The Golden Grimace (Part Eight: The Dollar)
The utility of a thing makes it a use value. But this utility is not a thing of air. Being limited by the physical properties of the commodity, it has no existence apart from that commodity. A commodity, such as iron, corn, or a diamond, is therefore, so far as it is a material thing, a use value, something useful. This property of a commodity is independent of the amount of labour required to appropriate its useful qualities.
When we considered what happens to gold when it is exchanged for dollars we saw that an odd thing occurs: measured in dollars, the value of one ounce of gold is the same as two ounces of gold, or, even a metric ton of gold; and, a bag of groceries has the same value as the total volume of China’s exports to the United States for the year 2009. We could extend this bizarre anomaly further: the salary of a doctor, has no more value than the wage of an employee at at McDonald’s. The sum of the salaries of two doctors and the wage of one employee at McDonald’s has no more value than that of the McDonald’s employee alone.
The sum value of all of these things amount to zero, because the value of the dollars for which they are exchanged is zero.
This anomaly is explained: Dollars do not, and cannot measure the value of anything because it has no value itself. It is created out of thin air by Washington and injected into the economy for whatever purpose Washington sees fit. The dollars, therefore, do not reflect the labor time of the goods and labor power purchased by Washington. Washington is not concerned with the value of anything, because, whatever the value in the objects, it can create and exchange its worthless fiat for them in whatever amount is required. Washington is not concerned, for instance, about the value consumed when its troops kill pregnant Afghan mothers, it just wants to maximize the quantities of bodies. No matter how much it costs in terms of social labor, the Messiah just prints up the required quantity of dollars to get it done.
Dollars do not measure things as values, but only measures them as use values – as quantities of useful items. Two ounces of gold counts as twice one ounce of gold when measured as useful things, and one metric ton of gold counts as 35274.6 times one ounce of gold.
But, we cannot extend this reasoning any further.
Since every useful thing is useful in its own particular way, the dollar price of an ounce of gold cannot be compared to the dollar price required to kill ten humanitarians on a ship running the Zionist blockade off Gaza. Murder is one type of useful labor, gold production is quite another. It is, therefore, impossible to compare, for instance, the salaries and bonuses of Goldman Sachs’ traders to the education budget of a fairly large city, since we are considering things of such unlike qualities as can only be compared to murder and gold production.
Any comparison between the dollar prices of these things must stumble over the fact that they are completely unlike as useful things and cannot be compared. Shoes are useful and so are condoms, but no amount of shoes can be said to equal any amount of condoms as useful objects. Usefulness is like that – totally dependent on the human need they satisfy. We might, for instance, substitute sandals for shoes, or birth control pills for condoms, but not one class of useful things for another. And, this substitution only works to the extent some one thing can really fill the role of another – no one wears sandals in snow, and BCs can’t protect against venereal disease.
This, of course, was the whole point of debasing the dollar in the first place: once debased, there was no longer any standard by which things could be brought into a comparative relationship with each other. Since you could not compare the value of your wages to the value of your groceries, rent, and other products, the value of your wages could quietly be inflated away with worthless fiat.
Without gold as the standard for prices, nothing was comparable to anything else – cluster bombs to classrooms, armaments to automobiles, financial services to neurosurgery. How things acquire a price, and the price they acquire, appear totally arbitrary and subject to incomprehensible forces. Prices rise in tandem as if lifted by some malevolent force. Bubbles emerge in one sector after another, driven, it seems, by an eruption of avarice, greed, and wild speculations. Dollars for things of great need vanishes, while things of little need, or even things that are altogether destructive, are flooded with dollars.
The entire concept of what is useful is transformed in this process: It becomes not something which satisfies human needs, but something which satisfies money demand. Use value, when measured by dollars, is completely stripped of any actual specific usefulness. Which is to say, we are not concerned here that the labor power we are purchasing appears in the form of a soldier, a doctor, or a hamburger flipper at McDonald’s. Nor, are we concerned that the product of labor appears in the form of a classroom, a barrel of oil, or a cluster bomb. All of these things can be purchased with dollars, and they are all just so many forms this money demand can take in the continuous labor process.
This is not an accident.
Since the social power of the sociopaths who dominate society is only concerned with its own self-expansion – the process by which it grows ever larger and embodies ever greater quantities of social wealth – the forms of useful things this social power takes at any given moment are no more than generic, interchangeable, expressions of this self-expansion. It is, therefore, this self-expansion, and not the specific useful forms assumed by it, that is the impulse behind these alternations.
The pathology of social power is that it is insatiable, and must, therefore, assume whatever forms that allow it to realize its self-expansion. It has no material internal or external limits. And cannot be regulated by society, since society is nothing more than this self-expansion realized as the ever increasing activity of its members. It must realize this self-expansion in the expanded activity of society or collapse entirely.
It follows from this that, for example, energy policy inevitably comes down not to conserving energy, or avoiding the despoiling of the environment, but to the constant search for new sources of energy, and the feverish exploitation of existing sources. If this exploitation results in massive catastrophes that threaten to destroy entire ecologies so much the better, since profits can also be made cleaning up those catastrophes.
The dollar is no more than the incalculable power of social production turned in on itself – a relentlessly destructive force threatening humanity and nature with an unregulated ungovernable process of catastrophic self-destruction.
The dollar is an extinction level event in progress.