The Golden Grimace (Part Seven: Gold)
Human labour power in motion, or human labour, creates value, but is not itself value. It becomes value only in its congealed state, when embodied in the form of some object.
Up to this point we have only considered the issue raised by the two measures of GDP from the standpoint of value – i.e., from the standpoint of gold – and discovered, based on this point of view, that you are a slave, and that all the workers of every nation that exchanges its goods for dollars are slaves as well, to the most predatory sociopaths in human history.
Gold is the physical embodiment of social wealth, and, therefore, the incarnation of social power to convert the labor of others into the personal power of a handful of sociopaths.
“As cold an entity as history has ever produced,” gold denominates economic activity by its own unique standard – as the equivalent of itself, which is to say, as a fixed product, congealed into a hoard and resting lifelessly on the sunless floor of some central bank, or in the safe deposit box of some oligarch.
Once gold is debased from money, however, the value of your capacity to work (as measured by gold in the form of your dollar wage) disappears, as does the value of your bag of groceries, and even the value of the total exports of China to the United States for the last year. All of this incredible material output suddenly counts for nothing.
Indeed, the very fact that gold has a price, that it freely circulates in the economy and can be bought and sold for dollars, implies that its value has dropped to zero as well!
This may seem to be altogether ridiculous, since it appears to violate physical laws. For example, it still takes twice as long to produce 2 ounces of gold as it does to produce 1 ounce of gold. The fact that 1 ounce of gold can be exchanged for – say – $1200, means 2 ounces of gold can only be had for $2400. This, however, blinds us to the fact that the value of any quantity of dollars is always zero – no matter how large the quantity. Circulating as a simple commodity, one ounce of gold, therefore, has exactly the same value as two ounces of gold – or a metric ton of the metal.
ZERO – goose egg, nil.
This implies that your enslavement is not “a thing”, but a process with no beginning or ending points. It is a continuous, unceasing, process of self-enslavement, under which the alternation of work and rest, production and consumption, purchase and sale, private and public life are no more than successive moments of your own uninterrupted existence as a slave.
The entire content of your civic life, your laws, your morality, your expressions of love, your culture, your art, your ethics – the sum totality of all the ways in which human beings have intercourse with one another, and with the natural world (without which human life itself is impossible) – all of these are merely the various modes through which you express your inexhaustible devotion to your own enslavement.
Capitalism is a mode of production under which the process of labor becomes continuous, universalized, and totalized. Capital, in the process of its self-valorization (the process by which it becomes ever larger), alternately appears successively as money then commodity then money then commodity then money, yet assumes no fixed form in this alternation.
The goal of this series of alternations is not to become a larger stagnant hoard of useless metal, but to make every sphere of human activity into a mere mode of its own self-expansion, and every region of the planet into its home territory.
In this hypothesis, a worthless piece of linen and cloth suffices as money, since each transformation of commodities into money is simply an instant wherein the conversion of the commodity into money is immediately succeeded by the conversion of the money back into a commodity. The exchange of commodities by and among individual producers is overtaken by the continuous flow of the elements of a single social product between the various hands of a single social producer on an ever expanding scale.
The purchase and sale of the elements of the social product in fact disguises what has taken place here – that not only money, but exchange itself exists only as a formality: the worker, as a worker, has no choice but to enter into this relationship, and, therefore, her subsistence – which is the product of a single all-encompassing labor process, and only comes into existence through this labor process – is a necessary condition for her subsequent sale of her labor power.
The whole of the process of production and consumption, and of the process of circulation and exchange of the product of that process, exists here as the production, circulation, purchase and sale, and subsequent consumption of labor power, both in its complete form, or as the elements required for its continuous presence. There is only a singular labor process, carried on by a singular labor power, producing a singular social product.
Within this continuous labor process value does not, and cannot, exist.
Capital, however, is value in motion, and the self-expansion of this value on an ever greater scale. Its natural expression is found in gold or some other precious metal. We are faced with a bit of a conundrum, therefore, when trying to explain why gold loses its value.
When gold is severed from money, it more or less immediately acquires a dollar price. It proves by this dollar price that it is no longer money, since it is impossible for money itself to have a price. Price was simply the value of another product of labor expressed in so many definite units of gold or another precious metal.
The debased dollar, on the other hand, is only a fictitious money, since it is now incapable of reflecting the value of another commodity in so many units of itself. (To use an example: A one dollar bill has the same value – the same socially necessary labor time required for its production – as a one hundred dollar bill, i.e., a negligible value approaching zero. And 100 one dollar bills have the same purchasing power as 1 one hundred dollar bill, despite the fact that the former requires 100 times the labor of the latter.
The fictitious quality of the debased dollar is demonstrated so soon as the wage slave – who imagines herself to be a free person – promptly proves she is free by selling herself into wage slavery – an act that can only be performed by a free person – for a worthless piece of linen and cotton – better yet, by the entry of so many key strokes on a computer.
The price of gold proves that it is not money, and, at the same time, that is has no value. On the other hand, gold as the actual physical embodiment of value for several eons, proves in its own physical self, which required the extensive exertions of a large number of workers to bring into human society, and which is now permanently severed from money, that the dollar replacing it has no value.
Within the normal daily transactions of society, gold, like every other commodity, is priced in dollars and, therefore, has no value; but, as a hoard sitting on the sunless floor of a Federal Reserve vault, dollars have no value.
Each is segregated to its own sphere of existence – the dollars as one pole of a ceaseless process by which capital enlarges itself, and gold, which measures this self-expansion in its own image: as a lifeless, stagnant hoard of bullion that embodies the social power of a gang of sociopaths, who rule not only over this nation, but are, at the same time, the global despots of a dollar empire.