Why Society’s Surplus Product Should Be Democratically Controlled


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:




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?