Editorial from the February 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
Today our lives are dominated by money. Everyone has to obtain some to be able to buy what they need to live. For a privileged few this is not a problem as they own enough income-yielding assets to provide them with a free – and generous – monetary income. Most people, however, have to struggle to get money, with no choice other than begging, stealing or scamming but to sell their working abilities for a wage or a salary. To live, under capitalism, you have to get money by hook or by crook.
Politics boils down to politicians promising to put more money in people’s pockets – even though they are unable to deliver on this, at least not permanently. Even many of those who realise that a more radical change is required see this in terms of some reform of the monetary system. Alongside long-standing monetary reform proposals such as Social Credit and a return to the Gold Standard, in recent years there have been more modest proposals such as LETS schemes, local currencies and, now, Bitcoin which we look at in this issue.
Given that money so dominates people’s life it is understandable in a sense that a solution to the problems people face is sought in monetary reform. But this is not a solution as these problems have another cause – the capitalist system of class ownership of the means of life and production for sale on a market with a view to profit. For this reason no monetary reform will improve things. In fact, since many such reforms are based on a lack of understanding how the monetary system works let alone how the capitalism system works, the chances are that, if tried, they would make things worse.
It is capitalism’s minority class ownership and control of the means of production that forces the excluded majority to seek money to live by selling their working abilities to an employer. The price they get for this determines how much they get to live and in fact rations it. It can never rise above a certain level as otherwise it would encroach on profits, capitalism’s lifeblood and what makes the system go round. This wages system is basic to capitalism.
The way out lies in substituting common ownership of the means of production for class ownership, and production solely to meet people’s needs for production for sale and profit. On this basis, the principle of ‘from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’ can be implemented. In other words, instead of people having to acquire money to have access to what they need to live, everyone will have open and free access to this. Money – and the rationing it involves for all but a privileged few – will be redundant.
The way out is not some new kind of money but the abolition of the whole wages-profits-money system that is capitalism.