Intellectual Self Defence

Brains are delicate things…

Profit versus Surplus

Profit and Surplus
The surplus is what’s “left over” after work has been put in (to a field, a factory etc.) and a product created (a crop, a shirt etc.). In modern times there is a huge carbon subsidy- solar energy that was converted into fossil fuels millions of years ago burned to boost human activity.
If that surplus is kept in private hands it is profit, often spent on prestige and pleasure (huge mansions etc.) when it could have built schools, hospitals, or even better taught people how to teach, or public health. Or paid for some of the urgent ecological repair.
See Marx’s critique of the Gotha Programme. Surplus is necessary for “replacement of the means of production used up, for expansion of production, reserve or insurance funds to provide against accidents” etc.

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2 comments on “Profit versus Surplus

  1. Antonio Dias
    January 25, 2011

    A broader critique might be that there are never any surpluses if we take all “externalities” into consideration. Energy, place, and time are always “used up” by whatever is already there. We take what we want or need and that shifts the existing balance. If we do so in ways that maintain the overall viability of the entire ecosystem – something beyond the realm of possibility now because of the damage caused by over-reach – then we haven’t caused irreparable damage, though we are still “responsible” for what we have replaced in that balance. If we declare that what we want or need is “surplus” to be harvested or collected, won or profited; we are running down the road towards the kind of destruction and over-reach that has put us into the position where the other attitude is no longer possible.

    Now that’s a predicament!

    • dwighttowers
      February 11, 2011

      You know, Antonio, I didn’t really clock what you meant, until I saw the same point in an old Johan Galtung book that I’d quoted. Many thanks for this, and I shall have to try harder to really clock what you say (not that you’re not clear, it’s more about me being too quick/glib sometimes).

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