quote of the (labor) day02 Sep 2013
For some brief context here, recall that Belloc’s take on “Capitalism” is not the same as the “capitalism” as it exists in our own vernacular or current pop culture lexicon. For Belloc, (as he says below), Capitalism is an unstable equilibrium wherein the means of production are owned by a few and there exists political freedom – meaning, basically, people are free to work or not work as they like, but if they do desire to work, it requires the means of production owned by the Capitalist. Thus your employment occurs at the whim and discretion of the Capitalist. So it does resemble (arguably) our current state of affairs, but has nothing to do with the connotations of “free market” ideology that exists in current America. Here, then, Belloc describes the essential character of insecurity (and anxiety) that exists for the laborer in Capitalism:
Combine these two elements: the ownership of the means of production by a very few; the political freedom of owners and non-owners alike. There follows immediately from that combination a competitive market wherein the labor of the non-owner fetches just what it is worth, not as full productive power, but as productive power which will leave a surplus to the Capitalist. It fetches nothing when the laborer cannot work, more in proportion to the pace at which he is driven; less in middle age than in youth; less in old age than in middle age; nothing in sickness; nothing in despair. A man in a position to accumulate (the normal result of human labor), a man founded upon property in sufficient amount and in established form is no more productive in his non-productive moments than is a proletarian; but his life is balanced and regulated by his reception of rent and interest as well as wages. Surplus values come to him, and are the fly-wheel balancing the extremes of his life and carrying him over his bad times. With a proletarian it cannot be so. The aspect from Capital looks at a human being whose labor it proposes to purchase cuts right across that normal aspect of human life from which we all regard our own affections, duties, and character. A man thinks of himself, of his chances and of his security along the line of his own individual existence from birth to death. Capital purchasing his labor (and not the man himself) purchases but a cross-section of his life, his moments of activity. For the rest, he must fend for himself; but to fend for yourself when you have nothing is to starve.
Enjoy your hot dogs!