Karl Marx’s ‘Capital’ is an extremely dense text that no one outside a university setting should find the time to weed through end-to-end. Few thinkers of Marx’s potency share his uncanny mastery over the English language… and, just the same, not many readers will have the capacity to fully grasp the implications pregnant in his conclusions.
Reader intimidation is apparent in any half baked review/report by a non-scholar that you are sure to find on the internet. Either the reviewer clearly hasn’t read it, or didn’t understand it at all, or are otherwise so fixated on the ideology represented by Karl Marx the communist icon, that they are incapable of a sober critique of the substance in his writings.
Marx’s theories of the inevitable workers revolt and subsequent communist utopia (in his manifesto) proved to be dangerously inadequate, and have been largely dismissed. But ‘Capital’ remains a pillar-work of modern economic thought. Marx is an absolute mastermind in explaining the complex relationship between money, value and work.
The fundamental concepts that Marx crystallizes in ‘Capital’ (while not explicitly trumpeting communist rhetoric) offer insight into the true exploitation of the weary wage worker.
One of these key concepts is called surplus value. Basically, the idea is that, the capitalist (corporation, company etc.) extracts far more – often many times – the value of a worker’s hour, than that worker is compensated for working that hour.
The worker is only paid a fraction of the value that his labor produces for the capitalist (yes, even when accounting for the expenses needed for business infrastructure, risk etc.).
This is the crux of the danger that even the most ambitious man faces when choosing to work for others instead of for himself.
An intelligent man must accept that the only good thing about the 9-to-5 grind is that it is easy. It is easy to get a job, show up at an office everyday, put in your time, pick up your paycheck and leave it all behind at the end of the work-day. One is not challenged to take risks or to push past his own limits.
If you are going to be sure of anything in life, be sure of this: no one ever became free and happy by choosing the lazy path of complacent mediocrity.
Save for you becoming the benefactor of some freak of fortune… RISK, determination, grit and sacrifice are the only keys to the kingdom of happiness. There are no easy roads to financial independence.
Add a mortgage, wife and kids to a middle-income job and you are setting yourself up for economic slavery. You’ll be so focused on making ends meet, that you’ll have no time to consider how severely your labor is being manipulated and exploited by the company that employs you. You’ll be too proud to admit how much the investors, owners and executives are actually profiting from the expense of your own individual efforts.
How even when you break your back and work long hours to provide more value to the company, the fraction of that value which actually ends up in your bank account is so frighteningly small, that you’ll never get far enough ahead to escape the race before you are old and grey.
But the reality of being a ‘salary-man’ is actually much worse than that…
As a salary-man, your company (or Boss) insults a strong man by reducing him mentally to a squalling child who is reliant on his Daddy for a bi-weekly allowance.
Father allows short play-dates, at a regimented few weeks per year… so you don’t get too restless.
He might put some junk food in the office kitchen for you to graze on, or buy you some toys like ping-pong tables for you too amuse yourself….
He may organize fun little events like ‘happy-hour’, so the other children wearing empty suits might get drunk enough to be mildly interesting for once.
When Daddy says it is ‘bed-time’, you get to leave the office and go play.
But if Daddy gets mad, then you’ll have to answer to him, and he might punish you or even threaten that steady stream of survival tickets called dollars that you’ve come to depend on.
A salary-man’s job is always just a few bad quarters of company profit away from being eliminated.
No, but really, it is much, much worse than that to be a salary-man….
As a salary-man – or what politicians sneeringly refer to as the ‘middle-class’ – you are ONCE ripped-off by the company that employs you and TWICE by the government that feeds on your tax dollars.
You see, a ‘capitalist’ makes money by means of ‘capital gains’. He is earning interest from his investments and his assets.
He is not only taxed less by making money this way – on an entirely different scale than the salary-man – but the flexibility of his business allows him to further reduce his tax burden by re-investing, moving his capital around, ‘writing off’ business expenses, crafty bookkeeping etc.
The more ‘capital’ he has, the easier it is for him to hide his money and escape taxes, because he can afford better lawyers, better accountants and, at the highest levels of wealth, lobbyists and politicians.
The salary-man only has his income. And thus, he is the easiest target for the government to tax. Anytime there is a new gap in the budget to fill or special project to finance – the plump salary-man gets prepped for the slaughter. He is the big fat holiday hog that can be roasted and devoured again and again, year after year.
The poor don’t pay taxes. The uber-rich who own capital and ‘old-money’ don’t pay any taxes they can avoid (and they can avoid many).
So that leaves the middle-class to get hammered for all the government’s wasteful expenses.
And how is the middle-class defined? Anyone who works for someone else and makes more than $30k / year. That is ALL that the term ‘middle-class’ means in our current generation, despite whatever the politicians or pundits say.
If you don’t work for yourself, you will always be middle-class.
You can be earning $300k per year and be ‘middle-class’ living in San Francisco. You can earn $500k / year and live paycheck-to-paycheck in NYC.
The more you make as a salary-man, the more the government takes.
The upper middle-class – $200k+ household – pays most of the country’s taxes. And instead of being upheld and rewarded for their hard work and contribution to society, they are often falsely attacked as being ‘the greedy rich’ who are not ‘paying their fair share’.
This is the great trick of the true rich – the old-money rich – and the political elite, which has played out in countless episodes throughout history: Agitating the working poor and welfare classes against the middle-class by painting them as the greedy rich.
And with that support, the elite can put government expenses on the backs of the middle-class: fat pensions for politicians and government workers, industrial military infrastructure for manufactured conflicts, social welfare for those displaced by globalism etc. etc.
The government publicizes the costs and ‘losses’ of government programs by billing the tax-payer for any increased spending, while privatizing the profits of such programs by means of awarding contracts to private corporations, who in-turn make campaign contributions, and otherwise save high-level positions inside the company for ex- government officials who enter the private sector after ‘retiring’ from public service. The corporations also influence law and policy by means of lobbying, and further avoid paying for anything that can be dumped on the middle-class tax payer.
This is money laundering – plain and simple. And as the middle-class chases dollars, the elite consolidate true assets like land and natural resources, to be further leveraged against the tax-payer.
This is how the power elite protects their wealth and power.
The people who have the capital and real assets to lend will always profit immensely at the expense of those who need the loans – the middle-class.
When a ‘financial crisis’ occurs every 8 or 9 years, who pays for the recovery?
So when you hear a politician talking about how he or she stands up for the middle-class, remember that fleecing the middle-class is the reason that he or she is in the business of politics.
Without the middle-class, there would not be enough revenue to bail out the government and subsidize all the people on both extreme ends of the economic spectrum – the poor and the elite – that do not work nearly as much or as hard.
But, really, truly, it is much, much worse than that for the salary-man…
Globalization is devaluing the cost of labor at an alarming rate. Now that the internet has made the world flat economically, it is much easier for a company to hire someone living in a place with a relatively low-cost of living.
So if given the option, why would a company pay someone in the first-world to do the same job, when that person demands a first-world salary, job security and all kinds of benefits?
Traditional jobs are going away for good in the first world. This is true for skilled work the same as unskilled.
The days where someone gives you money to do a task that a foreign worker could easily do with a bit of training are OVER… as far as they can offer the standard of living that the last generation may have been afforded.
And when technology reaches a point where the cost of robotics is on par with the cost of labor, anything a corporation can have a robot do, they will replace a human. Robots are light-years more productive than humans in most cases and they don’t need benefits or a retirement fund.
What is going to happen to the people whose jobs are outsourced or replaced?
They are going to have their standard of living severely diminished, and will be otherwise subsidized by the government.
And how will the government fund these subsidies? They will again hammer the remaining middle-class tax-payers to death.
Now, before you expect me to start waving the Red Star and trumpeting the glories of Marxism, I’ll tell you that I divert sharply here from the conventional thinking of his camp.
Communism is stupid and dangerous for three obvious reasons:
a.) We don’t live in a perfect world, and you can’t expect everyone to play by the rules. The natural order of things is for humans to establish a hierarchy of power – and that means winners and losers. When you try to make everyone equal by dictatorial decree, the human spirit is crushed and the progress of civilization grinds to a halt (see Cuba).
b.) Whether under capitalism or communism, the same ruthless gangsters end up on top running shit while the rest of the world fights for scraps.
c.) The ruling elite is always going to have their place, and the game is always going to be rigged against everyone else who isn’t in the club… but at least with capitalism, you have a *chance* to stand out, get a few big wins and enable yourself to be wealthy.
My philosophy then is a bit like: ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’.
Accept the game is rigged and that your best shot at being exploited the least is to build a business and establish real capital for yourself. Own appreciating assets. Maintain as much control over your money and income as you can. Save enough to get yourself off the rat-race track early, and focus on capital over bigger salaries. Because even if you win the rat-race, you are still going to be a rat.
We all have to work for The Man at some point. And we can all earn and save a lot of money doing it – especially in big-paying sectors such as high-finance, medicine, technology, engineering, sales etc.
But do it with an end in mind – and I don’t mean retire at 65. Accept that the higher you climb, the more you’ll be taken advantage of… instead, use your career-income as leverage into your own business.
Working for yourself is better because it gives you:
a.) an asset in the business you’ve built for yourself
b.) the freedom and flexibility to live life on your own terms and schedule
c.) the privilege of keeping what you earn
d.) and most importantly – total control over your own success.
The rise of the internet has left our generation with no excuse other than laziness to ‘opt-out’ of building our own individual personal empires and winning freedom from the corporate borg.
In the future (and even now), entrepreneurship will be mandatory, as all the ‘jobs’ will go to people or machines that cost companies a lot less than you do.
The rest is up to you…