What's Fair About Capitalism?
It’s time for revolution if we want a livable future. We do not need a guru to instruct us on how to act. Those who wish to remain as slaves will continue sit by in anticipation of the coming of the savior or of a guide, that once followed to the letter will bestow upon them freedom. We have witnessed such men who have set out to be the revolutionary vanguard and the failure speaks for itself. History owes us nothing: we must struggle! We must not mistake our enemy. We must not to fight the wrong enemy. The need for a scapegoat is as old as civilization, and is nothing but the product of the frustrations of those who seek facile answers to the burdens that afflict us. Here there can be no ambiguity as to the nature of our battle. We favour the emancipation of all of mankind, without any form of exception. All for all is the principle that we stand by.
Around the world the right-wing and religious reactionaries are on the rise. If you're visiting this blog, chances are you are a member of the working class - not because the post specifically pertains to your interests but because, by definition, the vast majority of us are compelled to work for a wage or salary to survive. The Occupy slogan the 99% and the 1% - is actually not far off. The 99% essentially refers to the working class - those of us who are underemployed, unemployed, making minimum wage, making an hourly wage, working multiple jobs, earning a salary, working as "salaried professionals," working "under-the-table," etc.. In other words, if you weren't born with enough privilege and wealth to carry you through life, you are likely working for a wage in some form or another, or would be compelled to do so if left to your own means. Consider how far removed we are from the age-old concept of workers "enjoying the fruits of their labour." The working class has found itself in a breakneck "race to the bottom." “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work” sounds like a good thing. However, what is a fair day’s wages, and what is a fair day’s work?
From the perspective of a boss the answer is pretty simple. The labour market defines the capitalist’s role as a buyer of workers’ ability to work, and the employee’s role as the seller. The employee sells her time to the employer who in turn pays the employee in wages. The capitalist pays his version of a “fair wage”—the amount required for a worker with average needs to survive and keep coming back to work each day. Some bosses might pay a little more, some a little less, but on average this is the base rate of “fair” pay. A fair day’s work to the boss is the maximum amount of work an average worker can do without exhausting herself so much that she can’t do that same amount of work the next day. You, the worker, gives as much, and the capitalist gives as little, as the nature of the bargain will allow. People praise the “free market” that wages and working conditions are fixed by competition between the buyers, the capitalists. Supposedly, capitalists are all competing for workers, so that competition inevitably leads to fair wages and working conditions. After all, the seller—the worker—theoretically has several options of employers to choose from. If a buyer doesn’t offer a price that a worker thinks is fair for her labor, then she can look for another job that pays better. By agreeing to the prevailing wage, so goes this line of argument, workers have essentially made the statement: “We think this is fair.
This is a very strange sort of “fairness.” One problem is that workers and bosses do not start on equal terms when they are buying and selling. It’s not like you’re selling something E-Bay, in which you can wait until someone pays the price you want. For most of us, if we don’t have a job, we can’t pay our bills, feed ourselves and our families, or heat our homes. Having employment is a life or death issue. It may not be life or death in the short term, but eventually if you can’t find a job or someone with a job who will help you out financially, you will not be able to buy the things you need to live, let alone the things you need in order to be happy and fulfilled. It’s a very different for employers. They have money in the bank, and if they don’t get employees tomorrow or even this month, they might be inconvenienced or take a hit in profits, but they don’t risk anything like the consequences workers do.
Let’s express it more simply. Jones is an individual who has zero access to capital, which excludes him from being self-employed. He must find somebody who will share access to capital if he is to continue to eat. Fortunately, Smith has plenty of capital, and is willing to share it -- under certain conditions of course. Smith says to Jones that he can use Smith's capital to produce, *provided* that Jones engages in 90% of the productivity while Smith engages in 10%. Also, Jones will only receive 10% of the revenues despite all of his hard work, while Smith gets to keep 90% for his self. Jones agrees to these conditions because he has no other option. Is Jones morally bound by his agreement to allow Smith to keep 8 in 9 parts of what Jones produces? The capitalist, of course, answers, "Yes” Such an arrangement would be grossly unfair. This relationship between Smith and Jones is inherently exploitive, and Jones is entitled to much better. A society in which “forces” people to "agree" to subject their will to that of a boss is by no means "free". Capitalism simply put is a system of, by and for the owners of capital; and so long as it retains that primary characteristic, any society is capitalist even if the State has assumed ownership of the capital.
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