A theory and a musical request
My musical request is to ask- are any of my Substack followers musically trained and interested in collaborating on a musical project? I want to work on a project of setting The Ballad of Reading Gaol to song. I can sing and write melodies, I’d love to work with an instrumentalist or instrumentalists on this. Comment if interested or email me at sumdeponyAT(insertthenameoftheemailserverownedbygoogle.com)
My crazy theory is that, on a kind of unconscious level, people don’t understand the idea of profits to capital ownership- of ‘earning’ through ownership rather than work. Intellectually they get that you can make money by owning things, but they keep forgetting it in daily life. On some vague, perhaps unconscious level they think of business owners as people who make money by working hard in the business factory, so to speak, and not through profits. More exactly, they unconsciously equivocate by thinking of business owners as getting their money through business management- not recognizing that they’re primarily being paid for the ownership, not the management.
To be clear, I’m not saying people explicitly believe this. I’m saying that they’re drawn to this (insane) view implicitly, or unconsciously that capital income is really just a form of labor income, even while, on a conscious level, they get that money makes money. It sort of feels like everyone makes their money by working, and this view creeps in even when we should know better.
This why people will say stuff like “we really need to do something about these parasites who expect a living without working” and when you ask them if they mean the idle rich, they’ll look at you, not exactly disagreeing, just profoundly confused- as if they’d never even thought about such people.
This is why, for example, people can say things like stuff like “capitalism is about rewarding hard work” even though the whole point of capitalism is that it rewards capital as well as hard work. It’s in the name! This is why you occasionally run into stuff like this, written by a Harvard economist:
Why does he find this worth mentioning- of course, most big earners are capital owners! Yet in his mind lawyers and doctors probably seemed like the big earners. Why? Because their labor is the most valuable.
Now to be clear this is really a psychological point. The morality of capital income is another question entirely. Still, if my hunch is right, three questions stand out:
Why do people think this way? Why do they equate work with income under capitalism? Is it propaganda, or something very fundamental and non-contingent about the way people think about deserts? A complex interaction between the two?
If people truly, grasped even at the unconscious level that profits are not a return to hard work (or not, at any rate, the hard work of the capital owner) how would that change things?
How can we show them that capital grants passive rents, in a way that will be fully grasped, down deep to the core of moral appraisal?
It’s a lot- income share accruing to the top 0.1% by source, as a percentage of total GDP. Only about a third is salaries: