Economics

 
1. What is the relation between money and capital? Do we need currency at all?
2. How do you feel wealth should be measured in our society? Should stock ownership of corporations be based on consumption levels, or something else entirely?
3. What is in your opinion on the actual cause of the global economic crisis?
A:
1. It's useful to follow Marx' distinction between money and capital. His point is doing this (early in Das Kapital) is to show that while money may function as capital, it need not do so and often functions in other ways. For Marx, capital is self-expanding value: we use money as capital if and when we deploy money for the specific purpose of making more money. For example, when we (1) lend money to get it back with interest, (2) when we buy a commodity to resell it at a higher price, or (3) when we use money to buy labor power from workers and tools/equipment/raw materials in order to produce a commodity which we can sell for more that the total cost of the labor and materialize realizing a "surplus". However, money can be used merely as a means of exchange. That is, we give products of our labor (for example, a bread I have baked) - for money which we then use to buy a shirt to wear (the bread is worth $10 in labor and material which is then exchanged for $10 worth of, lets say, clothing). In this exchange there is no need or desire to gain more than the exchange value to secure a surplus. Following Marx, we can speak of money being used as mere money and NOT as capital.
 
2. I worry that too exclusive a focus on differing consumption levels might tend to lose sight of the fact that differing capacities to consume derive finally from different relationships to the production process. Workers live off wages from selling their labor power. Owners of corporate stock may earn wages for labor but in any case earn income from their property (dividends and/or capital gains). That different relationship could be eliminated if one were to take seriously your idea of conceiving corporations as social or public goods and therefore not allowing any portion of their revenues not returned to workers and replenishing used up inputs to be given to any subset of the population. That is an old and quite reasonable socialist proposition that deserves precisely the public debate this society still fears to engage.
 
3. The crisis emerged from the way in which corporations (both banks and non-banks) interacted with workers and consumers and the way in which corporations, workers, and consumers interacted with governments. No one of them is "to blame" since all of them behaved according to the economic system's rewards and punishments. Thus the proper cause of the crisis is the economic system: capitalism. The problem is that for many years it has been unfashionable or even dangerous to question, let alone criticize the system itself. Capitalism, we were endlessly told, was "efficient" and "optimal" - the best possible system - and so on. Only criticism of this or that economic actor was possible. Hence we called one actor "greedy" or another one "imprudent" and so on. However, like all previous economic systems (e.g., slavery or feudalism), capitalism has its time of growth and prosperity and then it has its time of decline. The real and basic question for the world today is this: has capitalism peaked? Are we now on the downward phase of a capitalism that is increasingly unable to serve peoples' needs. Today, hundreds of millions of people are unemployed and want work. Economists estimate that 20-30% of our capacity to produce (machines, tools, factory, store and office space) are sitting idle, gathering rust and dust. Yet global poverty could be eradicated with the output we could have if those who wanted to work could be placed together with available industrial capacity. Yet it is the capitalist system driven by profit that is failing to produce the wealth we need and are capable of producing. It is capitalism that cannot find a proper balance between people and nature that does not destroy both. The economic crisis is a problem of the system. It is above all a capitalist crisis.

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