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Market capitalism’s two biggest problems is exploitation and externalities, where externalities is the worst of the two. Today, let’s talk about exploitation.

I often hear stories about a small li’l café or shop that’s barely making ends meet. The owner gets a cut of the profits but it’s so low that each of the employees all have it better than the owner.

Those employees are likely to say that it’s better to be employed than if the café was ran as a co-op. This way, they at least have their paycheck month to month.

As this scales up, though…

For each employee, the capitalist institution or owner takes a cut of the value generated by their labor. Often that comes across as a pretty good deal for the employee: they get steady work and a steady paycheck. But the more employees that the institution or owner has, those cuts all add up and they’ll end up making way more than those who they employ. As in, way more.

“We take all the risks. We are entrepeneurs.”

I mean, among homeless people or people at the brink of death living day-to-day hand-to-mouth, how many of those are former huge capital owners? If the “entrepeneurs take all the risk and deserve all the rewards” meme were true, we’d expect to see half of Wall Street ending up on Skid Row instead of the proletariat being just one step away from the precariat.

“Why is this bad, though?”

That’s the obvious counter-argument.

“Isn’t it fine that some people make millions and others are on the edge of starvation? What basis do you have for thinking that’s wrong or bad?”

One of the core value conflicts between capitalism’s proponents and opponents is “What’s fair?”

Anti-capitalists want “From each according to ability, to each according to need”. We want to cut down on work hours, too. The right to laziness.

Capitalists want “To each what they earned”. Finders keepers, losers weepers. Their view of “earned” is a bit warped to me, given issues such as exploitation and externalities.

“You’re free, within capitalism, to organize and run co-ops instead”

Sure, and that’s what many of us are advocating for and trying to support to the best of our ability. Please join us in that.

We live in a society, in a state, in a culture; there are many levels where co-operatives are disfavored. Finding those obstacles, large and small, and making it better and easier to organize is awesome.

Big capital often opposes worker organization, for example by punishing unionization attempts. And that’s terrible.