Monday, November 29, 2010

Damned if you do

Karl Marx; Capital, Vol. 2:

The money capital transformed into variable capital, i.e. the money advanced as wages, plays a major role in actual monetary circulation. Since the working class has to live from hand to mouth, i.e. since it cannot give the industrial capitalists any long-term credit, variable capital has to be advanced at the same time in money at countless different points in society, and at definite and short intervals, such as a week, etc. These periods are repeated fairly rapidly, no matter how different the turnover periods of capitals in the various branches of industry; though the shorter the intervals, the smaller need be the relative size of the total sum of money cast into circulation at one stroke through these channels. In every country of capitalist production, the money capital advanced in this way forms a relatively decisive share in the total circulation, and all the more so in that the same money flows through the most varied channels and functions as means of circulation for a myriad other businesses, before returning to its starting-point.

The money you receive in your paycheck plays a major role in monetary circulation. In other words, you have to spend it. This is why you are assigned the role of "consumer." It's a central part of your identity. You think like a consumer, you act like a consumer. It feels good because there is so much affirmation and support for it in the society. It's also one of the few things you can do without a boss looking over your shoulder. You are the boss now!

Economically speaking, a consumer is just a person who spends money. Bad consumers don't spend enough money; awesome consumers spend just enough of somebody else's money so they can be indebted to them on an ongoing basis, in the hopes of earning their highest approval rating!

One of the worst things you can do is save your money -- unless of course it's for retirement, which is really just a kind of deferred spending. Nobody wants to pay you at definite and short intervals, such as a week, etc., if you aren't also contributing to what is being produced in real time. Nevermind that you've been doing it for 40+ years and you want to do something else, or that you have trouble walking. People are living longer: the difference between the ages of 20 and 40; and 70 and 90, is 20 years in either case, FYI.

This is why you will have to work forever! Or else squirrel away whatever is required to be a good consumer at 75. But because this mustn't interfere with your present obligations to spend, it makes perfect sense that you would consume both conventional and financial products, "giving back" to Wall Street both by direct and indirect means. Whatever misgivings one has about Wall Street, there is simply no other way to save money over the long term without jeopardizing one's good standing as a consumer.


Jack Crow said...

The permission slip to return to work. After you shop at the company store.

Brian M said...

I've read, however, that the lifespan of the poorer (i.e., bottom 20 or bottom 40%) portion of the population has NOT increased significantly. So all this pressure to extend the working age is suspect.