August 10, 2010

Bourgeoisie vs. Proletariat II: Escaping the ‘worker bee’ trap

In some ways human society operate like a bee colony.

In a bee colony there are thousands of workers with the sole purpose of feeding the queen bee. They are born with nothing and they die with nothing – all so the queen can maintain the colony as a going concern. There are similarities to human society…

Many classical economists have touched on this in the past…in some capitalist societies, the masses of average citizens are workers with the sole purpose of providing a means of cheap production for the capitalist elite. The workers are paid a subsistence wage with any surplus spent on goods and services, with profits accruing back to the capitalists. Consequently, we the workers, are born with nothing and we die with nothing.

The working masses (i.e. the Proletariat) encompass the vast majority of people. Essentially, 99% of us are put on this earth to live a life of subsistence, netting out to 0 by the time we die. The lucky few leave some assets to their kids, but this is usually a pittance when compared to the amount of productivity that workers and their ancestors before them contributed to the system.

Whatever happened to the money my grandfather’s father earned…and his grandfather…and so on. We are all the descendants of generations of people spanning back to the dawn of mankind, and all the wealth we have accumulated across the generations is a few thousand dollars if we’re lucky.

So where is that wealth? We sent it back to the capitalists. How? We’re pre-conditioned (by advertising, peer pressure) to spend every penny we earn so that those at the top of the capitalist food chain can accumulate assets.We don’t realize it, but we are living a life of subsistence.

‘Subsistence’ in this context refers to the condition in which we spend everything we earn in order to satisfy our lifestyle needs. These needs will change from person to person, but the crux of the concept is that we adjust our needs up to compensate for higher incomes. We work harder, earn more…and blow any extra earnings on a second car.

I don’t know if it’s genetic or if it’s corporate brainwashing, but we’re programmed to spend everything we earn. Even what little we do save, gets blown on taxes and retirement so that after a lifetime of hard work we die with nothing to pass on.

The difference between the workers and the capitalist elite is that the capitalist elite prioritize asset accumulation over income.  (Moreover, the capitalist elite view assets as a means to provide income, not as a source of capital gains – save that for the speculators.) Assets generate income, and if managed properly can do so in perpetuity enabling the capitalists to create permanent wealth that can be passed on to descendants.

What is the purpose to life if we don’t leave some sort of legacy for our children? Is our legacy simply our dedication to serving the queen bee? Frankly, I don’t want to go down in history for being the fastest widget maker, best multi-tasker or most organized meeting chair. (These forms of recognition are simply patronizing pacifiers to keep the workers in a subsistence lifestyle, so the capitalist elite can live off our productivity.)
Instead, I want to build an economic foundation for my descendants so they have an easier life then me. This means I must spend less than I earn and work hard to accumulate assets that will provide for my family’s future.

In other words, I can’t beat the capitalist elite at their game…so I will join them.