The incredible story of the man, the donkey and the truck (4)

Pedro was a mere peasant, a “guajiro”. But he was an intelligent guajiro. “Own or be owned”, the strange man walking along the road from San José to Guines had told him. In other words, unless you own some capital and receive an independent income therefrom, somebody else will own you, either Buck Business or the State. Either way, you are totally dependent on the one who owns you.

Admittedly, there is a difference between a slave and a wage-slave. The slave is legally owned, whereas the wage-slave is legally free. But economically, the wage-slave is just as owned by his employer as the slave used to be. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that for fear of losing his job, most wage-slaves will do almost anything their employer asks, even if it means having to lie or treat others unjustly. For a few extra bucks the executioner even used to kill the condemned with an axe. An extreme example, but it proves the point. There is never any shortage of ‘capataces’, snitches or CDR´s in Cuba to betray anybody who may be doing something for sheer survival but which is illegal in a socialist state (such as selling second hand car parts on the streets). Surely, if there is a way to remedy this situation, it would be an affront to freedom, democracy and human dignity not to do so.

Who really does the work?

“Tell me”, asked Pedro who was now an old man. “I happen to have met two eminent economists in my lifetime, Adan Smith-Herrero and Carlos Marxoso. Both told me that my productivity increased whenever I let capital work for me. First I worked with a donkey, later with a truck. I always felt it was the donkey and the truck that did the extra work. But both economists told me this was not so. They assured me that I had become more productive. Am I stupid, or are they blind?”

“You are quite right, Pedro. This is a blind spot in accepted economic theory”, answered the stranger. “Of course it is the capital that does the extra work. In fact. when you led your donkey, you were less productive than before. And when you drove the truck, you even sat on your butt, while the truck was slaving away without stopping, unless you wanted a break”.

“But why is it so important to correct this man-centered error?”, asked Pedro.
“Because you should realize that your labor can never compete with capital. The error gives rise to the false impression that by involving capital in the production process, you become more important, whereas in fact you have become more dispensable. We are not far away from robots being able to repair and maintain other robots and machines. That would make you totally dispensable. Already at least 90% of all work is being done by capital instead of human labor. So it should be clear that unless you own some capital, you will forever be marginalized as the masses of people in third world countries already are”.

“That is why”, Pedro answered, “we had better make peace with Big Brother to the North. For two reasons. First, American citizens are human beings, just like us. Why would we want to kill them? Second, we should use our time and effort to build capital into our people, instead of wasting our money, intelligence and resources on a Cold War (which even might become Hot one day!) against an enemy who easily out-produces us economically and will therefore always have more resources than we. We should follow Costa Rica´s example and dismantle our army and navy. We should continue investing in education and science and make our people economically strong. This we can most effectively do, if we choose the solidarist path. Of that you have convinced me”.

“As I told you: ‘Own or be owned’; that´s the secret; that´s the Norm”, answered the stranger.