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Forum Post: Einstein and the evils of Capitalism

Posted 2 years ago on Jan. 22, 2012, 5:35 p.m. EST by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The below is an excerpt from "Why Socialism?" by Albert Einstein (yes, Mr. Relativity himself) back in 1949. As usual, he was a visionary and saw all this coming long ago. Proof of his brilliance beyond physics.

"The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society."

Albert Einstein -- "Why Socialism?", 1949

69 Comments

69 Comments


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[-] 3 points by GypsyKing (9780) 2 years ago

How could it be put more clearly than this? How?

What he is calling for is a shift in human values from one of acquisition to one of compassion. That is the spiritual question upon which human survival lies.

I am not saying that charity does not start at home, it does. But the amassing of a hundred thousand times the money necessary for happiness while the world is awash in suffering is a sin, period.

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 2 years ago

Agreed. I purged "my" possessions when I went travelling. Never again will I be owned by "my" things.

Take what you need from this world; everything else you take is greed.

[-] 2 points by GypsyKing (9780) 2 years ago

Absolutely! Living lightly, and in tune with the natural world is a moral obligation at this point, as far as I'm concerned. But I would also say that there are some people so addicted to possession, and the sense of superiority they think it bestows upon them that wealth, gained within the bounds of morality and reason, should be tollerated.

That is simply because such people exist in great numbers, and until they can find a way to grow far enough, spiritually, to see that the happiness they seek from such acquisitian is a chimeara, they will simply cause unlimited trouble unless allowed their way, within limits.

You see, it is as if a lot of people are babies that the rest of us have to nurse along the path to adulthood.

[-] 2 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

I am not religious, but all I can say is AMEN!!!!!

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 2 years ago

I ditto GK above & thank you for your post. + a link to the complete essay, "Why Socialism ?" : http://monthlyreview.org/2009/05/01/why-socialism . fiat lux.

[-] 1 points by ineptcongress (648) 2 years ago

watching t.v. i had to laugh when the channel programming changed from a story on the destitute barrios of rio to the big yacht race in australia. some cannot eat and live in real daily danger of being killed whilst others get to prep their $25million toy and eat caviar. the contrast was remarkable.

[-] 1 points by GypsyKing (9780) 2 years ago

We seem to have developed an iron-clad denial regarding the condition of mankind. This is to some degree understandable, given the realative inability of the individual to effect this situation, but collectively we do have that ability, and I think a moral obligation to excercize it.

[-] 2 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 2 years ago

Great Post... Underdog,

I agree w/ 99% of it... but changing what is so deeply embeded ... may be an impossible task in the immediate time frame...

here's a little different approach that might move us and the system forward in all directions ..

http://occupywallst.org/forum/an-occupation-on-the-edge-of-prosperity-draft/#comment-589115

[-] 2 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

Thanks for the compliment, and I glanced at your link without a detailed read/analysis, but seems to have some good ideas.

Thanks again.

[-] 2 points by beautifulworld (21335) 2 years ago

I find this really interesting and kind of sad, too.

[-] 1 points by cJessgo (729) from Port Jervis, PA 2 years ago

Why do you find it sad?

[-] 2 points by beautifulworld (21335) 2 years ago

It seems like a lot to overcome. I think Einstein was right and I also think a lot of people refuse to see the downside of capitalism. We're very entrenched in this system. I'm not saying socialism is the way to go but I think we do need a complete overhaul of our economic system or at least a much more regulated capitalism and I'm not sure that will happen.

[-] 1 points by cJessgo (729) from Port Jervis, PA 2 years ago

I think keep Capitalism out of my Democracy Keep Democracy out of the church Keep the Church out of the Bedroom And please Keep your bedroom maners out of my Capitalist Bar life would be better.

[-] 0 points by beautifulworld (21335) 2 years ago

What do you mean by "Capitalist Bar" life?

[-] 1 points by cJessgo (729) from Port Jervis, PA 2 years ago

I know of know drinking establishment that one can drink for free. If you do please let me know asap.I would love to socialize my tab,

[-] 1 points by beautifulworld (21335) 2 years ago

Okay. Gotcha. I thought you might have meant a drinking establishment, LOL!

[-] 1 points by ineptcongress (648) 2 years ago

i've read this before and i am pretty sure it's not einstein--but that's a nice way to get attention. not many people would read if you cited tytler, von mises or vigga.

[-] 1 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

So your saying somebody forged Einstein's name? Highly unlikely, although yes, I'm sure there have been other voices who have expressed similar opinions. The evils of Capitalism, after all, are pretty obvious to any intelligent observer. I'm pretty sure that Marx and Engels saw the evils of Capitalism too, but that doesn't invalidate the observations they could have discussed just because they wrote the Communist Manifesto. The observation and documentation of those evils is not an ENDORSEMENT of communism. It is merely a reporting of the facts. It is up to individuals to decide what to do, if anything, with those facts.

[-] 1 points by SparkyJP (1646) from Westminster, MD 2 years ago

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." (Sign hanging in Einstein's office at Princeton)

[-] 1 points by leandroBR (24) from São José dos Campos, São Paulo 2 years ago

From what i understood of my reading, the heart of the problem is the accumulation of wealth and the competitive spirit. If we want a fair society, we need to strike at the heart of the problem by limiting the wealth one can accumulate and encouraging the solidarity rather than competition. Am i right? I'm rather insecure when interpreting texts...

[-] 1 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

There are actually MANY things wrong with Capitalism as it currently exists in the US. I can't speak for what is going on in Brazil, having no knowledge of your country. Just re-read the Einstein post a few times until things become clear. I don't want to speak for a great man like Einstein. He is more than capable of getting his point across himself rather than have me provide interpretation/commentary.

[-] 1 points by leandroBR (24) from São José dos Campos, São Paulo 2 years ago

In case you want to know...In Brazil, the 99% are poor and idiot, cheering at the rulers that steal practically half of everyone's wealth. There are some who know the truth, but no one act, they can't, the cheering of the idiots is just too loud... "Wow, World Cup at Brazil!! You are being exploited to death!"

[-] 1 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

I'm sorry about the conditions you have described regarding your country. Unfortunately, there are sometimes few pleasant options. If things get bad enough, your people might revolt, or work to change things internally like OWS is trying to do. Perhaps, as a final drastic step, immigration to another country might be an option ... I don't know.

I wish you good luck.

[-] 1 points by leandroBR (24) from São José dos Campos, São Paulo 2 years ago

Thanks, friend. I also think that when things get bad enough, people will star revolting, but for now, it seems impossible, with the new deals with China and discovery of pre-salt, we won't have a crisis so soon... Still, thanks for the words, its comforting to read it.

[-] 1 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

its nice to see someone is actually paying attention in Econ 101

[-] 0 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

Einstein may have been the greatest physicist of his day, but that doesn't make his opinion on politics, economics, or any other area outside of physics any better then my opinion or yours.

Not that it matters much. A socialist state is unlikely to evolve on it's own, You would need a revolution or total collapse of the current economy. During the Great Depression a majority of the population was working, that is also true today but to a greater extent.

Socialism depends on people being inherently good and willing to work hard for society. Socialist states have not been successful and people tend to work less when the reward is going to be the same for everyone without regard to effort.

[-] 3 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

Below is paste excerpt from SWEDEN.SE

"Economists and politicians have long pointed to Sweden as a role model because of its successful combination of generous welfare benefits and high-tech capitalism. It constantly places near the top in international rankings of competitiveness, innovation and standard of living. Taxes are high, but the streets are clean."

People are well taken care of in Sweden. There is NO poverty. Higher education, medical care, childcare, unemployment, etc. are provided by government programs through taxes which, admittedly, are high. However, everyone is taken care of through this social net. Capitalists/Republicans in this country would consider Sweden's model anathema due to the threat it represents to their status quo. Remember, there is a reason why the Republicans constantly sing the tax-cut song.

Capitalism in the US has proven to be Economic Darwinism -- Survival of the Economically Fittest. That is why OWS has arisen.

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

I agree Sweden has a good social welfare system. We're slowly moving in a more socialist direction, like most of Europe our's is likely to be a democratic socialism. When socialism is mentioned the average person thinks communism though. Unfortunately I see Americans as foolishly wanting things both ways, they want the government to care for many of their needs, but don't want to pay for it. To progress toward their model we would need to raise taxes significantly, again like Sweden.

As far as capitalism is concerned it's unlikely to be replaced anytime soon. If the economy recovers things will move back to what I'll call normal. Any major change would require things to be much worse then they were during the Great Depression. There is certainly hardship, but a large majority are content. OWS may not survive, they don't seem to desire to go beyond generating awareness. At some point people expect positive action not just slogans and demonstrations.

[-] 3 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

I am largely in agreement with you. I do believe Democratic Socialism holds the best chance for a more equal economic playing field, but agree there are very significant challenges in addition to education of the populace that Socialism isn't Communism -- the resurgence of labor unions for one. Reagan started the ball rolling toward their current irrelevance with his hard-line approach to that ATC strike (I remember it well). It was all downhill from there. In the European Socialist Dem countries, the labor movement is VERY strong.

I agree that OWS is probably doomed. I hope I'm wrong. For one thing, in order to compete with the entrenched system, it needs to be financed to a much greater degree in order to purchase air-time for educating the country about its goals, what socialism really is, etc. For another, it needs to be better organized towards making inroads into the current system. Millions of dollars are needed, not just thousands.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

erk

I work very hard and was constantly denied any reward for my effort where I last worked

in fact, that is a common complaint of hard working people

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

I've always worked as an employee, I think I only had one boss in 40 years that I would say was great. Even so, he invested everything in his business, I didn't risk anything, that's why I don't see me deserving a greater reward then what he agreed to pay me. I do see this country as moving slowly more socialist in some ways, but I doubt we will ever take over private businesses and give it all to the employees.

I

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

it's up to the people

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[-] -1 points by smartcapitalist (143) 2 years ago

And yet he was driven out of a country run by a socialist government and had to seek refuge in a capitalist country and which is where he flourished. Duh.

[-] 1 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

To be precise, Nazi Germany was a Facist Dictatorship, not Socialist. Socialism is an economic term, not a political one (go look it up). The fact that a government like the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic (USSR) called themselves "Socialist" does not mean they were applying Socialist economic principles.

When discussing any country, it is useful to use both the socio-political system in place as well as the economic model being employed. For example, the US is a Democratic/Capitalist country (a Republic to be more precise). Many European countries follow the Democratic/Socialist model. China used to follow the Autocratic/Communist model, but are now evolving into Autocratic/Capitalist. As previously mentioned, the Axis nations of Germany and Italy were Dictatorial/Facist.

Einstein escaped Nazi Germany because he was a Jew fleeing racist persecution, not because he didn't like the Facist economic model.

[-] 0 points by smartcapitalist (143) 2 years ago

Agreed.

[-] -1 points by Kirby (104) 2 years ago

Control freak is what you are. Top down massively concentrated centralized government telling every one what to do. Why would you advocate such tyranny. Hasn't Obama and his ilk spread enough misery to the masses already?

[-] 1 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

go back to econ 101

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 2 years ago

why?

[-] 2 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Einstein was a theoretical physicist, not an economist

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 2 years ago

But why are you telling me to go back to "econ 101"?

[-] 2 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

at the very least, you will learn and understand how various economies function before deconstructing them

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 2 years ago

What exactly are you referring to. It´s not by any chance deregulation theories of f.ex Greenspan that fcked up the economy making saint Alan admitting he was wrong Is that what you´re referring to..?

[-] 1 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

I am referring to the social science called economics. It is the study and analysis of the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.

It includes, but is not limited to: Ancient economics (ie Ancient Greece, Rome, India and China), Islamic economics, Scholasticism, Mercantilism, Physiocrats, Classical political economy, American School, French liberal school, German historical school, English historical school, French historical school, Utopian economics, Marxian economics, State socialism, Ricardian socialism, Anarchist economics, Distributism, Institutional economics, New institutional economics, Neoclassical economics, Lausanne school, Austrian school, Stockholm school, Keynesian economics, Chicago school, Carnegie school, Neo-Ricardianism, etc.

When you can discuss the merits and disadvantages of these, perhaps you'll be able to propose a better method.

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 2 years ago

I am aware. But you see, the thing is that lots of economists are very right-winged. There are some that are reasonable, but many are not. I am concerned with working for more democracy - a just, equal, egalitarian society, not capitalism/state capitalism advocated by right winged economists :)

[-] 1 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Regardless, you must know what those economic theories and systems are in order to properly refute them. Posting a statement by a theoretical physicist without any references or context to economics is a waste of time.

FYI Einstein did not show up at some coffeehouse and start babbling about relativity, he did the hard work first.

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[-] 0 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

And I assume you think unregulated Free Market Capitalism is a resounding success? Is that why OWS has arisen?

[-] 1 points by Kirby (104) 2 years ago

You are assuming the opposite extreme to Chomsky. No you are incorrect in your assumption.

[-] 0 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

More detail to support your assertion please.

[-] 1 points by Kirby (104) 2 years ago

It is my response to the one who posted. I am in no way in agreement with chomskys notion of society. Glass-Steagal repeal was a mistake.

[-] -1 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

hey they heard it on youtube so it must be true!

[-] 2 points by 4TheHumanSocietyProject (504) 2 years ago

You learned everything you know from other humans. What makes yours right and his right. Obviously the system does not work because it fails. Your ECON 101 class was constructed by men who believed in a system that fails over and over again. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I just do not quite understand you. Is there something you are terribly afraid of? Why must you put down those around you? What I have learned from psychology is that humans that put down other humans is a sign of depression or unhappiness.which in fact may be untrue. Einstein is one of the most creditable men that have ever lived, yet you dismiss his ideals. Do you not like to try new things? Or do you enjoy watching people die because you give to little and take so much? I really just want clarification to what your issue is with bashing other people. I believe if iyou do not agree with some maybe you should try to show them why. If they do not understand ... try again. I would ask that you don't be so quick to give up on your ability to teach other people.

[-] 0 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

the dude with the weed is here!

[-] 1 points by 4TheHumanSocietyProject (504) 2 years ago

I do not have any weed.

[-] 1 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

you sound like you're high on something

[-] 1 points by 4TheHumanSocietyProject (504) 2 years ago

I do not quite understand how you can hear me... I do not participate in any mind altering substances.

[-] -1 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

its obvious a legal/illegal/unknown substance is altering your perception of reality

[-] 0 points by 4TheHumanSocietyProject (504) 2 years ago

lol... I do not know what else to tell you. I hope keep your chin up man.

[-] 0 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

DieNachthexen, you are committing the logical fallacy of attacking the person instead of the argument. If you cannot engage in intelligent debate without resorting to put-downs, kindly resign from this thread until you can think of some. You are embarrassing yourself.

[-] 1 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Clearly you have never heard of Jacque Fresco.

[-] 1 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

Actually I have. I became aware of him about 2-3 years ago after I was laid off after almost 30 years straight employment (through the Zeitgeist videos). Went to the Venus website and read up on him. Below is one of his quotes:

"War, poverty, corruption, hunger, misery, human suffering will not change in a monetary system. That is, there will be very little significant change. It's going to take the redesign of our culture and values."

He probably thinks of himself as a Realist, but with a pessimistic statement like that, he is unlikely to attract significant attention/followers.

So what does he have to do with you attacking people instead of arguments?

[-] 1 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

cool story bro

white knighting for your stoner pal? this movement is in trouble

[-] 1 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 2 years ago

Well, since you continue to engage in attack versus logic, you'll be pleased to know I won't be responding to you anymore.

[-] 1 points by DieNachthexen (103) from New York, NY 2 years ago

come back after you convince everyone that if we get rid of currency all our problems will be solved and we can all live happily ever after

[-] 0 points by 4TheHumanSocietyProject (504) 2 years ago

What do you think of Jacque Fresco? Not the venus project but what he has to say about human behavior, depression etc...

[-] 0 points by 4TheHumanSocietyProject (504) 2 years ago

You seem to get it. Thanks for the help.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

wouldn't surprise me

Oppenheimer was blacklisted as a communist and died poor

[-] 0 points by Kirby (104) 2 years ago

No shit.