The Secret Weapon of Karl Marx
The American Economy
Opinions probably do not matter. There are so many. That being the case, here is one more. Almost exactly 25 years ago, President Reagan publicly asked Premier Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. It happened. Built in 1961, not so much to keep the free world out as to protect a bold idea from the excesses of capital, the wall came down. It was an astonishing victory from the point of view of those who had known first-hand the psychological violence of a world divided in two. For a while, it seemed as if the claim to cold-war victory would become permanent. Then one financial crisis followed another. Now it often appears as if the most Americans can expect from their government in hard times are the creative equivalents of free market five-year plans.
All the same, the communists sent packing after the USSR became the Russian Federation in 1991 are almost nowhere to be seen. In print or on camera or in coffee houses, for that matter, none step up onto soapboxes and make their presence known. In fact, they are seldom taken seriously. Perhaps that is because they have capitulated to the latest form of capitalism, defined in trillion dollar multiples. Or perhaps it is because they have no need to intervene. Are they winning or losing? In 2012, following the birth of a new leisure class of jobless people, things are going their way. Ten reasons come to mind.
(1) Executive pay. The sheer amounts paid to executives presiding over major corporations are so exorbitant that Karl Marx, an excellent writer, with all his literary might, could not have improved on this piece of trivia, which speaks loudly and clearly for itself. Despite high inflation, reported or not, Apple's CEO, at $377M+ (annually), is the man to beat for years to come. Still, Apple computers are excellent.
(2) Distribution of wealth. This is a dead horse not worth beating, but also an unassailable fact. Wealth is being hoarded. The income of the top 0.1 percent of the population has recently increased 36%, according to Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute, while the remainder, the 99.9%, have gone the other way.
(3) Anti-employee bias. Getting a job is difficult enough without having to butt heads with an employer. When it comes to blows, however, chances are employees, no matter what the beef, are going to lose. Unequal justice prevails in the workplace. This -- according to Nathan Koppel of the WSJ in 2009. It would be wishful thinking to hope otherwise at a time when hiring can be likened to the performance of miracles.
(4) Surplus labor. This is a term coined by communist thinkers to describe the mechanism, from their perspective, by which capitalism deliberately maintains a stable of able-minded, able-bodied workers who cannot find jobs. There is nothing personal about it. The system simply exploits an ineradicable condition. Employees are set against one another in the competition for jobs, good or bad, overpaid or underpaid, and the unemployed are held responsible for not working. According to an article posted on wobbly.com, the ratio of applicants to job-winner has jumped from an average of 15:1 to 20:1. For jobs in customer service and retail, the ratio goes upward above 40:1.
(5) Unemployment. This number, like all economic statistics, fluctuates from not bad to bad and then back again. Its accuracy has always been questioned. The best guess is that it is going to worsen.
(6) Bank robbery. Until now, bank robbery meant banks being robbed. Now it means clients being robbed by banks. A favored MO is to take money in and refuse to pay interest out.
(7) Outsourcing. According to a 2010 article in Investors.com, by 2014 nearly 1.5 million jobs will have been sent overseas. The Council on Foreign Relations expects over 3 million by 2015. In brief, the hemorrhaging is probably being understated.
(8) Industry control. Everybody knows that equal opportunity is fictitious. Certain people easily get jobs in industries that others can never break into. Job hunting or preparing for careers in these captured fields of enterprise is often a waste of time and effort.
(9) Lack of individuality. Individual initiative is not always welcome nor rewarded. In an age characterized by guarded information and disputed ownership of intellectual property, the status quo thwarts individuality by discouraging non-belongers. In this way, it maintains its so-so products and unmerited positions. Thus, gifted citizens in a free and open society who would otherwise have climbed the ladder of success simply flounder.
(10) Technology. Technocrats have yet to prove themselves and their innovations. Computerization might well lead free economies to a terminus. If capitalism cannot reinvent itself, it will likely decline and fall, as Marx predicted. But for Marxists, if there are any, this alone is not good news. Collective drives toward fascism are being stoked all the time.
In an earlier campaign, election issues focused on the economy. Other issues paled in comparison. Today, the focus on jobs is even tighter. The immediate future looks dismal. But this particular quagmire has happened before, and, in the past, severer problems have been confronted and overcome. Marxism may well spend further time on library shelves.