While I like Richard Wolff to some degree when he gets it, I think I’m more bothered when he’s off the mark than I would be from someone else as he claims to be an economist, and an anti-capitalist (for the most part). In this program he discusses this Routers article as well as what “capitalism” means. The Router’s article notes that “four of the biggest U.S. technology groups collectively hold an estimated $124 billion in U.S. Treasury debt, much of it offshore, earning them tax-free interest.”
As Wolff points out, we pay more for our tech devices and search engine use than previously thought because we subsidize tax breaks. The irony being that because the tax is not collected in the first place we then have to borrow for x,y,z…from the very people that ‘didn’t pay enough to begin with’ according to Wolff. We could borrow less (and pay less interest) if the tech giants were taxed ‘correctly’ to begin with. Not that I’m a fan of taxes, the State, or capitalism to begin with anyway, I just find this “hustle,” as Wolff calls it, particularly amusing because I help pay for it like it or not. This is “redistribution,” for the fat cats, and back to the fat cats again…getting screwed squared, capitalism squared. Honestly, I’d rather see “cost be the limit of price,” (Josiah Warren) to hell with profits, and taxes for products I don’t want, and interest/usury ta boot. Wolff fails to recognize the inflated cost-plus price at the root of profits as capitalism.
What bothers me about Wolff, besides the last point made, is that he thinks taxes are OK, or so it seems. He also complains about how bad markets are…not to the degree that Micheal Albert does, but still, he hates markets. What are taxes if not a market, a forced market? And why whine, as Wolff does, about companies ‘not paying enough considering the profits they make’? Profits should be his focus, not that companies aren’t paying enough taxes on the profits. So while he bashes capitalism, he defends it, because to defend profits and taxes is to defend theft, they are both capitalism. Profit is theft because profits are created by charging more than cost (cost plus), and/or stealing/skimming the cost plus from the workers that produced profits to begin with.
With cost plus the buyer pays more than they should; and with tax the economic relationship is a forced one where the payee purchases products they may not want to buy. Force is not democracy, but of course this depends on who you ask. Taxes support the coercive institutions that see to it that capitalism and taxes survive, i.e. the State. State Socialism is State Capitalism. No taxes, no state, no state, no capitalism. Their parasitic nature makes them depend on each other. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t pay the full value and externalities of products, just not taxes for products we don’t consume or demand. Wolff is against markets, but fails to mention or perhaps see free market anti-capitalism because he’s the in trees of a State Socialist forest wearing rose colored lenses.
Wolff who appears to be a State Socialist is essentially a capitalist. At 38 minutes he goes over how he defines capitalism: the private ownership of the means of production (pootmop, and here too), resources are exchanged voluntarily (market exchange)… he then goes on to describe government/state socialism, and market planning. In addition, he defines capitalism on the organization of production, at ~42 minutes he states that decisions should be democratic, essentially plugging his Democracy at Work idea. A forerunner to Wolff in this regards is David Ellerman, who has a similar yet more elegant take. What bugs me is not how Wolff wants to have democracy in the workplace, but how he does not want democracy in markets. He complains about hierarchy and capitalism on the production end, but stops short of democracy in exchange, and wants hierarchical planning, and profits (i.e. capitalism), or so it seems.
Capitalism is usury, aka rent (aka interest, and profit). Rent, profit, and interest are often separated, but profit and interest are both rent (usury). Capitalism is privilege or gratuitous appropriation, i.e. usury, with artificial “ownership Rights to control access to natural opportunities.” Capitalism can happen between two or more people or systemically ‘where the State intervenes in the economy on behalf of capitalists to create artificial scarcities, artificial property rights, erect entry barriers, enforce monopolies, and cartels so capitalists can collect rents…because free competition is prevented from driving the price of things to their true cost of production.’ Kevin Carson
Rent is a credit or a right to ownership of material and immaterial resources that grant the appropriation of surplus based on a relation of distribution other than any normal function in the process of production. In other words,
surplus-value/profit expropriation from:
1. interest or financial rent- privatization of currency and public debt
2. scarcity, natural or artificial(monopoly, Intellectual Property Rights)
3. ground rent– the transformation of land and labor into fictitious commodities- de-socialization, re-socialization and then new de-socialization
Socialism is low to no rents/profits, worker owed production, where workers receive/divide profit/surplus-value to receive their full product, it is not siphoned out of their pockets as in the case of capitalism (this holds for reproducible goods anyway)
“Socialism, practically, is war upon usury in all its forms, the great Anti-Theft Movement of the nineteenth century; and Socialists are the only people to whom the preachers of morality have no right or occasion to cite the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal!” That commandment is Socialism’s flag.” Benjamin Tucker
Mutualists advocate free-market socialism, collectivist anarchist advocate workers cooperatives and salaries based on the amount of time contributed to production, anarcho-communists advocate a direct transition from capitalism to libertarian communism, and anarcho-syndicalists advocate worker’s direct action and the general strike to abolish privilege.
Socialist Definitional Free-for-All
Wolff’s arguments are a “clever game to play” just as he says the capitalists play, but if he is playing the State Socialist card then Wolff is a capitalist. The gains he claims will occur in the workplace are washed away in a planned market, not to mention a State that plans how to put its hands in our pockets and force us to pay for products we don’t want. Taxes are not democratic they are tyrannical, and bolster a coercive machine that can only survive by a theft analogous to the theft Wolff claims he is seeking to ameliorate in the workplace.
While I like democracy, it possess a number of problems not the least of which is the very thing it purports to do: adhere to the Lockean consent theory. The consent theory demolishes democracy (Josiah Tucker). To consent to be governed is to be a slave under State Socialism or Wolffian capitalism.