Why Society’s Surplus Product Should Be Democratically Controlled

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Measured in terms of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which is a superior measure to GDP, global output in 2017 is forecast to be $126.7 trillion.  Assuming a population of 7bn, in which 50% of the population work (a generous estimate), then everyone’s wages throughout the entire world ought to be $36,200 per year.  Not bad, huh?  But the mean average wage of a world worker that conflates the difference between a Luxembourger (the highest paid) and someone in the Third World, is only $18,000 at 2012 estimates (and it’s doubtful wages have risen much since then).  So, where’s the extra money gone?  Where is the other 50%?  Not in wages!

 

Naïve people might think the missing 50% goes into paying for health services, education, welfare, or paying off national debt.  Wrong!  All these things come from taxes which are taken from the wage.  They are not taken from the missing 50%, they are taken from the accounted-for 50%.

 

So where is the missing $60 trillion, each and every year, at current levels of development?  We know that $32 trillion of it resides in off-shore tax havens.  But that’s just a total, and doesn’t account for $60 trillion per year, every year.  Obviously, some of it goes on elite hobbies such as the art market, yachts, racehorses, and squandering ¼ $1bn on footballer Neymar, etc.  But such ultra-luxury consumption still couldn’t explain the size of the missing trillions.

 

The missing trillions, given the number of years this situation has gone on, are actually not trillions.

 

They are quadrillions.

 

Here is what a quadrillion looks like written out:

 

1,000,000,000,000,000.

 

Quite big, huh?

 

There is $1.2 quadrillion invested in derivatives alone.  Other investments such as real estate, industry, etc., pale in comparison, merely at the level of x trillion.  But yeah, the largest chunk of society’s surplus product is invested in speculative finance.

 

When right wing economists tell you we all need to work harder and create a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, it is worth bearing in mind that we already work hard enough thank-you, and perhaps a cybernetic future in which we all go around wearing VR headsets is a bit too much to stomach.  The problem isn’t a lack of wealth, it is the way it is distributed.  And this mode of distribution flows from a particular mode of production in which the surplus product becomes privately rather than socially owned.

 

When elites tell you ‘there isn’t enough money’ to fund this, that, or the other, we should now question what measure of wealth they are using.  If they are talking about funds raised from taxation of the working class, sure, there isn’t enough money.  But what if society, acting as a collective entity with purpose, took back our missing quadrillions?  Perhaps if the surplus product, which is all entirely derived from the total work of the world, was in our hands, instead of a minority parasite blood-sucking vampire class, i.e. placing the surplus product under the democratic control of society, maybe something useful could be done?

 

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Should Sportswomen Be Paid the Same as Men?

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Fans of the female Dutch football side

I have been embroiled in an interesting facebook debate on this question, initiated by a thoughtful trouble-maker, henceforth referred to as AC.  His argument was that in many sports (though he conceded not all), the women’s game is far inferior, therefore it attracts less audience and subsequently less revenue and sponsorship opportunities.  Ergo, the female players in, for example, football, ought to be paid less.

 

Part of our debate hinged on this notion of ‘ought’.  Just because there is less revenue attached, does that justify the situation of gender inequality in sport where England’s top player Steph Houghton earns around £65,000 a year whilst Wayne Rooney earns £300,000 a week?  AC thought it did, because the revenue streams are so much greater around Rooney, unlike Houghton who many people could not identify if shown a picture of her.  A battle ensued concerning if both players put in an equal amount of work, shouldn’t that imply equal wages?  A snipe from BL asserted this notion does not work because if a blind cripple also put in the same amount of labour time, then this would not justify equal wages because they would be hopeless.  So, merit also has to be a consideration.  Obviously, there’s no point in only paying sportspeople according to labour time expended because that trivialises the spectacle of winning and succeeding and putting on a good show, the essential life-blood of any sport, or indeed much of entertainment, as a whole.  But is merit and achievement the only consideration?  Why then, has tennis ace Serena Williams attracted less total revenue than Maria Sharapova, given she has won far more tournaments?

 

Whatever the case, it remains somewhat troublesome that there is such a stark gap between the top women and top men in sport.  Furthermore, it seems that even when women do attract a greater revenue stream than the men, they still don’t get paid as much!  Revenue from the USA’s women’s soccer team amounts to £14m more than the men’s game, yet a female player only gets £30,000 whereas a man would get £48,000.  Five US female players are going to court against US Soccer to try and sort out this anomaly.

So what of the argument that the women’s game is inferior to the men’s?  It could be argued this is for historical reasons.  The women’s game has been chronically underfunded for centuries with less coaching opportunities and little financial incentive that can reward talent.  So, the argument about superior quality may be a ‘chicken and egg’ thing.  What came first – women’s exclusion from sport that creates a poorer performance when they do play, or an ‘inherent’ poor performance that might justify less investment?

 

An article in ‘The New Statesman’ argues, “Victorian society viewed sport as “inseparable from the philosophy of Muscular Christianity, which defined itself against femininity and ‘softness’,” says Tony Collins, the author of Sport in Capitalist Society. It did not think much of the notion of women playing.  Nor did Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympic Games, in 1896. He described women’s sport as “the most unaesthetic sight human eyes could contemplate” and advocated that the games be reserved for men, though a few females were allowed to compete from 1900. In 1921, the Football Association in England deemed the sport “quite unsuitable for females” and banned its clubs from loaning pitches to women.”

 

So perhaps what is happening now is a redress to sport’s shameful past that systematically excluded women.  However, this is not without naysayers.  AC thought the promotion of women’s sport that is happening today, most recently with the Women’s European Football, is actually ‘social engineering’ and therefore distasteful if the women’s game is inferior.  But if the women’s game is not inherently inferior, but appears so only as a product of history and society, then the notion of ‘social engineering’ needs to be stripped of its negative connotations.  The promotion of women’s football need not incur negative feelings among men unless they have a problem with equality in general.  (And besides which, lots of people do think the women’s game is just as good as the men’s albeit with different qualities).

Regarding the huge sums of money thrown at men’s football where someone like Neymar can earn a quarter of a billion pounds compared to Steph Houghton’s £65,000 a year, this is merely money from the surplus product of society as-a-whole that cannot find a profitable investment in industry.  It is leisure-capital that doesn’t even seek much of a return on its investment, it is luxury consumption, and thus these top male footballers have become playthings of the rich.  It is a popular perception that football stars are overpaid, but we need to ask why?  It is because some people literally have tonnes of money to burn where investing in healthcare or education isn’t as sexy.  Nevertheless, the indication is that there is such a thing as a gigantic surplus product in society that needs to be better used, and perhaps some of that could go to paying sportswomen equally.  It is only a capitalist class that is desperate to cling on to what little remains of its traditions that is throwing massive money at the male footballers as a last show of chauvinist defiance in an era when women’s equality has become a popular prejudice.

 

But all things considered, what is really needed is for sport to be brought down to earth.  Rather than have everything decided by elites and their committees, more social democracy is required over sport.  In that way, people could collectively discuss how much a sportsperson should be paid – to choose whether we have equality based on equal labour time expended, how much merit should be extra-valued, the degree of corporate sponsorship permissible (or intrusive government advertising as well).  Perhaps the banning of ‘offensive’ chants at football matches, the increasingly sterile atmosphere, the policing of football fans, goes hand in hand with the overpayment of the stars, because both are symptoms of an underlying problem, the private appropriation of a social event.  We need our ball back, and properly investing in the women’s game will make it seem more natural to introduce equal pay between men and women with an eye on the balance between effort and achievement, as decided democratically.  What’s clear at the moment, is that leaving everything to blind market forces is creating chaos.

How ‘Islamic State’ Got The Wrong End Of The Stick

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Terror has targeted an Ariana Grande (pictured) concert in Manchester and now struck pedestrians on London Bridge

 

Nothing expresses more the dangers of superficiality than the new terrorism.  The picture that is emerging from terrorism in modern European cities is that the perpetrators really hate people enjoying themselves, be it at a music concert or interacting in shopping districts.  What seems to unite the manifold forms of the new terror – be it ‘Islamic’ or ‘right-wing and white’ – is a massive hatred of Western-style consumerism.  The hatred of consumerism however is not confined to reacting terrorists.  It permeates society in forms such as environmentalism and left-wing redistributionism.  It is there in conservative-traditionalist railings against mass society, particularly when the working class are told they are irresponsible for wanting bigger televisions.  The obsession with ‘consumer choice’ is also there in libertarian critiques of the reactionaries – all they do is endorse as ‘free’ what the reactionaries ‘hate.’  Hence, the only debate in society we seem to be seeing is about ‘celebrating our way of life’ versus ‘hating our way of life,’ where our ‘way of life’ is only defined in relation to consumption.  This narrow debate is likely to prolong the existence of the new terror despite obviously the majority feeling rightly angered about it.

 

In order to transcend the parameters of the narrow debate, and hopefully unite humanity in a more progressive positive direction rather than this all-round barbarism, it is necessary to understand that consumption is relatively unproblematic.  It is true that the law of value holds sway over all consumer transactions – to that extent, commodity exchange is not *entirely* free, i.e. volition doesn’t rule.  Nevertheless, consumption is pretty much the only civilising aspect of market society.  Through consumption, points of contact are made between otherwise atomised individuals.  The mediation of the commodity is simply the way in which society is glued together – and it is just about the only way society is glued together nowadays.  So, it is wrong to hate consumption – it is the best thing about capitalism, and the only way in which society prevents itself from deteriorating into a kind of ‘Mad Max’ scenario.  At the same time, it is wrong to celebrate consumption as the only mark of ‘freedom,’ because it is essentially a passive rather than active thing: it doesn’t concern the way we act, just the way we enjoy society’s bounty after we have acted.

 

So, the focus of concern really needs to shift onto the realm of production.  If all the reactionaries railing against consumption (or celebrating it) would only look at the realm of production, it would shake things up immensely, and cure the malaise that is now giving rise to the horror of the new terror.  It is in the sphere of production that people truly aren’t free – from the negative experience of the alarm clock in the morning to the iron discipline deployed by managers at work, doing things you hate for a boss you despise, the sheer lack of creativity, initiative and ingenuity in the office or factory – it is really these things that cause people to loathe the society in which they live.  But because of the dogma of ‘there is no alternative,’ the sphere of production remains relatively uncontested, and thus disappears from view.  Consequently, the alienation in society which has its root in the estranged and unfree sphere of production reappears as a criticism (or celebration, depending which side of the fence one is on) of consumption.  It is thoroughly misguided and becoming downright dangerous, yet it can be understood as what happens when everyone agrees that the capitalist mode of production is not itself up for discussion.  The law of value should belong only to the sphere of consumption (for the time being), not the sphere of production.  When value relations determine the way we produce, i.e. the way we live, then it becomes far too coercive to enjoy life.  Workers have to fight for the option of being in full control of the workplace so they govern what gets done, how it is done, and according to whatever timescale.  This self-emancipation of labour will make humanity far happier and thus erode the basis for irrationalism in all its forms, including the terrorist form.

Good Riddance Milo Yiannopolous, If Only

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After making pro-paedophilia comments where he said it might be okay and consensual for a 28 year old man to have sex with a 13 year old child, Milo Yiannopolous, Senior Editor at the right-wing online magazine Breitbart has resigned.

It is likely if he hadn’t resigned, he would have been sacked.  So, he jumped before he was pushed.  The podcast in which Milo took a relaxed stance towards paedophilia was created a year ago, but has only just hit the media and social media spotlight, prompting a juggernaut of verbal protest and threats from advertisers to withdraw funding.  It was therefore a commercial decision for Milo to go, but does this impede free speech and freethought?  Has Breitbart, which has a reputation for controversy, succumbed to ‘the tyranny of political correctness’?  No.

There is a difference between political correctness which has, at times, been rather over the top, and standards of common decency and morality.  PC is only a problem when it is intimately related to the state which has the power to ban things, to censor.  As an informal form of moral evolution, PC is unproblematic in this blogger’s opinion – it has simply reformed outdated attitudes on many social issues and made society better in the process.  Overt racism, sexism, homophobia etc., are no longer seen as socially acceptable in a way they once were.  The result?  Levels of prejudice have indeed gone down.  Reactionaries regard this as a ‘new conformity,’ but if it has evolved fairly spontaneously, this is wrong-headed – society just does require common moral standards in order to function.  And if the newer moral standards are superior to the old, why not have something like political correctness?  It would only be seriously problematic if the state was the administrator of the changes that have happened.  By and large, it hasn’t been, though it has often exploited the new morality to jail or fine transgressors, which is wrong.

The case of Milo however, is not about the state.  It was a commercial decision where Milo’s free speech rights have not been infringed at all.  He can still spout his nonsense on an alternative platform, indeed the furore might encourage some of his supporters to fund a new site where Milo’s egomania can run amok.  All that has happened is effectively that one particular platform – Breitbart – is refusing to host Milo’s views any more, and that is within their remit as a commercial enterprise.  It is the same not just in the commercial sector, but elsewhere too.  Political groupings, especially parties, reserve the right to expel members for breaches of policy, even at the level of what they say.  This is quite right.  In order for a social entity to pursue a particular course of action, it must have the freedom to decide the views it puts out, and cohere its membership along those lines, else it becomes dysfunctional.

The issue then isn’t ‘free speech’ nor ‘free thought,’ but freedom of association.  Milo’s free speech and free thought hasn’t been impinged upon so long as the state with its thirst for prosecution is not involved.  He has just been denied the privilege – not the right – to have a particular platform for his views.  He can now go elsewhere, and sadly, will do, no doubt.  But Breitbart or any other magazine or social entity must always be able to refuse publication of this or that article or otherwise disassociate itself from a rogue individual if that is in its own interests.  To claim otherwise, to claim that a group should promote views it doesn’t believe in, is actually the real tyranny.  What are the libertarians seriously trying to claim – that the state should force a private sector entity to promote ‘all’ views?  ‘All’ views in that case would be the state’s own view, and discourse as a meaningful thing pursued by beings with intentionality and subjectivity would be subsumed under a kind of Mad Max-ism.

Donald Trump Belongs In The Gutter, Humanity Belongs In A New Golden Age

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The idea of a ‘golden age’ for humanity is a common theme in our history.  Usually it has denoted a ‘heaven’ or ‘nirvana’ that is only attainable for the individual by leading a morally good life, and is delivered upon death, or after some almighty Armageddon-like clash between Good and Evil.  In addition to such religious depictions, secular idealists have pondered whether we can become so wealthy economically that we can live the life of Riley.  Furthermore, Star Trek enthusiasts have argued our species will become as ‘One’, do away with money etc., after we make First Contact with aliens, itself achieved by making technological breakthroughs.  All these notions are, however, dreamy and unrealistic.  The recognition of this has now led many to accept the way things are – with the drudgery of 9-5 work, immense dissatisfaction, terrorism and war – as an eternal fact of human existence, at least until we are all wiped out by nuclear apocalypse or global warming.  So, on the one hand, we have dreamy religious idealists, on the other, cultural pessimism.  This blog argues for a superior view: that the golden age is obtainable by society based upon the knowledge left to us by Karl Marx and some successors – it is a thing that can be ‘scientifically’ understood, and armed with a scientifically-thorough vision of this, the public becomes unstoppable in achieving it.

Marx’s unequalled genius in analysing the laws of capitalist development that flow from the exploitation of propertyless labourers shows how we get to the golden age.  It is simply not something that can be delivered by capitalism.  Why?  Because capital itself is an amalgamation of congealed abstract labour – its growth can only be premised upon the subjugation of the majority.  No golden age can ever exist whilst there is capital, because capital itself is like a blood-sucking vampire.  Furthermore, investment can only take place when there is a decent rate of profit – else, capitalists do not invest in the things that make our lives easier.  Hence society’s resources currently only get deployed if it is profitable to do so, rather than to enable a standard of living worthy of human beings.  Additionally, the capitalistic rate of profit must always fall as enterprises become so over-burdened with the value embodied in new machinery (from which no new value can be created), in relation to a relatively fixed stock of living labour from which value can be extracted.  So our work, rather than leading to extra steps towards the good life, ultimately only slows down the tempo of society’s progress.  So, despite everyone working hard, we have stagnant economies.  We’re doing all this for nothing.

Now, if a worldwide revolution took place that threw off the shackles of capital, work could immediately begin to take place to consistently improve the machinery in order to shorten the working day and make it less burdensome.  Eventually robots could do all the boring stuff, leaving humanity free to develop in any way it wanted to.  The individual would be free to become fully-rounded with highly cultivated talents, or simply just lounge around, whatever is preferred by him or her, and society would leap forward in an unbounded way.  That would be the golden age.

So, what changes are required to get rid of capital?  Labour has to become directly social, rather than only indirectly-social as it is with capitalism.  Instead of production for a capitalist’s profit, society would ensure production is directed to meet people’s needs.  So instead of the dual character of the commodity as use-value and exchange-value, what gets produced are simply articles of use that have been requested by others and democratically discussed as part of an overall conscious plan.  Corresponding to the collapse in the dual character of the commodity, labour also no longer has a dual character.  Instead of labour being an unholy alliance of value-producing labour and useful labour, it becomes only useful labour, thus destroying the source of why work under capitalism is both objectively and subjectively a terrible form of suffering.  With society’s conscious plan, labour is no longer exploited – value-producing labour has ceased to exist, and therefore capital itself ceases to be.  With this massive shift in society’s priorities – the destruction of the commodity-form, the destruction of capital, and the changed character of labour, the golden age will see money wither away and the human race would at last be emancipated.  Corresponding to that, the basic source of so many tensions between people disappear as does the oppressive nature of the State, and so we have a world of peace rather than one that is constantly on the brink of destroying itself.  Now, there’s a golden age worth fighting for.

Free Speech in Crisis: Gazza, Trump, and Alienated Morality

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Former football legend Paul Gascoigne tells a racist joke at a theatre, is ordered by the courts to pay £2,500 in fines, gets publicly shamed, and will struggle to tour again (who would allow the gig?)

A tape mysteriously “emerges” in the media of Presidential nominee Donald Trump in private bragging chauvinistically about groping women.  The subsequent Presidential campaign gets thrown off any political issues and becomes a competition of sleaziness where each side lowers the bar and attempts to demonise the other.  Trump is just as guilty of this as Hillary Clinton as he raises the issues of husband Bill’s lewd conduct in office and lawyer Hillary’s defence of him.

Both these cases speak to a crisis of free speech.  But it is not what you think it is.  This crisis of free speech isn’t quite about censorship.  Neither Gazza nor Trump has suffered state-imposed penalties to the extent it impinges their lives.  The thing that is impinging their lives is a form of moral condemnation.

Yet moral condemnation is not always a bad thing.  Any community needs morals to survive, and when those morals are transgressed, it is correct for the community to pull people up.  If Gazza or Trump were simply told they were being backward and needed re-education to come up to scratch with twenty-first century society, then Gazza wouldn’t need to be publicly shamed and fined, nor the Presidential competition would need to be distracted around personal failings.

What has happened is that our fragmented society which has been atomising exponentially for many years now has such a flimsy grasp of morality that in order to express a moral belief, it throws everything against the transgressing individual: fines, public shaming, court appearances, you name it.  This isn’t a morality that is assured of itself, but one that is witch-hunting its enemies.

In our age, where it is difficult for anyone to achieve power and wealth in society, people have resorted to moral condemnation as a way of gaining one-upmanship.  This squalid competition for virtue sees careers ruined over ‘unwitting’ mistakes, ‘unintended’ racism, or any privately expressed view (what Trump called ‘locker room banter’).

The way to stop this madness is NOT to demand “the right to be offensive.”  Neither Gazza nor Trump’s ‘rights’ have been seriously corroded by any of this, that is their rights in relation to the state, which is the only meaning rights have.  Furthermore, demanding we are able to hear Gazza or Trump’s unsuppressed views is only an invitation that everyone can be as offensive as they like, regardless of social harmony.  Speech is a part of the world – indeed it is the most direct way we perceive society, so being gratuitously offensive is only going to lead to the experience of harm (not physical, but suffering in the mind).  There is no point in calling for the right to be offensive – the characters we are talking about really are yesterday’s figures and should not be put on a pedestal where we all passively sit by and relish how they have these ‘rights’.

The damage which is being done however to the public and private spheres through the form of moral condemnation as one-upmanship, is that society further atomises and everyone becomes scared to open their mouths.  What’s needed to combat this isn’t a free-for-all of everyone venting spleen, but a new kind of society, one where moral transgressions are treated as bad things, yes, but also treated gently and sympathetically.  Everyone makes mistakes now and then, and the community does have to pull us up on them.  But the community shouldn’t lose sight of its own maturity and vision for a healthy society in doing so, nor should it attempt to wreck people’s livelihoods.  Instead you should just calmly and sympathetically explain to the transgressor why they are wrong so they can become better people rather than just repressing them in a different way.

The situation today is that our morality has gotten loose of a broader vision of how we want to live, it has developed its own legs, and metaphorically like the Death Star, is casually blowing up planets and ships at random.  Moral condemnation is prancing around without any sense of purpose to why we want morality to be like this.  Instead of human beings communally relating to one another and helping each other, we have let our own morality become detached from ourselves and it has become more policeman, than sage.  To regain control of morality we have to take a helicopter view of society, realise where we are going wrong, and change things through mature considered debate.  A good first step in this direction would be to accept apologies.