The Golden Grimace (Six questions on fiat money and superfluous work)
We received these questions from one person on the ideas presented in the series, The Golden Grimace…
This is like a theory of the general strike. If all workers strike, it will cause capitalism to collapse and to be replaced by a socialist or anarchist economy. “
It is not a theory of general strike. I am not talking of a struggle between classes, but the abolition of classes entirely. What I speak of is simply recognizing what has already been accomplished by society. The need for work has already been abolished – we have, so far, failed to accept this fact and so insist on creating work where none exists. All that really remains is work in its purely superfluous form.
“But then my question about policy becomes: what sort of economy will be set up to replace capitalism after it collapses.”
None. Absolutely none. What is there to economize? Economies are based on material scarcity, but there is no scarcity here. We have an overabundance of labor power (unemployment) and over-abundance of means of production (chronic under-utilization of industrial capacity). What remains is poverty or chronic under-consumption of a massive portion of mankind and this is effected solely by a constraint imposed by means of exchange (money). All that remains to end this chronic under-consumption is to sweep aside fiat money. (The possibility for this sweeping away has already been realized, since money was made worthless by debasing it from gold in 1971 and 1933) The constraint imposed by fiat money is the massive waste of resources that arises from tying consumption to work despite the absolute over-abundance of labor power.
The economy must be entirely replaced by voluntary effort. Since, the amount of work required to be done is so little, this alone should suffice. Voluntary labor association(s) of every sort will spontaneously arise based on the common interests. (this common interest is no longer the INTEREST of present society – i.e., some particular interest imposed as a general interest – but actual things that interest some group of people.) Individuals will choose to do whatever few tasks are necessary. If necessary, this could be supplemented by an entirely volunteer labor reserve for emergencies. This would be similar to the National Guard except it exists solely for productive purposes, and involves no hierarchy.
“Though productivity has increased dramatically, we still need some labor to produce goods. That means we need some way of deciding which goods are produced and consumed, and to decide who works for how many hours to produce those goods.”
The point here is not whether there will be work to be done. It is how society voluntarily organizes itself to get it done. The present state IS work – it is this state which must be abolished by the abolition of money. “WE” no longer decide what is to be produced. Each of us decides what he or she will produce, and how many hours he or she will work to produce it.
“I think Americans could get along very comfortably with half the work and consumption we have now (a 20-hour work week), and we could get along austerely with one-tenth of the work and consumption we have now (a 4-hour work week). But despite high productivity, we do need some human labor to produce and distribute food, produce and maintain housing, and so on.”
With work abolished voluntary effort alone is sufficient. This has to be understood: work is dead. There will be far more than 4 hours per week of voluntary effort, once consumption is no longer tied to work. On the other hand, not one minute of this work will be coerced in any shape or form. On the one hand more will be produced than has been produced previously; on the other hand, less will be wasted than at present.
“How do we decide whether the right level of consumption is one-half or one tenth of what it is now? How do we decide what food we should produce (hamburgers or soyburgers or chicken, bagels or pita bread or tuscan pane)? How do we decide how much square footage of housing each family needs and whether they should live in houses or apartments? How do we decide who does the work of producing these things?”
Again: No one decides what is the right level of consumption for you. No one decides what you will eat. No one decides how big your dwelling will be. One the other hand, the actual existing means of production already exist in such a form that even minimal effort produces quantities of material wealth far in excess of individual needs. What each of us individually decide to produce yields quantities of this thing far in excess of what we can consume.
“I think you can see that I am skeptical, but nevertheless I am interested in learning what your thinking is.”
I am not entirely sure what my thinking on these things are. I can only follow the lines of reasoning so far as the assumptions embedded in them direct. Once money is revealed to be worthless, this implies the work no longer is bound by the law of value. This further assumes that necessary work had been so reduced by the progress of technology that a society based on work must be a society based on superfluous work – that material scarcity has been abolished, and, therefore, that all the human conflict bound up with the struggle against scarcity must end.