Capital belongs to society

Chris Kok

The Declaration of Independence states all men have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Property was not claimed to be a guaranteed right. Property should not be considered a right of people.

Let’s look at two types of property: personal property and capital property. I support some rights to personal property. My clothes are my clothes; my CD player is my CD player. Although personal property should be protected, there are cases where it shouldn’t. This is the case of the ultra-rich. Why should people be able to own multiple houses when there are homeless people living on the streets? For the most part, personal property should be respected.

As for capital property, that is a different case. Capital, the buildings and machines used in production and distribution of goods, should not be under private ownership. Karl Marx wrote, “Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members … can it be set in motion.” Capital is produced by society, therefore it should be owned by society.

Private ownership of capital leads to the exploitation of the majority of humanity by a small class of owners. This class’ main goal is to increase its wealth. To do this, it pays workers the lowest-possible wage.

Upton Sinclair wrote the book The Jungle in 1906. It exposed horrible practices of the meat-packing industry. These included unsanitary food procedures, low wages and high rates of accidents. Jobs in this industry barely paid its workers enough to survive. People might say that this is the result of “a few bad apples.” No! This is the natural result of the capitalist system, and it is occurring today in other countries. To quote Marx again, “But does wage labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage labour …”

Private ownership of capital also leads to inefficiencies. Capitalism is in a state of anarchy; there is no order to its development. An observable effect of this is that oil pipelines are concentrated along the Gulf of Mexico. When a hurricane hits the gulf, oil distribution is cut significantly. If the economy was planned, there could be major pipelines in other areas so that this problem didn’t arise. A planned economy could eliminate inefficiencies created by capitalism.

Intellectual property rights also lead to inefficiencies. When a good is patented, other people who could improve it are unable to. Intellectual property rights should be abolished.

Back to Marx, “In bourgeois society, living labour is but a means to increase accumulated labour. In a communist society, accumulated labour is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer.” If capital was owned and run democratically by society, we could focus on improving everyone’s situation. Efficiencies could be developed that would let people work less. Rather than being wage slaves, people would actually have time to be free.

Private ownership of capitalism not only leads to inefficiencies but also allows the mass exploitation of humanity. Ownership of this sort of property should not be considered a right of people but rather a right of society.

Chris Kok is a senior international relations major and point/counterpoint columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]