- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Democracy as Lottery?---No Thanks!

Posted by: Barry Stoller on October 25, 1999 at 11:21:57:

In Reply to: You speak as though capitalists are born into this world with a factory and no conscience! posted by David on October 25, 1999 at 01:07:36:

Perhaps you care to tell me some more about 'objective laws' that acknowledge only a uniform standard of freedom?

A constitutionally limited democracy is a system in which the people (or an electorate) are able to choose by simple majority who holds power and how the powers delegated are to be exercised. The constitution (which is based on individual rights) defines and limits the powers that can be engaged in by the elected government. So, for example, a constitutionally limited democracy can say vote to cut back on military expenditures, but it can never vote to take property away from a citizen or groups of citizens.

Sounds arbitrary. What if the majority of people, realizing that private ownership of the means of production is held by only 10% of the population* (the same percentage Marx and Engels observed in 1848!), and did away with private ownership of the means of production? Who would defend your superannuated constitution then? Constitutions come and go with the classes who pen them...

Stoller: Percentage of American jobs requiring any skill above a high school level: 25% (Business Week, 1 September 1997, p. 67). Percentage of Americans able to afford a B.A. or above: 23% (Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1996, table 243, p. 160).

Before you do your statistical happy dance allow me to ask you some questions about those statistics. First, did the statistics relating to those who can afford a B.A. take into account scholarships or financial aid? Student loans? Working through college?

What relevance would any of that have on the similarity of the numbers?

: Because when you take into effect all these other variables, you see that only a small percentage can actually not afford to go to college. My sister would, under normal circumstances, be unable to go the college she goes to now because it is very expensive, they have given her a $10,000 scholarship per year which has allowed he to attend. It works on any level. Some people may not be able to afford some prestigious university, but all of them can at least attend a community college.

As if all that changes the numbers!

The fact remains: only 23% of the American people have B.A. degrees (or above). Whether or not they get a scholarship---or go to some backwater college no employer takes seriously---has nothing to do with any of it.

Only 25% of American jobs require any education above a high school level. Would all of American industry create well-paying, intellectually stimulating work were everyone in the country to get a good education? Are you saying that is possible?

Give it a rest!

: I do not deny the fact that there are a lot of lousy, mindless, low-paying work out there. However, one can see that the amount has gone down. This has been a result of progress and technology...As we move forward we will see jobs requiring greater education and consequently people will become more educated.

You do not have history---or current facts---on your side when you make that specious and outrageous claim.

The Labor Department has projected that the top-growth occupations in America are: cashiers, janitors, salespeople, and waiters (New York Times, 31 August 1997, sec. 4, p. 9).

Some 'information age'!

Here's a Marxist predicting the above---and explaining it---in 1974:

Those industries and labor processes subjected to mechanization [we call it information technology nowadays] release masses of labor for exploitation in other, generally less mechanized areas of capital accumulation. With the repeated manifestations of this cycle, labor tends to pile up in the industries and occupations which are less susceptible to engineered improvements in labor productivity. Wage rates in these 'new' industries and occupations [we call 'em service industries nowadays] are held down by the continuous availability of the relative surplus population created by the steadily increasing productivity in the machine occupations [and ending welfare insures that this surplus population remains ample]. This in turn encourages the investment of capital in forms of the labor process which require masses of low-wage hand labor. As a result, we see in capitalist industry a secular trend to accumulate labor in those portions of industry and trade which are least affected by the scientific-technical revolution: service work, sales, and other forms of marketing, clerical work insofar as it has not yet been mechanized, etc. The paradox that the most rapidly growing mass occupations in an era of scientific-technical revolution are those which have least to do with science and technology need not surprise us. The purpose of machinery is not to increase but to decrease the number of workers attached to it.(1)

Again: The Labor Department has projected that the top-growth occupations in America are: cashiers, janitors, salespeople, and waiters (New York Times, 31 August 1997, sec. 4, p. 9).

Now, if you only read crap like Time and Wired and the Sunday funnies, you might think that everyone under the sun was some high-skill computer wizard running their own ingenious start-ups while amassing fortunes when their stock goes public between sips of delicately roasted premium double-mocha lattes.

That is bunk.

Most Americans clean floors, stand at cash registers, staff nursing homes, and serve you your Friday night dinner at Spaghetti Freddy's.

: You speak as though capitalists are born into this world with a factory and no conscience! A lot of those 'oppressive' capitalists had to work their way to the top. Many of them are descendants of the first men who came to the New World in order to start a new life. Land was cheap then, they could buy a lot of it. Those men made their own fortunes.

Most Americans today cannot afford the education that would give them the skills to run their own business. And that's how the system should be---since only 25% of all the jobs available require any education above a high school level.

Your anecdotes about 'a lot' of 'men' who 'made their own fortune' in the days of Jefferson (!) fail to disguise the fact we live in a lottery called democracy.

Talk in circles all you want. I'm listening carefully to your words. They're falsehoods built on high-profile minority exceptions.

1. Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital [1974], Monthly Review Press 1998, pp. 265-6, emphasis added.

* Business Week, 28 November 1994, p. 34.

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