Batallie, a French philosopher of all things, put forward a famous (at the time) theory known as The Accursed Share.

A few lines from the treatise, characterizing his position:

I will simply state, without waiting further, that the extension of economic growth itself requires the overturning of economic principles—the overturning of the ethics that grounds them. Changing from the perspectives of restrictive economy to those of general economy actually accomplishes a Copernican transformation: a reversal of thinking—and of ethics. If a part of wealth (subject to a rough estimate) is doomed to destruction or at least to unproductive use without any possible profit, it is logical, even inescapable, to surrender commodities without return. Henceforth, leaving aside pure and simple dissipation, analogous to the construction of the Pyramids, the possibility of pursuing growth is itself subordinated to giving: The industrial development of the entire world demands of Americans that they lucidly grasp the necessity, for an economy such as theirs, of having a margin of profitless operations.

In standard parlance, he seems to be arguing that a corollary of capital/wealth formation is a larger coefficient on productivity losses. He doesn't argue that the net effect can't still be positive, but rather that as developed economies progress, there will be more demand for goods and services that don't contribute to conventional growth drivers (investment, education and so on).

Also, "doomed to unproductive use without any possible profit" also seems to recall Minsky's famed "zombie companies": they are unproductive but the cost of capital is sufficiently low that they can still survive by rolling over debt.

That's what stands out to me, anyway.


Has Batallie's concepts attained mainstream recognition, or at least within certain economic schools of thought (Austrian, MMT, Keynesian, ect)? Why or why not?
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    $\begingroup$ To my best knowledge Minsky never used the term 'zombie company' could you add some source for where you learned that? $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1
    Mar 25 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ @1muflon1 Yes, he used the term "speculative" borrower. Just thought zombie is more understandable albeit less eloquent sounding. As Tom Waits once said: "The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering." $\endgroup$ Mar 28 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ Then you are using the term wrong. Speculative borrower = borrower that borrows in order to engage in a "bet" whether some asset goes up or down in value. Zombie firm = firm that is unproductive and can only survive thanks to government subsidies/policies. Those are diametrically different terms. This is not about writing, You can't call dolphin a fish just because you find it more poetic when factually its mammal. Zombie firm has specific meaning in literature. $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1
    Mar 28 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ @1muflon1 "Speculative" always brings to mind options/derivatives to the modern reader, which is part of the reason I took liberty to change it for clarity, (that's not how he was using it). He was using "speculative borrower" in a more abstract way. He describes "speculative borrower" as only making enough revenue to pay off its interest burden, which is a Zombie co. in all but name. Source: Stabilizing and Unstable Economy $\endgroup$ Mar 29 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ 1. There is clear difference. 2. Its not about semantics but rather correcting mistakes in the question. If someone would claim in question that the comparative advantage model is Smiths, based on twisting and misrepresenting his words, when it clearly was developed by Ricardo, you should expect that people will suggest correction in the comments. The concept of zombie firms was clearly developed by Caballero et al., and you are basically attributing their idea to completely different scholar, cheating those scholars of their deserved credit. That's like claiming that British build pyramids. $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1
    Mar 29 at 11:10


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