The Fairy Tale of Capitalism: Rand, Marx and the Downward Trickle

FTC the Fairy Tale of Capitalism is deeply, but inconsistently, sarcastic.

FTC Ring: <Previous | Next>

 Once upon a time, ...

Ayn Rand, 1925, Public Domain

... economics described the behavior of people as observed by the Economists. The Economists included Old Ones David Ricardo and Adam Smith. They set their tales in scenes of the emergent industrial age and described human behavior for all time. Both were aware of the Downward Trickle, the waste stream of the Aristocracy, though neither of them named it that. The name arose in the time of Reagan as the Great Wars drew to a close, but that’s another story.

Smith wrote that the Invisible Hand guides the rich to divide necessities into equal parts for all.  Ricardo wrote that the capitalist employs Workers from the unemployed reserve to operate the highly productive machines of the new technologies. The capitalist pays wages of Labor to the Workers for their necessities of life, just enough to keep the Worker working for another week. When the business cycle flattened or turned down, as it did every 8 or 10 years, the employer capitalist dismissed the employee Worker, who would then join the unemployed reserve, receiving no wages, ready to work all day for bare necessities, and suffering privation. From this economic background emerged Karl Marx.

The Old One Karl Marx was a well educated newspaper editor, active in the hodgepodge of socialist political movements of post-Napoleonic Europe. He read Ricardo and Smith, understood them well, and didn’t dispute the main character of their descriptions.

Karl Marx, circa 1870, Public Domain
Marx and the Old One Engels met as young men and began a lifelong collaboration. Legend informs us they were dividing the bar bill with some anarchist friends in a Parisian bistro just after Christmas 1857, when Engels overheard one word which was the punchline of a joke, the word "capitalism".

Marx and Engels compiled factual detail of the Downward Trickle of wealth and income from the Ten Percent to the Workers. They saw chronic starvation among the Workers and their families, with some starving to death during business downturns. They said these deaths were the unavoidable consequence of private property. A minor political party commissioned them to write a mission statement, the "Manifesto of the Communist Party", in which the word “capitalism” appeared in print for the first time. The word “capitalism”, with the tranquility of a thunderbolt, cleaved modern governments into two parts.

Capitalism, wrote Marx and Engels, was the scientifically unavoidable result of private property. Communists opposed capitalism. Communists called for the abolition of private property beyond the modest house, garden, storefront and workshop of an ordinary household. The coercive powers of government defended capitalism, so that peaceful reform would never overcome capitalism. For Marx and Engels, Workers had no choice. Workers would rise imminently, unavoidably, inevitably in violent revolution to replace Capitalism with a new social structure featuring the control by the Workers over the means of production.

As you know, not uncommonly FTC uses a word with two different meanings. "Capitalism", named by Marx and synonymous in his work with "capitalist production" and "capitalist system", means the way a capitalist (person wealthy in private property) uses her capital (wealth in private property) to establish and operate a Firm with intent to increase her capital, employing Workers when necessary to operate the equipment. "Capitalism" also means a political view advocated by persons who favor the capitalist system, who may or may not have great wealth of their own. Perhaps you can easily imagine a capitalist of much private property would likely consider herself a capitalist of view, advocating for private property. Let's also remember that a poor person can be a capitalist of view, but can't be a capitalist of great wealth.

Skyline of New York City, circa 1950, Public Domain
Marx's christening capitalism stirred a shiver of alarm among the capitalists of wealth at the time. Though capitalists controlled the governments, socialists and other friends of communists successfully got legislation over the next decades to abolish child labor, to limit the hours of the workweek, to legalize labor unions, etc. Capitalists of wealth and their allies self-identified as capitalists of view and organized to preserve private property and to prevent impairment of profits.

A century after Marx's midwifery of capitalism, during the Great Wars, Ayn Rand emerged to write gigantic novels and host an intellectual salon of capitalists of view in Manhattan. She gave the most lucid defense of capitalism. She sang like a Professor, but she was not one. She was not an Old One, nor an Economist, but she wrote long unintelligible tales. Like Jeanne d’Arc, she evades classification.

Rand claimed virtuous selfishness was objective and rational with the same superstition that Marx claimed communist revolution was scientific and inevitable. Rand conflated Stalinist and Maoist tyrannies with communism and socialism. Stalin and Mao were dictators. Stalin and Mao were socialists and communists. Therefore, all socialists and communists are dictators, so her reasoning went.

Rand said private property was necessary for human rights. Marx said the 90 Percent had no rights, and that only the Ten Percent (whom he most frequently called the "bourgeoisie"), the possessors of capital (which he called "bourgeois property"), enjoyed rights.

Marx said capitalism had produced wonders of production far surpassing the Egyptian pyramids. Rand said capitalism produced the grand skyline of New York.

Pyramids of Egypt, circa 1900, Public Domain
Rand said the Downward Trickle of capitalism raises the standard of living of all people, and the inhabitants of the slums lead a life of luxury compared to an ancient Egyptian slave. Marx said the slums are where the workers die under capitalism. Marx explained why slums exist under capitalism. Rand did not.

The word "slum" was seldom used after the death of Reagan. Earlier, when the children of the Ten Percent asked "Daddy, what's a slum?", they were told "That's where the poor people live."

The Staffs, promoting enhancements to the Firehose Up, describe how the Downward Trickle, the waste stream of the Aristocracy, conveys a rising standard of living to all people. Several verses of the Professors' song "Growth of GDP" focus on per capita GDP, Adam Smith’s promised equal parts for all by the Invisible Hand. As the 50 Percent pluck their rising standard of living from the Downward Trickle, children starve.

In our next episode of the Fairy Tale of Capitalism, the amazing Invisible Hand will guide the Corporations as they frolic in the Free Market.

My kind friends who read the prepublication drafts and sent me their comments have my sincerest thanks.

FTC Ring: <Previous | Next>


“Ayn Rand” (1925, USSR passport photo, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ayn_Rand.jpg)

Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., “New York City skyline” (Mar 14, 1950, Library of Congress, LC-G613- 56750, Public Domain, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/gsc1994001246/PP/)

John Jabez Edwin Mayall, “Karl Marx” (circa 1870, UK National Portrait Gallery, http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw75680/Karl-Marx, Public Domain in USA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Karl_Marx_by_Mayall_c1870.jpg)

“U.S.S. Raleigh, sailors at the pyramids” (circa 1900, Library of Congress, LC-D4-20921, Public Domain, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/det1994010117/PP/)


Crane Brinton, “The Anatomy of Revolution” (1965, Prentice Hall, https://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Revolution-Crane-Brinton/dp/0394700449)

Daniel Brockman, "The Eric Tetralogy: 3: The Firehose Up" (Sep 9, 2017, https://daniel-brockman.blogspot.com/2017/09/FTC-eric-tetra-3-the-firehose-up.html)

Daniel Brockman, “The Fairy Tale of Capitalism: Land and Ricardo” (Apr 27, 2017, https://daniel-brockman.blogspot.com/2017/04/FTC-Land-and-Ricardo.html)

Daniel Brockman, "The Fairy Tale of Capitalism: Workers, GDP and Economists" ( Mar 17, 2017, https://daniel-brockman.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-fairy-tale-of-capitalism-workers.html)

Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Matthew P. Rabbitt, Christian A. Gregory and Anita Singh, “Household Food Security in the United States in 2016” (2017, U.S. Department of Agriculture,  https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/84973/err-237.pdf?v=42979 )

Friedrich Engels, “The Condition of the working Class in England” (1886 American Edition, first published 1845, republished by Penguin 1987, http://amzn.to/2zzUygE)

Karl Marx (Friedrich Engels, ed.), “Capital” (1867, 2010 republication by Digireads, http://amzn.to/2jmOjac)

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, "Manifesto of the Communist Party" (1858, 1908 New York Labor News Edition, http://amzn.to/2hl0LCS)

P. J. O’Rourke, “On the Wealth of Nations” (2007, Grove/Atlantic, http://amzn.to/2zDk9Uc)

Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged” (1957, Penguin, 1168 pages, http://amzn.to/2ytJpuy)

Ayn Rand, “The Virtue of Selfishness” (1961, Penguin, http://amzn.to/2hmkC4u)

David Ricardo, “On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation” (1817, 2013 Heraklion Press edition, https://smile.amazon.com/Principles-Political-Economy-Taxation-ebook/dp/B00EINTMBI)

Adam Smith, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” (1776, http://amzn.to/2jjusby)

Adam Smith, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” (1759, 2010 republication by Digireads, http://amzn.to/2ADCAYL)

No comments:

Post a Comment