What I Think Tank

The Exploitation of the Proletariat

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Demonstrations against the G8 summit, Rostock,...

There is a common misconception when it comes to the elite’s exploitation of the working class. We normally think of it as the rich; owners of capital, the capitalists; the bourgeoisie, stepping on the little man. Marxist theory is interesting in its own sense, although I can’t say I hold a sliver of respect for marxists, but it can indeed be said to have a slight supernatural tone to it, as there are elements in marxist thought you cannot truly account for. A weakness in a lot of macro-sociology is exactly this — you can never know everything you need to know to make a proper theory of society. That is not to say it isn’t fruitful to advance our understanding of society. I may be biased to think this, as I enjoy sociology a lot, but I honestly think sociology has a lot of great knowledge to offer us, and that a sociological view point is an important element in understanding human interaction and how society functions.

But that is not the topic I wish to discuss here. As the topic implies, what I would like to talk about is simply the exploitation of the working class – or rather: ordinary people.

Many people – and indeed marxists – tend to refer to capitalism as some sort of evil force that tears down the fabric of society; something we need to overcome and put behind us. We are supposed to make the world a better place, where capitalists cannot exploit the ordinary man. And who are these capitalists? Business owners, CEOs, people in high positions in the corporate structure. Perhaps owners of smaller and middle sized companies as well? Those earning more than $200’000 a year? There are a lot of class theory and standards that will claim to identify these persons, but certainly, they are mostly private business owners who have people working under them.

Having identified the capitalists, try to “taste” the words “exploitation of the working class”. These business owners are exploiting the ordinary workers. We are made to think that business owners are evil, and that workers are good and innocent.

Yes, workers are good and indeed mostly innocent as well, although some would say that ignorance does not equal innocence, but I feel that this is a somewhat negative way of putting it, as it seems to imply that most people are stupid or cynically ignoring to seek knowledge. Ignorance often means that you are kept away from knowing. Not necessarily intentionally by anyone, but it simply means that you will never hear about the things that you are ignorant about, ’cause how can you know what to look for if you don’t even know it exists? Either way, society needs workers. We all do. Most of us will always have to be workers, or else we will not be able to fulfill the basic materialistic needs we have in society. And exactly because society need workers, we – ordinary people – will always be ignorant of who the exploiters are.

Who are the exploiters? Are they the business owners of the world; the corporate fat cats that will do everything to squeeze the world for another drop of oil to have an even more decadent life style? The sentence “exploitation of the working class” implies this when it goes on to identify the exploiters as the bourgeoisie. This has become common knowledge of sorts.

But is this true? Answer these questions: Who would create jobs if it were not for business owners? Could we create jobs out of thin air? If there weren’t any entrepreneurs around to come up with business opportunities to cash in on, who could really come up with new jobs that people could fill? No one. And if we wouldn’t have any jobs to fill, how the heck would we be able to survive? How could we enjoy this piece of technology that you’re reading this with, if it weren’t for entrepreneurs and business owners? It would be impossible to truly imagine how this could even have come about if it weren’t exactly for those richer of us who placed resources into the field where they would see opportunities to make a profit and create sustainable jobs.

So are they exploiting people? You could make the argument that you are not allowed to keep what you create, and that a job contract is a contract where you are selling your work undervalued, because what you produce is worth more – or else the company wouldn’t make a profit, and that you aren’t given any of the spoils of your hard work. This, however, ignores the broader picture. You are indeed given the right amount of fruits for your labor. To be able to keep up the whole corporate structure, you will always have to sell the product for more than what it cost to produce it, and profits are made so that they can create sustainable jobs and expand their companies. If the company couldn’t do this, you wouldn’t have a job, and no salary, and there would be no labor to enjoy the fruits of. Business owners are the saviors of society. Their eye for opportunities keep up the lifestyle of the ordinary men and women, and the prospect for profit is the only incentive that keeps them looking. Without a profit, no creation of jobs. It’s that simple. The bourgeoisie exploitations of the proletariat is a myth. It simply is not the case.

Yet, there does indeed exist an exploitation of workers today. More properly put: it is an exploitation of all of us, even corporate fat cats. There aren’t many that knows how to avoid the exploitations, although it can be done to a certain point, but we all fall victim to it one way or another. And who are the exploiters?

The State.

Our Enemy, The State. Picture, courtesy of the Mises Institute.

Consider this: What can government create and offer society? Are public sector jobs sustainable? From where does the state collect its income? If you think about these questions and try to answer them, you will see a pattern emerging, and one simple conclusion arise. The government cannot create anything. It can only take resources from the productive sector of the economy and place it in the unproductive sector of the economy. What you’re left with are “meaningless” resource-moving jobs that only survive on taxes and public support – not on profit, productivity or sustainability, and all government has to offer are the same taxes in return to the public in shape of different types of cushy benefits. Taxes it had collected from society through theft in the first place.

If you truly think that government is beneficial to the economy when it takes 40% of what the private sector earns and spends it on things we (and I mean all of us) wouldn’t voluntarily otherwise ask for, how much more beneficial would it be to tax 60%, 80% or even 99%? I assume it must follow that at 99% it would be extremely beneficial? Of course not. No one thinks this. But at the same time, not very many seems to see the connection that 40% taxes means there are 40% fewer resources left to be put into creating productive and sustainable jobs and innovations. Indeed, the public sector only lives at the mercy of the private sector. If there were no business owners and entrepreneurs to create new jobs, there would be no jobs to tax for the public sector, which means there would be no government. But would the people in the public sector be without jobs? Of course not. The private sector always seeks to grow. If it could keep the 40% that government steals, it would be able to create more jobs from these resources; and they would always do it in a much more productive and more sustainable way than government ever could. That is why in a free market society there would always be too few unemployed, because our wants are always greater than our needs, and we will create as much as we possibly could and it would never be enough, always becoming richer and always creating new jobs on the way. It should be clear at this point who the exploiters are and who aren’t.

But no matter who you think are the exploiters of the society, there can only be one type of people at the very top, and whoever controls government will always be these people, and they will enact that control in their own self interest. Herein lies the danger, because they want power; that’s why they’re there, and the power they have is over all of us. The State is the master exploiter of society, and workers and business owners are all slaves that are forced to “give” away part of the fruits of their labor, in order to not have all of their fruits taken away from them. 40% taxation equals 40% state-run slavery.

It is therefore in the government’s best interest to scapegoat business owners as the exploiters, when it is indeed government that do all the exploitation. Now of course, that is not to say that our leaders and regulators are willfully and intentionally doing bad things against everyone. They believe they do good, and I would even say they have their best intentions at heart for all of us. They aren’t intentionally misleading people and creating a big charade that we blindly take part of. It is important to understand that it is the system itself that make this the natural outcome. It is tempting to think of the system as its own consciousness, but you shouldn’t. Society is nothing but the individuals that make up the system, after all. It is more accurate to think that the system traps us in a special set of incentives that makes all of society self-delusional. We will not be able to see that the system is at fault, unless we are educated about it, but if people aren’t aware of the true problem, how will they be able to seek the knowledge? It is not easy to break out of the bubble, because we are all players in the system; a system of government control over economic and social questions. Like brainwashed people on the inside of a twisted cult, we are all ignoring the one and only obvious conclusion: the source of all our pains and worries is the system of government itself, and the system is what creates incentives for us to fight each other, rather than peacefully cooperating to better our lives.

What do I think? The only true solution for peaceful human cooperation is true capitalism – the voluntary exchange of goods and services. In the words of Milton Friedman:

“The free market system (…) is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.”

Indeed, the ones who keep us from total exploitation; the ones that try their best to set us free, are the capitalists, and people everywhere should embrace capitalism as our best bet to obtain and secure freedom, prosperity and peace.

2 Responses

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  1. i think im two years late for reading this, but can’t say i agree with you. As student of dialectical materialism (not a marxist) i truly find your conclusion to be a bit horrifying, with that said. you are not all wrong from my point of view. to say the free market is the best way for humans to interact with another financially is to not be aware of the fact that people are self interested agents and are willing to do what ever it takes to achieve their goal and that means a higher profit margin at any coast, and at the end the common good suffers. To come back to the exploitation of the workers i believe it was Adam Smith not Karl Marx who said” “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” I am sorry my friend but this our social construction of reality which literally created by the elites. And in the last stage of historical materialism the exploiters were mostly business men called “bourgeoise” who were rich in status in terms of commodities but low lineage to be considered nobel. So to put it all together most business tend to look out for themselves (It does not mean greedy) which in most cases puts them in opposites with common good. It may not be fair to say this but business owners are on the “bad guys spectrum”. And the exploited ignoramus worker is not so innocent as long as he picks up the crumbs society throws him. Only when the worker stops his slave-wage labor then and only then can he be considered innocent.

    Abinasir Ali

    July 1, 2013 at 7:59 am

    • I’m not quite sure what the purpose of your post was. You’re caught in the collectivist group think mentality of conflict, and it kinda misses the point of my argument, but fair enough.

      You do, however, make the frighteningly usual and horrible fallacy that self-interest and looking out for oneself is somehow against the common good and is somehow counter-productive. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Perhaps you should be less concerned with the irrational ideas of “dialectical materialism”, and try to study economics more broadly and objectively instead.

      Your blanket statement of saying business owners are on the bad guys spectrum is completely detached from reality, and such a collectivist view point is frankly immoral.

      Morten Rolland

      August 28, 2013 at 6:49 am

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