Capitalism is Opposed to Human Happiness Debate, Volume 2
The argument I'm presenting here will hopefully be clear and concise. The only thing I am trying to prove that human happiness is opposed to Capitalism, or any system where the means of production are owned and controlled by a very few compared to the whole of society. My argument is for Socialism: the idea that society better serves the needs of its participants when everyone has an equal voice in directing the economy's productive forces. My argument follows this basic reasoning...
(1) Material existence, though not necessary to happiness, certainly helps better provide for it. You could compare sleeping on a bed versus a rock-hard surface, eating nutritious food versus having to live off of rice everyday, or being able to afford necessary medicine for family members versus having to watch them suffer. It is possible, in any of these cases, that the person who does not have the economic opportunity is happier than the person who does; in a sort of Thoreau-esque, rugged individualism. But, for the most part, each of us would imagine ourselves to be happier with the material existence.
(2) There is an inequality of bargaining power between the Capitalist and the laborer; or the one who possesses the factories and mines against the one who creates, maintains, and works them. They need each other, yes, but the worker needs the Capitalist far, far more. This inequality of need, just like any situation where bargaining occurs, leads to an inequality of bargaining power -- and, similarly, an inequality of outcome. No worker can live without having some tools of production, but the majority of these tools are possessed by a very few. Herein leads to the inequality of bargaining power. This means that the laborer must be content to give away a portion of their production to the sustenance of the Capitalist. And, furthermore, it shall be up to the Capitalist to decide whether to plough the fields or harvest them -- whether or not the workers are able or hungry. Food will be destroyed or dumped into the ocean, for instance, when trying to sell it would lead to price declines or lessened profit.
(3) Take that material existence contributes to human happiness and that inequality of bargaining power leads necessarily to inequality of material existence. If we believe in human happiness as an ultimate end of society, then necessarily, it is within our duty to work towards the equalizing of bargaining power for all participants of society. Naturally, there is no way to have them completely equal, unless each person is an equal possessor of the means of production.
This is not to say that everyone should be paid the same wage. It is only to say that society ought to be reorganized so that no person can live off of anyone else, and that each person has the right to claim the full fruit of their labors. This serves our ultimate purpose of human happiness, since it better provides for each member of society to receive according to their contribution, without being subjugated to a master of economy. Hence, Capitalism is opposed to human happiness.
Naturally, I should provide some brief evidences for the previous statements. What makes me think that there is an inequality of bargaining power between worker and Capitalist, and that this always leads towards abuse of the many at the profit of the few? The following has influenced my thinking...
"...the Peazants are little better then Slaves, because they can possess nothing but at the will of others."
-- Josiah Child, 1668, "Brief Observations Concerning Trade and Interest of Money"
"...a man who becomes the slave of another does not give himself; he sells himself, at the least for his subsistence..."
--Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1762, "The Social Contract, or the Principles of Right," Book 1, Chapter 4
"Those who become servants for the sake of food, will soon become slaves: for slavery is but the abuse of service, established by a civil institution; and men who find no possibility of subsisting otherwise, will be obliged to serve upon the conditions prescribed to them."
--James Steuart, 1767, "An Inquiry Into the Principles of Political Economy," Book 1, Chapter 4
"...the spirit which reigns in a commercial state, where men may be supposed to have experienced, in its full extent, the interest which individuals have in the preservation of their country. It is here indeed, if ever, that man is sometimes found a detached and a solitary being: he has found an object which sets him in competition with his fellow creatures, and he deals with them as he does with his cattle and his soil, for the sake of the profits they bring."
--Adam Ferguson, 1767, "An Essay on the History of Civil Society," Part 1, Section III
"We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things, which nobody ever hears of."
--Adam Smith, 1776, "The Wealth of Nations," Book 1, Chapter 8
"Civilization, therefore, or that which is so-called, has operated two ways: to make one part of society more affluent, and the other more wretched, than would have been the lot of either in a natural state."
--Thomas Paine, "Agrarian Justice," ~1790's
"...the want of freedom in the market of labour, which occurs more or less in all communities, either from parish laws, or the more general cause of the facility of combination among the rich, and its difficulty among the poor, operates to prevent the price of labour from rising at the natural period, and keeps it down some time longer; perhaps till a year of scarcity, when the clamour is too loud and the necessity too apparent to be resisted."
--Thomas Malthus, 1798, "An Essay on the Principle of Population," Chapter 2
"He no longer produced a complete work, but merely the part of a work; in which he required not only the cooperation of other workmen, but also raw materials, proper implements, and a trader to undertake the exchange of the article which he had contributed to finish. Whenever he bargained with a master-workman for the exchange of labour against subsistence, the condition he stood in was always disadvantageous, since his need of subsistence and his inability to procure it of himself, were far greater than the master's need of labour; and therefore he almost constantly narrowed his demand to bare necessaries, without which the stipulated labour could not have proceeded; whilst the master alone profited from the increase of productive power brought about by the division of labour."
--Simonde de Sismondi, 1815, "Political Economy," Chapter 3
"It is because, having reduced the masses to a point at which they have not the means of subsistence for a month, or even for a week in advance, the few only allow the many to work on condition of themselves receiving the lion's share. It is because these few prevent the remainder of men from producing the things they need, and force them to produce, not the necessaries of life for all, but whatever offers the greatest profits to the monopolists."
--Peter Kropotkin, 1892, "The Conquest of Bread," Chapter 1, Part II
"....we understand by class-dominance the social dependency relations which result from the customary industrial connections between the upper and the lower classes, between masters and slaves, between entrepreneurs and laborers, between creditors and debtors, between the strong merchants and the weak buyers."
--Gustave Schmoller, 1915, "On Class Conflict in General"
"The phenomenon of child labor is the inevitable accompaniment of low wages, and low wages result from a condition of land monopoly..."
--Joseph Miller, 1917, "Single Tax and Child Labor"
"Unless the worker accepts the exploitative conditions of capitalist production, he is ‘free’ only in the sense that he is free to starve."
--Paul Mattick, 1967, "Workers' Control"
"With the transformation of the average person to the level of an industrial worker, a pronounced shift in relative bargaining power is also accomplished through the industrialization process. As the average employing unit becomes larger in size, its bargaining power also expands while, at the same time, the bargaining power of the individual worker shrinks and eventually becomes almost meaningless for all practical purposes. Therefore, the individual worker loses control over the determination of factors quite basic to him, such as his wage, the length of time he works per day or per week, and the environment within which he carries on his assigned work."
--Chester A. Morgan, 1970, "Labor Economics: Third Edition," Chapter 3 (Page 42)
No, Thoreau simply didn't like the bustle of modern life(such as going to the market and haggling, but that's one small example) and he disliked how debt was passed on to newer generations. He also considered businesses to be at the mercy of the people, such as how clothing manufacturers try and often fail at predicting new fashion trends that are at the whims of their customers, making some become bankrupt by missing even a couple stitches.
And the capitalist hates the other capitalist more, so in cases of high growth, competition for workers puts the bargaining power in the workers.
First of all, this is a conspiracy or a sense of misplaced value. No-one would intentionally make unwanted food for the purposes of destroying it, and how can you expect different managers to suddenly know how hungry millions of people are at a time? This is a silly simplification that's based on prejudice.
Human individuals can either work to increase production or increase consumption at any time. This is a priori.
Increased production increases overall material wealth.
Concentrated profits are more likely to be saved.
Savings, by the use of interest, are more often used for investment.
Investment is almost always used for increasing production.
Workers are basically paid by how much they produce, so they can't consume resources that they didn't make without getting loans.
Loans, if paid back, allow for more investment.
Therefore, worker wages and capitalist profit increases production and thus material wealth
While it is certainly true that Thoreau hated "hustle and bustle," I strongly disagree that he had any positive feelings towards Capitalism.
Quoting "Life Without Principle," 1863, Thoreau said "The ways by which you may get money almost without exception lead downward. To have done anything by which you earned money merely is to have been truly idle or worse. If the laborer gets no more than the wages which his employer pays him, he is cheated, he cheats himself." Or, as he writes later in that piece and more specifically: "That so many are ready to live by luck, and so get the means of commanding the labor of others less lucky, without contributing any value to society! And that is called enterprise! I know of no more startling development of the immorality of trade, and all the common modes of getting a living." Anyhow, I'll allow you to interpret these words instead of giving my own interpretation of them.
I agree with you entirely that unemployment tends to depress wages, while employment tends to increase wages. There is no doubt that this type of fluctuation does take place. However, the bargaining power of the worker is still "almost insignificant," as the above-quoted economists can attest to. After all, the worker must get their wages or starve; and in times of a boom, the business can forego the extra production since it is still surviving. This fluctuation does not ever lead to a bargaining power that allows workers dominance in the negotiation. Also, for every rise in the economy, there is always a fall. See, it is a fluctuation between very little bargaining power and then slightly more.
Actually, this is a common phenomena observed by virtually all well-known economists. Titled Oligopoly, Monopoly, or Collusion, it is easily proven. According to Solidaridad Obrera, August 28th and September 4th editions of 1932, we find that it was common practise for Spanish employers during the Depression to destroy food where selling it wouldn't be as profitable. Even Adam Smith noted it, in the Wealth of Nations (book 1, chap 11, part 1) that Capitalists "burnt a certain quantity of tobacco for every negro, in the same manner as the Dutch are said to do of spices." Henry Demarest Lloyd was "muckraker" who also illuminated this occurence in the United States: "The Standard, through its pipe line, had refused to run oil, unless sold to them, and then declared it could not buy, because the railroads could furnish it no cars in which to move away the oil. Hundreds of wells were stopped, to their great damage. Thousands more, whose owners were afraid to close them for fear of injury by salt water, were pumping the oil on the ground." ("Lords of Industry," Chapter 1.)
As you can see, where it is profitable, businesses either destroy produce or they combine to limit its total production. The Encyclopedia of White-Collar & Corporate Crime, by Lawrence M. Salinger (Editor), details this extensively, with so many examples that it would certainly bore you -- such as the Recording Industry Association of America creating a monopoly and limiting production, costing Americans upwards of $20 to $40 billion.
That's a very interesting line of reasoning. But it fails against so many basic evidences. Increased production does not always lead to increased material wealth; we know this certainly from the introduction of machinery that often displaces workers and causes a general rise in unemployment. Similarly, the great, vast majority of workers who are displaced by technology always end up earning significantly less if they can get work elsewhere. (See "Labor Economics: Third Edition," by Chester A. Morgan, pages 238-239.)
Furthermore, investment does not necessarily lead towards increasing production; again, see the above-quoted evidence on how oligopolies buy up great pieces of land and production just to keep it from producing so that they can better control and dominate the market. Similarly, if investment is used for increasing production, why is investment dormant every 8 years for a period of at least two to four years?
Nor are workers paid according to how much they produce -- we know this from simply comparing the Gross Domestic Product of Mexico and its wages versus the United States. Or, similarly, we can make such a comparison with Brazil, as well, or even nations like China.
Yes, Socialism does not disbelieve in production and material wealth (see point 1). Rather, I am arguing for a better system of production that better satisfies everyone's needs by equalizing bargaining positions of society's participants. Capitalist profit has taken the form of oil spils (BP), factories polluting the rivers (New England), and even poisoning entire communities (Bho Pal). Worker wages and capitalist profit here all led to massive, wide-spread death, just like early mining, manufacturing, etc..
It is possible to have industry and production without having a social system where the majority must submit to the vast, powerful interests of a very few. At least, I think so.
Very interesting and well-argued op [Original Post], also the responses were a joy to read as well.
You described what you believe to be problems associated with capitalism, but you said nothing about how socialism resolves them better.
CNT-FAI Radical wrote:
That's not socialism. In socialism, you don't claim the fruits of your labor, in socialism means of production are collectively owned. So if you build a means of production, you can't claim it for yourself.