The year is 2012, and St. Simon and Adam Smith appear in the corporate headquarters of a multi-national corporation known for its sleek computers and cell phones. Both are interviewing for the position of Chief Executive Officer. The two men acknowledge each other and sit in a terse silence while waiting to be called in to their interviews. Smith turns on CNN to lessen the tension.
St. Simon: Ha! Look at that. The employees in our China plant are revolting again. Good going on that one, Smith!
Smith: Not my problem, Simon. Capitalist systems aren’t responsible for the conditions within factories – all they ensure is one damn fine profit. Go cry to the HR department.
St. Simon: Typical Smith. Hey, you still doing that erroneous thing where you equate the accumulation of capital ensures the happiness of society?
Smith: The job of the workforce is to supply goods to the great masses of people who want them! Capitalism simply delivers the product that everyone wants in an efficient way. A capitalist society fosters the unity and cooperation of its citizens in the work force.
Simon: Pft! Capitalism divides industrialists who are driven by competition and creates separate classes of laborers and owners. It encourages egoism and degrades happiness to the triumph of one man over another.
Smith: You are mistaken. Capitalism allows wealth to trickle down to the workers, who in turn can purchase whatever they may have occasion for, cycling money back into the economy.
St. Simon: Right! That stuff didn’t work under Reagan and it won’t work here. Your stance degrades all matters of the human experience to the what a man’s got in the bank. The division of labor neglects to acknowledge the inherent worth of man, and instead reduces his role in society to that of a cog in a machine. The practice is dehumanizing and makes men a mere means to an end – the end being the accumulation of wealth in the pockets of the few at the expense of the masses. And on top of this, the industrialist becomes a worshiper of capital, a slave to material goods.
Smith: You’ve always been a bleeding heart. Without capitalism, the only thing that can be sure to be distributed equally is unhappiness and squalor. Our assembly lines increase the dexterity of the workers. By dividing labor we ensure the cooperation of laborers and increase morale. Our increased production bolsters lets more people buy our overpriced products, putting money into their economies and into my bank account. And hey, at least our workers people have jobs! If we pulled production out of China, there would be nothing for them. We’re doing a public service.
St. Simon: The division of labor eliminates the need for specialization or expertise. Any idiot can perform the job of one of our factory workers, and this makes him a slave to his employer, for he knows he can be replaced at any moment. And the division alienates the laborer from the product he is creating! You think any of the guys down on the assembly line have ever actually been able to afford what they spend all day producing? That’s the biggest hole in your logic Smith: though you speak of social unity, and the harmonization of supply and demand, the divide between the laborers and the factory owners creates a social disorder that negates any potential good that could come of the system of capitalism.
Smith: Hang on… why the hell are you even here, anyway?
Simon: I plan on nabbing the CEO position and driving this place into the ground.
Smith: Good luck with that. Hey, I heard that guy Marx from accounting has a crush on you.