It’s becoming a more prevalent idea than most of us would like to see, but many are chanting the old tired mantra of Marxist thought that workers should claim the means of production. They believe that this is the only way to right all society’s wrongs and to steer us all toward a sort of all-fair utopia, where everyone has equal and equitable wealth and no one ever goes without anything. They relish the dream of workers owning the means of production, as if it’s some sort of far-out possibility way in the distance that we haven’t yet reached.
The stupid part of this is that if that’s what they really want, it’s here now. Already, anyone that wants can establish production owned by the workers, and examples of this are everywhere. For example, two come to mind in my immediate vicinity. Why complain about something that is already in place, and can be achieved without the need to vote anyone in to do it, and without riots or demonstrations in the streets? It’s so simple, but I guess some people aren’t happy unless they go the difficult route. You don’t have to demand that a government be taken over by force to do what you want, my Marxist friends. All you have to do is follow the lead of what’s already out here.
There is a grocery store just a couple miles away from me. Every employee at that store proudly wears a badge that says, “Employee Owner”. The business is owned by all its employees. That’s right. It’s a business where the employees own the means of production. If you really believe that this is the ultimate in economic efficiency, then you could go to work for someplace like this, and I’d be happy to point it out to you. Every employee is granted ownership immediately upon beginning work there. Isn’t that what Marxists keep complaining and chanting about?
One mile over from where I live, a different company provides electricity for the residents from the company I have. This one is interesting, because it is actually a legal monopoly. Admittedly, this monopoly isn’t the pure Marxist ideal, because it isn’t controlled by the state, rather it is controlled by the people, which, ultimately, isn’t that really what the Marxists demand? In this case, the power company operates as an electric cooperative. In other words, the people who receive power form this company are actually owners in the company. That’s right. They own the means of production. Perhaps if Marxists want to live where citizens can own the means of production – in at least one area – they could happily move to an area where power is received through means of a rural coop, and they could own an equal piece of the production.
Please shut up about workers and citizens not owning the means of production. It is entirely within your grasp. You can start you own business with a group of Marxist rebels and all have an equal stake – we call that a corporation, by the way, or if you’re against corporations, you can call it a partnership, if you like. You can demand everyone has equal pay, and you can even select one of you to run the operation (that’s what we call a CEO). Someone has to oversee things to make sure the will of the people is carried out. You might also want to have someone keep track of the money to make sure no one is stealing and everything is accounted for (we call that a CFO). You might also decide that the CEO can’t do it all by himself, and you might want managers.
There’s also an interesting concept for Marxists to pursue for those nasty, money-grubbing, selfish capitalist pig businesses that steal money from their employees in the form of profits. You see, the Marxists could target these corporations (assuming they can find enough people who actually want to put their money where their mouth is), and they could buy enough stock in the company to control it. They could then install all their own leadership and control the direction and policy of the company. They could take all those profits and pay them to the people. Of course, it wouldn’t make sense to pay it out as wages, because that creates too many withholding taxes, so it’s best to pay it out through the stock ownership (we call that dividends, by the way).
Now that the Marxists have control of these formerly greedy capitalist instruments, and now that good Marxist policy is in place, they could also, if desired, keep a little of those profits to buy up other companies and competitors. Entire industries could become owned by the people. What a way to secretly take control of it all!
What is most interesting, at this point, is that all of this looks like and sounds an awful lot like capitalism. Furthermore, it sort of smells like crony capitalism. You see, the most stupid of stupid things in Marxist complaints is that if they really want to take over means of production, they can do it under the current system, but they become crony capitalists in the process.
So, go ahead, Marxists. You will discover that in order to keep your CEOs and management, you will have to pay them more, because they aren’t so dumb that they would turn down more money to work somewhere else, and you will discover that a company needs order to be effective, which means management does, indeed, have to tell people what to do. You might also discover that the power of the state is just too enticing to ignore in order to further your goals, so you begin to attempt to control who gets in office by making contributions and collecting favors. Just imagine all these Marxists furthering their goals by becoming crony capitalists, and, ultimately, that’s where communism (or a favorite buzz-phrase of “democratic socialism”) leads, eventually. It leads to a ruling class that controls all the economic output, while claiming that it is owned by the workers. Marxists’ grand schemes lead to all the things they hate.