Is capitalism the systemic rental of human beings?

In 'Property and Contract in Economics: The Case for Economic Democracy' [1], World Bank economist Prof. David P. Ellerman point out that since slavery was abolished and people can no long be bough and sold, capitalism is basically nothing more than the economic system based on the rental of people. He's not alone it seems in this regard, as some capitalist economists seem to have come to the same conclusion: "Interestingly enough most of society’s economic income cannot be capitalized into private property. Since slavery was abolished, human earning power is forbidden by law to be capitalized. A man is not even free to sell himself: he must rent himself at a wage. Paul Samuelson, Economics 1976 (10th edition)[p. 52]" "One can even say that wages are the rentals paid for the use of a man’s personal services for a day or a week or a year. This may seem a strange use of terms, but on second thought, one recognizes that every agreement to hire labor is for some limited period of time. By outright purchase, you might avoid ever renting any kind of land. But in our society, labor is one of the few productive factors that cannot legally be bought outright. Labor can only be rented, and the wage rate is really a rental. " [p. 569] "The commodity that is traded in the labor market is labor services, or hours of labor. The corresponding price is the wage per hour. We can think of the wage per hour as the price at which the firm rents the services of a worker, or the rental rate for labor. We do not have asset prices in the labor market because workers cannot be bought or sold in modern societies; they can only be rented. (In a society with slavery, the asset price would be the price of a slave.) " Fischer, Dornbusch, and Schmalensee, Economics, 1988[p. 323] Would you agree? Is such an approach useful to tackling global capitalism? Ellerman further postulates that if slavery ought to be abolished, even in the case wherein a worker voluntarily sells themselves for a guarantee of job opportunities (in today's US economy , could you imagine the look on Conservatives faces when you point out the solution to job insecurity is self-enslavement, but I digress) because people can't take on the role of non-human thing, then the voluntary self-rental is also ought to be abolished as well, as tenure doesn't change that fact, and replaced with an economic system based on universal self-employement either individually or jointly in a cooperative, ie economic democracy. Would you agree with Ellerman here then, that economic democracy is a form of neo-abolitionism? If Ellerman is correct, doesn't this give us a new ideological weapon to use against the capitalist PR machine? I mean, if correct, Ellerman just pointed out that capitalism is only slight a rung above slavery in ethics (people are only temporarily treated as things, instead of completely by their employers), which is not exactly something that's easy to shake off. [1]Property and Contract in Economics: The Case for Economic Democracy', David P. Ellerman , http://www.ellerman.org/Davids-Stuff/Books/P&C-Book.pdf


Showing 3 reactions

How would you tag this suggestion?
Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Clarke Grieve
    tagged this with upvote 2019-01-23 19:31:41 -0500
  • Paul Simpson
    followed this page 2018-11-05 23:32:46 -0500
  • Paul Simpson
    tagged this with upvote 2018-11-05 23:30:58 -0500

connect