Private Property and Capitalism

David Musick (
Thu, 10 Oct 96 23:51:29 UT

On Tuesday, October 8, 1996, Suresh Naidu wrote several things which I have
questions about. His statements are in quotes, and my questions and comments
(mostly comments) follow each quote:

"My point is that competition cannot help worker conditions, nor can it
eliminate the authoritarian nature of business."

Why can't competition help worker conditions? A worker is someone with a
commodity to sell, namely, their labor. The factory owner or any other
employer is in the market for labor; they wish to purchase labor. Just as you
would likely buy a product for the lowest price possible, the employer will
look for people who will sell their labor for the lowest price that gives the
employer the highest quality of work they can get for that price. So there is
a competition among the workers to see who can provide the highest quality
labor at the lowest price, just as there is a competition between businesses
to provide the highest quality products at the lowest price.
But there are a limited number of workers, especially workers who perform
high quality labor. So there is a competition among employers to attract the
high quality workers to work for them, rather than someone else. So, they
offer higher wages then their competitors, to attract the better workers.
Thus, the competition between workers holds their wages down, while the
competition between employers for high quality labor tends to raise the wages.
But, of course, only the workers who are willing to train themselves to
perform high-quality labor will benefit from this competition between
So, you're right, I suppose; workers who produce shoddy work will not benefit
from competition, just as businesses who produce shoddy products will not
benefit from competition. But, and this is very important, people who take
the time and effort to develop their skills and talents, to better themselves
and produce high-quality labor and products, WILL benefit from competition.
People will tend to purchase the products and labor that they offer, rather
than from someone else. I don't imagine that you deliberately buy inferior
products at nearly the same price as much higher-quality products. Nor do I
think you would hire some slothful, sloppy worker who charged as much as a
very skilled, energetic worker. It is because humans demand quality that the
system you bemoan exists. And it is because humans demand quality that we
progress at all.
Remember that our ancestors had little more than rocks, sticks, dirt and
other plants and animals to use. This was all they had available to them,
until innovative people started using those resources to create something
better for themselves. All our technology and wealth, beyond what our distant
ancestors had, exists because humans created it. Don't expect that workers
will have any thing more than our ancestors did, unless they earn it. They
must put forth the effort and create their own wealth, they can't expect that
those who do create wealth are going to just share it with them. They need to
provide competitive labor and products, just like all the people who built
this great enterprise of Civilization have done.
Civilization was not built by slackers who moaned about the unfairness of the
world. It was built by people who were willing to improve themselves and
provide better services and products than others could. It was built by
people who were willing to put themselves in competition with others, to see
who could provide the best work and products, by people continually building
the self-discipline to compete successfully. If some people aren't willing to
do this, then they don't deserve any more than our ancestors had, because if
our ancestors hadn't done all the work they did, they would never have had all
the wealth they created. If people aren't up to the competition, then maybe
you could throw them scraps from the table of success, but to sit around that
table they must pull themselves off the floor, with their own effort and their
own self-discipline. They must earn the right to sit around the table and
enjoy wealth with the others who have earned the right to it.
The Capitalist System is not some sort of magic milk machine with teats
sticking out all over for every freeloader to suck on. It was never meant to
take care of anyone. The Capitalist System arises because people have things
they want to sell to each other. One person may build good huts while another
is good at hunting or growing food, so they make an agreement with each other
to exchange services. That is all it is. It is simply people trading what
they have for something else they want. People sell to the highest bidder and
buy things for as little as possible. To profit from this system of trading,
you must be competitive with the others engaged in it. Those who can't be
competitive simply won't find people who are willing to make an agreement to
trade with them. And there is no reason to expect that anyone *should* trade
with them, if what they offer is much worse than what others offer. You
wouldn't buy rotten apples from someone when the person next to them is
selling fresh apples for nearly the same price.
The Capitalist System cannot be expected to save Humanity, especially not
from it's own stupidity and laziness. These are just the hard facts of
reality. People won't buy inferior products, when better ones are as
available. Therefore, only the people who can provide better products
(including labor) than others will be able to secure a trade with others for
what they have to offer. People have to look out for themselves in this
world; they can't expect others to just take care of them, especially if they
have little to offer in return.
Yes, there is a great deal of "unfairness" within reality. But that is
simply a result of reality not being uniform. Reality will never be fair; all
we can do is just do the best we can with the resources we have available to
us. This has always been true, even before humans evolved.


"What I propose is this:Anarcho-syndicalism, as advocated by Rudolf
Rocker and Noam Chomsky, souped up into a hi-tech version by yours truly.
Private property is abolished, as the only way to hold
private property is by right of force, and since there is no need for a
government to keep people in check, that would be abolished as well. Most
crime comes from poverty, and the rest can easily be dealt with by
citizens. Okay, ask me questions."
"equal access to resources
to do with as you will, provided it doesn't harm
anyone else's access or human rights. This needs
some elaboration, which I will provide if asked."

Are you serious about abolishing private property? Do you think everyone has
a right to the work of others? Lets say I spend a great deal of time and
energy building a house to live in. Since you are advocating abolishing
private property, this would mean that after all my work, I most likely
wouldn't even get to sleep in the house since there are so many people out
there who would just love to sleep in my house for me. People who don't want
to build their own houses would just wait for others to build houses and then
just move in when they're done. The builders of the houses would never get a
place of their own, they would realize that continuing to build houses was
futile, since they'd never get to live in one, unless they forcefully kept
others from invading their work.
Or what about a farmer? They spend long hours each day tending their fields.
Are you really suggesting that everyone else should be allowed to just come
in like a swarm of locusts and take that food and not give the farmer anything
in return? If so, then why would people want to farm? They could just let
other people do it and then take the food from them when it's ready.
What sort of resources are you suggesting we allow everyone equal access to?
My computer is a resource which I spent many months paying for with my labor.
Are you suggesting I invite the whole neighborhood over to use it? When would
I get a chance? If everyone is supposed to have equal access to every
resource, then it would be very difficult to make anything. If someone was
making a pot out of clay, for example, then the clay they're using is fair
game for anyone else to come along and take from them, since it's a resource,
even if they're in the middle of using it to make the pot. Are you *really*
suggesting that they allow people to just take their work from them, rather
than block equal access to resources?


"Unless (gasp) the workers ran the mill themselves. Operating a mill
better tends to mean "how much wages can I take away without reducing the
output of my workers. "

If the workers really *can* run the mill themselves, then why don't they get
together and decide to do just that? Why can't a group of people all agree
together to run a business? Most likely, the workers are not competent to run
the mill themselves or are not capable of working together effectively enough
to run a mill that can compete with other ones. If it was more profitable to
run a mill where every worker runs the thing together, on equal footing, then
it would out-compete the ones which don't use this strategy.
By the way, an increasing number of businesses are realizing that they do
better when the employees have feedback into how the business is run, and
they're using strategies such as profit-sharing to give their employees a real
interest in helping the company do better. If these ways of doing business
are more profitable than other ways, then eventually, there *will* be
businesses that are run by the workers.

Suresh, I know you haven't explained your ideas in any detail, so I don't
wish to attack them, since I'm unclear on what they really are. But what
you've given so far, about not allowing private property and allowing equal
access to resources doesn't make any sense to me, for the reasons I indicated
above. Please explain your ideas in more detail; put them forth into the
memetic competition, and let them be tested. Give us equal access to the
resources of your mind and stop hoarding your ideas from us, after all you
don't own your own mind, that would be private property. :-)

- David Musick