Consider this: there’s no way for the owner of a business to make a profit unless the employees are paid less than the dollar value their work produces. This gap—between how much money the employees earn for the business versus what they are actually paid—is the source of all profits that an owner takes home. Those profits are called “surplus value.”

Now consider this: if all the employees who worked at a company suddenly became the collective owners of that company, how much would they decide to pay the former owner? Well, if the owner had also been the manager of the company and had done a good job, the employees might want to keep the former owner on as a worker and pay her/him to continue to manage the company. However, the workers almost certainly wouldn’t choose to pay the former owner as much money as she/he previously took home in profit.

Some would say, “Well, but the reason the owners are owners is because they risked their money in the business—surely they deserve a return on their investment.” And if you look at it from within the assumptions of our current system, that seems to make sense. But we have to take a step back and ask why some people are able to make that investment in the first place: it’s because they have enough money and the right resources to make it possible. If the workers of that company could have started it by themselves, they would have. But almost no one has that option. Only a very few have the money and resources necessary to start a successful business or any realistic way to ever get them.

So we see that the ability to receive surplus value—income not for doing anything but merely for owning a business or owning stock in one—is available only to individuals who are already wealthy. Not only that, but if all workers actually had the resources to start and run their own companies, there would be no surplus value.

But in our system, that’s impossible. The system in which a tiny few own businesses and stock while the vast majority have no choice but to work for them and make them wealthier is called capitalism.

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