Reordering of Society — Capital and Credit.
--| CAPITAL AND CREDIT |------------------------------------------- From various points of view the opinion has been expressed that all questions of money are so complicated as to be well-nigh impossible to grasp in clear and transparent thoughts. A similar view can be maintained regarding many questions of modern social life. But we should consider the consequences that must follow if men allow their social dealings to be guided by indefinite thoughts; for such thoughts do not merely signify a confusion in theoretic knowledge, they are potent forces in life; their vague character lives on in the institutions that arise under their influence, which in turn result in social conditions making life impossible ... If we try to go the root of the social question, we are bound to see that even the most material demands can be grappled with only by proceeding to the thoughts that underlie the co-operation of men and women in a community. For example, people closely connected with the land have indicated how, under the influence of modern economic forces, the buying and selling of land has made land into a commodity, and they are of the opinion that this is harmful to society. Yet opinions such as these do not lead to practical results, for men in other spheres of life do not admit that they are justified ... We must take into account how the purely capitalistic tendency affects the valuation of land. Capital creates the laws of its own increase, which in certain spheres no longer accord with an increase on sound lines. This is specially evident in the case of land. Certain conditions may well make it necessary for a district to be fruitful in a particular way-they may be founded on spiritual and cultural peculiarities. But their fulfilment might result in a smaller interest on capital than investment elsewhere. As a consequence of the purely capitalistic tendency the land will then be exploited, not according to these spiritual or cultural points of view, but in such a way that the resulting interest on capital may equal that in other undertakings. And in this way values that may be very necessary to a real civilization are left undeveloped. It is easy to jump to the conclusion: The capitalistic orientation of economic life has these results, and must therefore be abandoned ... But one who recognizes how modern life works through division of labour and of social function will rather have to consider how to exclude from social life the disadvantages which arise as a by-product of this capitalistic tendency ... The ideal is to work for a structure of society whereby the criterion of increase in capital will no longer be the only power to which production is subject-it should rather be the symptom, which shows that the economic life, by taking into account all the requirements of man's bodily and spiritual nature, is rightly formed and ordered ... Now it is just in so far as they can be bought and sold for sums of capital in which their specific nature finds no expression, that economic values become commodities. But the commodity nature is only suited to those goods or values which are directly consumed by man. For the valuation of these, man has an immediate standard in his bodily and spiritual needs. There is no such standard in the case of land, nor in the case of means of production. The valuation of these depends on many factors, which only become apparent when one takes into account the social structure as a whole ... Where supply and demand are the determining factors, there the egoistic type of value is the only one that can come into reckon ing. The market relationship must be superseded by associations regulating the exchange and production of goods by an intelligent observation of human needs. Such associations can replace mere supply and demand by contracts and negotiations between groups of producers and consumers, and between different groups of producers ... Work done in confidence of the return achievements of others constitutes the giving of *credit* in social life. As there was once a transition from barter to the money system, so there has recently been a progressive transformation to a basis of credit. Life makes it necessary today for one man to work with means entrusted to him by another, or by a community, having confidence in his power to achieve a result. But under the capitalistic method the credit system involves a complete loss of the real and satisfying human relationship of a man to the conditions of his life and work. Credit is given when there is prospect of an increase of capital that seems to justify it; and work is always done subject to the view that the confidence or credit received will have to appear justified in the capitalistic sense. And what is the result? Human beings are subjected to the power of dealings in capital which take place in a sphere of finance remote from life. And the moment they become fully conscious of this fact, they feel it to be unworthy of their humanity ... A healthy system of giving credit presupposes a social structure which enables economic values to be estimated by their relation to the satisfaction of men's bodily and spiritual needs. Men's economic dealings will take their form from this. Production will be considered from the point of view of needs, no longer by an abstract scale of capital and wages. Economic life in a threefold society is built up by the cooperation of *associations* arising out of the needs of producers and the interests of consumers. In their mutual dealings, impulses from the spiritual sphere and sphere of rights will play a decisive part. These associations will not be bound to a purely capitalistic standpoint, for one association will be in direct mutual dealings with another, and thus the one-sided interests of one branch of production will be regulated and balanced by those of the other. The responsibility for the giving and taking of credit will thus devolve to the associations. This will not impair the scope and activity of individuals with special faculties; on the contrary, only this method will give individual faculties full scope: the individual is responsible to his association for achieving the best possible results. The association is responsible to other associations for using these individual achievements to good purpose. The individual's desire for gain will no longer be imposing production on the life of the community; production will be regulated by the needs of the community ... All kinds of dealings are possible between the new associations and old forms of business there is no question of the old having to be destroyed and replaced by the new. The new simply takes its place and will have to justify itself and prove its inherent power, while the old will dwindle away ... The essential thing is that the threefold idea will stimulate a real social intelligence in the men and women of the community. The individual will in a very definite sense be contributing to the achievements of the whole community ... The individual faculties of men, working in harmony with the human relationships founded in the sphere of rights, and with the production, circulation and consumption that are regulated by the economic associations, will result in the greatest possible efficiency. Increase of capital, and a proper adjustment of work and return for work, will appear as a final consequence ... Whether a man rejects this idea or makes it his own will depend on his summoning the will and energy to work his way through into the sphere of causes. If he does so, he will cease considering external institutions alone; his attention will be guided to the human beings who make the institutions. Division of labour separates men; the forces that come from the three spheres of social life, once these are made independent, will draw them together again ... This inevitable demand of the time is shown in a vivid light by such concrete facts as the continued intensification of the credit system ... In the long run, credit cannot work healthily unless the giver of credit feels himself responsible for all that is brought about through his giving credit. The receiver of credit, through the associations, must give him grounds to justify his taking this responsibility. For a healthy national economy, it is not merely important that credit should further the spirit of enterprise as such, but that the right methods and institutions should exist to enable the spirit of enterprise to work in a socially useful way. The social thoughts that start from the threefold idea do not aim to replace free business dealings governed by supply and demand by a system of rations and regulations. Their aim is to realize the true relative values of commodities, with the underlying idea that the product of one man's labour should be equivalent in value to all the other commodities that he needs for his consumption during the time he spends in producing it. Under the capitalistic system, demand may determine whether someone will undertake the production of a certain commodity. But demand alone can never determine whether it will be possible to produce it at a price corresponding to its value in the sense defined above. This can only be determined through methods and institutions by which society in all its aspects will bring about a sensible valuation of the different commodities. Anyone who doubts that this is worth striving for is lacking in vision. For he does not see that, under the mere rule of supply and demand, human needs whose satisfaction would uplift the civilized life of the community are being starved. And he has no feeling for the necessity of trying to include the satisfaction of such needs among the practical incentives of an organised community. The essential aim of the threefold society is to create a just balance between human needs and the value of the products of human work. --- Taken from: Understanding the Human Being, selected writings of Rudolf Steiner, Edited by Richard Seddon, Rudolf Steiner Press, Bristol, 1993, ISBN: 1 85584 005 7. From: Chapter 7 Reordering of Society: Essay Source = Anthroposophy, 1927 Vol. II, No.3, Capital and Credit, 1919. This page is: http://home.earthlink.net/~johnrpenner/Steiner-Social.html
Thanks to John R. Penner for this donation.
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