Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Know Circuit: Chapter 5.5

Chapter 5.0

“No, man, the fundamental, the very core of the thing you are ignoring is that a capitalist system, no matter how regulated is inherently exploitative.” That diatribe was the first thing Bridge heard as he snapped back to consciousness. Stonewall was immersed in a heated discussion with Aristotle as he drove, his hands flying off the wheel to add emphasis to his points before coming back to keep the car on track. It was hardly necessary as the car rode straight as an arrow despite going over 80 mph. Bridge rubbed his eyes and checked the clock on his HUD. He’d been out for less than two hours, and his body was leaden. The echoes of the dream still reverberated around his dome, bouncing back and forth off of other thoughts to the rhythm of the music he’d launched on his internal player. He shut off the music and leaned back with a sigh, listening to the discussion between his two bodyguards.

“Capitalism isn’t inherently exploitative,” Aristotle replied meekly.

“Of course it is, brau. Big businessman with all the ideas and capital in the world still has to pay someone to make that idea into a product. And to make any money, he is duty-bound to pay the absolute lowest wage to maximize profits. In fact, he has to continually re-examine his operations to minimize costs. Capitalism must treat the worker as a depreciating commodity. Loyalty is expensive. The worker inevitably becomes too expensive to be profitable, so the capitalist must replace him with a newer, cheaper worker to continue to maximize profits. He must refresh the exploitation pool periodically or business grows stagnant. The exploitative capitalism we practice puts more value on the company with negative growth than those with flat growth, because at least the company that shrinks is a target for some other shark’s expansion.”

“While it is true that capitalism must continually lower costs to maximize profits, that doesn’t mean the system must exploit in order to do so. Capitalism infused with the proper responsibility to the community and transparency has accomplished great things.”

Stonewall chuckled. “You mean like the railroad built on Chinese and Irish slave labor? The outsourcing of manufacturing to increasingly more destitute third world countries in the 90’s that wrecked American manufacturing? You mean that responsibility? Capitalism has one responsibility, to constant profit expansion. Everything else is an expense that goes against its fundamental spirit.”

Aristotle rubbed his chin then took a different tact, pointing his finger for emphasis. “So communism is the answer? Forcing everyone to give up the fruits of their labor to their neighbor regardless of worthiness?”

“Straw-man argument there, my brother. From each according to his ability to each according to his need is what the man says.”

“Sure, but that means those with more ability are supporting those with more need. That’s not equitable, that’s state-sponsored slavery to the weak. And for that matter, who gets to decide the measure of the distribution? That’s where the problem lies. The apparatus that distributes the state’s assets is just another flawed oligarchic institution. It is entirely too vulnerable to corruption because just like unchecked capitalism, it puts all the power into the hands of the few. You are trading exploitation by the bourgeoisie for exploitation by the proletariat.”

Stonewall vehemently disagreed. “Not if you have the proper democratic process, either through one-to-one representation by the technologically-enabled proletariat or proper, transparent representative democracy by the academic elite.” Bridge let out a loud guffaw from the back seat. Stonewall glanced back over his shoulder with a smirk. “Welcome back to the living, Bridge. You got something to add to the discussion?”

“You’re both nuts.”

“That’s very illuminating, Bridge,” Aristotle quipped. “I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter.”

Bridge shifted in the seat and laughed. “You’re both missing the fundamental problem with all that shit. You can talk around the issue with flowery language and academic labels but it all falls apart the minute you put it to practice. Human beings are fucked up creatures. Too much is never enough. Put a man in charge of feeding the poor and he will be eating caviar while doling out government cheese covered in rat droppings. Give him $10 profit by employing American adults and he’ll drop them on Skid Row the minute he can get some three-year old in Botswana to make the same product for ten cents. He can’t help it. We may have mapped the DNA of humans, but we missed the most important gene of all – the asshole gene. Everybody’s got it, every race, every sex, every creed, every country. We’re all just gigantic assholes in waiting.”

“So what’s your solution then, Mr. Cynical?”

“You know my system, boys,” Bridge said, settling back into the seat for another nap. “Fuck him first before he fucks you.”

The car was silent for a moment. Finally, Stonewall broke the tension by saying, “And this is why I always keep Bridge to my front.” All three erupted in laughter as the car zoomed down the interstate.

Go to Chapter 6.0

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