Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Last night's post, which I unleashed on facebook, ended up getting an interesting comment from a conservative friend with whom I went to high school:

...if the assessment is true, then the "Wants" will exceed the "Haves", despite the fact that the "Haves" earned what they have, while the "Wants" haven't. Redistribution of wealth is a fallacy. Giving everyone an equal share of resources doesn't make them equally prosperous. It makes them equally impoverished. Those that tout that ideal should just own up to the fact that it's not about "Liberte. Egalite. Fraternite" (sorry...couldn't resist on Bastille Day), but it's about revenge.
My response:
I think it's safe to say that the "Wants" have exceeded the "Haves" throughout the entire history of our republic. The question, to me, is about how much of an imbalance we have as far as that goes. So it goes without saying that I think you're definitely right to worry about the "Wants," as a percentage of the population, dramatically increasing. Indeed, when one looks at history, it was exactly such a situation that preceded both the French and Russian revolutions: when you create a desperate population, it is no surprise when they start to behave desperately.

Or maybe I'm just confusing your "Wants" with what I think of as "Needs." In any case, it is an extraordinarily problematic position into which put yourself on this, I think, when you make such declarations about who has earned what.

When you look at the concept of earning from a Marxist or labor oriented perspective, it is automatically assumed that business does its damnedest, all the time, balls-to-the-walls, to pay as little for labor as it can possibly get away with. And that's a good assumption because, by and large, it's pretty true, something with which most supporters of capitalism would agree. Companies generally want to spend as little as possible. Makes complete sense. After all, why would they ever spend more than they absolutely had to? So that's what companies do; they try to low ball compensation for workers. And they generally get away with it.

Now there's this thing called the "labor market," which ostensibly attempts to put some sort of "objective" value on a worker's labor, determined by the same kind of things determining value for products or resources, supply, demand, how skill sets, training, and education affect the supply, the needs of a given industry, etc. So, you know, we HAVE to pay you shit wages because you're unskilled, and there are about a billion unskilled laborers out there who would LOVE to have your job, so you get shit because that's what the labor market says you get, high supply of unskilled workers juxtaposed against a relatively low demand for them. You see? It's all just economics, nothing we can do about that.

Well, okay, that's one point of view.

But get all these unskilled laborers, who deserve shit wages because that's what the "labor market" says, to walk off the job together, to go on strike, then suddenly their value is OBVIOUSLY much more than the shit they're getting because their employer is now making no money at all. In fact, he's losing money becuase his labor force won't play ball.

CLEARLY, from that point of view, the point of view that says "you couldn't be a capitalist without workers," people are worth MUCH more than the so-called "labor market" dictates. That is, workers, in association with capitalists and management, create wealth, but generally receive only a tiny fraction of the wealth they create. Because of this intellectual construction called the "labor market," which reduces human beings to the level of commodity, and robs them of their fair share.

And capitalists, real capitalists, big-timers, are well aware of this: they routinely and brazenly use their economic strength to straight-up manipulate the "labor market" to their advantage. Heavy investment in automation, as well as capital mobility, that is, off-shoring, which includes moving production plants from union states to the South, and pitting different groups of workers against each other, as with blacks against whites, or women against men, or legals against illegals, are but three of many tried and true methods for distorting what actual reality the "labor market" might represent.

So when people talk about how awful "redistribution" is, it's pretty clear that they're not talking about the redistribution that happens at the point of initial employment, when the capitalist effectively tells the new hire that he will be paid far less than he is actually worth. That is, when the worker is forced to redistribute his value away from himself and toward his boss, who insists it's his in the first place, anyway, because he's in charge. Nobody talks about that kind of redistribution, the kind where the capitalist steals his workers' labor just because he can get away with it.

This is why I support unions. Unions are the only way for workers and capitalists to work out what the true value of labor is. It's done on an equal playing field, and it's about real agreements, real contracts, not the kind we see so much of today where it's effectively "take shit wages or fuck off."

You know, none of this has gotten into how consumer markets need consumers with cash in hand in order to function, a Keynesian point of view, which means that if you push inequality too far, the economy necessarily shrinks because you've got shrinking markets. So "redistribution" isn't only fair and just, but also necessary if we're serious about robust capitalism and growth. But I've run on far too long to even go there just yet.
'Nuff said.