Ethical Socialism vs Marxism

Half of all people aren’t workers

April 30, 2021

This post is part of a series on my problems with Marxism and why I find ethical socialism to be the best approach to socialism. You can read the first post here and follow the entire series using the Ethical Socialism vs Marxism tag.

Graphs on this page are from here

My basic problem with Marxism is the theory of surplus value. In short, the theory of surplus value holds that people who work are responsible for creating all wealth, and therefore are entitled to all of it. This is where the idea of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” comes from; the vast majority of people — people who actually do productive work — ought to control the economy.

This is also one reason for the centrality of “workers” in Marxist thought.

Ethical socialism holds that this would inadvertently recreate some of the problems of capitalism. We believe that everyone deserves to have a voice, regardless of their ability to be productive. If we give all power over the economy to people with jobs, what happens to people without jobs?

Because there are a lot of people who aren’t workers:

In a given year, a whopping half of all people in the US don’t earn any income because they don’t work. Here’s another way to look at this:

Who are all these people who don’t work?

It turns out that 94% of people who don’t work can’t work: they are too young to work, too old to work, too disabled to work, too busy studying to work, or can’t work due to caregiving responsibilities (they have to take care of children or disabled loved ones). And there’s about 1% who can’t find work.

In sum, if we give all power over the economy to people with jobs (the Marxist position), we will recreate some of the evils of capitalism: half of the population, through no fault of their own, will be locked out, simply because they don’t have a job. It would be morally outrageous to exclude these people (elderly, disabled, etc) from decisions that affect the economy and their well-being, simply based on their inability to work. It’s not “democratic socialism” if half the population is excluded.

In other words, the well-being of people who don’t have jobs would be totally in the hands of people who do have jobs. People who can’t find work, people who are too disabled to work, children whose parents can’t find work, people too old to work — all deserve to have their voices heard.

Image: GET A JOB LOSER!!!!!