The Natural Economic Order/Part I/Chapter 1

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Part I, Introduction The Natural Economic Order
Part I. Chapter 1. Aim and Method
written by Silvio Gesell, translated by Philip Pye
Part I, Chapter 2
1929.



As has been pointed out in the Introduction, the economic aim of every kind of socialism is to abolish unearned income, so-called surplus-value, sometimes termed rent and interest. To attain this end, nationalisation or socialisation of production with all its consequences is usually declared to be indispensable.

This claim of the dispossessed is supported by Karl Marx's scientific investigation into the nature of capital which attempts to prove that surplus-value is an inseparable concomitant of private enterprise and private ownership of the means of production.

The present writer proposes to demonstrate that this Marxian doctrine is based on untenable premises which we must abandon in order to arrive at the truth. My conclusions are to the effect that capital must not be looked upon as a material commodity, but as a condition of the market, determined solely by demand and supply. The French socialist Proudhon, the opponent of Marx, gave the workers the proof of this more than 50 years ago.

Guided by this corrected theory of capital we shall learn that the removal of certain artificial obstacles due to private ownership of land and our irrational monetary system, will enable our present economic order to realise fully its fundamentally sound principle. The removal of these obstacles will allow the workers by their own labour and in a short time (ten to twenty years) so to alter the market conditions for capital that surplus-value will disappear completely and the means of production will lose their capitalistic character. Private ownership of the means of production will then present no advantage beyond that which the owner of a savings-box derives from its possession: the savings-box does not yield him surplus-value or interest, but he can gradually use up its contents.

The savings or other money then invested in means of production (house, ship, factory) will be returned to the owners in the shape of sums annually written off their value in proportion to their natural wear and tear or consumption. Simply by means of untrammelled hard work fructified by the powerful modern instruments of production, the great admired and dreaded tyrant capital will be reduced to the harmless role of a child's porcelain savings-box. The savings-box yields no surplus-value, and to get at the contents its owner must break it.

The first and second parts of this book, dealing with land, show how agriculture and the building and mining industries can be carried on without surplus-value, yet without communism. The later parts of the book, dealing with the new theory of capital, show how, without nationalising the remaining means of production, we can entirely eliminate surplus-value from our economic order and establish the right to the whole proceeds of labour.