Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why I Am Not a Capitalist

In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell

"Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying: 'Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do.' Being a highly virtuous child, I believed all that I was told, and acquired a conscience which has kept me working hard down to the present moment. ...

Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever.
Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?"

Sure Bertrand! How bout, of the half of the workers who were sacked, some of them were employed in devising still more efficient means of making pins, a few more were employed in marketing to convince the population that without owning hundreds if not thousands more pins, they'll be lonely sexless losers for the rest of their miserable lives. The rest of the unemployed workers are left with nothing but to go on welfare to attempt to stay alive, then get demonized by the media for being lazy, have the government eliminate welfare benefits and instead give them low-wage jobs (yet subsidized by the government, because the market wouldn't allow for even minimum wage) making more useless shit no one needs who hasn't been convinced by advertising that this or that gewgaw will determine their future happiness and life satisfaction.

By the way, Russell is the mf-ing man: "... only a foolish asceticism, usually vicarious, makes us continue to insist on work in excessive quantities now that the need no longer exists." Hahaha... usually vicarious...

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