You know why Capitalists are rich? Because they're smarter than you!

elitism
Image by Vaughan via Flickr

I didn’t think I would have to mention this, but really, Capitalists are not wealthier than the rest of us due to their superior intellect. And yet, of course there would be an apologist of Capitalism which would make this exact argument. Ah silly apologists…

It’s an quite a novel reasoning really, albeit egregiously stupid on so many levels. It’s the kind of argument that is simply irrefutable as it is based on very solid circular reasoning. Basically it goes like this: “The capitalist are in their position because they are smarter than everyone else and thus the most capable of doing the necessary intellectual labour. And they’re obviously the smarter and most capable ones for this for otherwise they wouldn’t be capitalists.”

But of course, for someone to claim anything like this, they would have to prove the intellect of the Capitalists compared to the working class with some other means than a self-proving economic result. You would actually have to do some research on the intellect of the Capitalist class and see the degree to which they exceed us unwashed masses in intelligence. Such an research would be funny to follow, just for the laughs of course.

For there are two important sticking points on this subject

  • Most capitalist do not in fact rise up the ranks through their own “intellectual superiority”. Rather, they are born or married into wealth and find it very easy to maintain.
  • While intelligence may be one factor for some capitalist’s success, there may be others as well, such as greed, crass disregard for other humans or the environment, cunning etc. All of these combined might make the best capitalist but it’s not at all clear that they should be rewarded.

But even if we were to accept that it is somehow intelligence that allows the Capitalist class to remain at the top, would this make this situation right? This is the sticking point really since a random genetic event which happened to endow some people with more intelligence than other, shouldn’t be the basis of reward in life. For me, the intelligent person needs the emotional person who needs the strong person who needs the fast person. All of human talents are interrelated as as such, one shouldn’t be given power over the others.

The argument that our apologist drone makes would be more funny if it wasn’t so insidiously insulting of course. It implies that if you’re not a Capitalist, you’re obviously too stupid for it. And if you’re not smart enough, then you deserve to be poor. This is further clarified by the following gem:

The truth is that we become more human when we become more intelligent

You read that? Not only are you not smart enough to be a capitalist, but you’re less of a human than they are!  You really can’t get a truer picture of the capitalist psyche than what our apologists says. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that among the vulgar liberals and other assorted proponents of the system, this kind of elitist mentality is quite widespread. For what better way to sleep at night to consider all those suffering below you are worthy of their predicament while your immense wealth is a result of your skills and amazing smart.

It’s disgusting really. Of course, I doubt that apologists who make such an argument realize that they’re basically claiming that they’re less human as well. Unless of course they’re part of the capitalist class already in which case it simply becomes an insult to injury.

But this kind of argument really shows the gap in perspective between these two camps. The liberal elitists will claim that it’s our fault for being too stupid and lazy, ignoring in the meantime the very considerable violence and threat of violence that sustains the system rather than any kind of natural law.They see the current system with all its suppression of human creativity, individuality and effort and use this as proof that only the rich can be creative and individual. It’s like the apologists of slavery pointing out that slaves can’t survive being free.

On the other hand The Anarchists will point out the immense capability of humans, when set free to perform the same if not better than any capitalist. We will point out examples of cooperatives, takeovers, communes and revolutions and the feats of productivity and freedom achieved within. We call on each human to demand the ability to express themselves instead of accepting their fate as mere cogs in the machine.

But of course, there’s always the positive side. Whereas liberal elitists like KatPoop10 who will tell the poor and downtrodden that they deserve their place and they shouldn’t question the validity of their position, the Anarchists will ask them to challenge everything, that all power lies within their hands to get a better life and they’re no worse or better than anyone else, only more repressed.

And as working and living conditions worsen, it’s not hard to imagine who the exploited will believe.

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24 thoughts on “You know why Capitalists are rich? Because they're smarter than you!

  1. You're right it is a circular argument. I don't think businessmen are necessarily more intelligent. But I think there is something to the idea that they are better at taking risks and seeing opportunities. Those are traits that would have helped them survive at any point in the evolutionary chain. But intellectually superior? I don't think so. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any full-time scientists or college professors at the top of the IQ charts. They'd all be rich capitalists.

    1. Those are traits that would have helped them survive at any point in the evolutionary chain.

      For the small amount that actually move up the chain, then yes, I could see this. But the vast amount of capitalists are born into wealth and stay there, simply letting their money work for them.

      Also, there's other traits that would help a capitalist succeed, such as greed, cunning, crass disregard for other humans or the enviornment etc. The fact that these are rewarded along with intelligence is a condemnation of the system.

      1. What about small-business owners who start up say.. a cafe or restaurant after working hard a wage-slave all of their lives? And continue to operate their business until they die at say <10-15 employees?

        Do you knot think they deserve luxury?

        Or what about an entrepeneur/inventor who finds some great innovation and spend years on R&D on the product and then manages to recoup those costs through the sale of his innovation; what happens when he manages to get the stage where he is making a consistent profit? Do you not think he deserves those profits from being genuinely creative and innovative?

        I'm definitely on the left side of thinking but these queries continue to niggle me in the back of my brain and I can't find a way around them- so please, refute me!

        1. This is not what one "deserves". Everyone deserves luxury, not just the smart and the lucky. And if their luxury depends on them exploiting the labour of others, then they sure don't deserve it any more than everyone else they're working with.

  2. As far as I can tell from katpoop10's argument, that's not what he's saying. At all.

    During the first point you refute, he's saying that *of all of those who participate in the capitalist system,* in today's market those more savvy to the workings of the system are more valued (not valuable) by others who participate in the system. Your presentation of his argument as "capitalists are richer than (what? non-capitalists? A man who works at a factory to take home a wage which he subsequently spends in abstracted barter on goods or services isn't a non-capitalist. An unwilling capitalist, maybe, but they are partaking in the allotment of capital nonetheless) because they are smarter, and for no other possible reason, which correlates with the idea that higher intelligence implies greater humanity" is faulty. Perhaps those in possession of rare, complex knowledge with a high value to the market shouldn't be compensated more for their use of that knowledge than those in possession of physical strength. Perhaps compensation is an outmoded construct period. But these points are irrelevant to katpoop10's observation of what is desired by the workings of the current system.

    He does a bad job himself of delineating between intelligence in general and intelligence valuable to a capitalist, but nonetheless this difference exists. In your about page and elsewhere, you, as most people do, describe yourself to others based on the philosophical ideas you subscribe to – your humanity is defined by what you have, as a human, learned. So it's not an unreasonable theory to present that, as you acquire more knowledge, you will in a sense become "more" human.

    This is not to agree with your interpretation of katpoop10's statement, that one person who is "more intelligent" than another is more human than the other. Humanness itself is an abstracted concept, and meters of intelligence are culturally biased and inconsistent, so comparison between the humanness of two *separate* humans is impossible. But neither does katpoop10 say or even loosely imply that capitalistically-valued intelligence is the only meter of humanity.

    To coin a metaphor, say you have two baskets, and fill one with more apples than the other. The basket with more apples is, obviously, more full. But this fact can't be questioned directly as it appears written in common English because of the assumptions it makes. Given two different baskets, the one with more apples may well be less full if the other basket is filled with more oranges, or bananas. Similarly, the statement that a person becomes "more human" as that *person* accumulates more intelligence does not imply that that person is necessarily more human than any person less intelligent than them.

    Please note, I don't mean specifically to endorse either of katpoop10's ideas here as *correct;* I see redeeming points and glaring flaws to each.

    But be honest – your essay isn't about him being correct or incorrect. It's about him being a filthy amoral capitalist who hates the oppressed poor and hopes they stay oppressed and poor. Which strikes me as unnecessarily defamatory in the context of an argument which *should* focus on fact and theory, and avoid unnecessary bias at the hands of emotional investment.

    1. In your about page and elsewhere, you, as most people do, describe yourself to others based on the philosophical ideas you subscribe to – your humanity is defined by what you have, as a human, learned.

      No. That's my personality.

      So it's not an unreasonable theory to present that, as you acquire more knowledge, you will in a sense become "more" human.

      It is quite an unreasonable theory and on a very slippery slope.

    2. During the first point you refute, he's saying that *of all of those who participate in the capitalist system,* in today's market those more savvy to the workings of the system are more valued (not valuable) by others who participate in the system.

      not true. Our original argument was on why the non-working Capitalist deserves the lion's share of the surplus value. His argument for that was because the "intellectual labour" of the capitalist is so much superior to the job the workers do that he obviously deserves extra reward. As such, it was a normative proposition similar to "The intelligent ought to be rewarded more".

      1. You're very good at coloring paraphrases.

        The "intellectual labor" of the managerial class cannot be dismissed out of hand, whether you view it as more or less valuable than the manual labor of whatever term you like for those who contribute manual labor to the market. Whether the current system overvalues that job in capitalistic or wage-based systems is, again, another argument.

        An anarchic socialist system would have a use for managers, too. Remove the *flawed* trappings, such as greater material prosperity and unwavering authority, and the use for a manager in a role more like a secretary is still significant. If one person can contribute to the *overall value output* of a factory more by poring over books and numbers and devising new strategies for efficiency, cooperation, sustainability than he personally can through physical work, do you still think that person is *less* valuable than a manual worker, and that their intellectual labor is "non-work?" As long as they answer to society rather than their own gains, and are only able to *present* their ideas for acceptance by the majority, the work done by what you refer to as a "capitalist" actually has even *more* value to an egalitarian system.

        And, again, you take his observations as statements of moral preference. "Barring any other differences, the more intelligent of two workers is more likely to prosper in a system based on supply and demand" is not the same as "The intelligent ought to be rewarded more". You're using should as an indicator of moral preference, where katpoop10 tends to use it more as an indicator of logical prediction based on the existing system, regardless of the moral validity of that system.

        1. You're very good at coloring paraphrases.

          I really don't understand this phrase.

          The "intellectual labor" of the managerial class cannot be dismissed out of hand, whether you view it as more or less valuable than the manual labor of whatever term you like for those who contribute manual labor to the market.

          Ah, but this is a different argument and one I actually brought up with KatPoop10 as well. If we're talking about managers or any other administrative staff that does actually necessary labour (like some of the examples you mentioned) then yes, they deserve payment but of course I don't agree that it should be higher.

          But the problem is that a Capitalist can gain wealth without working at all, or by doing only a job that may not be needed or be actually harmful to the company.

          The question however is that a capitalist always earns the profit himself. He always gets part of the surplus value the workers create even while not working at all himself. This is what I challenged people to explain. It is this, incidentally, that the theory of Marginal Productivity mainly tries to explain which is where the whole thing started from.

        2. where katpoop10 tends to use it more as an indicator of logical prediction based on the existing system, regardless of the moral validity of that system.

          The problem is that KatPoop was trying to explain where profit comes from but to do that, he had to preempt the fairness of the capitalist getting part of the surplus value. Not only that but he had to make the reward of the capitalist be neither part of the costs or part of the profit so like a third magical monetary reward that was later turned into profit. It was from my challenging where this magical reward comes from that the "intellectual labour" was presented as a normative proposition.

    3. A man who works at a factory to take home a wage which he subsequently spends in abstracted barter on goods or services isn't a non-capitalist.

      Eh? Actually he is. A capitalist is someone who is in control of means of production and employs wage-labour to use them. The worker may be working within the capitalist system, but this does not make him a capitalist any more than a slave is also a slaver.

      But these points are irrelevant to katpoop10's observation of what is desired by the workings of the current system.

      The problem is that my argument was ethical, while his was (attempting to be) descriptive. I was asking "why is the capitalist deserving part of the surplus" and he was answering "because obviously the system rewards them". But I do not care about lobotomized version of how the current system works (eg while ignoring the state, previous violence and inequality) but about a normative explanation on why the system should reward them like this. What is it that they add while not working at all?

    4. so comparison between the humanness of two *separate* humans is impossible. But neither does katpoop10 say or even loosely imply that capitalistically-valued intelligence is the only meter of humanity.

      I think he does. Both because this is the type of intelligence we were talking about and also because of his direct quote.

    5. But be honest – your essay isn't about him being correct or incorrect. It's about him being a filthy amoral capitalist who hates the oppressed poor and hopes they stay oppressed and poor.

      Actually, it was sort of between letting some steam off in my own haven after having to deal with marauding strawmen and red herrings and making an argument on the argument about the superiority of capitalist intelligence. In fact, this was the very core of the argument of Katpoop10, that Capitalists deserve their extra wealth because they are intellectually superior.

      As for emotional investment. I don't see why not. When someone makes such stupifyingly despicable statements, then I wish to reply emotionally. THis is why my link is there, so that others (like you) can go and take a look at his whole quote and make up your own mind.

  3. I see you make two *incredibly* pivotal points here – the fact that those born into money often delegate the preservation of that money to others smarter than themselves, and the myriad of other less savory, less "human" traits which can contribute to capitalistic gain.

    Either or both of these, explored further by way of the wording you present here, would have made your essay – as well as your argument with katpoop10 – far more convincing in my opinion.

  4. Of course dictators deserve the perks and privileges of life at the top of a brutal hierarchy – the organisational and adjudicative work they do is so valuable. Where would we be without disputes being resolved and violent crime being suppressed? It's vital, and so those who are best at doing it should be respected and rewarded, not hauled up in front of war crimes tribunals.

    What do you mean, how do we know that they're contributing so much, or are so much more skilled? Well, if they weren't, and if someone else were better at managing the complex world of human politics, then that other person would have made it to the top, wouldn't they?

  5. Not really relevant to this entry, but thanks db0 for helping me against the capitalists on the issue of profit. I'm starting to get really tired of arguing with them, because it's always a circular argument. Profit is necessary because in the capitalist system profit is necessary, therefore profit is necessary, ad nauseam. I haven't seen any cogent argument for profit yet.

    1. Np, even though we've had our own online spat, when you're right you're right. I just happened to notice this debate from your IDC comments page 😉

      it's unfortunate that they can't argue against your comments and have to resort to ad hominems on your past (and weak ones at that)

      I haven't seen any cogent argument for profit yet.

      Tell me about it. I might just blog about this really

  6. Ugh. I see attitudes like this all the time. A matter of weeks ago, youtube “shanedk” (somebody I was glad was ran out of forums.randi.org by utterly defeating his arguments time after time) made a video in which he told a really stupid joke.

    You’re out of gas. If you’re the working man, you figure you can push your car all the way to the gas station you remember seeing on the sign. So you start pushing.

    If you’re a businessman, you use your mind to just carry the gas can to the station and back.

    If you’re a socialist, you find somebody else to do it for you.

    In shane’s mind (and mind you he thinks he’s different from tea baggers), working class people are working class because they’re less intelligent

    I call him out on it, and get the most arrogant response from him yet. He says he’s telling the jokes to battle classicism, but he’s displayed the very mindset exemplefied in his joke so many times, it’s clear HE is a classicist.

    1. Yeah, someone posted his trollish videos in /r/anarchism and I had the misfortune to suffer through them. AFAIK, mr1001nights of youtube as well has taken him to task a number of times already.

  7. Blast! Excuse my blatant typos and misspellings >.> I should have read over what I wrote..

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