Capitalism & Robots: Towards a Zero Person Economy?

Why is Fox News afraid of upsurge socialism in America?

And it’s “not a Democratic Socialist, just a straight-up socialist”!

One reason is that they see – regardless of their uber-Capitalist stance – corporations engorging themselves on the wealth of the nation.

Specifically, Fox Business analyst, Chris Payne commenting on GM’s decision to lay off nearly 15,000 workers said:

“And again, it's not like they're in dire straits. Now, they're trying to get ahead of things, they want a big fat cash flow. But this is why, I think, capitalism in and of itself is in a lot of trouble in this country…Because these companies keep posting record earnings and they keep firing people. They keep posting record earnings and they buying back billions of dollars of their own stock. The American public is going to get hip to this and my fear is that they're going to end up electing, not a Democratic Socialist, just a straight-up socialist because of these kind of shenanigans. They should have saw this coming a long time ago.”

However, this should not be surprising to an ideologically aware Muslim. As RasulAllah (saw) explained:

“If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would want to have two valleys. Nothing fills his mouth, but the dust of the grave, yet Allah will accept whoever repents to him.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Consequently, Capitalism, the system of freedom, that lets the survival instinct run wild and will inevitably have such problems.

With that in mind, I wanted to focus on a couple of things concerning GM’s decision to ruin the lives of not just these 15,000 workers but their families as well.

Firstly, with corporations able to issue stocks and bonds, they can amass the capital to buy out the open-market and create a closed market. Capitalist refer to this as “winner take all” (which is related to the first mover advantage that comes by capturing the network). This “feature” of Capitalism ultimately stifles entrepreneurship, wealth distribution, and innovation.

The second problem is a little more subtle where people look to the company to ‘take care of their affairs.’ This is not the job of companies, but the job of the ruler. It’s not GM’s role to provide jobs, but it is the role of the society to ensure that people have the means to acquire the wealth. 

Towards a zero person economy?

Capitalism is a system that maximizes the freedom of ownership by focusing on investments. Everything else is secondary. Sometimes society can impose a cost on the Capitalists the forces them to accommodate them. However, inevitably the Empire Strikes Back. For example, the concessions to labour unions that upheld Capitalist beliefs was temporary. Once Communism was dead, these unions were destroyed through the Volcker interest rate hikes in the 70s, globalization and the non-enforcement of labour laws (meaning the government let the companies commit illegal acts).

However, given this, people should realize that the right number of workers at a company is zero. Need proof? Check what Andy Puzder, CEO Carl’s Jr, told Business Insider after visiting the fully automated fast food chain Eatsa:

“With government driving up the cost of labor, it's driving down the number of jobs…You're going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants… They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”

As the article notes, part of Puzder’s drive is the minimum wage. As pointed out in this post, minimum wages are not allowed in Islam. That being said, Islam does make the distribution of wealth a critical strategic objective of the State to address (i.e. instead of GDP) thereby making such laws unnecessary. Moreover, that’s the core issue: the core issue is maximizing growth (aka profits aka the freedom of ownership). But if we take this logic to its ultimate end, will Capitalist end up with productions + profits and no people? The reality is that every company would fire all of its workers to make more money is an inescapable truth. This reality has prompting some to call for a ‘basic income’ because they realize that Capitalism doesn’t allow for the distribution of wealth.

Although Capitalist, like John Maynard Keynes, envisioned a society that would have an abundance leisure time due to technological progress, the reality is Capitalism will never deliver such a society. This is because the gains made by technological and material progress will benefit the owners of that technology –  the 1% - and not society. In Islam, on the other hand, must ensure that such gains are circulated within the society. Otherwise, the ruler can be taken to court for failing in his duty to the citizenry – Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Click here for the follow-up as noted in the response to the comment below.