You want shit? Well here's a chapter from this massive fucking putrid dump of a book.
Karl Marx was the son of a wealthy lawyer in Germany. But Marx, like many a kid, was a misfit with zero social competence who got his sense of identity via complaint.
On a trip through England, Marx caught a glimpse of the “brickies”—child and teenage laborers who toiled in pits, digging out clay and turning it into the Mesopotamian mud invention—bricks. These kids were dirty as could be. Marx, on the other hand, was a child of the promotional campaign of the soap industry. Without realizing it, he had come to equate cleanliness with dignity. And without realizing it, Marx was imposing his middle-class views on everyone around him.
That included the unwashed workers in the brickyards and the mills of Birmingham. Marx thought these laborers were being degraded. Would he have felt that way two generations earlier when he, like most others, would have seldom washed his face?
Marx took Adam Smith's term, “capital,” and distorted it. Adam Smith said “capital” was all the extra stuff you and I make and store so we can trade it with each other someday.1 Marx said capital was something far more specialized. It consisted of a single ingredient—stored labor. There was only one ingredient worth paying for in soap, in a cotton shirt, in a wagon, in a barge, in a canal, or in a monumental building like the British Library, where Marx did most of his research and his writing. That was the hard labor that the proletarians, the muscle workers, put in.
Would Marx have said that only the printers, binders, and papermakers contribute to the value of a book?2 And that authors and thinkers like Marx contribute nothing? If Marx stuck with his labor theory of value, the answer would almost certainly have been yes.3 Here's the closest Marx comes to a definitive statement on the economic value of brainwork: “Skilled labour counts only as simple labour intensified…for simplicity's sake, we shall henceforth account every kind of labour to be unskilled, simple labour.”4 So much for labor's nature as stored vision and stored persistence. To Marx, stored vision and stored persistence literally had no “value.”
More important, Marx's theory said unequivocally that greed would always drive capitalists to suck the blood from the working class. Capitalists could only prosper, said Marx, if they kept wages so low that the weekly trickle of cash barely covered the cost of food, clothing, and housing. Others said there was a serious flaw in Marx's theory that only sweat labor, only muscular labor, makes a product valuable. But the real disproof came not from a critic but from reality. From Marx's day until 2008, the pay a low-wage London laborer received in a year went from the equivalent of $5,112.12 in 2007 dollars to $38,750.84.5 And that wage covered far more than just food, clothes, and shelter. It bought cars, TVs, cell phones, and designer jeans. It bought the gifts of the identity business. And if you were lucky, it bought the products of the health industry. But this mushrooming of the average paycheck wouldn't happen until after Marx had been long gone. Meanwhile, Marx stuck to his labor theory of value until his death.
Karl Marx deceived us. He left out the meat and fed us artificial sweets. Capital is stored vision, stored courage, stored persistence, and stored persuasion. Capital is stored imagination, stored daring, stored promotion, stored advertising, and stored social organization. Capital is stored fantasy. Capital is even, brace yourself, stored ego. Without those elements Karl Marx would not have had the soap that gave him the privilege of a bourgeois status symbol—a clean face. Without the vigorous promotion of soap, Marx might never have struggled for the dignity of those with dirty hands and dirty foreheads, chins, and cheeks.
With his self-published pamphlets, Marx was a small-time entrepreneur. With his visions, with his freelance work for the New York Herald, and with his cantankerous self-promotion, Karl Marx was the ultimate bourgeois, the ultimate middle-class kid, the fearless small-scale capitalist.
Marx left us a hideous legacy. He left us new ideas and new ways of perceiving things. All that is positive. But he promoted the notion that capitalists are vampires driven by greed. Meanwhile, no one produced a countercreed. No one—not even Adam Smith—told capitalists the obligations of their state—to uplift, console, empower, and delight. To give identity and validate. To elevate their fellow human beings. No one told capitalists that profits come from prophetic leadership. No one told them that their task is messianic.
Marx's notion that capitalism equals greed and its update in the iconic 1987 movie Wall Street as a simple slogan—“greed is good”6—went hog wild in the CEO culture of the early twenty-first century. The average CEO of a Standard and Poor's Five Hundred company gave himself a compensation package worth a hefty $14.2 million a year in 2007.7 That's not much if you're buying Rolls Royces. It will get you only 30 Rolls Royce Phantoms. But it's enough to buy 645 Toyota Priuses. And that's just the average top five hundred CEOs. Angelo Mozilo, chairman and CEO of Countrywide Financial Corp., gave himself a hefty $48 million a year.8 For what? For running a company widely blamed for the great mortgage crisis of 2008. More specifically, for running that company, Countrywide Financial, into the ground. Other masters of greed also gave themselves monstrous salaries for deep-sixing their companies. James E. Cayne, the chairman and CEO at the helm of Bear Stearns when it sank, gave himself $40,004,315.9 Kerry Killinger, the chief executive officer of Washington Mutual, was far more modest. He gave himself a mere $14,364,883 for collapsing his company.10 Then there was John J. Mack, CEO and chairman of Morgan Stanley, a company that miraculously stayed afloat. But in 2007, Morgan Stanley experienced its first loss in seventy-two years under Mack's reign. What did Mack pay himself for what appeared to be some whopping errors in judgment? $41,790,854.11
Some in the capitalist system have been encouraged to believe that bleeding a company to build personal wealth is a part of the capitalist creed. It's not. It's the very opposite of the capitalist imperative. You get paid for what you build. You get paid by those you save.