James Galbraith observes with regard to the JEL classification codes: “Under Macroeconomics there is nothing, unless you count E25 ‘Aggregate Factor Income Distribution,’ which surely means the analysis of factor shares ― Wages, Profits, Rent ― also known as the functional distribution.” and “From a theoretical standpoint distribution is the essence of micro, of market relations and of supply-and-demand. The discipline exists, largely, to explain factor returns. If it doesn’t explain ― I don’t say ‘justify’ ― the pay of the worker and the return to capital, then the rest of what it does would not sustain it.”
What is even more remarkable: the keyword Profit neither appears under Microeconomics nor Macroeconomics. The first problem of Distribution Theory is that economists obviously do not know what profit is.
Fact is: “A satisfactory theory of profits is still elusive” (Desai, Palgrave Dictionary) and this is the most damning verdict about economics. After 200+ years, economists cannot tell the difference between profit and income. This is the present state of economics: the major approaches ― Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism ― are mutually contradictory, axiomatically false, materially/formally inconsistent and all got the pivotal concept of the subject matter ― profit ― wrong.#1, #2, #3
Because Profit Theory is false Distribution Theory is false by logical implication.
James Galbraith identifies the point where things went wrong: “Lucas made the wrong choice. He decreed that micro takes precedence ― that the house is built on microfoundations. Godley did not have patience for this. Surely the house is better built on solid steel-and-concrete pilings, on macrofoundations, with micro-shingles on the roof?”
Indeed, that’s it. Economics needs a Paradigm Shift from false microfoundations to true macrofoundations. At this point, though, James Galbraith stops and turns to the prospects and problems of empirical research. He does not specify what the true macrofoundations are.#4, #5
From the true macrofoundations follows the macroeconomic Profit Law as Qm≡Yd+(I−Sm)+(G−T)+(X−M) Legend: Qm monetary profit, Yd distributed profit, Sm monetary saving, G government expenditures, T taxes, X exports, M imports. This reduces to the core Qm≡−Sm, i.e. the business sector’s profit is equal to the household sector’s dissaving, and vice versa, the business sector’s loss is equal to the household sector’s saving.
Macroeconomic profit has nothing to do with greed/exploitation/productivity but with growing/shrinking debt. Lo and behold, this is one of James Galbraith’s key findings: “1. There are global turning points in the path of pay inequality. They occur around 1971, around 1980, and around 2000. These correspond in each case to major shifts in the worldwide financial regime: to the breakdown of Bretton Woods, to the outbreak of the global debt crisis, and to return to low interest rates and rising commodity prices that followed the NASDAQ slump and the 9/11 attacks, along with the rise of China in world trade.”
Macroeconomic profit is an objectively given and well-defined magnitude. The first thing to notice is that profit is qualitatively different from income.#6 Loss or profit is NOT income. Distributed profit is income. Because of this, it is inadmissible to speak of ‘profit income’ because profit is the difference of flows and not a flow like wage income. Wage income and profit cannot be added together to total income and profit is not a share of total income. In their utter scientific incompetence, economists get the basics of distribution theory wrong from Adam Smith and David Ricardo onward to this day.#7, #8, #9
James Galbraith is right: “A global macroeconomics ― yes, macroeconomics, dammit” is the key to Profit Theory and Distribution Theory. Microfoundations are proto-scientific garbage since Jevons/Walras/Menger. Economics has to be based on macrofoundations. Get it: If it isn’t macro-axiomatized it isn’t economics.
* Review of Keynesian Economics
#1 Profit and distribution: a primer
#2 Essentials of Constructive Heterodoxy: Profit
#3 The Profit Theory is False Since Adam Smith. What About the True Distribution Theory?
#4 First Lecture in New Economic Thinking
#5 From false microfoundations to true macrofoundations (II)
#6 Macro for dummies (II)
#7 Profit and distribution: a primer
#8 There is NO such thing as a “labor share of income”
#9 Ricardo, too, got profit theory wrong
Related 'The actual distribution is unacceptable? Do NOT seek economic advice!' and 'Income distribution: No market failure but theory failure' and 'The Levy/Kalecki Profit Equation is false'. For details of the big picture see cross-references Profit/Distribution.