wages under capitalism

Pg. 24 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 “In a country which has attained the utmost degree of its wealth, both wages of labor and interest of stock would be very low. The competition among the workers to obtain employment would be so great that the wages would be reduced to a point sufficient for the maintenance of the given number of workers: as the country would already be sufficiently populated, this number could not be increased.”

The USA is the richest country in the world (when looking at GDP) and is the 6th most populated, while we have not reached our “utmost wealth possible”, we gain large amounts of money per second and are well en route to this. This prediction made by marx seems to not be true without taking a deeper look at our current wages.

While we have clearly gained more wealth and population since the last time the minimum wage was increased, (july 24th 2009) our wages have stagnated ever since, which renders this quote from Marx completely wrong, if we take a deeper look at these wages we can see there’s a lot more truth to this thought than you would think. Since 2009 we have seen large amounts of inflation coming mostly from 2018, $100 in 2009 is worth approximately $125.48 today. The dollar is roughly 25.5% less valuable than it was in 2009. During this time the federal minimum wage has not changed at all remaining at $7.25 per hr. Now we can come the conclusion that this prediction has at least some truth to it when we take into account that the federal minimum wage has indirectly been lowered.

A common rebuttal to this take on wage is competition in the marketplace, basically saying the capitalist is incentivized to raise wages to compete with other capitalists, but issues stem from this as well. A capitalist would not be incentivized to do this because it would obviously make them pay higher wages to workers, but there is more nuance needed here, because of there being a large amount of working class people, the capitalist can keep this low wage because there will always be a “bottom of the food chain” or bottom class seeking employment to abstain from sinking into poverty, the choice for the working class here is to either work this low wage, or be indirectly put into poverty. As more jobs become taken and unavailable for unemployed working class people, the capitalist can either take on more laborers causing them to have to pay more wages, or replace these people with automated machines. We can see this happen around us today, take McDonalds for example, with having automated ordering kiosks they dont have to pay as many workers to take on the same task.

When we see this diagram, we have the capitalists at the top, making big decisions over the fates of these working class individuals, the employed working class simply has enough money to scrape by, because that is all the capitalist needs to give them in order for them to survive, and make it to work everyday, and as we see this takes a toll on a person, the options for a working class person are to work for these miserable wages that the capitalist has total control over, or sink to poverty and live a short and brutish life.

The only way to break this cycle of low wages and poverty, is to dismantle this capitalist cycle that keeps us in this constant chain or work then die.