[OPE] "Parasitism"

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date: Fri Jan 30 2009 - 07:26:12 EST


PLEASE READ CAREFULLY, BEFORE MAKING FALSE ACCUSATIONS ABOUT ANOTHER SCHOLAR. I wrote: "WHEN" parasitism is publicly clearly visible, it does not last very long". This is logically NOT the same as: "IF there is parasitism, THEN it will be clearly visible to all." Among other things, I work professionally as academic translator, and if I would translate an idea in the manner that you interpret my statement, I would not get any contracts at all.

By explicitly saying "when parasitism is clearly visible", I intend to convey (1) that it may NOT be clearly visible, but also (2) that IF it is clearly visible, THEN it usually does not last very long because people wise up to it and adjust their behaviour accordingly.

Because of (1) just mentioned, your interpretation ""IF there is parasitism, THEN it will be clearly visible to all" does not follow at all from what I say - because what I say, implies precisely the conditional that parasitism MAY NOT be visible, and could be hidden. Any scholar capable of following an argument can understand this.

What you COULD contest, is my factual claim that if the parasitic relationship becomes visible at all, that it does not last long. You could argue, for example, that although it is visible, nevertheless people have another response to it, and permit the parasitism to continue for one reason or another.

I think someone could reasonably argue that the occurrence of "financial parasitism" is often very difficult to identify and define, because people do not understand the financial relationships involved very well, meaning that if parasitism occurs, then it is not clearly visible to all.

I believe that, in Marxian scholarship, we ought to tread carefully with accusations of "parasitism", and really prove our case, not simply contend with an emotionalist leftist outburst.

What Marx says is, that the owner of capital is able to claim the value of unpaid surplus labour in virtue of his ownership of capital, as his "reward" for the supply of his capital, if you like. Indeed labor-exploitation in this sense is often justified with the concept of "reward or return for risk" - nothing venture, nothing win. But this does not make ALL capitalists ipso facto parasites, since many have to work hard for their money - their ability to extract income in that case is conditional on organising the business, and successfully selling output at a certain price, under circumstances where the supply of labour and the supply of capital are mutually dependent on each other.

The concept of parasitism refers rather to the specific case of the appropriation of income or assets without any demonstrable work effort or service being supplied in exchange, such that the appropriation is actually a DEDUCTION from wealth-creation. The parasite is in other words able to "overvalue" himself or herself by some method, and thus claim wealth in excess of his or her real value or contribution.

If, for example, it is argued that Wall Street is "parasitic", this means, that the appropriation of wealth by the financial dealers enormously exceeds their acknowledged useful function to society, and it also implies, that if you eliminated their useless activity altogether, it would have no economic consequence at all, except that society as a whole would be better off for it, by reducing investment and transaction costs, and making the allocation of investment money more efficient, productive and effective.

Thus, for example, Doug Henwood writes in his book: "... the US financial system performs dismally at its advertised task, that of efficiently directing society's savings towards their optimal investment pursuits. The system is stupefyingly expensive, gives terrible signals for the allocation of capital, and has surprisingly little to do with real investment. Most money managers can barely match market averages - and there's evidence that active trading reduces performance rather than improving it - yet they still haul in big fees, and their brokers, big commissions.... instead of promoting investment, the US financial system seems to do quite the opposite; US investment levels [in means of production] rank towards the bottom of the First World (OECD) countries" (Wall Street, p. 3).

In vulgar Marxism, profit is simply parasitism, but leaving aside the distinction between distributed and undistributed profit, this ignores that the remuneration packages of most corporate officers are not included in the gross profit. In real capitalism, as contrasted with vulgar Marxism, what matters is not accounting profit per se, but how much net income you can appropriate from a business activity. This is precisely a reason why the parasitism may be more challenging to demonstrate - it all depends on how the income is netted, and what it is supposed to be a reward for.


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Received on Fri Jan 30 07:28:07 2009

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