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What's a "social wage"?
Wage is something you earn by doing something useful for another person. Not sitting on your couch.


It might be helpful to think of each human being as an individual capitalist enterprise. A capitalist enterprise must be daily reproduced before it can return a profit, and these costs of reproduction are accounted for in the cash flow and income statements under headings like “cost of revenue”, “operating expenses”, and “investments in property, plant and equipment”. In order to continue operating, an enterprise must invest in itself (reproduce itself) with the revenues it earns by replacing depreciated equipment, acquiring material inputs, investing for growth, etc. If it costs more to operate an enterprise than it earns in revenue, it fails.

Human beings are a material input in the enterprise accounted for by salary and wages paid out by the enterprise. Like a capitalist enterprise, human beings must daily be reproduced. Like an enterprise, human beings have a cost of reproduction centered on depreciation costs (hunger, health, rest and recuperation), investing for growth (education, self actualization), and other costs associated with maintaining and operating the human machine. In addition, this organic machine is responsible for producing, developing and maintaining a future generation of organic machines available for the future productive needs of the capitalist enterprise. All of these costs of human reproduction are assumed to be paid out of wages earned. If they are not, the organic enterprise fails.

Unlike every other factor of production in the capitalist enterprise, the cost of reproducing its organic equipment is not fully accounted for as the costs of maintaining and reproducing that organic equipment are externalized. Only the wages paid are accounted for by the individual enterprise. The enterprise doesn’t have to pay for idle organic capital, it’s been laid off and its wage costs eliminated. The enterprise doesn’t need to pay for the reproductive costs of producing new organic capital, this magic happens under the covers at night and is paid for by the sorry fools who made the mistake. The enterprise doesn’t have to account for the cost of maintaining an abundant supply of surplus organic capital to draw upon when times are good. Without this supply of surplus organic capital the economy would never grow. Plus an abundant supply helps keep wages down through market competition. And the enterprise doesn’t have to account for the costs of improving this organic capital through education and training.

All these costs are assumed to be covered by wages and taxes paid by the enterprise. But are they? Even idle organic capital has to be reproduced, not because we have a moral obligation to each other, but because the capitalist enterprise might need it at some point in the future.

The cost of reproducing human labor power is something the capitalist enterprise would rather ignore. It pays wages, which must be sufficient, and everything else is someone else’s problem. We can reduce a large part of politics in a capitalist society to a fight over the question of whether wages are sufficient to pay the reproductive costs of organic capital, and what consumption standard is sufficient for the reproduction of organic capital. The relative distribution of returns to capital versus wages is the measure of this political outcome.

A social wage addresses the cost to the individual capitalist enterprise of the reproduction of its supply of organic capital by socializing that cost. Whether it be unemployment insurance, free universal education, cooperative and community owned housing, universal healthcare, or any other necessities required for the daily reproduction of human life, the social wage can and should cover that cost. Who pays for it? Well if you’ve followed the chain of thought, you should be able to reach that conclusion. Let me just say, it can’t come from wages.
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