The Means of Production Will Be Invented, Not Seized, by Winter Trabex

The Marxist idea of “seizing the means of production” was conceived in the latter half of the 19th century during a time when the industrial revolution greatly expanded an already-growing economy but also introduced to the world massive inequality. The workers who found themselves in undesirable working situations could not just wait out the employer in a strike; they had to pay their own bills, while the boss could just hire more people who were starving.

This is the analysis that Adam Smith provides in his seminal work, Wealth of Nations. Realizing this, Karl Marx concluded that the only way workers could create a system based more on mutual aid and fairness rather than callous selfishness was for the workers to overthrow the bosses and take over all the factories themselves.

He could not, from his own limited frame of reference, imagine a world wherein the means of production would move away from monopolizing producers not by means of force by means of innovation. A personal computer, such as the one I write upon now, has replaced the printing press. In 19th century, in order to distribute an article or essay, a person would have to submit it to a publisher, have it printed, then pass it out by hand.

This was an inefficient form of communication, for any step could be met with rejection or difficulty. With nothing more than a composition program and a website, I can send out this article out to everyone- completely bypassing the owners of printing presses. As a person who works on articles, I have the freedom today to write what I please and send it where I want. Under the economic conditions that prevailed during Marx’s day, this would not have been possible.

Similarly, those who wish to see workers freed from the tyranny of people who just happen to own the means of production need not necessarily resort to violent means in order to obtain their freedom. In the first place, overthrowing the boss of a factory also removes the particular knowledge that boss had of how to run the place. The factory is not likely to run as well after his removal, which would make it more difficult for the new worker cooperative to stay in business.

Rather, a better goal is to ignore such business owners altogether. An economy in which everyone creates DIY (do it yourself) products is an economy where no one needs to rely on any boss for anything. Rather than relying on restaurants for quality food and entertainment, people can visit their neighbors and friends for good meals and friendly company. Rather than shopping at grocery stores, those who have the ability to do so can support local family farms (most of whom are selling products to the stores anyway). Mutual aid, rather than corporate aid, ought to be the goal of any person who desires workplace freedom for both himself and his fellow man.

Further advancements in such a direction ought to include personalized home robots of a kind imagined by Isaac Asimov. These robots, obviously without intelligence, could be remotely controlled or monitored by a smartphone app. They would complete tasks that a person would otherwise have to do themselves.

In principle, this isn’t much different from time-saving inventions such as a dishwasher or a washer and dryer. Rather than resisting or removing bosses from the workplace, such bosses will simply become obsolete. No one will need to work for another person if they can produce their own material and sell it themselves at what price they like.

That, of course, leaves the problem of raw material goods. Company owners are still the only ones who extract natural resources out of the ground in order to create new products. Recycling offers one possible solution- it is not difficult to imagine a personalized home recycling device that can turn old newspapers into printer paper or bits of metal and glass into whatever material may be needed. While there is a law of diminishing returns for recycling, such a device would at least create an incentive for people to no longer throw all their bottles and metal cans away in the trash.

Hydroponics and aquaponics already appear to be leading the way in taking power away from corporate-owned farms and food concerns. Neighborhoods or homes that can grow enough food to last the whole year through need not support a grocery store, however well or poorly run it might be. Under such conditions, it appears likely that there will be those who make more than they need in order to sell their products to those who aren’t necessarily capable of having such a setup in their house. Farmer’s markets already lead the way in this practice.

A 3-D printer is, from what I understand of it, a very early instance of Star Trek’s replicator machine, which could generate products out of thin air. The replicator allowed for a socialist system to emerge because no one had to work anymore. People were free to do as they please. In fact, every now and then, an episode popped up where a replicator- the means of production- is given away to someone who needs it. They’re not difficult to make, or they are in such abundant supply that they have as much intrinsic value as a used book. In Star Trek, no one is hoarding wealth because everyone has what they need to survive.

3-D printers are already affordable, though how much can be made from them, how much the materials themselves cost, how long they will work, and how well all appear to be open questions. People are already printing cars. No longer does anyone necessarily need to pay a premium to a dodgy car dealership or support a callous car company. That oddball hobbyist in the next town over might suddenly have something that works just as well.

Such change will not happen overnight, yet it is happening. The individual is being empowered more than at any previous age in human history. Eventually, in the absence of deleterious legislation, the company boss will simply be a role that no longer exists. No one will seek to work for another person when they can keep all their own profits for themselves. Ironically, that is the essence of capitalism- a system that is slowly creating the means of its own demise.

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