We need to remind people they work for the employer, not the other way around. we need to see unemployment rise, unemployment has to jump 40–50 percent …
Tim Gurner, property developer
Once the penny dropped that modern monetary theory does not view money as a commodity but as a fiscal and monetary metric distinct from the underlying economy – so not subject to the law of value – I grew broadly sympathetic. Nevertheless, the Marxist in me finds risible the suggestion, repeatedly made by Stephanie Kelton in her landmark MMT text, The Deficit Myth, that modern monetary theory would allow the governments of capitalist economies to achieve full employment.
As if such a goal could possibly be seen as desirable when the unemployed – what Marx called the “reserve army of capitalism” – act as a brake on wages to maintain capital’s share of surplus wealth!
This side of the Atlantic, MMT blogger Richard Murphy, to the left of Ms Kelton, pens withering attacks on the hiking of interest rates by the Bank of England (and central banks throughout the Western world). He pulls his punches though, stopping well short of calling this approach to inflation an act of class warfare. He admirably skewers its wrongheadedness when supply side shortages (with or without gouging) rather than excess demand are driving up prices, but fails to lay bare what informs it; viz, the irreconcilably zero sum needs of capital and labour. 1
For the most part, capitalism’s lead voices and hired apologists deny, obfuscate or draw a veil across that zero sum truth. But once in a while, as if to confirm what some of us already knew – that sociopathy can beat intellect hands down when it comes to getting obscenely rich – we get an oligarch whose fusion of stupidity, arrogance and absence of filters illuminates, like lightning on a night sky, the stark reality of a system whose laws of motion demand that it screw workers no less ruthlessly than it screws the planet.
And they don’t come more stupidly arrogant than Tim Gurner, with an estimated net ‘worth’ just shy of the billionaire threshold. Over to Caitlin Johnstone, writing today:
“We need to remind people they work for the employer, not the other way around. We need to see unemployment rise, unemployment has to jump 40–50 percent.”
Recent comments from a wealthy Australian property developer named Tim Gurner are going viral on social media right now for the unusual frankness with which he discusses the inherent conflicts of interest between the working class and employers, saying workers who’ve grown lazy and arrogant during Covid need to experience economic pain in the form of unemployment to rein them in and put them in their place.
Gurner, who with a net worth of $912 million is ranked by the Australian Financial Review as the 154th richest person in Australia, made the remarks at the Australian Financial Review Property Summit on Tuesday:
Tradies [Oz slang for tradesmen] have definitely pulled back on productivity. They’ve been paid a lot to do not much in the last few years. And we need to see that change. We have people who decided they didn’t want to work so much anymore through Covid.
We need to remind people they work for the employer, not the other way around. We need to see unemployment rise, 40–50 %. We need pain in the economy. There’s been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them as opposed to the other way around.
That has to change. We’ve got to kill that attitude through hurting the economy which is what the whole world is trying to do. Governments are trying to increase unemployment, to get that to some sort of normality, and we’re seeing it. I think every employer now is seeing it.
There are definitely massive layoffs and people might not be talking about it, but we’re starting to see less arrogance in the employment market and that has to continue …
It’s not often you’ll see a member of the ruling class reveal their hostile, slave-master attitude toward the working class so transparently. Perhaps Gurner got a little too careless, showing off to his rich friends at a forum which, like most things in Australia, attracts little international attention. But it wouldn’t be the first time Gurner drew headlines by his disdain for working people; in 2017 he became a meme for blaming the economic struggles of millennials on the idea that they spend too much of their money on avocado toast.
Whether he intended his remarks to gain attention or not, Gurner has gone viral again, and opponents of the status quo he thrives on are making swift use of his comments.
“I like teaching lefty theory as much as the next guy but I can rarely do better at explaining the connection between capital and social-political domination than just pointing at what the guys with the capital do and say”, reads a popular tweet by Georgetown professor Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò.
“When Marxists say that capitalism, in order to function, literally requires unemployment and homelessness to discipline wages to ensure satisfactory profitability, don’t take it from us, take it from capitalists,” reads another popular share of the Gurner video.
Gurner’s statements are unusual in their frank admission that unemployment is a weapon of the ruling class to bludgeon workers into working harder for less pay, but his push to decrease employment is entirely in alignment with what influential economists like Larry Summers, Ben Bernanke and Olivier Blanchard have been saying in recent months. Workers making more money is seen by the ruling class as a freakish aberrational problem that needs to be fixed via economic pain instead of a good thing that should be celebrated and normalized.
It’s important to remember these frank admissions because they don’t happen often. Normally the capitalist class spends its time telling workers they’re an important part of the team and we’re all family here and hey, have a slice of pizza on us every now and then. But all they really care about is their ability to siphon off the excess value generated by your labor, and they’ll come together with remarkable class solidarity to push the state to hurt you financially in order to skim the largest possible share of that value.
This is unsustainable. We cannot continue to tolerate systems which must abuse workers to keep increasing profits and quarterly statements. We must transcend these competition-based models where people are manipulated by financial pain into stepping on each other’s heads in a rat race to show the ruling class they can generate more profit than their neighbor can. We need to move into collaboration-based systems in which we all work together for the good of everyone and toward the thriving of our biosphere. Our current status quo systems are choking us to death.
Such changes aren’t going to happen until the people start using the power of their numbers to force them to happen. And Tim Gurner just made a splendid argument outlining why this should happen sooner rather than later.
Remember: a class war is already happening. That decision has been made for us. The only thing we have a say in is whether we fight back or not.
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- Some central bankers may be candid about seeing recession as a “price worth paying” for curbing inflation. But not only does this fail to satisfy such as Richard Murphy – when underlying inflation is (a) supply rather than demand led, and (b) in any case falling. It also hides the more structural truth that curbing labour costs to the gain of capital – at a time of already widening inequality – is not seen as a painful but unavoidable means to a desirable end. Rather, as Tim Gurner crassly lets slip, it’s the whole bloody point!