Release — Wasted: Carson on the Political Class versus Leisure

POC Thomas L. Knapp


Per the conventional wisdom, big government and high tax rates reduce the incentive to work. And that may be true — to a degree. But, shows Center for a Stateless Society Research Associate Kevin Carson in a new research study, the modern corporate capitalist economic paradigm utilizes an ethos of waste to enrich the privileged by artificially promoting work over leisure.

“The historical evidence,” writes Carson in “The Great Domain of Cost-Plus: The Waste Production Economy,” “is that people do indeed prefer, on the whole, to work less when their wages increase. Therefore it makes perfect sense from the employer’s standpoint to extract more labor from people by reducing the share of their output that they keep, and by compelling them to support idle rentiers in addition to themselves.”

Carson traces overt political class propaganda on the need to increase the portion of labor earnings extracted as rent to at least as far back as Bernard Mandeville’s 18th-century _Fable of the Bees_. Wrote Mandeville:

“[I]t is the interest of all rich nations, that the greatest part of the poor should almost never be idle, and yet continually spend what they get …. Those that get their living by their daily labour … have nothing to stir them up to be serviceable but their wants which it is prudence to relieve, but folly to cure …”

Or, as the anonymous author of 1770s “Essay on Trade and Commerce” put it:

“[O]ur manufacturing populace … do not labour, upon an average, above four days in a week, unless provisions happen to be very dear. … The labouring people should never think themselves independent of their superiors …. The cure will not be perfect, till our manufacturing poor are contented to labour six days for the same sum which they now earn in four days.”

But, writes Carson, there’s good news for today’s workers: “[T]he ability to manufacture scarcity does not follow from the need. The rentiers and managers are confronting the harsh reality of their increasing inability to manufacture scarcity. The productivity of new technologies of abundance is outstripping their ability to suppress them.”

By reducing scarcities long artificially maintained through political force, the new economic paradigm — horizontally networked distribution and what Carson calls “the Homebrew Industrial Revolution” in production in a book so named — is pushing the political class into obsolescence.

about 390 words

The Great Domain of Cost-Plus: The Waste Production Economy

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