Sun, 20 Nov 2005

Workers "vs" Capitalists

I've been corresponding with someone who has a Master's degree in Economics (he doesn't say where from; I'm sure it's because they won't admit that they gave it to him), and calls himself "The Real Economist". He says this about workers and capitalists:

There has been and there still remains a simple fundamental fact in any capitalist economy; the capitalist who has to hire at least one worker, by definition, needs that worker to help operate the business; but, the worker, if and when organized and united with other workers, don't need the capitalist employer. The workers collectively can, if they want, form and operate their own government and economy. In other words, in the macro sense, the capitalists need the workers in order to operate and grow their businesses in any major way (workers aka 80% of consumers), but the workers don't need the capitalists in order to grow and exercise their power in any major way.

That's an admirable sentiment. "Bah! Who needs capitalists anyway?" Strictly speaking, it's true. Workers don't need capitalists. They can fore-go spending, accumulate their own capital, and form a worker-owned business. It's done all the time.

But there's something invisible going on here. He's trying to claim that "Capitalists" describes a set of individuals who have it in for workers. He's further claiming that once workers have capital, they'll remain workers and won't become capitalists. The problem with these ideas is that "Capitalists" describes many people. They didn't come into that role with a predisposition to screw workers. People who have capital behave a certain way. They have to, in order to remain capitalists. If they don't behave that way, they become "Philanthropists", who have an entirely different set of goals.

Workers who have capital are no longer just Workers. They are now Worker-Capitalists, who have the interests of both classes, at the same time. If they want to keep their job and their capital at the same time, they will cheerfully cut costs by firing workers (who lose their jobs but keep their capital). The alternative is for all of the workers to lose their jobs and their capital (aka life savings).

Real Economists are trained to see the invisible.

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