Monday, December 02, 2013

The greatest obstacle to capitalism

Amazon.com is testing delivering packages using drones, CEO Jeff Bezos said on the CBS TV news show 60 Minutes Sunday.

The idea would be to deliver packages as quickly as possible using the small, unmanned aircraft, through a service the company is calling Prime Air, the CEO said. USA Today
Ever since the eighteenth century, capitalists have been charging full steam ahead to reduce the expenses of production by reducing the need for costly human labor. Human workers must be paid, and they are prone to organizing to demand higher wages, fewer working hours and employer contributions to retirement plans and health insurance. Replacing human workers with uncomplaining machines has always been seen as a good strategy for maximizing profits, and when total mechanization has not be feasible, the next best strategy has been to seek the least demanding human labor—newly arrived immigrants from poorer countries, workers who have entered the country without proper documentation and workers so desperate for a day's wages that they are willing to be paid a substandard wage “under the table.”

Ever since the early decades of the 19th century in America, capitalists, who have always had a far greater influence on lawmakers than citizens with limited financial resources, have fought against laws and regulations that provide for safer working conditions, better wages and limited working hours. Such statutes are traditionally characterized as socialist measures that somehow abridge the rights and freedoms of Americans and are therefore anti-American. Such rhetoric has been a standard part of capitalist culture since well before the American civil war and the abolition of slavery.

In today's culture, those who oppose such institutions as social security, medicare, the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, minimum wage laws and laws requiring the payment of overtime never miss an opportunity to describe such measures as “job-killing”; the implication is that anything that adds to the expenses of providing goods and services will reduce the profits of a commercial entity, which will displease shareholders and ultimately result in the loss of employment opportunities for those who do not have enough capital to be shareholders and who must therefore sell their labor on the open market.

Strangely, when the CEO of Amazon proposes to deliver packages by robotic drones, the proposed scheme is not decried in the media as job-killing, just as it is not described as job-killing (or-people-killing) when 95% of the products a retailer sells are manufactured in unhealthy and dangerous working conditions overseas by workers who are paid scarcely enough to sustain life. Do not expect consistency in the rhetoric of capitalists, for they, like Walt Whitman, are large and contain multitudes.

If capitalists thought things through, they would quickly realize that human labor is not the only obstacle to maximum profits. Corporate executives demand compensations that severely drain a corporation's resources. For example, the CEO of Amazon is currently Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is estimated between $28,000,000,000 and $33,000,000,000. If his annual recompense could be eliminated, Amazon's profits could soar, and that measure would kill only one job.

Another enormous drain on a company's coffers is the body of shareholders, who expect dividends and ever higher values for the stocks they invest in. Eliminating all those expensive capitalist investors could lead to major savings and would not eliminate any jobs whatsoever, since investors typically do not do a lick of work for the corporations in which they invest.

Finally, a great deal of money could be saved by eliminating human consumers of goods and services, for those human consumers are prone to demanding satisfaction and are liable to demand their money back for unsatisfactory products and service, and, in extreme circumstances may even sue a company for real or imagined damages.

Clearly, the human being is the greatest obstacle to capitalism. Eliminating human beings as workers is only the first step in a perfect capitalist economy. The next step is to replace corporate executives and boards of directors and all those pesky shareholders with computer programs, and to replace consumers with purchasing robots. Money could simply be transferred electronically from one bank account to another without any human intervention. Moreover, if human beings were eliminated altogether at both ends of the business transaction, there would be no need for any goods or services. It is only human beings who demand such things. If a corporation did not have to make products or provide service, it could realize a 100% profit. Nothing is more profitable than charging a price and giving absolutely nothing in return.

Meanwhile, in the perfect capitalist economy all the human beings could live like traditional Buddhist monks, covering their nakedness by sewing together rags salvaged from rubbish heaps and burial grounds, eating fruit that had fallen from trees and animals that had died from falling off cliffs, owning nothing whatsoever and traveling everywhere on bare feet. If the Buddha was right, that lifestyle would make everyone maximally happy, once they stopped imagining they needed more. The world of capital could keep on transferring funds from one account to another indefinitely with no interference from human beings, and human beings could live simple and contented lives on the earth without the burden of worrying about economy, and they would leave few scars on the environment.

There, I have solved nearly all the world's problems in this squib, and it has cost no one a single penny. I'm glad to have been of service.