Quote from Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Do you believe in democracy and self-rule as the fundamental values that government out to encourage? Very well. If democracy and self-rule are the fundamentals, then why should people give up these rights when they enter their workplace? In politics we fight like tigers for freedom, for the right to elect our leaders, for freedom of movement, choice of residence, choice of what work to pursue – control of our lives, in short. And then we wake up in the morning and go to work, and all those rights disappear. We no longer insist on them. And so for most of the day we return to feudalism. That is what capitalism is – a version of feudalism in which capital replaces land, and business leaders replace kings. But the hierarchy remains. And so we still hand over our life’s labor, under duress, to feed rulers who do no real work.
Capital itself is simply the useful residue of the work of past laborers, and it could belong to everyone as well as to a few. There is no reason why a tiny nobility should own the capital, and everyone else therefore be in service to them. There is no reason they should give us a living wage and take all the rest that we produce.
In which one percent of the population owned half of the wealthy, and five percent of the population owned ninety-five percent of the wealth. History has shown which values were real in that system. And the sad thing is that the injustice and suffering caused by it were not at all necessary, in that the technical means have existed since the eighteenth century to provide the basics of life to all.
Notes: This book was published in 1996. Since then the distribution of wealth has tilted even more in favor of the 1% (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth_inequality_in_the_United_States)
I did get an impression while listening to podcasts about the revolutions in Europe in 1848 (starting with https://www.revolutionspodcast.com/2017/07/701-the-volcano.html) that the transition from feudalism to capitalism was fairly seamless for the nobility who went from being the landowners of Europe to the Marxist definition of the bourgeoisie without much loss of influence or power. There’s an argument where you take feudalism, add the Industrial Revolution, shake vigorously, and wind up with modern capitalism.
I’ve read the argument before that our world contains the means necessary to properly feed, shelter, and take adequate medical care of every single human on the planet and its just our misguided priorities that prevent this from happening. I don’t disagree with it but I’d be interested in seeing data about the cost of this. But to counter the potentially high cost of this, could you imagine the potential productivity of a world where every human can focus on their work without having to worry about the costs of food, shelter, and medical care?