It seems obvious that an individual company increases their profits when they reduce wages or increase automation or some such.
But if wages fell universally because of this, wouldn't that decrease profits, since ultimately the earnings of all those companies rely on wage-earning consumers?
It would seem to me, then, that an industrialist, in the sense of an owner of a particular company, should want to reduce wages, but a true capitalist, in the sense of someone with their finger in many pies, would actually want to increase wages - and that their interest would be to prevent other classes from accumulating savings by making sure that those increased wages are channeled into as much additional consumption as possible.
Is this correct? How can I understand this better?
In my innumerate way I have tried to reduce this to a simple thought experiment and here is where things get messy and confusing for me:
Suppose there is just 1 capitalist and 1 worker & consumer.
Suppose that the worker produces $100 worth of goods and services.
In order for them to be purchased from the market, that worker will need to also earn $100.
So there doesn't appear to be any profit for the capitalist at all in this picture. And yet isn't profit surplus value? Where is that coming from?
Clearly I am getting this wrong, both because the above situation could not exist, and because if it did, it could not grow/change. But what is my error?
My gut sense is that factors involved here include:
- That a proper consideration of the role of currency is needed to pair with the goods, since we are not just dealing with the value of the goods, but the denotation of that value in money, the circulation of which behaves differently than that of the goods.
- That time intervenes between production and consumption causing a circulating effect that somehow (through market & financial intermediaries?) magnifies apparent value involved.
- Consumer credit - like credit cards - would seem to have a distorting effect on this process, but that's still in expectation of future wages, right?
- The existence of different tiers of wage earners and consumer, whether by class in the same economy, or maybe more importantly, in different economies - high earning "consumers" in Western nations having a codependent relationship with low earning "laborers" in developing nations. This one in particular seems relevant to me.
- The spending of the capitalists, even if that's minuscule in comparison. But if the "surplus value" from the workers going to the capitalist is what's needed to be spent in the market to buy all the produced goods and services then they would only be recirculating what they have, not earning, saving and reinvesting.
What also seems relevant:
- "Semi-fungibility" of different goods. What's an arch-capitalist going to do with a few million more bushels of grain? It would seem to me that money approximates fungibility to large extent but at the end of the day you can't eat a yacht.
But this is all inchoate musing and I feel helpless to understand much less really explain any of it.
Any direction you could give me would be much appreciated!