Commit 6c87caf8 authored by Nicolas Lenz's avatar Nicolas Lenz

Further work on essay

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......@@ -6,8 +6,8 @@ tags: [Capitalism, Economy, Politics, Free Market, Cooperative, Solidarity, Comp
thumb:
link: /res/article/wall-street.jpg
alt: The New York Stock Exchange as seen from Wall Street, a well-known symbol of capitalism.
description: In this essay I try to put the main parts of my political ideas regarding economics in writing.
abstract: In this essay I try to put the main parts of my political ideas regarding economics in writing.
description: In this essay I put the gist of my political ideas regarding economics in writing.
abstract: In this essay I put the gist of my political ideas regarding economics in writing.
noIndex: true
---
......@@ -33,13 +33,13 @@ Well, that's the idea. It's obviously not as simple as that (different to what a
## Market-Compliant Wages and Capitalism
*Anti-capitalism* is common courtesy around woke and left circles (both I don't consider myself to be part of, by the way), but seemingly the amount of people who actually reflected on that beyond "capitalism bad" is far lower. Anyhow – what actually *is* the problem with capitalism?
*Anti-capitalism* is common courtesy around woke and left circles (both I don't consider myself to be part of), but seemingly the amount of people who actually reflected on that beyond "capitalism bad" is far lower. Anyhow – what actually *is* the problem with capitalism?
The answer is far from new, it dates back to Karl Marx. Before someone starts screaming: You don't have to be a communist or even on the left side of the political spectrum to read and learn from Marx' works (obviously).
Let's approach this through the example of capitalist market economy. Not only the prices of resources and products are determined by the market, but the labor wages as well. Why does a soccer player get so much more money for their work than, let's say, a firefighter? Isn't the *value* of the firefighter's work, who saves lives (and prevents high material damages), far higher than the value of the soccer player's work?
The answer is: maybe. But that's irrelevant anyway because in a market economy the amount of money you get for something, the *exchange value*, is mostly independent from the *subjective value* we assign to it intuitively (if it were, the firefighter should get, well, *all* the money because lives are invaluable if you ask me). It even is mostly independent from the objective *utility value* (they depend on each other in an indirect manner of course – for a product the *utility value* influences the demand).
The answer is: maybe. But that's irrelevant anyway because in a market economy the amount of money you get for something, the *exchange value*, is mostly independent from the *subjective value* we assign to it intuitively (if it were, the firefighter should get, well, *all* the money because lives are invaluable). It even is mostly independent from the objective *utility value* (they depend on each other in an indirect manner of course – for a product the *utility value* influences the demand).
For example: a cleaner who works for a cleaning company cleans a building. They get paid according to supply and demand, which typically means that they get paid very little as the supply of people who can clean and are willing to do it for a small wage is very high thanks to poverty. If the cleaner demands a higher pay the cleaning company will have no problem finding someone in a desperate situation willing to work for a lower price to earn at least a little money to scrape by.
......@@ -84,10 +84,12 @@ The point is: market economy by itself isn't enough to guarantee worthy work con
Companies are no democracies. If you tell that to somebody they'll probably say something along the lines of "duh" and not see a problem with that. However, it *is* a problem. As I explained in the previous section, because changing a job is a high barrier and many people can't be choosy with their job ensuring good working conditions can't just be trusted on the market.
Arguing that it's okay for companies to be lead top-down becaus PeOPlE cAn ChAnGe WoRkPlAcEs or because *our* company leadership is nice and cares for the workers is like arguing that autocratic states are okay as long as people can leave or as long as the dictator is nice and cares for their subjects. It's just not that simple.
Arguing that it's okay for companies to be lead top-down because PeOPlE cAn ChAnGe WoRkPlAcEs or because *our* company leadership is nice and cares for the workers is like arguing that autocratic states are okay as long as people can leave or as long as the dictator is nice and cares for their subjects. It's just not that simple.
Most working people spend about half of their wake time each day working. The right of workers to represent themselves in their companies is just as important as the right of citizens to represent themselves in the state (a.k.a. democracy). Yet the former is generally ignored in public discourse and attempts of employee organizations are only mediocrely well protected by law and even if it is protected by law these laws are often ignored or bypassed (yet again, see Amazon and their so far successful activity at curbing unionization attempts of the workers).
TODO
## Money is Power
Money is not just a means of paying for goods and service. Money is power.^*TODO foundations of the rich*^
......@@ -98,6 +100,28 @@ A well-known problem manifesting in market economies is that of formation of mon
Monopolies are not a sad side effects of the market economy. It actually is an integral part of modern start-up economy. Companies are founded on huge amounts of venture capital and will often operate at a loss for years, reinvesting all the revenue to grow at a rapid rate. Competitors that have to operate profitably can't keep up. Only when a market-dominating position is reached the company starts actually monetizing their product, exploiting their monopoly to finally yield a huge return-on-investment for the investors.^*TODO citation needed*^
### Copyright and Patents
The idea of patents and copyright sounds nice: If someone had an idea, they should have the right to the profits from this idea. And of course, it would be harmful if anybody could, for example, just sell a song an artist has made without paying them for it.
However, there's a flipside to this: art, innovation, technology, science, *everything humans ever created* is a story of copying, plagiarizing and even stealing. That song the artist created? Based on centuries of musical development and incorporating ideas of dozens of other songs. That breakthrough discovery of some scientist? Based on centuries of scientific endeavour and dozens of published articles. Nobody makes great discoveries or inventions just by themselves.
In art, this mostly works. Other art is publicly available for artists to learn from. From time to time there is a lawsuit if something is too similar to another thing and that's that. In science, it works as well. Research is published. Often commercially for horrendous prices (encouragingly, with increasing regularity, research is published as [open access](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_access) instead), but generally, other reasearches can access it. Other research cites that, and so on. If you use other research *without* a proper citation, you get in trouble.
We see: in both art and science, deriving other work it is generally accepted and known to be essential to the business. This is a bit different with technological products though. It is obvious that technology is no different from art or science in that it only works because of copying. For example, Brother, HP, Canon, Epson et cetera didn't all invent printer technologyby themselves. Technology is also centuries of derivation and refinement.
However, in technology and hardware this practice is *not* accepted and cherished. Instead, companies get [patents](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent) on every small innovation they can get one. A patent is essentialy a government-granted right to bar others from using some technology for some time (mostly about 20 years) after the patent is granted. It is supposed to protect the first inventor of an innovation and enable them to get their deserved profits from their own idea without other enterprises "stealing" it.
However, this is a big problem TODO. Innovation is hindered and monopoles are governmentally promoted.
The pinnacle of this nefarious scheme can be found in software. Here innovation and technology is not just protected for some twenty years, it is kept secret *forever*. The problem is that with software copying the technology isn't even possible. A toaster oven is sold openly. Anybody can buy one and take it apart. But Google's search engine algorithms? They run on Google servers, there's no possibility to ever get to see it. And even software you buy and install locally is compiled and often obfuscated, making it near impossible and definitely impractical to derive on its technology. Making it worse, software isn't released like physical technology after 20 years when finally everybody can use and work with it. The owner of the software *never* has to release the source.
The noteworthy exception to this is free and open-source software. It is software whose source code is realased and can be used and modified by everyone, once again allowing this software to be improved and derived to let innovation and progress flourish like in art and science. For example, pretty much all security and encryption software is free and open source, allowing it to be improved on and used by others to improve their security.
But take Google, for example. Their search engine is simply the best. All others are kilometers behind in result quality. It's sad, but that's how it is and how it will stay. Google is the monopolist and no company can or would invest the *huge* amounts of capital that would be required to get even close to Google knowing that it will be near impossible getting a foot in the monopolized search market even then.
TODO
## Leistungsgerechtigkeit
Neoliberals here in Germany absolutely love talking about *Leistungsgerechtigkeit*, which could be traslated as *performance fairness*, which is really ironic. The idea is that people *performing* better, that is, working harder or more successfully, should get more money. This is often used as a naïve counterpoint to "socialism" where supposedly anyone gets the same wage regardless of performance.
......@@ -108,8 +132,9 @@ The whole thing is pretty cynical. Imagine actually claiming that a manager earn
## Neofeudalism
Taking up the previous point about performance fairness, not only wage inequalities are framed as fair, but inequalities in assets as well. It's the romantic narrative of the industrious entrepreneur who accumulated a fortune in a life of hard work. The American Dream, essentially. This is even more obviously wrong. Most fortunes are inherited, not earned ^*citation needed*^. And even the fortunes that aren't inherited are not accumulated through hard work. People like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos might be great businessmen and hard workers, but their fortunes aren't simply earned. It's the profit generated through the work of others. See the "Where does the Money go?" section above.^*TODO link*^
Taking up the previous point about performance fairness, not only wage inequalities are framed as fair, but inequalities in assets as well. It's the romantic narrative of the industrious entrepreneur who accumulated a fortune in a life of hard work. The American Dream, essentially. This is even more obviously wrong. Most fortunes are inherited, not earned ^*TODO citation needed*^. And even the fortunes that aren't inherited are not accumulated through hard work. People like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos might be great businessmen and hard workers, but their fortunes aren't simply earned. It's the profit generated through the work of others. See the "Where does the Money go?" section above.^*TODO link*^
Not only fortunes, but large companies are often inherited through families. How does that go together with the idea of performance fairness? Or same chances for everybody?
# Counter-Strategies
......@@ -133,11 +158,11 @@ The alternative is the concept of *cooperatives*.
A cooperative is a organization that is not owned by single or external entities, but instead by *its members* themselves.
Cooperatives are already somewhat common (at least in Germany), for example [housing cooperatives](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housing_cooperative) are organizations that own and "rent" real estate owned by its own residents. As there is capitalist ownership expecting profits, cooperative homes are generally cheaper and things like repairs are less troublesome. Housing cooperatives also provide better services and have more interest in things like environmental protection as the course of the organization isn't solely determined by a profit-driven landlord but democratically by the residents. Because of that, cooperative homes are in high demand here in Germany and you normally have to wait on a list for quite some time to get one.
Cooperatives do exist, and are not even that rare (at least in Germany). For example [housing cooperatives](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housing_cooperative) are organizations that own and "rent" real estate owned by its own residents. As there is capitalist ownership expecting profits, cooperative homes are generally cheaper and things like repairs are less troublesome. Housing cooperatives also provide better services and have more interest in things like environmental protection as the course of the organization isn't solely determined by a profit-driven landlord but democratically by the residents. Because of that, cooperative homes are in high demand here in Germany and you normally have to wait on a list for quite some time to get one.
TODO: worker cooperative
Cooperatives retain the spirit of the free market: entrepreneurship, competitiveness, progressiveness. But they take out the capitalistic aspect: there is no capitalist taking the profits, a cooperative either operates as non-profit or the profit is paid out to the members themselves. They also democratize the economic control: instead of by owners only driven by the need for profit, the cooperative's course is determined by the members themselves. And all that without state-owned enterprises and planned economy, both of which generally don't work that well if you ask me.
Cooperatives retain the spirit of the free market: entrepreneurship, competitiveness, progressiveness. But they take out the capitalistic aspect: there is no capitalist taking the profits, a cooperative either operates as non-profit or the profit is paid out to the members themselves. They also democratize the economic control: instead of by owners only driven by the need for profit, the cooperative's course is determined by the members themselves. And all that without state-owned enterprises and planned economy, both of which generally don't work that well.
I firmly believe that cooperatives can lead to a better world, where people are less exploited, are more in control of their own fate und in general more free. I also believe that they could help in improving the responses to things like pandemics or climate change, as cooperative economy is democratized away from the need for profit to the members that can drive for example an enivronment-friendly course.
......@@ -150,16 +175,19 @@ Sidenote TODO: Own article?
## Inheritance Tax
get taxed for dying lol xddddd rofl
## Standardization, Patents, Copyright, Free and Open Source
# Conclusion
Anticapitalist social market economy! Mutualism!
yada yada not an economist, comments welcome
A big thank you goes out to [Jonas Neubürger](http://clown.org/) for reading over the draft of this text!
[^i]: [Image source](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Photos_NewYork1_032.jpg), licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0
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