The Unnecessariness of Marxism

Stephen Yearwood
7 min readFeb 25, 2023

for society to go where Marx foresaw

Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash

As Karl Marx made clear, capitalism did not invent exploitation. Rather, that has been the heartless core of civilization from day one. I would argue that capitalism itself, defined as mass production for sales in geographically extended markets, goes back at least as far as the (original) Silk Road.

I have developed a new and different approach to ending exploitation. William Adeleke, of the International Information Technology University in Almaty, Kazakhstan, had arrived independently at the same philosophical position as I had regarding money. He and I have become intellectual comrades.

This approach accords with the position that capitalism, as Marx knew it, did what he said it would do: it suffered a crisis from which it was unable to recover. It’s called the Great Depression.

In responding to that societal catastrophe the central government and central bank evolved together in capitalist nations to form a life-support mechanism for the capitalist economy. Since the fall of the Soviet Union it is a system that has overtaken the world (to include ‘Communist’ China). As described in ‘Modern Monetary Theory’, the central government/central bank amalgam uses money to keep capitalism alive via unceasing infusions of it, pouring unlimited money into the entities at the top of the private sector of the economy through taxation (paid, as much as possible, by economic lessors), the issuance of debt, and with naked directness in ‘quantitative easing’ (QE), via the issuance of currency.

Money has thus replaced property as the most necessary economic object. Whereas in Marx’s day (as had been the case forever in civilization) income was a function of property, today the distribution of property follows from the distribution of money. (‘Bonuses’ in the form of stocks for people high up in corporations are a hybridization of property and money that corporations can create ‘out of thin air’.) The transition from bondage slavery, in which laborers are property, and serfdom, in which laborers are bound to property, to wage slavery, in which people are paid to be used as machines (or draft animals) for the financial aggrandizement of others, as the means of obtaining/retaining employees for entities of mass production was integral to that historical shift.

Workers obtain money through income: wages and salaries. It is a simple, undeniable fact that in all businesses there are people who determine what the distribution of remuneration within a business will be. Their express goal is to minimize the remuneration of all other employees in order to maximize the remuneration of a few. That is where and how exploitation occurs. Governments mimic that scheme.

All of that does mark an obvious path for the battle against exploitation to take. It involves pivoting away from property as the locus of exploitation, and therefore the focus for its elimination, to setting our sights on money/income.

Different approaches to the problem of exploitation centering on money are possible. Using unions to force a more equitable sharing of remuneration within businesses is one. To mandate a maximum ratio of remuneration within any business (and government) would be another.

Both of those approaches seek to ameliorate the effects of exploitation. As such, they can be incremental steps towards a society that is free of it. Both do point to the place of money in the contemporary scheme of exploitation.

This author’s proposed solution to the problem of exploitation is societal in scope. It directly and immediately eliminates exploitation — but without any need to change the fundamental institutional arrangements that now exist in any nation (that has a central government and a central bank — though a new administrative body could be created to administer this paradigm.]

In this paradigm money is created as needed (by the central bank, but without involving taxes or debt in any way), to fund a ‘democratically distributed income’ (DDI). It can be thought of as a kind of QE for people. Its amount would be based on the current average income. It would be paid to every employee of any business or government (as well as retirees and adults unable to work). A barrier would exist between the revenues of businesses as well as the money allotted for government and people.

Nonmaterial rewards (e.g. ‘social status’) would become even more of a factor in people’s lives than they are today, and serve as fodder for ambition among those who feel an irresistible need for ‘more’. Also, with undifferentiated remuneration people would seek jobs that were in line with their interests and abilities. With an income high enough to ensure that all needs are met, society would effectively achieve the ideal of “from each according to ability, to each according to need” (and a bit more — for all).

This paradigm does not attack property, or even the market economy. Rather, within the existing economic system a democratic distribution of property would proceed in an organic, non-coercive manner. That is to say, the ‘have-nots’ who had obtained a large increase in income would be buying property from the ‘haves’, who would be voluntarily selling their holdings to sustain a higher-than-average lifestyle, driving holdings of property to an equitable distribution.

Providing a pathway to the ownership of more property, as opposed to abolishing it, would presumably appeal to people who have been inculcated almost to the level of their DNA with the capitalist, or for that matter, traditional civilizational attitude towards property.

The same approach would be used to fund government — all government, from local to central — forevermore at the current per capita rate of total government spending for a nation adopting this paradigm (with the form of its distribution within any particular nation TBD). As long as public spending did not exceed anywhere that allotted funding, taxes/public debt would be eliminated.

There are other immediate benefits to society as well. The economy would become completely self-regulating, ending the designation of winners and losers that fiscal and monetary ‘policies’ in the existing paradigm inevitably generates. Also, environmental sustainability would be all but assured.

With a regular flow of such a vast amount of money into the economy, a means of closing the monetary loop is a necessary part of the paradigm. As designed, however, people and businesses could retain plentiful pools of money and no money would be collected before it could be used for purchases (including, for businesses, plant and equipment). Effectively, all money that was collected (by individual banks) to be returned to the central bank would come from businesses — money that would never go to any person, anyway (re. that aforementioned “barrier”).

The paradigm could be adopted by any individual nation or any group of nations, implementing a single common currency — as this approach to a common currency would not challenge sovereignty. A certain saturation of advanced technology would enhance the process, but Adeleke and I have worked through a low-tech application for less technologically connected areas of a nation.

One group adopting this paradigm could be all nations. In that way the nation-state could eventually “wither away” over time within the context of a unified planetary economy sharing a single currency. Governments everywhere, at all levels, would become mere administrative bodies using their allotted money to accomplish ends determined in the political process. Government could become increasingly decentralized over time, until nothing but local government remained.

While this paradigm would eliminate exploitation, it would not contradict the premises of the existing economy. For one thing, there would be other ways of generating an income — any way, actually, that did not involve having employees: wage slaves (or bondage slaves) — though any products/services produced that way could only be sold to other people, not businesses or government (re. the monetary ‘barrier’). Such an arrangement could include real partnerships of any size. If such a thing were feasible, a business with a real democratic process for determining the distribution of remuneration in it would also be non-exploitative. Moreover, this paradigm would not impose any cost on employers, forcibly redistribute anything, impose any limit on income/wealth, or require people to act any particular way (e.g., altruistically or selfishly, cooperatively or competitively).

There is a way to undertake this approach to eliminating exploitation incrementally. The DDI could begin life as a minimum guaranteed income (that would probably be less in amount, but would definitely be enough for a ‘decent’ life). In that scenario people employed in minimum-pay positions would be paid the DDI (as well as retirees and adults unable to work). To be clear, their pay would not come from their employers. Employers would find themselves using in-kind benefits to compete for people to fill minimum-pay positions. (As at present, all remuneration of all other employees would come from employers.) The funding of government would proceed as described above. ‘The rich’ would have no ground on which to resist that iteration of the paradigm. A second stage would be to expand the DDI as related above, but to retain individuated benefits as a form of remuneration for different positions of employment. The third stage would be to eliminate individuated benefits, generating the scenario described in this missive. The geophysical crises we face do encourage skipping the first stage.

In short, the device of creating money as needed to fund a democratically distributed income (and government) is a seed crystal from which a society free of exploitation can grow, without any need to begin by tearing down anything. Moreover, this approach is completely compatible with the traditional language of Liberalism: equality and liberty. (People reading about the possible first stage of the paradigm often take it to be a product of libertarianism.) ‘Marxism’ is not necessary for society to go where Marx foresaw.

Of course, there is more detail involved in all iterations of this paradigm. All details other than the particulars related to its adoption in a specific nation have, however, been fully addressed.

further reading (all here in Medium, none behind the paywall):

(for, primarily, economists) “Paradigm Shift” most generic and technical presentation of the paradigm

Same Economy, Way Better Outcomes for Society” most detailed account related to the actual implementation of the paradigm — ‘first stage’

To Preserve What We Have, What We Have Must Be Enough” expanded DDI, emphasizing environmental sustainability as well as the preservation of maximum liberty under the rule of law with political democracy



Stephen Yearwood

unaffiliated, non-ideological, unpaid: M.A. in political economy (where philosophy and economics intersect) with a focus in money/distributive justice