The Triviality of Capital Ownership

boddhisatva kbevans at
Sun Dec 13 21:21:04 PST 1998

To whom...,

C. Sawicky writes a nice post here although I think that there is more leverage in worker ownership than simply redistributing what is now profit (or excessive benefit to those in society who forward the interests of the bourgeoisie). Indeed, "leverage" may be the key word, but more on that another time.

The real problem with the purely Green argument is that it puts the cart before the horse. It's as if we are asking how best a stolen car should be maintained without consulting the owner or making any effort to return it to her. Once again, socialism is not simply generalized regulation or even generalized democratic regulation. That is statism. Socialism is the process of giving control of the means of production to those who use it for their living, because they use it for their living. It represents a new concept of property beyond private property. Statism represents no new concept of property, nor does it in any way undermine the concept of private property. It simply grants to the state the presumed property rights the crown used to enjoy, and counts on the benificent or inherently just nature of that state to keep economic power from devolving into tyranny. So far it has been a complete failure and I think it never can succeed.

The Red-Green argument points out the univeral hazard that industry creates (or the universal need to control those hazards). It then asserts that because of a universal need (to control the hazards of industry) we should recognize the state (the universal representative, we think) to be a universal "environmental stakeholder", if you will. State ownership/control is then the compensation to that universal environmental stakeholder. That's fine, so far as it goes. However, I would say that the environmental stakeholder is junior to the worker in her claim to control the means of production. And, as C. Sawicky points out, they are not really the same person with the same interests.

The problem with the Red-Green argument is similar to the problem with statism: Asserting a univeral stakeholder is a tricky business, fraught with contradiction. Clearly it can be done - in some cases - but it needs to be well argued and not asserted.


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