Distribution of products of God's labor

Prof. Wolff, I have a very simple question. Capitalism and its early forms such as slavery and feudalism are mechanisms for organisation of production. Let's assume there's a society with no production. How could goods of non human labor like land, water, energy sources, air, etc be distributed? There are options: everything is divided equally between everyone; there's one group of people who are entitled to more and another who are - to less; one group have all, another have nothing. In the third case people of the 2nd group are excluded from society. Now let's assume there's a third option system with little production: people from the 1st group are employing let's say 30% of those in the 2nd; but here in contrast to slavery they don't give workers any natural resources for self sustenance; instead, with a portion of surplus workers are allowed to keep they have to buy from the 1st group both natural resources for sustenance, any beyond that they need and products of human labor they need. 1st group people, when they see success of those in the 2nd can raise prices of non humane labor products endlessly, as they please. For example a worker had to sleep on the ground aiming to secure a spot of land to build a shack; once the master sees him close to succeeding he increases price of land (rent), water, etc, preventing him from doing that. How would you classify this system? Do I understand it correctly that slavery was a 2nd type distribution option, where slaves were entitled to minimum of natural resources for self sustenance and in addition to that were allowed to keep part of the surplus they produced? How are the names of economic systems we use today relevant to distribution of natural resources and with which one it should be done?

Official response from submitted

Every system - slavery, feudalism, capitalism, etc - has its distinctive way to distribute natural resources and likewise to develop technology that determines what natural resources are (e.g. atomic energy made uranium an important resource which it was not before, etc etc.)

Slaves are not "entitled" necessarily to anything. If there are abundant inflows of new slaves into a slave society, the masters may choose to deprive current slaves of any resources and simply replace them when they die with new slaves etc. Comparable decisions can be made in each system. Only in a system in which the master-slave or lord-serf or employer-employee production relationships disappear - where the workers and the employers are the same people - would the access to natural resources not reflect an underlying contradiction/opposition/conflict of the sort your question poses.


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  • responded with submitted 2017-01-17 14:31:10 -0500
  • published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-01-11 10:16:24 -0500

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