[OPE-L:3875] christmas trees

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 25 Dec 1996 10:41:53 -0800 (PST)

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There are many issues related to the holidays that concern political

For instance, there is the question of [social] seasonal fluctuations in
the size of the industrial reserve army. That is, in many capitalist
economies, a pool of workers is employed by capital for the holiday period
and then laid-off after New Years Day. Indeed, many service firms require
this pool of [primarily] low-paid wage-labor. If there was, then, a
labor-power shortage, what would be the effect [Just higher average wages?
... higher consumer prices?].

Then, there is the question of prices for consumer goods given as "gifts"
(to both children and adults). Firms producing "toys" and other goods
destined to be "gifts", sell their commodities in a market where there is
frequently a high degree of product differentiation. Consumers, often
influenced by advertising and marketing, frequently demand specific brands
and products (and will not accept substitutes). Those firms, then, with a
high degree of monopoly power frequently [grossly!] mark-up the prices
for those goods if the demand is high. For instance, there is a cuddly red
doll with big eyes the shakes when you squeeze it [what is "his" name?]
that the manufacturer sells wholesale for $30. The retailer then marks-up
the prices to at least $80 (they are selling, I'm told, on the black
market for up to $1,000). [One can observe similar patters for other
holidays: for instance in the days before "Valentine's Day", the price
of chocolate and flowers is often marked-up by 100 0.000000e+00ven though there
is more competition and less concentration in the flower market]. Who pays
for this? Does it simply represent a redistribution of surplus value among
capitalists? That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. More likely, these
increasing prices for consumer goods, mostly destined to be consumed by
working-class families means [especially in the context of relatively
stagnant average wages], that the real income of workers is reduced. Yet,
could one argue that the cost of the holidays is factored into the
"cultural" and "moral" component of the wage? Or, one could argue that
this can represent a depression of wages below the value of labour-power.
What do others think?

Then, there is the question of christmas trees. Every year, many millions
of living beings (trees) are slaughtered for ornamentation. Some of these
trees are grown especially for that purpose (like the millions of turkeys
grown in preparation for Thanksgiving). Others are obtained from more
marginal lands. There is a kind of social insanity related to
the efficient use of natural resources associated with this process. Will
your children be able to afford christmas trees in 20 years time? (I put
aside for now the question of whether they should want those trees).

What will happen to the forests of the world? There has been an alarming
decrease in the size of forests (especially tropical rain forests)
globally. In part, this process is caused by the tremendous poverty in
many parts of the world and the shortage of land for subsistence farming
and/or housing. In part, it is a process fueled by the demand for
resources in the First World. The destruction of these forests also leads
to the destruction of habitat for many species and the extinction of still
others. It also has a negative affect on global environmental quality for
our species as well. Yet, in some cases there resources are the most
easily "exploitable" source of growth in the short-run for "developing"
capitalist economies. Will the advanced capitalist economies be willing
to pay enough for the protection of these resources? In turn, will this
mean that workers from those countries will be forced into paying for this
through higher taxation?

Many families have aluminum and plastic christmas trees (which have the
distinct advantage that they can not catch fire like real trees). Yet,
they are not bio-degradeable and rely on non-renewable natural resources as
raw material. Where will all the plastics, etc. of the world be dumped?
Who will pay the cost? ... in the short-run? ... the long-run? Looking
optimistically toward the future, how will patterns of wants and standards
of living under socialism be affected by the inherited destruction of the
earth by capitalism?

BTW, my family is Jewish (and, of course, I'm an atheist), so I never
celebrated that holiday. On Sunday, though, I went to a friend's home for
a holiday party. I was playing with her 6-month-old neice (a real
cute kid named Kelly Rose). I could not help but wonder as I was tossing
her in the air: what will her life be like in 20-years time? ... what kind of
world (assuming there *is* a world) will there be for her children?

In solidarity, Jerry