FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Interest and Profit

by STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN

They fought about it in Shakespeare’s time.

Shakespeare wrote a play about it. A character emerged depicting the essence of it. Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”—a portrait of capitalism, in the period of transition from the feudal system.

Can you take a pound of flesh and spill not a drop of blood? That was the restriction Portia, the self-proclaimed lawyer, tried to impose on Shylock in Shakespeare’s play. The pound of flesh was the interest Antonio would have to pay if he didn’t return the 3 thousand ducats he borrowed on time. Portia excoriated Shylock’s capitalist greed while defending his right to be a Jew, in a time of intense anti-Semitism.

David M. Boje, Professor of Management at New Mexico State University, says of the play, “this is a critique applicable to today’s global corporate model of financial capitalism …

“…Shakespeare brilliantly portrays a conflict between courtly (feudal) usurer’s capitalism and bourgeois merchant’s capitalism, the triumph of the new forms of adventuring over the old in the 16th century.”

In those times, usury (excessive interest) or even a normally accepted amount was considered a very bad sin in certain Islamic and Christian nations. Today, it’s the normal way of doing business and is one of the pillars of the capitalist system. Money making money.

However, money is only a medium of exchange. It has no intrinsic value. It replaces a barter system. All classical economists, including Adam Smith and David Ricardo, recognize some form of the labor theory of value where the value of a commodity is determined by the amount of labor-power that goes into producing it.

Karl Marx brought a new paradigm to the understanding of capitalism with the hypothesis that “profit is derived from the surplus-value that is extracted when workers put in more labor than is necessary to pay the cost of hiring their labor-power’.

This led him directly to the concept of the class struggle, the relations of production between capital and labor. Capitalism can only exist through the exploitation of the working class.

We’re in another period of transition, today—the next stage in our evolving economic system. Will it be socialism or something else?

Can we imagine a society where interest and profit do not exist?

Perhaps it was the road not taken when societies emerged from feudalism, with the lord dominant over the serf. Or even earlier, before the formation of class systems when human societies consisted of hunters and gathers, where members of the tribe were equal in some form of primitive communism.

Well, let’s see. The first thing we’ll have to learn, to achieve such a state on a higher level, is to bring out the best in people, not the worst—and to do that we must recognize that human nature is complex and is made up of both.

Compassion and a desire to serve one’s fellow man is as strong a drive in people as is greed. For a society, the stratagem must be to make the common good the standard behavioral form. The competition is in doing the best for mankind—rather than, “as long as I get mine, the devil take the hindmost”.

In the context of our country, in the failing state of capitalism, how do we save ourselves? Instead of making some pacts with the future, we are clinging to the failures of the past.

Our current attempts at health care reform are a good example.

In a show at providing universal health care for the nation, the people’s representatives dare not let these toxic words—socialized medicine or public option—cross their lips. Apparently, governments are no longer here to help our citizens. Powerful corporate entities, known as the health insurance industry, a part of the oligarchy that runs this country, won’t allow it. They literally own a good many of our Congressmen and Senators, enough of them to stop any kind of meaningful health care reform. Citizens are brainwashed into thinking that what helps the insurance industry helps them.

You can fool some of the people some of the time.

The rest of us are fighting back. The fight won’t be complete until the money changers are driven from the temple. If you can live with the mixed metaphor, we, the people, must take back our Congress, elect legislators that will represent us, not the special interests. Then, we might feel that we have a government that works.

If not, history will do it for us.

Instead of “The Merchant of Venice”, we will have to look to Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” or “Richard IIII” for a more violent solution.

One way or another, in Marx’s own words, “Capitalism will dig its own grave.”

STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN, writer-producer-director of documentaries, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC. His memoir is now in print. See www.amahchewahwah.com, e-mail stevefl@ca.rr.com

 

 

More articles by:

STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN, writer-producer-director of documentaries, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC. His memoir is now in print. See www.amahchewahwah.com, e-mail stevefl@ca.rr.com

Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
Binoy Kampmark
The War on Plastic
Cindy Sheehan – Rick Sterling
Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
No Foreign Bases!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Across the Boer Heartland to Pretoria
Joe Emersberger
What’s Going On in Ecuador? An Interview With Wladimir Iza
Clark T. Scott
1918, 1968, 2018: From Debs to Trump
Cesar Chelala
Women Pay a Grievous Price in Congo’s Conflict
Michael Welton
Secondly
Robert Koehler
The Wisdom of Mass Salvation
Seth Sandronsky
Misreading Edu-Reform 
Ann Garrison
Full-Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Span the Globe
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
David Yearsley
Winston and Paddington: Marianelli’s Musical Bears
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail