I was encouraged by one of my professors to read a book by Karl Marx, Das Kapital. I am a self proclaimed capitalist and this reading along with The Communist Manifesto was supposed to help me be more objective in my views. I do believe that Karl Marx whom lived during the industrial revolution saw a different capitalism than I know today. In fact the capitalism I see today in many ways could be viewed as a socialist capitalism to Karl Marx who wanted a progressive income tax and public education among other things in his ideal communist society.
One of the most important parts of Karl Marx’s economics is to describe value and how money works in this system of assigning prices/values to objects. Money serves society by performing various tasks. Namely it provides the means by which exchanges of goods can be made in an efficient manner. I believe that when a price is given to a good or, as Karl Marx would say a commodity, it represents the value that the market is willing to pay for such a good or service. This is a free enterprise and capitalistic way of looking at the value of a good/commodity and one which Karl Marx opposes. Rather his is the view that, “but what is the value of a commodity…the objective form of the social labor expended in its production. And how do we measure the quantity of this value…by the quantity of the labor contained in it” (Marx Das 255). Simply put in Karl Marx’s terms, “price is the money-name of the labor realized in a commodity” (Marx Das 79). Especially, in today’s automated manufacturing and service oriented businesses the price of a good or service definitely doesn’t represent the labor that goes into it. I think this is one aspect of economics that Karl Marx got very wrong.
Nevertheless, Karl Marx did use his thoughts on the exploitation of labor to identify how capitalists use such labor to create surplus value and combined with greed establish a wealthy class in society. I have attempted to piece together Karl Marx’s idea of how capitalism works in the following; “the capitalist buys labor-power…that…labor may reappear in a commodity… capable of satisfying a want of some sort” (Marx Das 143). This object of want which needs to be sold for a profit, or rather at a surplus value above the capitalists expenses, so “the rate of surplus value… (Is) the degree of exploitation of the labor-power” (Marx Das 174). This surplus value adds to the profits of capitalists “who extracts unpaid labor directly from the laborers, and fixes it in commodities” (Marx Das 280). Then the capitalist becomes greedy and “becomes a hoarder of money…gold and silver thus become of themselves social expressions for superfluity of wealth” (Marx Das 109). This social class of the wealthy becomes ever more lustfully greedy, “the expansion of value… becomes his subjective aim…ever more and more wealth in the abstract becomes the sole motive of his operations” (Marx Das 124-125). I agree that this cycle does take place in capitalist societies, but I disagree that it becomes each capitalists’ sole purpose and driving force in life. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and other wealthy capitalists whom start and fund charitable foundations that benefit society and humanity are examples of the utopia that can come from capitalism. Karl Marx would have never have fathomed such benevolent philanthropy from the wealthy capitalist class of society.