Saturday, December 15, 2012

Robots or class fighters

Estimates are that the total world's wealth is close to $200 trillion. The wealthiest 1 percent of the world's population represents approximately forty million adults. The poorest half of the global population together possesses less than 2 percent of global wealth. The World Bank reports that, in 2008, 1.29 billion people were living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 a day, and 1.2 billion more were living on less than $2.00 a day. Starvation.net reports that 35,000 people, mostly young children, die every day from starvation in the world.The numbers of unnecessary deaths have exceeded 300 million people over the past forty years. Farmers around the world grow more than enough food to feed the entire world adequately. Global grain production yielded a record 2.3 billion tons in 2007, up 4 percent from the year before—yet, billions of people go hungry every day. Grain.org describes the core reasons for ongoing hunger is while farmers grow enough food to feed the world, commodity speculators and huge grain traders like Cargill control global food prices and distribution. The richest 1% of Americans own 40% of the stock market and the richest 10% owns 80%.

Karl Marx in Capital explains that a human being is able to produce a product that has a certain value. Organized business hires workers who are paid below the value of their labor power. The result is the creation of what Marx called surplus value, over and above the cost of labor. The creation of surplus value allows those who own the means of production to concentrate capital even more. In addition, concentrated capital accelerates the exploition of natural resources by private entrepreneurs—even though these natural resources are actually the common heritage of all living beings.

American corporations are seeing rising profits and the share of corporate revenues that shows up as profits is the highest in history. At the same time labor is seeing its lowest share in history. Myth has it that capitalism works because entrepreneurs take economic risk to build corporations from nothing and that that their managers keep business competitive through innovation—the development and adoption of new processes and technologies, while keeping labor at the minimum levels consistent with maximum productivity. Mainstream economists such as Paul Krugman repeats this myth here . The sad state of  labor is due to workers being replaced with technology—either allowing fewer workers to do work formerly done by many or through ‘robotics’ that replaces human beings in manufacturing with machines. Attributing increases in productivity to technology has the added benefit of provides the rationale (to capitalists) for all of the benefits of modern capitalism accruing to capital—capitalists invested in the technology that has replaced labor and therefore the results in corporate profits and concentrated wealth rightly belong to capital. Technology has undoubtedly played a role in the way that capitalist enterprises operate—computers and robotics have dramatically reorganized how everyday operations and processes are undertaken. The larger question, though, the struggle between labor and capital, is avoided. Austerity re-declared the class war.

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