I’m quoting Alexander the meerkat, who probably has more sense than a lot of politicians. How on Earth did we get into the kind of economic mess we’re in at the moment, with banks having to be rescued from collapsing by the taxpayer and cuts in public services to try to pay off the national debt?
Capitalist greed is the short answer, and it would also apply of course to former Socialist countries where the ruling bureaucratic clique creamed off too much for themselves.
The basic rule of thumb is that you don’t get anything for nothing. If you try, you’re in deep trouble sooner or later, and the more people trying to get something for nothing, the greater the problems they create.
The simple fact is every able bodied adult of working age needs to earn their living, and if there aren’t enough jobs around then they have to be created because there is actually plenty of community work needing to be done in charities, hospitals, helping our aging population, the disabled, etc..
Living off interest, shareholders’ dividends or credit (or vast inheritances) causes tremendous problems because these individuals are not being productive. They are living off the labor of others like parasites or else off paper money just printed out and therefore not worth its face value, and this is the direct cause of inflation and all our other economic problems such as the national debt and the collapse of banks.
If you want something you should earn the money and buy it. This immediately rules out owning homes for most people, as it would take a lifetime to save up and buy one outright. So why do so many people get into debt with mortgage companies trying to own their home when most buildings outlast their residents?
To pass on to children? Well you can only pass one home on to one child, so if that child is still living in the family home as an adult and the home is passed to them, any siblings will feel hard done by. If the property is sold on the death of the parents and the proceeds split between the siblings, then the one still living at home will suddenly find themselves not only bereaved when their surviving parent dies, but homeless and possibly with little prospect of finding another since their share of the sale will probably not be enough to purchase another home, and council housing is now almost like gold dust. Private rented accommodation, which is very expensive, being the only alternative unless you can get yourself on a housing association list.
True Socialism solves all these problems because it requires everyone who possibly can to work, and in return it looks after its citizens. Low-rent accommodation, with no worry about maintenance and repairs, should be provided for everyone who needs it when they need it, along with cheap public transport and many ‘free’ public services like education, health, etc.
Of course these are not ‘free’ – they have to be paid for somehow. One way is thru taxes, and why people complain about this is a mystery to me. You don’t complain when lining up at the supermarket checkout at having to pay for the goods you have purchased, so why do so many complain about paying for public services thru taxes? Presumably because they don’t have a choice and may not use some of them – tough! The services are there if you ever need them, and state pensions will be needed by almost everyone who survives to retiring age.
Another way of funding public services is with the vast amounts of money held by the banks and financial institutions (insurance companies, building societies, etc.) If all credit/lending/mortgages to private individuals was stopped and all financial institutions taken over by the State, then this vast pool of resources, representing the surplus value of the labor of millions of citizens, could be used to keep taxes low and fund the public services.
Why can’t we live on credit or unearned income? Because the simple fact is if too many people are doing this there will be too much money around chasing too few goods and services. Also, much unearned income like vast company profits shared out as dividends and directors’ bonuses is stolen directly from the exploited labor of billions of non-unionized sweatshop workers in the developing world, and also in many former Socialist countries where all their former subsidies and public services have now been abolished.
Either way it’s not good to be living in a society where so many are living on credit or unearned income, as if this has not been stolen from the wage packets of the exploited workers, then it is inflationary ‘paper’ money not worth its face value because it doesn’t represent the labor of anybody.
It all comes back to the old Marxist truth that the only thing that produces value is labor. Without good, honest labor all the gold in the world would lie deep in the ground, totally useless to anyone. It is the hard labor involved in mining and processing it which gives it a high value. If gold coins just rained form the sky on a regular basis they’d be utterly worthless. As worthless as the paper money printed off to hand out willy-nilly as credit. If it is not just printed off it’s people’s hard-earned savings and the banks charge interest for lending it. As my old boss used to say, banks are the biggest crooks of all. They charge people for lending money they don’t own in the first place. Interest is unearned income and therefore totally unjustified unless it just covers inflation.
Nobody needs to now work as hard as they did in previous centuries because many labor-saving machines and gadgets have increased the productivity of labor. But all these labor-saving devices represent the stored mental and physical labor of workers – those who invented and designed the devices, and those who build and maintain them.
In much the same way a painting, sculpture or antique stores up and reflects the labor power of those who created these objects, and their value increases as they become rarer and more difficult to reproduce. The labor power of a Dali, Rembrandt or Van Gogh is really unique – others can copy their style, but you will never get a new original by these artists (unless you find, and believe in, a truly gifted psychic artist inspired by these deceased greats). Similarly with genuine antiques of all kind, they can be copied and reproduced but you’ll never be able to create another genuine 18th Century piece of furniture, for example. So their stored labor increases in value with time because of their rarity value and the impossibility of creating new original works of art by deceased artists, or new genuine antiques.
So everything we purchase represents the value created by the labor of those who produced it. Anything which does not require labor to produce it, such as the air we breathe, is free and has no commercial value. At least not on Earth. Were we living on the Moon or Mars, then we’d have to pay for the air we breathed because labor power would be required to create it.
It really is that simple. Very few things come free, they have to be worked for. If you think you’re getting something for nothing you can bet it’s either been filched from the wage packets of some exploited workers somewhere in the world, or it is inflationary money printed off with no real labor-created value behind it.
That is why we are in such an economic mess, and why the capitalist system is so unstable, lurching form crisis to crisis. Only constant wars and a huge arms industry, which are ways of creating publicly-funded employment and killing off the surplus population, keep the capitalist system going.
That’s the best reason of all for getting rid of it and moving on to the next stage in human society – Socialism!