The latest thinking on economic justice, care of 200ProofLiberals, by Christopher Freiman. Worth comparing and contrasting with our own recent discussions of labor-management relations here at PoT.
Marx writes, “In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”
However, by making you significantly richer, a capitalist society does a much better job of enabling you to hunt in the morning and criticize after dinner than a non-capitalist society. Ironically, though, you have to cut way back on your consumption to make this happen. But if you’re willing to save 50-70 percent of your income, there’s a good chance you can retire in your 30s or 40s and spend your time doing whatever you want. So capitalism allows you to achieve the flexibility that Marx dreams of—you just need to buy a lot less (which, if you reject consumer culture, should be pretty easy) and save a lot more.
There’s too much wrong here to waste time fisking it all, so I’ll just leave anyone interested with a modest mathematical-logistical exercise.
- Suppose that you work one full-time job doing physical labor, and earn $14/hour before taxes or any other withholdings (including withholdings for benefits, e.g., health insurance). I’m assuming that a full-time workweek is 40 hours long, give or take, and that $14/hour is base pay that might be supplemented by occasional overtime.
- Suppose that you pay $1,200 in rent for a one-bedroom apartment.
Come up with a plausible scenario whereby you could follow Freiman’s or Forbes’s advice under these circumstances (he gets his advice from an article in Forbes that’s linked in his post). If there are no such scenarios (or very few of them), how useful is the advice?
Let me get you started. $14 x 40=$560 per week, before withholdings. $560 x 4=$2240 per month. $2240-1200 (rent)=$1040 after rent. Sixty percent of $1040 is $624, which ex hypothesi, you’re putting away in savings and leaving untouched for quotidian expenses. That leaves you with $414 to live on per month–not calculating withholdings for taxes or benefits. Once you factor them in, you’re left with much less than $414. Factor in payments for prior debts, and you’re left with yet less. Take it from there.
PS. Just to clarify: I had meant conditions (1) and (2) above to be a baseline or starting point for answers to my query, not fixed features of the answers. My claim is: suppose that someone starts at (1) and (2); how do they follow Freiman’s advice from there? I’m not closing the door on the possibility that they do so by getting another job, and/or getting a different job, and/or getting a different apartment, and/or getting a roommate, etc. Nor did I mean that (1) and (2) are exhaustive of any individual’s life-circumstances. They obviously aren’t. I was just omitting all life-circumstances beyond those on the premise that any plausible advice would have to address a variety of circumstances not mentioned in the conditions. Plausible advice would also (among other things) have to take stock of risks arising from any advice, as well as ordinary contingencies that arise generally, regardless of the specific risks arising from the advice. And as mentioned in the post, I’ve set aside (for now) a number of fairly obvious criticisms one could make of Freiman’s framing of the issue as such.