Marxist dilemma: Medic vs janitor problem 2 replies

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Silberio VIP Member


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9th October 2007

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#1 4 years ago

I'm pretty sure you're all familiar with the "So you mean that a janitor should earn as much as a doctor in your utopia?"-question, which seems to be what most pre-grads here think is whole communist manifesto is about. I have to a group-work for social studies class where I work with 3 persons with this view.

So, I know there's a lot more to it than the whole "split resources equally, regardless of job/work done", but I'd love to hear more insights on this.

I have little time right now so I'll just leave this here, but I hope I made it clear enough (I wrote everything in a haste).



Victim of Forgotten HopeForum bystander

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26th April 2004

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#2 4 years ago

Well, naturally the market approach is that a janitor's job is easier to do. At most, you need some technical knowledge how to fix minor things in the building and do easy manual labour like keeping the yard in shape. A doctor's job requires a long and expensive education and personal abilities. One example is pretty good on market value of labour: if someone is willing to pay for the work, it is productive. Cleaning up the school is productive. Cleaning up the school with a tooth brush, which takes a month, is not. No one is going to pay for that.

But the lenght of education doesn't necessarily correlate, of course. Some professions, like academic (which is usually tax-payer subsidied) require a lot of education but doesn't pay well. Personal abilities weigh in more: if you're a good leader, you can make a lot of money by progressing in ranks or if you make good research, your books will sell well.

It boils down to how many people are trained to the profession. Clearly too many people in the West are given university education, there simply aren't that many jobs for them and people with higher education don't want to settle for less. There has to be "inequality", everyone can't be a white-collar worker. But we don't know what professions we need in the future. Planning is hard, if not impossible.

After all, someone had to clean the filthy toilets in the Soviet Union too. And apparently people who were favoured by the party elite got jobs like being a factory boss.

MrFancypants Forum Admin

The Bad

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#3 4 years ago

Well in Communism as Marx imagined it there wouldn't be any wages. But if you're talking about planned economy then you can easily look up what a Soviet doctor earned in comparison to an unskilled worker. It wasn't the same (although socialist states did try to reduce the difference, if not in wages then in living quality). Generally skilled workers earned more, later on it was also possible for blue collar workers to earn more than academics. But that is beside the point as the wage wasn't the problem. The problem was decoupling prices from their market value and fixing them. That is inefficient and leads to corruption.

If a government makes plans on what is produced scarcity is created by inefficiency. Money doesn't matter when you can't buy the stuff you want. People with access to rare skills or privileges (e.g. western products that were available in limited amounts) took over the role of rich people in a capitalist society. Since the means of production went to the government you effectively took a system where a few people own the resources and a few others make decisions and turn it into a system where very few people make the decisions and own the resources.

There are many more problems such the removal of incentives and lack of innovation, inherent instability and a tendency to autocratic rule.

It isn't all bad though, planned economy is great for dictators that want to radically change the economy of their country. Besides, free market capitalism has some problematic aspects as well, which is why many countries used mixed market models that are mostly free but involve some degree of central planning.