Tuesday, 20 July 2021

The Billionaire Space Race: A Marxist Note

Why bother with space travel from the point of view of capital accumulation?

There are a several purposes. One of them is the class politics of wasteful spending. There are causes here on Earth that need addressing, with global poverty and climate change mitigation the foremost priorities, and yet billionaires are dumping their money into worthless boondoggles. Jeff Bezos would rather splash cash on a rocket-powered dildo than make sure his workers are properly paid. Why? If we assumed the standpoint of a naive bourgeois bystander, it doesn't make much sense. Give workers more spending power would float the boats of other businesses by having money to spend. Those businesses grow, take on extra staff, and we have a self-expanding virtuous circle of investing and spending.

Capitalism does not work like this. From the point of view of the billionaire class interest giving employees more money than what the labour market "determines" increases workers' economic power ever so slightly versus the plutocrats. That means less precarity, less physical and mental exhaustion, and a small space they can call their own. If workers feel secure in their position, they might start asking for things, and come to see themselves as a collective in struggle against their space travelling boss. And from here, who knows where? A critique of their station? A worked out understanding of how surplus value works? A direct challenge to the employer's authority?

A billion fully aware of their interests knows this in their marrow. Whatever Bezos spends money on, another mansion, another super yacht, a Bond villain lair, or a fleet of spaceships, he is disposing of his wealth in an entirely class conscious way. His rocket escapes the Earth's gravity well to help keep his workers grounded by the pull of exploitation.

Image Credit


SimonB said...

Bezos’ class consciousness manifests via a puerile Silicon Valley libertarianism. My contempt for him and his business was vindicated when he used his influence to prevent local taxes in Seattle being increased to combat homelessness. His “principle” was opposition to taxation. What a cunt,

Bruce said...

We will inherit whatever useful technology is developed.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to be a Marxist to loathe and despise Bezos and his fellow kleptocrats (though I admit it helps).

BCFG said...

“Give workers more spending power would float the boats of other businesses by having money to spend.”

Of course it depends how we define workers, but given your liberal politics I am guessing anyone earning less than a million is a worker in your eyes, oh and the entire global south is to be excluded from this giving the ‘workers’ more ‘spending’ power. In which case the likely result of increasing the ‘spending’ power will result in a further increase in carbon omissions, a deepening of the mass extinction event that is taking place right now, further enslaving the workers in the global South to reproduce the supremacy of the imperialist core and further dehumanising, where people relate to each other via things, things they have absolutely no need of, but which advertising pretends they just can’t live without.

If capitalism is really suppressing all this then that is one good thing to say about capitalism, except of course this idiotic consumerism is very much a product of capitalism, something which capitalism has to encourage, something which is fundamental to markets and something which is a phenomena of capitalism.

Of course if you increase the ‘spending’ power of the ‘workers’ you need to expand the production of goods and services, the left often make the mistake of believing that relieving Jeff Bezos of his fortune will automatically result in a million new nurses and a billion new houses, this of course is bullshit, because new nurses need to be trained, the education system needs reforming in order to facilitate this, new buildings and equipment need to be created, houses have to be built. Call me radical but the system of allowing billionaires to amass great fortunes and then periodically take it all off them is not a fit for purpose strategy given all the issues facing the human race at this juncture.

Let us say for a minute and pretend you are including the global South workers in your calculations, then how do you propose to find the energy to achieve all this extra spending? Remember the average person in the UK uses 11kw of energy, while the world average is 1.8kw. How do you propose to bring everyone up to 11kw? Physicists have already shown that creating a world where everyone uses 5kw is nigh on impossible, at least given current technology. Other scientists have shown that to achieve the consumption levels of the average American would require 4 planet earths. Are you planning to ship of billions of workers to another planet, maybe this is the Bezos and Branson plan!

I would argue that only the end of exchange can address these issues, with the added benefit of rescuing a large proportion of the population from the idiocy of consumerist life.