Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ownership society, privatization, be afraid, be very afraid

I admit it. I would like to own my own house. I love owning my car clean and free and all the gadgets which make my life fun and easier. I am a good consumer who has been trained well by society. I go on shopping sprees. I also tend to believe in those commercials who promise me that their cream will make my skin soft as a baby’s butt. But is this what Bush really means when he uses the phrase ownership society? No
"I think all public policy, or as much public policy as possible, ought to encourage people to own something," Bush says. The more people own, he adds, "the more they'll have a stake in the future of this country."
What happens when a society becomes totally privatized? When safeguards such as Social Security are privatized? To answer these questions and a crap load of other related questions, a good place to start would be to look at Carl Marx. Oh don’t go running away. Yes, I said Marx: the man who spent a great chuck of his life looking at the capitalist system and, whether people like it or not, got most of it right. I am not talking about communism here (although real communism has never been tried); I am talking about economics, class and political issues in a capitalist system such as good ole’ USA.
Marx for Dummies
Someone really should write “Marx for Dummies” because most of us might be able to understand what the hell he was talking about, and, by default, educate ourselves. Certainly I felt this way, and still do at times, when I started out. But thank god there are some kind scholars who can translate Marx and who helped me on my way. I am not an expert but after a year of reading Marx and commentary on Marxist theory, I got the basics which are all we need. First, a few definitions: Capitalism= an economic system where production (of goods and services) are owned not by those who do the labor but by privatized individuals or companies who control production. In other societies, the laborer had control over his or her production. Once production was privatized and ownership went to individuals or companies who hand the money to control production, the laborer was no longer “master/mistress” of his or her craft but was forced to sell their labor to those who owned production. Production determines distribution = private individuals or companies who own production gets to decide what items are produced, how they are produced, how they are priced (in relation to the market) and by default, who can purchase the said item. Furthermore, ownership of production also means control over resources needed for production and, again, power behind the distribution process. Surplus = the extra income made after costs for production and labor has been dealt with. We hear this every day; the point of business is to make money, a profit. Privatized individuals and companies make money by creating a surplus. There are two major ways that surplus is created. 1) paying workers as little as you can legally (no I did not say morally because morals have little to do with it) can get away with and 2) creating as much surplus in a day as it possible by making the workers work longer hours for less, utilizing technology which limits the role of the worker and streamlines production. Capital = money is not “capital” until it is used to buy labor and puts that labor to work, thus capital creates a class society. Classes = the economic standing of groups within society: those who own production and those who must sell their labor to survive. Capitalism depends and creates a class divided society. Individuals must be kept separated, alienated and fragmented so that those in labor do not rise up against those who own production. Furthermore, each class becomes further divided internally depended upon the income earned by each segment. Yet there is really a two class system, meaning, again, those who own production and those who must sell their labor.
The Bottom Line
Definitions done. Here are the problems with an ownership society: the more a society is absolutely privatized, allowing little to no safeguards for the majority of society who are laborers, the more that society is sharply divided into the “haves” and “have-nots” classes. And as businesses’, individuals and companies, aim is to make a profit, surplus, they will keep going to other locations and utilizing newer technology in order to create the surplus which will earn profit and keep them competitive. In our world this means outsourcing because to keep production in the United States is expensive which is why corporations must branch out to find new resources, and these “resources” included labor. Whenever labor fights for safeguards, this means less surplus for the owners of production—it is simple. Today, we have safeguards but these safeguards for you and mean simply mean less profit for the owners of corporations and businesses. The more we privatize society and all aspects of society, including social security, the more we encourage a corporate society which determines who gets what and who gets paid what. This is what Bush wants!
In practice, skeptics say, Bush's version of an "ownership society" would mean "you're on your own" — unless you are well-heeled, well-informed and already an owner. "It's a wonderful phrase," says former Clinton Labor secretary Robert Reich, a professor of social and economic policy at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. "But in fact, it's going to further concentrate ownership in fewer and fewer hands."
So, if you are like me, you will not support an ownership society. What you are being fed is ideological bullshit placed in a pretty package and marketed to arise your consumer habits and desires. Ownership. Yes, some ownership is good, no doubt about it, as I said, I am a good consumer but I am not blind. My husband and I had to sell our house, when we only owned for a year, simply because the cost of living skyrocketed while our paychecks remained stagnate. We couldn’t keep up and, afraid of living on credit cards—the evil things that they are, we had to sell our one real asset—our home—or declare bankruptcy. The more we take safeguards away from the common laborer and the more benefits and safeguards are given to corporations, the more we are, truly, screwed. Period. An ownership society does not mean getting gadgets and cars, it means creating a corporate society which determines what you own and how much you make—cost of living.
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1 comment:

  1. There are many problems with Marx; for one, he did not get it right.

    Production determines distribution: Consumers determine this. It is called supply and demand. If the demand reduces to a point where it is not cost effective to produce, then the producers will stop doing it. It is that simple. That means that consumers choose what is produced.

    Surplus: again, wrong. You can create surplus without doing either of those things. Some of the most successful companies that I have witnessed have done so. They produced dancewear. They did not outsource it to a distant land. They hired Americans, and paid them well for their job. The average seamstress, in the US, makes between $7 - $8 per hour. These people were paid $13 - $15 per hour. They were not worked to the bone either. They learned the most efficient way to produce the goods. They had technology to assist them in doing more than the average worker could do alone. That is how surplus is created. In Red China, surplus is created by overworking people and paying them as little as possible.

    Your premise is flawed. Winston Churchill had a great quote (well many), but this one is about socialism/communism: "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." What he is stating is that no one is happy, we are all equally miserable. In the very beginning of the Communist Manifesto, Marx notices a pattern: we are going through cycles where the upper class is becoming more flat with more people. What is wrong with that? Nothing. If he would leave it alone, and let have an ownership society, we would have be the "haves," but with communism, we are all the "have-nots."


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