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Forum Post: What Marx missed

Posted 1 year ago on Sept. 11, 2012, 1:41 p.m. EST by Carroll (40)
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The Communist Manifesto described the workings of private capital within the new economy replacing feudalism. The chapter Marx omitted concerns the workings of capital WITHIN government itself. Marx could have known better since the world had already witnessed one example of the king's private ownership of his nation's wealth being overthrown so the people could seek representation for their middle-class needs--right here in the good old US of A. We were founded to have the nation's capital spent on the commonwealth of the new middle class, rather than wasted the king's personal vision.

The Constitution of our new government sensed the need to split the powers of the king into different branches of government to prevent abuse, but failed to understand that by giving the power to spend the nation's wealth to the Congress they were dangling the ownership of the government's capital above the heads of office holders. They didn't have Marx yet to help them see the danger and they compounded their half-measure by allowing a political system to emerge that established an overt capital market as the mediator of political power: Marx's missing chapter.

So now we are screwed. Our political life is determined by the capital market of people buying influence in government. Such a system was harmless in the beginning in an era of modest wealth, and even worked to find the average of the needs of the successful business interests and thus trended toward a strong economic environment. But the appearance of the new deep-pocket corporations in the 19th Century created the class Marx warned against--the single big capitalist with a hand at our throats. The concentrated wealth of the new corporations gave Congress its needed bed partner to assume private ownership of the nation's wealth. The store front is the political party: the dividends paid are tenure in office and special favor in legislation. Congress's capital ownership must be squeezing the blood from everyone's brain because we, as a people, do not recognize this facet of governmental capitalism most crucial to the commonwealth and are easily duped into attacking each other over ideological lines, preventing us from turning on Congress's usurpation of our wealth.

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[-] 5 points by agkaiser (1224) from Fredericksburg, TX 1 year ago

That's twisted bass ackwards. Congress doesn't own capital. Capital owns congress.

[-] 1 points by Carroll (40) 1 year ago

They are like two lamprey eels locked on each other. But Congress is the senior partner. They can take money from which ever one of them they choose. Indeed top teat has to be shuffled from time to time to maintain appearances. But money has only one place to turn to get the legislation they want. There is only one senior partner in this tango. As long as Congress gets a free pass this revolution is going in circles. Ask yourself who gains the most by having the people 1) at each others throats (Left vs, Right), 2) focused (on the Left) on one dance partner. Congress's appropriation of our paid-in-capital is the enemy.

[-] 3 points by ogoj11 (263) 1 year ago

There's a reason Marx ignored the Crowned Heads. Everyone watches politics. Just as now.

And just as in Marx's day everyone is focused on the capitalist class, an increasingly irrelevant class, made up of smaller and smaller numbers.

Quietly, a class of professionals has emerged, less powerful than the high capitalist elite, but increasingly in control of every aspect of life, quietly becoming more and more self-confident, arrogant about their intelligence, proven through thousands of tests and exams, mocking the idiocy of the tycoons that employ them, preparing their own professionalist version of the French Revolution.

[-] 2 points by Carroll (40) 1 year ago

I would be interested to know more about your thoughts on the professional class of today that you mention. The people who engineered the French Revolution were the new middle class who set the peasants with their pitch forks against king, church and army.

If by 'capitalist class' you mean the middle class, then I agree--increasingly irrelevant.

The real controlling class that you describe in the last paragraph is the Congress and their political parties, in my opinion. They are drawing a free pass right now because (even though the people don't like or trust them) their role as the capitalist (last fat-cat capitalist) is hidden in the rancor of political dust. Well, OK, we all know what they are doing, but where is the coherent analysis of their sucking on the Treasury's teat when they are supposed to be managing that money for our benefit? Congress wants us 'watching politics' and throwing bricks at each other so we don't notice their theft of the nation.

I want financial ownership of The Treasury for all taxpayers as a practical critique of their capitalist philandering.

[-] 2 points by ogoj11 (263) 1 year ago

It's nice of you to humor me. I'm riding a little hobbyhorse of my own.

It's an extension of the Marxist notion of how a capitalist mode of production emerged from a feudal mode. In my view, a professional mode is emerging from a capitalist mode of production. My ideas are actually fairly elaborate but I tend to lose most people who aren't familiar with Marx. I also find that most people are confused by my attitude toward the professional class. I try not to be either pro or anti, much as Marx maintained an opinionated neutrality in the struggle between the aristocracy and the capitalists.

Just to expand a bit, we all know how capitalism developed a whole theory of society associated with thinkers like Locke, Hobbes, Spencer, ideas of a social contract, of Darwinian struggles, etc. Well, I think we can see a new theory for the basis of hierarchy in the professionals' notion of intelligence, a natural hierarchy corresponding to the social inequality of professionalized work. You really shouldn't encourage me.

[-] 2 points by Carroll (40) 1 year ago

I find your line of thinking intriguing. 20th. Century intellectual History was my graduate pursuit--until Vietnam squashed my dreams of an orderly life. I revel in the grand views while respecting the need for detail. So I love reading the synopsis of such pursuits, especially now that extended baths in the hot springs of minutia are not practical for me. I have encountered others with similar concerns as yours, including recent suggestions of how to move out of our economic morass by cultivating a class of workers with new skill sets and new eye-brain coordination.

My favorite writing along these (or similar) lines is Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle. I can puzzle endlessly as over a sunset in trying to follow his description of how the concept of time and space were altered by the modern means of production. I suppose it is also an extension of some of Marx's notions.

As for losing people in your explanations…well, it's not easy to grasp--a little like hoping two-year-olds will grasp the abstraction of sounds represented by letters. The mind will drink no wine before its time. As for people not liking the mention of a 'professional' class'…we live in an anti-intellectual age (a consequence of the modern means of production?) and people need you to wave flags identifying youself as one of the 'good guys' or actually, 'one of us'. Confuse them, throw a curve ball, and the lord of the flies attacks.

I was not aware of Marx's neutrality between aristocracy and the capitalist class. I suppose he was wanting to keep the focus on the proletariat and had a 'curse on both your houses' for the rest of them. I am not a scholar of Marx. Nor of Hegel and the rest of his intellectual heritage. I do know that his ideas have never been put into practice outside of isolated moments: the Paris Commune (perhaps one of his inspirations) and the Spanish Civil War or the Hungarian revolt of the more recent times--all short-lived experiments of direct worker management of production.

[-] 2 points by ogoj11 (263) 1 year ago

Thanks for such a thoughtful reply. It is hard for people to understand that I regard Marx as an intellectual influence, not a flag to wave, or a doctrine to be loyal to.

So many of our analysts spend so much time on remote topics, arcane matters of markets or high finance, the oil exports of Nigeria. I wish we could turn our attention back to the labor process, the real things each of us do every day. But instead of describing these things in a 'how to' manner, let's look at how the labor process is shaped by power relations. IMO, we're leaving an era of assembly line style, easily quantifiable work and heading into a professional world where labor is virtually impossible to evaluate.

Here's one of our system's central contradictions. Complex professional work characterizes more advanced successful societies, but how can such work be monitored, controlled, rewarded, and punished? The teachers' situation is classic. Any teacher, in the course of a day, does so many tasks, big and small, a word of encouragement in the hall, a reply to a question, an observation of how a child looks this morning - no one could possibly create a statistic to summarize all this like a productivity rate for an assembly line worker.

We need to turn away from interest rates and Dow Jones averages. Instead, how did work get structured like this? How could the same tasks be done differently if we had different social relations?

I actually think Occupy loses relevance by focusing so exclusively on the 1%. Many people think that the world might be fairer without the 1%, the distribution more equitable, but does it matter if everything else is basically the same. Unless the world we actually live in, schools, stores, hospitals, changes, bringing down the 1% can seem trivial.

[-] 2 points by Carroll (40) 1 year ago

I sometimes wish I had studied more economics. I understand the Renaissance thing: a couple dozen advanced degrees might do it. Of course wholeness is one of the things crushed by the modern world with its separation, isolation and quantification. But we must live where we are.

Anyway, if I knew more economics I could think about things like the claim I recently heard: that there is enough wealth so that no one has to work. The proposition is that people would do what they enjoy and everything necessary would get done. Of course that sounds utopian and I would hate to have to defend it with my life. But it does open the opportunity of what you describe--a world of labor measured by some means other than the metrics of modern production. Without a task master cracking the profit whip, your professional class would be free to unleash its creativity. I may be wandering into the bailiwick of the anarchists here.

But I keep coming back to the statement that there is enough wealth for everybody. When you look around, the world and its resources do seem to out-weigh us by a hefty margin. And we've created a ton of paper wealth to represent it all in a parallel universe. We got along for 70-80 thousand years without it. I try to imagine the world if all that paper disappeared one night. Primitive people seemed to live without poverty as we know it. Perhaps they had to move from time to time, but, apart from the fact that life was short and hard by our standards, they seemed to be in a sort of paradise. That is, in contrast to our nightmare society. Too bad tribal living is not an option for all 6 billion of us. It is our efforts to manage the wealth (after claiming it as private property) that erases Eden. Eden is the time before economics.

The thrust of the 1% sentiment seems to be a gut reaction to the inequality of distribution. Concentration is at the heart of the problem. Harvest and store the grain and someone must act as 'keeper' and problems of distribution (along with politics) immediately arise. We may be victims of our technologies, which is ironic as technology is one of the benchmark features of our species. A species's key to success is supposed to guarantee long-term survival.

I see the futility of barring the 1% from the political process ('take the money out of politics') because that IS the way our political system works. The electoral system is a capital market. We've tried to curb contributions in the past--it always finds a way back in like sex at a music festival. That's why I say we counterbalance it by creating the 800 lb. gorilla of the nation's wealth distributed to the broad democratic base. Let Congress look up from negotiating with Mr. Deep Pockets and see that gorilla making fingers-to-eyes-to-you motions from the end of the table.

[-] 2 points by trashyharry (1403) from Waterville, NY 1 year ago

We have been dragged into a colossal clusterfuck;the implications of it can't even be comprehended,let alone provided for.It seems to me that the innocent will suffer with the guilty-if only some of the guilty could be held accountable.I hope they will-I really hope some of them will.

[-] 1 points by Carroll (40) 1 year ago

I know everyone wants us to go after the 1%, but I wonder who really gains the most from sic-ing us on them. To me, Congress gains the most from having the people at each other's throats while they grow rich through their ownership of the national wealth. They should be punished by just means: their private ownership of the Treasury funds should be given over to the people to counterbalance the orgy Congress has with the 1%. The surpluses can be awarded to the people, giving us a financial stake in how our money is managed.

[-] 1 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

If you spent as much time studying American history, including both government and economy, you may have constructed an intelligible argument. But you can't write about America, through Marx.... you can't write about America without America. And if you don't have the wherewithal to study our history in depth, then you should not write about it at all.

[-] 1 points by Carroll (40) 1 year ago

Take the chip off your shoulder and look at what I did write about: the assumption of OUR national wealth by OUR Congress. It is OUR political system that hinges on a capital market. If we want control of the country back we must do it by stripping the private ownership of OUR Treasury from Congress and placing it in the hands of the American people.

Marx was only a lead-in to draw attention to the capital market that operates at the core of our political system. I know American History well enough to know the owner of the capital calls the tune. And that, my friend, is neither you nor me. Nor for that matter, the 1% who happen to have access to Congress's bed.

You want a revolution, then go after the enemy.

[-] 1 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

While I understand the sentiment, much of what you state through the eyes of Marx is pure fantasy. The Constitution did not empower the Fed to spend the nation's treasury, nor was the general welfare clause ever intended to so vastly expand plenary powers or authority... this is the product of corruption, supported by a political Supreme Court, that occurred over a period of two hundred plus years; it continues to this day, hence, for example, Obamacare.

But there is no reason to assign blame to the Founders who you view as less informed than Marx. In fact, Marx has no place at all in historical discussion. This is was I refer to as the dis- and mis-education of our youth.

The squeak and whine is but a symptom of disease; the EU's debt is unsustainable, as is ours. When these politicians can no longer extract wealth the Fed will disappear overnight, so will its military, and all state and local government, to include even our local police.

We don't need to bring a Revolution - it will find us - what we need is safe refuge from the storm.

[-] 1 points by Carroll (40) 1 year ago

My ideas are not from Marx. I cooked them up myself over the last 20 years while I watched the hand basket come for our transport to hell. Not that the descent into failure is that young, but I have watched as my starting point--government is broken--has become common currency on all sides.

My mention of Marx was to call attention to the unofficial, unclassified, semi-hidden, private capital market that operates at the core of our political system. I have observed people want to throw their hands in the air and dismiss this ignoramus for not realizing that 'government and business are totally different things'. But I insist that government is a business. It may hide as a not-for-profit kind of animal, but financial gain is the end all and be all. Nowhere is that clearer than in the political system in which Congress uses the the nation's capital, the funds of the Treasury as their private bartering chips to trade legislative influence for campaign financing. Even worse, as I'm sure you realize, is the bartering of money not in The Treasury (debt for the future).

Yes, social welfare is a rather modern role for government. Government's original function was to provide a healthy economic environment for business--the job that the king failed to perform. That they allowed a political system driven by a capital market to regulate who sat in office and spent the available funds, was not a blunder and I am not suggesting it was. (Until someone parts the heavens and tell us to elect, there is no better system). When the wealth of one individual could only grow so far, as in 1789, then allowing all the successful business people to buy as much influence as they could afford was a sound way to guarantee that 'good' practices (legislation favorable to the capitalist class) would carry the day. But if Congress allows the economy to collapse, a new set of rascals got a chance to satisfy the middle-class capitalists who were players in the political process. The capitalist system of electoral politics continually self-corrected to the the best government, the same as in any free-market capitalist system. [Asterisks by all of those value words]. The owners of the capital (Congress) had to waltz with the owners of the electoral system (the deep pockets of their day) in a dance seeking economic health. We got on the highway to hell when modern corporations came along with enough money to bend the legislative agenda from the commonwealth to special interests (the 19th. Century railroads that ruined agriculture for monopoly profit, for example). By focusing today on the 1% we are looking at only the lesser partner in this dance.

By pointing out the unacknowledged capital market I am suggesting that we can make government start to self-correct to the commonwealth again by passing the ownership to the appropriate parties.

If Congress passed a law giving to the taxpayers the financial ownership (Stock Certificates pro-rated to amount of each person's paid taxes) of any surplus in The treasury, and redeemable any time there is a Treasury surplus, the new owners would have objective measure of how well Congress has been managing the 'owners' money'. Just look at the annual report. Since a profit for the new owners of the government enterprise can only accrue if government delivers efficient government that solves long-term problems, the invisible hand of the political system will begin to self-correct to the pleasure of the owners. Otherwise it will continue to self-correct to the gain of the present owners and 2008 will appear as a picnic compared to future calamities. Let's put the elected officials back in the role of 'managers' of our money. If you own a business, what do you do with the manager with a hand in the till?

Of course Congress will be reluctant to withdraw its lips from the teat and it would take an American Spring to persuade them. An American Spring means ALL the people. I believe fiscal conservatives will want the political process returned to a democratic base as much as the liberals who realize that unsolved social problems create greater expense for everyone in the future. We might all appreciate a share should they discover gold on Mars.

At the point of the people demanding control of their country again comes the greatest danger, not from a violent people's revolution, but from the government's drowning reaction at the point of the Patriot Act gun, the assumption of all police and military force in the country, right down to the village level. The only safe refuge is to return control of the nation's wealth to the democratic base, the group with the best chance of stumbling safely into the future. Let capitalist principles judo the abuses of capitalism. It's the best result American History could return.