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  • Anarcho-Syndicalism versus
    American Conservatism Debate

    On Land and Work

    Between Punkerslut and
    the American First Party

    Letters #21-#25


    From RadicalGraphics.org
    Image: From "Resist" Gallery from RadicalGraphics.org

    Date: Monday, July 27, 2009

    Letter #21

    Punkerslut

    Punkerslut to the America First Party...

    Greetings,

    "Your quote from Smith was not the one I was referring to. I was referring to the once regarding the use of force and the police to compel laborers."

         You weren't referring to the one quote by Adam Smith that I've kept bringing up? Well, I wasn't really sure, since you had said specifically, "You keep dragging out that old quote from Adam Smith." (Note: The quotes were from a single selection on the determination of wages from chapter 8 of book 1. The "always and everywhere" clause came before Smith more thoroughly developed the relationship between Capitalist and the state.)

    "Also, you can stop bringing up Adam Smith and other economic and philosophic authors. Though they have discovered many interesting things, they weren't perfect, and I don't model my economic system after every jot and tittle of what they wrote. Some of what they described is relevant today, some is not, so the fact that they provide a description that you like doesn't make it relevant to today's discussion."

         My understanding of the economy is the result of hours and hours, weeks and weeks, of piling through economic books and statistics. I quoted Smith, but I could have as well have quoted Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo, Josiah Child, William Petty, James Steuart, or Sismonde di Sismondi. If you want me to stop mentioning them in regards to how I think -- that's fine. You know that you can always find the source of my ideas somewhere at the library.

    "Look, I am not defending your straw-man system of capitalism. I am not defending any system where the power of the state compels employees to work, or compels businesses to employ certain people, or compels workers to be represented by unions, or compels businesses to deal with unions. None of this belongs in free enterprise, and our party opposes it, as we oppose all wars of aggression and empire."

         Straw-man system of Capitalism? Well, if you don't believe that type of Capitalism exists today, you certainly know it existed at some time. And, in many places around the world, things have actually worsened since the time of Adam Smith. The land was made usable by serfs and slaves, the factories and farms were first erected and built by indentured servants and force laborers. The only "free workers" who built all these machines and manufacturing plants were those who were attacked for unionizing. In which sense, we can say that they weren't free at all.

         If you oppose this forceful system of Capitalism, do you believe in granting property rights to their original owner? That is to say, do you support giving some property rights back to the laborers?

    "You missed the point about the workers holding 'stolen wealth' - my point was simply, if isolated acts of theft in the past taint ALL wealth held by all capitalists, then they necessarily taint all wealth held by all laborers as well. There are plenty of laborers who haven't had anything stolen from them personally - yet they have, by your logic, received wages and purchases possession tainted by those remote acts of theft which blacken (according to you) every act by every capitalist."

         Yes, but the act of theft was from the workers. When the boss steals from the workers, and then pays them a wage, this wage isn't stolen property. It's rightfully earned. The person being stolen from is the worker. When this person receives back some of their wealth, they are not stealing. Because who are they stealing from? Themselves? From every definition of property rights than I can find, there is no such thing as stealing property from yourself.

    "The Communist seeks bizarre class-based explanations for why his theory fails - such as appeals to what happened in the Paris Commune in 1871!"

         When I had brought up the Paris Commune, and the widespread slaughter of the proletariat, it was evidence to justify the trend that Capitalists use violence to maintain Capitalism. I had also drawn out examples of Joe Hill, Sacco and Vanzetti, the deportations of labor activists like Emma Goldman and Big Bill Haywood, the police brutality against unionists like Cesare Chavez, among so many other examples. My argument has always been that this is the general trend, and there are examples just a few years ago -- police opened fire on union protesters in Mexico, Bolivia, and Paraguay.

         So, when I argue about the inherent oppression of Capitalism, it is not about any single incident. It's like arguing against gravity, and saying, "You keep coming back to that single incident of a ball filled with air falling to the ground." Pointing out a single piece of evidence to a theory, when referring to a very widespread and developed theory, is rather dishonest. I never sought an explanation of any social activity based solely on what happened during the Paris Commune. Rather, my explanations have always built up from thorough and undeniable trends in evidence.

    "But do go ahead. Why haven't you and others done this already, since you are completely free to do so in modern American society? - except for the huge taxes and regulation that the government has heaped upon all businesses. Obama's health care proposals alone will probably bankrupt your co-op before it can get off the ground. It would have had a far better chance of survival 100 years ago."

    [...]

    "But getting to your concrete, substantive proposal in the last paragraphs: there is plenty of land and idle buildings that could be used by people to create 'co-ops' - indeed, there are many companies who would be eager to permit such use of idle resources. I am surprised that you don't know about this. In my community, I know of several pieces of property that the owners would likely cooperate with such schemes."

    [...]

    "...when all around him individuals are starting with nothing but an idea and some drive and building successful enterprises - while the communists dream of collectives, and gnash against the 'forces' that keep them from happening."

         Yes, there are many small, independent businesses. But, the majority of these small firms are doomed to rollover in ten years or less. Unlike these workers, businesses start up with capital, with land, with wealth. A Capitalist has what is necessary to feed their laborers and to sustain their means of production. (And, we've already thoroughly gone over the arguments of "who makes the wealth?" and "by what means did the Capitalist gain this wealth?" -- so I won't cover them here.) The reasons why a businessman or investor can create a business are easy to see: they have the means, the mode, and the motivation.

         The reason why workers don't self-start their businesses, likewise, should be easy to see: they have no means of buying the capital necessary to start a business. The worker, living off of minimum wage, is not even capable of living above the poverty level. The average American has kept negative savings in the recent years. [*1] The reason holding back cooperatives and labor-managed firms is because we don't have the opportunity to enter the market and compete. Any Capitalist can throw down enough money to buy the land and machinery, but a group of American laborers without money don't easily have that option.

    "Now, I don't believe your voluntary labor unions and co-ops will thrive or succeed much, but then everybody should be free to give it a whirl. I suspect that co-ops don't work well because there is little profit motive to be found in them, because ownership is too diffuse. It will be difficult to accumulate the capital necessary to make a go of it, because there will be no hope of profit to justify the risk."

    [...]

    "That, in the end, is what defines an 'entrepreneur' - one who has the vision and get-up-and-go to work building his dream enterprise. It happens all the time with individuals. They find ways to builds millions of businesses a year. But it rarely happens with collectives. The fact that millions of individuals pull it off, but so few collectives do, when the same resources are available to both, suggests that collectives just don't work - they don't self-start - they don't, by and large, self-sustain."

         It is true that cooperatives have a difficult time in self-starting, due to the barriers to entry I listed above. Yet this isn't a fair summary of the functioning of cooperatives. For example, take the Mondragon Corporation, which is an umbrella organization for over one hundred cooperatives. Only one of five businesses survive for the first five years in the United States; but after fifty years, the cooperatives of Mondragon have a survival rate greater than 97%. [*2] This was a cooperative that start out with little more than twenty people, and today thrives with over 20,000 workers. The rate of success of this firm makes any Capitalist enterprise look like an unstable and out-of-date mode of social and productive organization.

         Likewise, we find very healthy and natural cooperatives rising up in Mexico, Brazil, Britain, and Japan. It is a difficult thing to say that cooperatives are doomed to failure -- the movement itself is less than two centuries old, and the majority of cooperatives were founded in the past twenty or thirty years. [*3] The resources of big Capitalists are virtually endless -- control of Third World Nation states to over a trillion dollars in the value of capital. The cooperative doesn't even have anything close to this, and yet their performance has completely outdone conventional business practices.

    "You failure to grasp this reveals something about the falacy of making an arbitrary division of 'capitalists' and 'workers' - almost every capitalist is also a 'worker' and almost every 'worker' holds some capital."

         There is no arbitrary distinction between capitalists and workers; it is a completely justified distinction. All economics is about understanding what motivates and determines the trades that a person makes. The actions and motivations of someone who sells their labor are going to be very different from someone who lives off of stock dividends. A worker trades his labor, like a commodity, to gain sustenance for themselves and their family. A Capitalist might labor, might not labor, or they might only labor somewhat -- but beyond all of these, the most important thing to their income is their possession of capital.

         I seek a system where each labor and own capital, but it is quite clear that this is not the case today. Very few laborers own capital, and the few that do, possess only a company stock. There are, now and then, individual enterprises where the capitalist and the laborer are the same person -- but this is my ideal. I want each and all to be Capitalist and laborer: to truly make those these classifications one and the same. However, given the rate of technology, that is not a very feasible prospect for most people. Not everyone can just buy their own business and succeed in the market place. For one, there are too many businesses that require hundreds or thousands of employees, and the only way for the worker and the Capitalist to be the same here, is through a cooperative.

         Some Capitalists labor, some laborers have capital -- but its certain that the majority of labor falls on the back of the laborer, and the majority of capital is in the hands of the Capitalist.

         If you want there to be peace, then there has to be justice. Workers have every reason to believe that we create the wealth, and that the lands were seized from our ancestors. If you want us to think that the government isn't trying to exploit and oppress us, then you'll have to give some of the land back to the laborers. I've already explained that the common working class cannot afford to buy big factories or acres and acres of farms. This being impossible, would you let groups of workers borrow unused land and equipment to sustain themselves? That is to say, would you support a bill that legalizes this temporary borrowing?

         Thank you,

    Andy Carloff,

    Resources

    *1. MoneyCentral, MSN, "Why can't Americans save a dime?" By Christian Science Monitor, page link.
    *2. "Making Mondragon: The Growth and Dynamics of the Worker Cooperative Complex," by William Foote Whyte and Kathleen King Whyte, Second Edition Revised, page 3.
    *3. "Making Mondragon: The Growth and Dynamics of the Worker Cooperative Complex," by William Foote Whyte and Kathleen King Whyte, Second Edition Revised, page 6.


    From RadicalGraphics.org
    Image: From "Food" Gallery from RadicalGraphics.org

    Date: Monday, Jul 27, 2009

    Letter #22

    America First Party

    The America First Party to Punkerslut...

    Earlier you had quoted from the Discourse on Silver, which gives his description of how businessmen use the force of the state to compel the workers. That was the quote I was referring to.

    You can quote anybody you like to describe what you think, but you can stop quoting people who describe conditions that do not generally apply in today's American economy.

    For example, it does no good to quote historical descriptions of capitalists relying on the force of the state to make workers work, since in reality, that almost never happens in today's economy. So it's really disingenuous to drag those type quotations through the discussion as if they are really relevant to today.

    You just cannot get beyond the abuses that occurred hundreds and hundreds of years ago - the abuses that Karl Marx made so much grist of. "The factories" were not built by slave labor. Almost all of those factories have long ago rotted to the ground, been torn down, the land sold and resold and new enterprises established with very little connection to what went before.

    I do not agree with the "labor theory of value" or the "labor theory of wealth." Bastiat and later the Austrians have come up with a far more accurate description of value and wealth, of which labor is but one input among many.

    Therefore, I do not agree that the "laborers" "built" the capital or the factories. If they were abused, then their labor's value was stolen - but that does not mean that their real property was stolen - for by and large, they never owned it.

    The reason you cannot "give the property rights back to the laborers" is that money is fungible. The only remedy for force or theft is proof of specific damages, and restitution and interest. There is no generic "damage" to "the workers." There were specific laborers who were mistreated. The value of that mistreatment has long been dissipated and transferred many times over both to other laborers and to businessmen.

    Laborers receive wages made up in part of moneys stolen from OTHER laborers. Laborers are not a general class that owns anything. Individual persons own their own labor, etc.

    I am not addressing the wages paid to laborers who had previously had their labor stolen. I am addresses wages paid to laborers who HAD NOT had their wages stolen from them. They are just as guilty of "receiving value stolen from the workers" as are capitalists who make money selling the original wicked capitalist some machinery for his factory, etc.

    You claim you have documented a general trend, but you have not. All you have documented is a low level of dishonest dealings by some businessmen throughout history. There has also been low level dishonesty by SOME workers during the same period. There has been violence sprinkled throughout history by union organizers and union busters.

    But none of that is enough to validate your marxist viewpoint.

    Your argument about how regular workers can't start businesses is simply false - workers start businesses all the time, and they succeed. Right now, I do consulting for a $20,000,000 per year business that one guy started with nothing but his own labor. The whole country is stuffed full of examples like that. True, many businesses fail. But many also succeed, and small business employs most of the workers in this country. These small businesses do not start out with some great big mother-lode of capital. They start out with capital that one man has managed to scrape together by hard work and by self-denial and by saving.

    I am glad to see that some of your co-operatives have succeeded, but that just proves my larger point: "the workers" can organize along your lines right now, and a few of them have. Good for them! What are you complaining about?

    And again, the idea that co-ops cannot start up new businesses because they have no "capital" is belied by the fact that single individuals with no capital start up new businesses all the time, and some of them succeed. There are no more "barriers" to entry for them than for the co-ops.

    You also seem to limit capital to money. In fact, education and knowledge is also capital. That is why a pipe-fitter gets paid more than a floor-sweeper - because his CAPITAL investment allows him to charge more for his labor, which is more valuable in the marketplace.

    I've already pointed out to you that there is plenty of unused land and building that big businesses would be GLAD to lend to start-up co-ops. There just aren't many co-ops ready to take advantage of it.

    The one thing that discourages such lending is the super-high property taxes that governments levy on unused property. This is usually the reason the properties are lost.

    There are abandoned buildings in Detroit ripe for the taking, except for the obscene property tax that "progressive" governments lay on them. Detroit would be a great place to test your theories: plenty of abandoned property and space. Go get 'em!

    We don't need any new laws to allow "lending" - there's plenty of that available already. I think your bluff has been called on this issue - the fact is, there isn't enough "entrepreneurship" to steam-power many more "co-ops" - because the profit motive is what drives people to work hard and build and seek their dream in the business world.

    JPH--


    From RadicalGraphics.org
    Image: From "Food" Gallery from RadicalGraphics.org

    Date: Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    Letter #23

    Punkerslut

    Punkerslut to the America First Party...

    Greetings again,

    "Earlier you had quoted from the Discourse on Silver, which gives his description of how businessmen use the force of the state to compel the workers. That was the quote I was referring to."

         And the exact quote was, "In 1350, being the 25th of Edward III, was enacted what is called The Statute of Labourers." 1776, which is when Adam Smith wrote "Wealth of Nations," is far off from 1350 -- so, it's not likely he was talking about "his day in England." I do certainly appreciate your enthusiasm in responding to his work. But, I would suggest reading it before trying to make more interpretations out of it.

    "You can quote anybody you like to describe what you think, but you can stop quoting people who describe conditions that do not generally apply in today's American economy."

         Like I've said before, it's your right to disagree with Adam Smith's conceptual understanding of economics. And to disagree with the army of economists that came after him. When I quoted them, I did so specifically because what they say does apply to our world -- in and outside of our country.

    "For example, it does no good to quote historical descriptions of capitalists relying on the force of the state to make workers work, since in reality, that almost never happens in today's economy. So it's really disingenuous to drag those type quotations through the discussion as if they are really relevant to today."

         The City of New Orleans -- its marshes were drained by slaves and indentured servants, its factories and businesses were manned with oppressed laborers, and even today, it is still a city of forced laborers. After Hurricane Katrina, many of the migrant workers there were forced to rebuild the city, and they won a pitiful allowance in a lawsuit. Kidnapping and torture would get you millions in a civil lawsuit... unless you're a worker. [*1] This was in 2005, only a few years ago. Yes, the land was made usable by serfs, the factories were built by exploited laborers, and even today -- the repairs are made with forced workers.

         If an American Capitalist has no moral qualm with forcing Asian children to knit soccer balls, why would they stop at the American worker? Whether it is their monopoly on land and wealth, or their connection to the state, the Capitalist responds to their self-interest by hurting everyone around them.

    "You just cannot get beyond the abuses that occurred hundreds and hundreds of years ago - the abuses that Karl Marx made so much grist of. 'The factories' were not built by slave labor. Almost all of those factories have long ago rotted to the ground, been torn down, the land sold and resold and new enterprises established with very little connection to what went before."

         Many of the original factories that have been built are still in use -- their walls were kept up, while the machinery was simply exchanged. If you have any doubt of this, take a scenic drive through New England. You'll find plenty of buildings that are centuries old: residential and commercial. It is, in fact, much more uncommon to find a brand new factory. And while New England's factories were built by indentured servants and exploited workers, they all depended on cotton. Without the slave labor of the south, the textile industry of the north would never have been born.

         When the Capitalist takes the cotton from the slaves, and sells it, is the purchaser innocent of what they're financially contributed to? I would say no. And what does it matter, that this cotton is sold to a textile mill, that reaches a shipwright, that reaches a barge, and finally, it is used to transport lumber or ore. The Capitalist who owns the lumber yard will not be far-sighted enough to see where their wealth comes from -- that the cotton of their sails was picked by slaves, and then manufactured by workers who were hounded by police and the law. In each stage, the cotton is still a stolen product. And every three or four months, the lumber mill sends out its dividends to its stock owners. The wealth of the modern stock market, for instance, draws back to all of these accounts, these businessmen, and these Capitalists.

    "I do not agree with the 'labor theory of value' or the 'labor theory of wealth.' Bastiat and later the Austrians have come up with a far more accurate description of value and wealth, of which labor is but one input among many.

    "Therefore, I do not agree that the 'laborers' 'built' the capital or the factories. If they were abused, then their labor's value was stolen - but that does not mean that their real property was stolen - for by and large, they never owned it."

         The Labor Theory of Value, or the Marginal Theory of Utility, are attempts at answering why we value wealth. I'd like a demonstration where wealth can come about, except by labor. And you should quickly realize, to do this is nothing short of a magic trick. If it really worked, we'd just hocus-pocus our wealth into existence, but it doesn't, which is why the majority of people are laborers. If labor isn't responsible for wealth and capital, then where do they come from? You could have at least told me this.

    "Your argument about how regular workers can't start businesses is simply false - workers start businesses all the time, and they succeed. Right now, I do consulting for a $20,000,000 per year business that one guy started with nothing but his own labor. The whole country is stuffed full of examples like that. True, many businesses fail. But many also succeed, and small business employs most of the workers in this country. These small businesses do not start out with some great big mother-lode of capital. They start out with capital that one man has managed to scrape together by hard work and by self-denial and by saving."

    [...]

    "And again, the idea that co-ops cannot start up new businesses because they have no 'capital' is belied by the fact that single individuals with no capital start up new businesses all the time, and some of them succeed. There are no more 'barriers' to entry for them than for the co-ops."

         Saying "many businesses fail" is an understatement. In a five year period, one out of five businesses still exists. For that one multi-millionaire who made his own business -- how many started a business, failed, and now must live the rest of their lives under debt? Certainly far more. Your single example doesn't really represent the average American; in fact, it singly stands out as the extreme minority of cases. The only value of bringing it, necessarily, is to point out how unlikely and improbable such a situation is.

         The monopoly of land and wealth into the hands of a few is the greatest barrier to entry -- whether it is a cooperative or a small-business. (I actually pointed this out in an earlier letter.) There is no point in requesting from a Capitalist that we rent or lease their land. Just like all other capitalists, they'll want to take a "usury tax" out of the person to labor the land. Just like the serf or the peasant in Feudalism, the "Lord of the Manor" must have his cut of wealth -- which is nothing more than the product of labor. To lease this land, and be exploited by a Capitalist for it, is no different than to work for any other Capitalist. No matter where I go, the wealth that I produce, the land that I work, my blood and sweat -- it will be taxed for some idle Capitalist's profits. This is exactly why I seek the labor-owned and managed firm, because it guarantees labor's product to the laborer, and it holds the most responsible, social policy.

         Even where there is no longer any interference by the state, the Capitalist's wealth is guaranteed by their possessions -- those who own all the mines are most capable of building and maintaining a mining firm. Those who own all the farmlands are most capable of building and maintaining an agricultural firm. According University of California, Santa Cruz, "In terms of types of financial wealth, the top one percent of households have 36.7% of all privately held stock, 63.8% of financial securities, and 61.9% of business equity. The top 10% have 85% to 90% of stock, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate." [*2]

         Where there are very few competitors, the competition is fierce. No matter what Capitalist you go to, they each want to extract a value out of your labor, far above and beyond the value of your wages and the raw materials. This is everywhere and always the case. I have only wanted the value of my labor; but in Capitalist society, I don't have that option. Either I am a worker, in which case my labor is taken and used to support some idle Capitalist; or, I am a Capitalist, in which case my income is largely supported by the laboring class.

         Much of the lands of these Capitalists sits idle. There are fields ready for farming, factories ready for industry -- but no laborer is allowed to work them. And when they are, they are exploited. This is the primary obstacle to jobs in this country. It is not that workers refuse to labor; it is that Capitalists refuse to let them!

         The greatest incentive to labor is to receive the whole product of your wealth; you believe this is the case with taxes against business, but not with profits against workers. My letters have not been specifically "what you can do to help the cooperative movement." Rather, I've just been trying to explain the best ways to create employment and jobs. Give the land to those who will work it and make something out of it. And if you don't believe they have a right to it, then just let them work it and profit from it. Earlier, I had quoted that Americans saved less than 1% of their income, and many of them are in tragic debt. Buying cheap land isn't an option for the masses.

         If you want to pull Americans out of this recession, and create jobs, you have to let them create jobs. Let them work the fields and factories, the taverns and the offices. It is the possession of the lands and wealth by an extreme few that has blocked so many from receiving the value of their labor. Give families the chance to make bread, give workers the chance to labor upon the land and benefit from it!

         The longer there is unemployment, the longer there will be poverty, homelessness, and hunger. And these things are the cause of radicalism and extremism, whether belonging to the left or the right wing. If people can't labor the land and benefit from it, then they'll hold someone responsible for their miseries -- and it is certainly likely that they'll blame those responsible for organizing society, the Capitalists and the politicians. If you want all of the socially-healthy things that come with laborers earning their wealth, then let them take the lands and labor upon them. The longer that they are denied this, the more that they will be driven to extremism and hate; being dispossessed, along with hunger, will push human beings to fanaticism.

         There will be no way, except for death, to erase their memories of wanting and having been denied -- their past of being hungry near empty fields, of being in poverty near idle factories.

    "We don't need any new laws to allow 'lending' - there's plenty of that available already. I think your bluff has been called on this issue - the fact is, there isn't enough 'entrepreneurship' to steam-power many more 'co-ops' - because the profit motive is what drives people to work hard and build and seek their dream in the business world."

         The self-interest motive drives everyone in the economic world -- it is self-interest that brings the laborer sweat out eight-hour days, and self-interest that brings the Capitalist to live off of the labor of others. But the laborer's self-interest is about providing for their family. The Capitalist's self-interest is about their luxury, their wealth, their great big mansions and yachts and cars -- and how to sustain this idle mode of income.

         Thank you, again,

    Andy Carloff,

    Resources

    *1. "SPLC Settlement Recovers Wages for Hurricane Katrina Cleanup Workers," 07/21/2009, Southern Poverty Law Center, page link.
    *2. "Wealth, Income, and Power," by G. William Domhoff, September 2005, page link.


    From RadicalGraphics.org
    Image: From "Food" Gallery from RadicalGraphics.org

    Date: Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009

    Letter #24

    America First Party

    The America First Party to Punkerslut...

    No, you actually had TWO other quotations from Adam Smith that referred to capitalists employing the violence of the state against employees:

    You wrote:

    Quoting Adam Smith, "The masters upon these occasions [of strikes] are just as clamorous upon the other side, and never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combinations of servants, labourers, and journeymen." [*1]

    This prohibition of unions, and use of violence against organized labor, goes back to Ancient Rome, during the Secessio Plebis. We find it in England in 1350, where unions were prohibited, "In the preamble it complains much of the insolence of servants, who endeavoured to raise their wages upon their masters." [*2]

    *1. "The Wealth of Nations," by Adam Smith, 1776, book 1, chapter 8.
    *2. "The Wealth of Nations," by Adam Smith, 1776, Digressions Concerning Silver, First Period.

    There is a difference between the economic theory of Adam Smith, and his reportage of how some capitalists behaved up to the time he wrote.

    What matters is, TODAY, in America, there is but miniscule violence against workers. Even if you showed that there was violence again 100,000 workers every year by their employers, it would still be true that there is "but miniscule violence" against workers, since there are roughly 140,000,000 employees in the United States today, so 100,000 is around .07% - miniscule. Of course, the actual amount of employer violence against laborers is but a miniscule proportion of 100,000.

    The fact is, you can show a "pattern" that there has been violence against laborers, but showing a mere "pattern" doesn't mean you proven your point, that "all property" was stolen from capitalists. The question is how PREVALENT such violence is.

    I could probably give you statistics that prove that there are left-handed capitalists, and there have been left-handed capitalists since the dawn of time, indeed, that there is a "pattern", a "trend", of left-handed capitalism, but that doesn't prove that all capitalists are left-handed, or that all capital was obtained from "left handed capitalists."

    I am not excusing ANY violence against people in the marketplace. But just because union thugs (or guild thugs, or worker mobs) use violence against peaceful workers and businesses, and have done so for centuries, doesn't mean that I have proven that all wages are stolen from the capitalists.

    When I clicked on your link about New Orleans, it appeared to me that these "migrant laborers" were in fact prisoners. It would also appear that, if they were abused (and I have no doubt that prisoners are abused), it would have been by the incompetant and corrupt leaders of the community and the local government, which is hardly a bastian of "capitalism" - the whole place is run by left-wing Democrat elected officials.

    That is hardly an indictment of "capitalism".

    Capitalists hardly have a "monopoly" on land. Land ownership is quite widely dispersed in the United States - and is free to anybody to purchase.

    Why do you insist on making blatently false statements like this one: "the Capitalist responds to their self-interest by hurting everyone around them"?

    I cannot speak for New England, but in the rest of America, there are piles and piles of new factories. Perhaps in New England there is a nostalgia for old buildings, but I don't believe for a moment that "most" of the factories build 100 years ago are still standing. Just because you find 10, or 100, or a 1000, doesn't mean that you've found "most" of them still there.

    Your discourse on cotton is interesting, but it again raises the point: the laborers were just as guilty of partaking of "stolen" capital and property when they buy goods made of cotton. I'm not talking about the slaves buying their own cotton-made goods. I am referring to the laborers who were NOT slaves, who did NOT have their labor stolen from them. They are just as guilty, under your theory, as the capitalists that profited at arms length from the original misdeed.

    Of course, labor is AN INGREDIENT to much wealth. It is not the ONLY ingredient, however.

    If I have a million dollars, and I loan it to other capitalists, and they pay me interest, and my million grows to a billion, I have accumulated wealth that does not DIRECTLY flow from labor. It is more directly true that my CAPITAL was the source of my INCREASED CAPITAL. Indeed, wealth flows not only from the input of labor, but also of capital. Both labor and capital are necessary for the increase in wealth. Even a man that farms his own plot or weaves his own baskets for sale has SOME capital that he depends upon - so his wealth flows from his labor AND his capital. It is almost impossible to create wealth without capital. Note the word "almost."

    There are literally MILLIONS of businesses that exist in the country today, and most of them are small businesses. So don't say that the example I mentioned is negligable.

    But I think I see what your real point is. Behind all the smoke and mirrors about force and violence and oppression, what you really object to is that somebody can hire you and make a profit off your labor.

    Are you really against all private ownership of property? Is that what you're really driving for?

    If I am a laborer, and you are a laborer, and I save my wages and you don't, so that I collect a good deal of money, so that I can then hire you to work for me, does that mean I am "stealing" your labor? Tell me - because if that is what you think, then you are just a plain old Marxist.

    Of course, the solution is: don't work for anybody. Just be a bum, and complain about how all the land is locked up and nobody will let you have any to work. It'll be a lie, but maybe it'll make you feel better.

    The really funny thing about it is, if I went out and bought a nice piece of farmland and then told you that you could farm it for free, at no cost to you - you would owe me nothing! then by your own words, YOU would be the thief, because now you would be making a wage off some capital that somebody had bought and given to you.

    And don't try to wriggle out of it by saying that it was stolen from you because it was not. YOu never owned it. It may have been stolen from somebody else, but not you.

    JPH--


    From RadicalGraphics.org
    Image: From "Food" Gallery from RadicalGraphics.org

    Date: Friday, July 31, 2009

    Letter #25

    Punkerslut

    Punkerslut to the America First Party...

    Greetings,

    "No, you actually had TWO other quotations from Adam Smith that referred to capitalists employing the violence of the state against employees:

    "You wrote:

    [...]

    "There is a difference between the economic theory of Adam Smith, and his reportage of how some capitalists behaved up to the time he wrote."

         Yes... and, as I said in the previous e-mail, the government repressing unions came after he used the phrase "always and everywhere." All of it was from one gigantic paragraph. But you probably wouldn't have these questions if you had read the book. Here, take a read yourself: Adam Smith Page.

    "What matters is, TODAY, in America, there is but miniscule violence against workers. Even if you showed that there was violence again 100,000 workers every year by their employers, it would still be true that there is "but miniscule violence" against workers, since there are roughly 140,000,000 employees in the United States today, so 100,000 is around .07% - miniscule. Of course, the actual amount of employer violence against laborers is but a miniscule proportion of 100,000."

         It sure is amazing what you can do with madeup numbers. It is certainly true that there are more workers than workers who were killed by employers. The number might be the same percent as African Americans who were lynched in the south. And even then, where there is extreme violence against a few, there is widespread discrimination and exploitation against the masses. Whether hanging from the gallows or a tree, killing just a few is enough of an example to the others.

    "The fact is, you can show a 'pattern' that there has been violence against laborers, but showing a mere 'pattern' doesn't mean you proven your point, that 'all property' was stolen from capitalists. The question is how PREVALENT such violence is.

    "I could probably give you statistics that prove that there are left-handed capitalists, and there have been left-handed capitalists since the dawn of time, indeed, that there is a 'pattern', a 'trend', of left-handed capitalism, but that doesn't prove that all capitalists are left-handed, or that all capital was obtained from 'left handed capitalists.'"

         Your example of "left-handed capitalists" would immediately be disproven by the plenty of examples of "right-handed capitalists." Unfortunately, however, virtually all governments -- since the dawn of civilization -- have been the friends of the noblemen, the aristocracy, the capitalists, and the slaveholders.

    "When I clicked on your link about New Orleans, it appeared to me that these 'migrant laborers' were in fact prisoners. It would also appear that, if they were abused (and I have no doubt that prisoners are abused), it would have been by the incompetant and corrupt leaders of the community and the local government, which is hardly a bastian of 'capitalism' - the whole place is run by left-wing Democrat elected officials.

    "That is hardly an indictment of 'capitalism'."

         The Democratic Party ran its campaign on donations by the Capitalist class. In fact, the two political parties are almost tied in how much they cater to the wealthy. According to the University of Michigan, "According to the study, firms, on average, contribute a total of nearly $65,000 to 56 candidates during any two-year election cycle. Republicans receive, on average, about $43,000 from each contributing firm, while Democrats get nearly $31,000." [*1] And according to the New York Times, the Democrats raised $60.5 million, with the Republicans having raised $97 million. [*2]

         Whether looking at corporate and firm donations, or looking at individual donations, the numbers end up very similar. For every two dollars given to the Democratic Party, three dollars are given to the Republican Party. If Capitalists genuinely felt threatened by the Democratic Party, why would they donate so much? On the contrary, it looks like both parties are in the back pocket of the Capitalist class.

    "Capitalists hardly have a 'monopoly' on land. Land ownership is quite widely dispersed in the United States - and is free to anybody to purchase."

    [...]

    "Of course, the solution is: don't work for anybody. Just be a bum, and complain about how all the land is locked up and nobody will let you have any to work. It'll be a lie, but maybe it'll make you feel better."

         Sure, you disagree and you're allowed to. But statistics about wealth distribution among the top echelons of society are hardly disputed. According to a book published by the Cornell University Press, the top 1% of America receives 17% of all income, owns 33% of all the net worth, and holds more than 42% of all assets. [*1] According to another analysis, the top 1% owns 38% of all the wealth, and the richest 20% own 83% of all wealth. [*2] In Britain, 1% of the people own 70% of the land. [*3] In Brazil, the top 10% of the people receive 64.1% of the income. [*4]

         No matter where you go, land and capital is locked up into the hands of a few. "Free to anybody to purchase" doesn't really effect the fact that the majority couldn't afford it -- and that the assets, as well as consumer goods, largely fall into the hands of the Capitalist class.

    "I cannot speak for New England, but in the rest of America, there are piles and piles of new factories. Perhaps in New England there is a nostalgia for old buildings, but I don't believe for a moment that 'most' of the factories build 100 years ago are still standing. Just because you find 10, or 100, or a 1000, doesn't mean that you've found 'most' of them still there."

         Piles and piles of new factories? Quoting Forbes, "According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total manufacturing employment in the United States was down to 15.3 million in 2007 from 15.6 million in 2006 and 18.9 million in 2000. Where does it all end? Very close to zero." [*7] 40,000 plants have closed since 2001. [*8] Naturally, when there are fewer and fewer jobs, why would they keep building places for this employment? Generally, the consensus seems to be that manufacturing has been decreasing in the United States since the 1970's.

    "Your discourse on cotton is interesting, but it again raises the point: the laborers were just as guilty of partaking of 'stolen' capital and property when they buy goods made of cotton. I'm not talking about the slaves buying their own cotton-made goods. I am referring to the laborers who were NOT slaves, who did NOT have their labor stolen from them. They are just as guilty, under your theory, as the capitalists that profited at arms length from the original misdeed."

         I've thoroughly responded to this comment, which you've continually raised without addressing my counterpoint. Capitalists supported the US government in its wars over Vietnam, Cuba, Mexico, and Iraq; they've bought out Supreme Courts in the US and in the UK; they've supported coups by military dictators in Venezuela, Chile, Indonesia, Burma, and Iran. A Capitalist, to make a profit, will provide the funds for a mercenary group to destroy a Democratic government. They always get their investment returns in the form of cheap and unfree labor, land annexations, and the exclusive rights to natural resources.

         What is my point in bringing this all up? Well, I'm trying to demonstrate something about the Capitalist class. Their wealth gives them a natural power over governments and states. If an official isn't bribable, it only requires getting a politician who is -- and this just requires the right kind of money, to sway military leaders, to fill campaign funds, or to organize a coup. In short, the Capitalist is unlimited in the actions they take, no matter how cruel and inhumane they are. In contrast, we know exactly what happens when workers try to change their world -- they are gunned down in the street.

         One might as well blame Christ for letting the Roman legionnaires put him on the cross. "He is just as guilty of the killing, because he had just as much powers as a massive, militarist empire that dominated his homeland." Christ resisting the situation put upon him by his overlords? It wasn't very likely -- well, excluding the part about being a god. But even a god himself couldn't convince courts to listen to him, couldn't convince soldiers and police of his goodness. On what account, then, do you put this responsibility on the poor, huddled masses?

         We know what happens when a Capitalist tries to change the world: they get their wish, even if millions have to die for it. And we know what happens when workers try to change THIS system; they are persecuted, blacklisted, beaten, imprisoned, and some are even killed. Workers are enjoying the product of slave labor? Not like they have any choice in the matter of what their masters do over them.

    "If I have a million dollars, and I loan it to other capitalists, and they pay me interest, and my million grows to a billion, I have accumulated wealth that does not DIRECTLY flow from labor. It is more directly true that my CAPITAL was the source of my INCREASED CAPITAL. Indeed, wealth flows not only from the input of labor, but also of capital. Both labor and capital are necessary for the increase in wealth. Even a man that farms his own plot or weaves his own baskets for sale has SOME capital that he depends upon - so his wealth flows from his labor AND his capital. It is almost impossible to create wealth without capital. Note the word 'almost.'"

         I have, in fact, already responded to this. Capital, as a form of wealth, cannot exist, without labor. Where did your million in investments come from? Did it fall out of the sky, or did someone work for it? I'm betting on the latter.

    "There are literally MILLIONS of businesses that exist in the country today, and most of them are small businesses. So don't say that the example I mentioned is negligable."

         The millions of businesses in America pales in comparison to our 150 million laborers. I didn't say one successful business was negligible. I said that for every business that succeeds, five or more fail, and many of those entrepreneurs are now paying off a massive debt. It is important to provide people with real opportunities; and not something that is less likely than a game of roulette.

         Even slaves had opportunities for advancement. In Muslim communities, the American South, even the Feudal era in Europe -- slaves could buy their freedom. The few who could accomplish this, though, did little to comfort the masses still on bondage.

    "But I think I see what your real point is. Behind all the smoke and mirrors about force and violence and oppression, what you really object to is that somebody can hire you and make a profit off your labor.

    "Are you really against all private ownership of property? Is that what you're really driving for?

    "If I am a laborer, and you are a laborer, and I save my wages and you don't, so that I collect a good deal of money, so that I can then hire you to work for me, does that mean I am 'stealing' your labor? Tell me - because if that is what you think, then you are just a plain old Marxist."

         Marxism is a Governmentalized Socialism, focusing around the political party. I've already stated that I oppose the Socialist political party. They do not want laborers to be the managers and owners of wealth; Socialist Parties want themselves to be the new, master-class. Furthermore, the theory of labor exploitation goes back much further than Marx. You can find it in William Godwin's "An Inquiry Into Political Justice," from 1791. Most notably, you'll find it in Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's "What is Property?" And Proudhon was an Anarchist, believing in the overthrow of the government -- this didn't stop him from realizing the exploitation of wage labor long before Marx.

         Your example is about a laborer getting out of work to dominate other workers. How is this different than a slave that buys their way out of oppression, and then purchases slaves? The exact same argument you are making against laborers, is the same one that this ew master would make against slaves.

         Stealing labor? No. Appropriating the surplus value of the labor in the form of profits? Yes. In Capitalism, Feudalism, and slavery, are the masters idle and wealthy because of the work of others? Yes. These are societies where the workers do not possess the whole product of their labor. If you want to create jobs and prosperity, then give laborers this incentive and opportunity.

    "And don't try to wriggle out of it by saying that it was stolen from you because it was not. YOu never owned it. It may have been stolen from somebody else, but not you."

         You're right: I'm only the descendent of the many people whose land was taken from them. I am only trying to reclaim what was a birthright ten thousand years ago.

    "The really funny thing about it is, if I went out and bought a nice piece of farmland and then told you that you could farm it for free, at no cost to you - you would owe me nothing! then by your own words, YOU would be the thief, because now you would be making a wage off some capital that somebody had bought and given to you."

         By my own words, I would be a thief? Now, I'm not completely sure, but I think those are your words.

         I'm just trying make jobs for Americans, and real jobs. Employment that can support families, that can bring prosperity to communities. And my only suggestion so far has been to let the unemployed work the lands and the machinery -- to let those with nothing, borrow from those who don't want us to be employed.

         But, you disagree with my assessment about the Capitalists. You seem to think that they seek employment for workers, when in fact, the only interest bringing them to the market is profit. Consider Archer Daniels Midland corporation, who was fine $100 million for collusion and price-fixing with other businesses. [*9] This type of price-fixing scam was to reduce investment costs, such as labor, and to increase the exploitation on consumers -- again striking at the workers.

         What did this price-fixing scheme exactly mean? It meant that laborers could have worked the land, and provided a valuable commodity to the market -- but they were prohibited, by a conspiracy of Capitalists. A market without many competitors is unhealthy for workers and consumers, but very healthy for business. Yet this is exactly what ADM did. It seems like Adam Smith's proposition about the conspiracy of Capitalists was rather accurate.

         And this isn't the only example of collusion. ABN Amro, [*10] Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Carillion, [*11] Sainsbury's, Asda, Safeway, Dairy Crest, Robert Wiseman Dairies and The Cheese Company, [*12] Siemens, Alstrom, Areva, Schneider and Japanese firms Fuji, Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric, Toshiba and Japan AE Systems, [*13] Heineken, Grolsch and Bavaria, [*14] -- these are all clear-cut examples of collusion and price-fixing.

         In each one of these cases, there was perfect opportunity for hiring more workers, and supplying the market with more products. What was the problem? Capitalists figured out a better way to make money: to collude. They come together, fix their prices, cut production, layoff workers, and starve the market -- artificial winters from the coal barons, artificial famines from the agricultural industries. It is more profitable to take these actions than it is to hire workers for production. That is why factories and lands stand idle: because that is how they are most profitable.

         Quoting one "muckraker" journalist from the 1800's, "The demand for whisky so far falls short of the capacity of the pool to produce, that a large number of distilleries are kept idle, drawing pensions from the combination, in some cases as high as $500 a day. The Brewers and Maltsters Association of New York fixes the prices of beer by combination, and claims to control 35,000 votes." [*15]

         Whether the steel industry or manufacturing, mining or timber, agriculture or transportation, the story is always the same. Firing workers, and cutting production, means making a product scarce on the market. This means a higher profit for the oligopoly controlling the industry. In batteries, cereal, apparel, electronics, phone services, and even media -- the top two or three corporations hold the majority of the entire market.

         My solution to these inherent problems of Capitalism was simple and direct. None of this "dictatorship of the proletariat," or "people's liberation army," or "resist Bourgeoisie reactionaries." Just let the unemployed borrow the land, work it, and benefit from it. The reason why businesses won't let us is obvious: because it is profitable to starve the community and to make want abundant.

         Thank you,

    Andy Carloff,

    Resources

    *1. "Corporate political donations make millions for shareholders," By Bernie DeGroat, the University Record Online, University of Michigan, page link.
    *2. "Party donations show Republican edge," Leslie Wayne, Friday, March 7, 2008, page link.
    *3. Mishel, Lawrence, Jared Bernstein, and Sylvia Allegretto. The State of Working America 2006/2007. An Economic Policy Institute Book. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press, 2007, p. 257.
    *4. "Race, class, and gender in the United States," Sixth Edition, by Paula S. Rothenberg, page 195.
    *5. "Who Owns Britain". Published 29th November 2001. by Kevin Cahill, ISBN 086241 912 3.
    *6. World Development Index 2002, The World Bank, page link.
    *7. "The Real Threat To U.S. Manufacturing," Kevin O'Marah 04.23.08, 6:00 AM ET, Forbes, page link.
    *8. "Manufacturing a Better Future for America," by Richard McCormack, ISBN-10: 0615288197.
    *9. Hunter-Gault, Charlayne (October 15, 1996). "ADM: Who's Next?". MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour (PBS), page link.
    *10. ABN fined 900,000 for price rigging, page link.
    *11. OFT issues statement of objections against 112 construction companies, page link.
    *12. Supermarkets fined 116m for price-fixing, page link.
    *13. "Vote call by Siemens shareholders", BBC, page link.
    *14. "Heineken and Grolsch fined for price-fixing". The Guardian, page link.
    *15. "The Lords of Industry," by Henry Demarest Lloyd, North American Review 331 (June 1884).



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