by MICHAEL YATES
Clarity of thought is rare in the United States. This is not surprising given the constant barrage of propaganda to which we are subjected during every waking hour. Nowhere are systematic falsehoods presented as truth more than with respect to the nature of our economic system. I have discussed this before, but here I want to focus attention on working people’s understanding of our political economy..
The edifice that is capitalism is built upon a foundation of exploitation. Profits derive from the ability of employers to compel workers to labor longer than necessary to meet their basic needs. Employers are able to do this because they monopolize the access to the jobs workers need to survive. Without exploitation, neither profits nor the growth they make possible could exist; indeed capitalism itself could not exist.
In modern capitalism, there is precious little that any worker can do to guarantee his or her employment. It would be a contradiction in terms for everyone to be an entrepreneur. Furthermore, there is not much individual workers can do to make their pay and benefits higher once on the job. Overwhelmingly, we are replaceable cogs in some production machine, and our employers will make us aware of that should we become too demanding. We can do nothing to stand out in a way that would make the boss pay us more money. And if we are young enough to make pre-labor market choices, we will soon enough discover that what determines whether or not we “succeed” is circumstance and not our own qualities. The wealth, education, and social connections of our parents, the state of the economy when we begin seeking employment, any number of public policies, and just plain luck—these are what matter most. There is no such thing as the “self made” man or woman.