Thursday, February 26, 2015

China and the Dragon Tail of Marx

The dragon tail of Marx's end-game of overcapacity and finance capital is about to shred China's fantasy that the state can micro-manage both capitalism and financialization with no contradictions or consequences.

Longtime readers know my one expertise is annoying the entire ideological spectrum in 1,000 words or less. Today is one of those days, so strap on your blood pressure monitor and prepare for full-spectrum annoyance, regardless of your ideological leanings.

Marxism is typically considered discredited outside of a few protected fiefdoms of academia which tend to engage in obscure debates over the labor theory of value and other signifiers of membership in the inner circle of deep Marxist thinkers.

Outside these cloistered academic circles, Marxism is dismissed for two basic reasons:

1. the predicted final crisis and implosion of capitalism did not occur

2. the vaguely outlined post-capitalist incarnation of a stateless worker's paradise not only failed to materialize, but was used to justify destructive, murderous totalitarian regimes.

But those egregious failures of Marxist theory should not blind us to the value of his critique of capitalism. After all, he was writing in the first stages of industrialization and global finance (late 19th century), and his failure to detail a scientific socialism beyond capitalism can be chalked up to a mix of naive idealism and a paucity of theoretical models to build on.

Ironically, the one successful state that claims to be founded on Marxist principles, China, is poised to prove his analysis of capitalism's implosion was fundamentally sound. Consider two major parts of Marx's analysis of capitalism:

1. the consequences of overcapacity and competition

2. the dominance of finance capital over industrial capital

Marx foresaw that the consequence of overcapacity and competition is the collapse of profits which leads to the collapse of wages and most competitors. If there is any single word that defines China now, it's overcapacity.

This is not a new dynamic; when I first visited China in 2000, the TV set industry was already suffering from overcapacity/overproduction and a resultant collapse of profits.

What can any enterprise do when competition and overcapacity slash profit margins to near-zero? Slash payrolls and wages. Profit margins are famously razor-thin in most Chinese industries, and despite wages that are a fraction of U.S./E.U. wages, automation of production lines is the only solution to Chinese companies beset by fierce competition and overcapacity in their sector.

Automation only provides a brief competitive advantage, as one's competitors are busy lowering their input costs by automating production.

Marx understood that the end-game of overcapacity is a reduction of capacity via bankruptcy and the establishment of competition-killing monopolies. This is the stage of collapse that lies just ahead for the majority of Chinese industrial players.

The equally devastating parallel implosion of factory jobs will crush demand. The social safety net in China is threadbare compared to the West; laid off workers get little compensation or retraining; most face a return to rural villages and subsistence incomes from farm work that have dwindled to a few hundred dollars a year as a result of state policies that have made food cheaper for poor urban workers.

If there is any major economy that demonstrates the dominance of finance capital over industrial capital, it's China. The entire boom since the global financial meltdown in 2008 has been financed by cheap credit, leverage and speculative lending in an opaque shadow banking sector.

Compare China's bank assets with those of the U.S., which has an economy of roughly the same size:

It doesn't matter whether the banks are owned by the state or not; the net result is the same: massive malinvestment as productive investment is abandoned in favor of speculation.

If any nation is poised to reap the consequences of rampant financialization, it's China. In the global downturn that's just starting, China won't be able to boost capacity as a solution--the economy is already being crushed by overcapacity in virtually every sector.

It also can't turn to the financialization save of unlimited expansion of credit and dodgy leverage--financialization has already been pushed to the redline. there is nothing left except diminishing returns on additional expansions of credit and leverage.

Marx is about to demolish the fantasy in China that financialization can be controlled by the state. Losses can be covered over and the next expansion of credit is just around the corner. Nice, but credit doesn't create jobs lost to overproduction, nor does it generate profits, nor does it generate collateral for the next round of shadow banking speculation.

What Marx did not foresee is the critical role of the state in enforcing private monopolies and the predations of financialization. While Marx understood the parasitic nature of Monopoly Capitalism, he did not anticipate the State's partnering with Cartel/Crony Capitalism. In effect, the Chinese State is now so dependent on financialization that it stripmines the citizenry to protect the financial sector from the consequences of their business model (excessive credit, leverage, fraud, embezzlement and the misrepresentation of risk). But the Chinese State doesn't merely enable the predation of its crony financiers; it also stripmines the citizenry to fund its own expansion into every nook and cranny of civil society.

The dragon tail of Marx's end-game of overcapacity and finance capital is about to shred China's fantasy that the state can micro-manage both capitalism and financialization with no contradictions or consequences. "Dragon Seeks path. Dragon whips his tail." The dragon of capitalism isn't as easy to control as bureaucrats expect. 

Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy (Kindle, $9.95)(print, $20)
go to Kindle edition
Are you like me? Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.  And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $20

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y.

Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers (25 minutes, YouTube) 

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

 Thank you, Daniel D. ($60), for your stupendously generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.

Terms of Service

All content on this blog is provided by Trewe LLC for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. These terms and conditions of use are subject to change at anytime and without notice.

Our Privacy Policy:

Correspondents' email is strictly confidential. This site does not collect digital data from visitors or distribute cookies. Advertisements served by third-party advertising networks such as Adsense and Investing Channel may use cookies or collect information from visitors for the purpose of Interest-Based Advertising; if you wish to opt out of Interest-Based Advertising, please go to Opt out of interest-based advertising (The Network Advertising Initiative)
If you have other privacy concerns relating to advertisements, please contact advertisers directly. Websites and blog links on the site's blog roll are posted at my discretion.

Our Commission Policy:

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I also earn a commission on purchases of precious metals via BullionVault. I receive no fees or compensation for any other non-advertising links or content posted
on my site.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP