij de geldscheppende banken, volgens de Europese Centrale Bank ook de geldhoeveelheid – wat de lagere bestedingen bestendigt. Zeker wanneer dit gepaard gaat met angst bij de banken voor wanbetalers en een scherper uitleenbeleid, zelfs als Draghi stelt dat de rente nog minimaal een jaar erg laag blijft.

En in een beetje crisis dalen ook de investeringen, waarbij bedacht moet worden dat een groot deel van deze investeringen de bouwnijverheid betreffen. Nog meer werkloosheid, nog minder geld dat rond gaat en dus nog minder inkomen en productie. Stel dat de investeringen met 5% van de totale bestedingen afnemen – dan zou, als de private consumptie van huishoudens 45% van de bestedingen betreft, deze consumptie met ongeveer 11% moeten toenemen om dit investeringsgat te dichten (de totale consumptie is natuurlijk hoger, maar dat betreft de collectieve en individuele consumptie die via de belastingen gefinancierd wordt)!

Tsja, exporteren dan maar weer? In een land dat toch al het hoogste overschot op de lopende rekening van de hele Eurozone heeft? Hmmm… En bovendien: waarom is het wel goed als het buitenland consumeert en investeert (want exporteren is niets anders dan verkopen aan buitenlandse consumenten en bedrijven) en niet als wij dat zelf doen? In Duitsland beginnen ze dat te begrijpen en gaan ze gelukkig maar ook onherroepelijk noodzakelijk, weer wat meer op eigen kracht en bestedingen vertrouwen. Laten we hopen dat de onderconsumptie in Duitsland snel ten einde komt! Goed voor onze export, trouwens!

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