Hungry, Hungry Hippos

[Marx, St. Simon, and Smith enjoy a casual evening gamenight together: The three are gathered in a small, softly lit apartment. Plainly furnished and with a worn in feel it could be any of the three. They are conversing easily around a small board game table and Smith reaches down into a bag at his feet]

Smith: [while rummaging around] Well…since it is my week to provide entertainment, I have brought choices! Three classic games for us to choose from.

*the other two nod in agreement*

Smith: First, Twister! Something for us to get our blood moving. Second, monopoly! Such a classic game of chance. And third, my favorite by far, hungry hungry hippos! Need I even explain my excitement for the latter.

*Marx and St. Simon eye each other cautiously*

Marx: Smith, while I do applaud your choice of twister, would you care to explain your thought process when choosing the other two games?

St. Simon: Yes, particularly the game of hippos…this is one I have not heard of before.

Smith: [Genuinely surprised] Never heard of hungry hungry hippos? Ah well, I will justify my choices for the two of you. I am surprised you would question my choice in monopoly, as I said before, it is such a perfect equilibrium of chance, and personal choice in economics!

Marx: Please elaborate.

Smith: Well you see, in a game of monopoly, it is not only where your piece lands, but the choices you make with the options you are given! In a game of monopoly, it is every man for himself competing fiercely to gain the most capital and property.

Marx: I do not see how this could be a positive incentive…

Smith: In the ideal economic system, it should be the goal of the individual to be as successful as he can possibly be. Laissez-faire! Monopoly is the ultimate competition in which the winners win big, and the losers always have hope that they can improve their earnings!

St. Simon: But surely this is not a game of entertainment, any group playing would obviously not find any enjoyment in it.

Smith: And why is that?

St. Simon: Look at this individuals, good sir, how can the group benefit if each individual is not protected? This game looks out only for the ruthless and the lucky, perhaps the corrupt as well. Where is the gain for those hard workers who receive nothing?

Smith: Ah, but their time will come. If the individual is persistent the he is bound to find some success!

Marx: I see that this game does not protect its participants at all…

Smith: But that is the joy, the competition, the free market! I see that the two of you are very reluctant to delve into monopoly with my, so perhaps another time. Ah well, hungry hungry hippos then! Each player is assigned a hippo and the objective is simple, obtain as many little balls of food as possible before the other players!

Marx: The resources are not divided up equally for all?

Smith: Oh Karl, this game is every man for himself! A cut throat race to get the most food and outlast your opponents, survival of the fittest!

Marx: But what if the other hippos were to join together, and rebel against the one who obtains the most resources?

St. Simon: We obviously do not understand the motive of this game Karl, it is simply in which the winners keep winning and leave nothing for the rest of us…

Marx: Ah, quite the form of entertainment, while one hippo gluts himself and the rest starve…

Smith: Gentlemen please! This is all in the name of good fun, good company, and every many for himself!

St. Simon: Might I suggest we settle for Twister?

[Scene fades out]

Discussion on Capitalism

Marx: We are gathered here today to discuss our current economic, political, and social situation.

Smith: Politics? Social situation? I’m only here to talk about economics….

Marx: Well Smith when you improve the lives of citizens, and arrange politics so that it will benefit the people, economics will also improve.

Smith: Marx I’d have to disagree. You must first improve the economy in order to improve the lives of citizens.

Marx: But Smith the history of all societies has always been a struggle between classes: the struggle between the oppressed and the oppressor! It’s more complicated than simply economics.

Simon: Do you not see the interconnection between the oppressed and the oppressor, and how they are both to blame?

Marx: No! I blame the bourgeois for all the struggles of the proletariat!

Simon: But do you not see that it is the competition which is at fault? Competition makes everyone each other’s enemies.

Marx: Are you defending the bourgeois?

Simon: It’s not that I am defending them, but I am saying that all are hurt by the division of labor. You seem to believe that all bourgeois are successful. It is very easy for one to fall from their position as bourgeois into the proletariat class. Only the people who create the cheapest and highest of quality will succeed. Not only does this create suffering for that person, but it also wastes resources. All the machines in their factory will go to waste because of the high specification. Most importantly competition takes away humanity by creating a population who are hostile to each other.

Smith: How does it make everyone each others’ enemy? Working together, especially with division of labor creates higher efficiency because you aren’t switching from one task to another, and leads to further innovation.

Simon: They are enemies because in order to succeed in a capitalist economy one must destroy another person. It leads to people deriving satisfaction from others misery.

Marx: Smith you also have to think about the effects of overproduction when division of labor leads to too much efficiency.

Smith: I do not believe that there is such a thing as being excessively productive….That’s simply counterintuitive.

Marx: But when you produce too much it will lead to a surplus.

Smith: Yes a surplus that may be used to benefit the workers! They will be able to trade or increase technology with these surpluses.

Marx: Overproduction is an epidemic!

Simon: When you produce more than can be consumed you will end up with underconsumption which will lead to lower wages for the workers, and a lower quality of life.

Smith: How does this happen simply from dividing labor, and making everything more efficient?

Marx: You must see that when you take away specialization you make it so any citizen can accomplish all jobs. Now not only do you have a surplus of goods, but also a surplus of workers. Since jobs are so simplified, many people are capable of doing them, and there are no longer specialized jobs. This leads to a giant surplus of workers which allows employers to keep lowering wages. As Simon believes that competition leads to a lack of humanity, I believe that the division of labor takes away human qualities by making laborers nothing more than an extension of the machine.

Smith: But people have always worked, why now would they be so affected by their jobs?

Marx: All of the proletariat’s energy is focused on finding work, and working enough hours to be able to feed his family. This takes away his ability to maintain family values, to the point that he must send his children to work.

Simon: But do you see how the division of labor can be harmful to both classes?

Marx: The only way the bourgeois are harmed is in the revolution by the proletariat. I am organizing today who is with me?

Smith: I’m no activist. Publishing literature is enough for me.

Simon: Me too, Marx is too much of a rebel for my liking. I’m more for writing about my ideas, not taking action, but I wish you luck.

Locked Out

[Karl Marx sits in the hallway of his dorm room.  Claud de Rouvroy, who goes by “Simon”, trips over Marx’s outstretched feet.]


K: [quickly pulls his feet back] Ooh, sorry, man!

S: [getting up] Don’t worry about it… er, what are you doing?

K: I’m locked out of my room… Adam’s MIA. Have you seen him?

S: [dropping his bag and sitting down] Nah, not since Econ this morning. I’m kind of glad, though… it got a little intense today.

K: Ha, yeah, he was getting really defensive in the class discussion.  Tonight will probably be a little awkward.

S: Well yeah, the Industrial Revolution and communism/capitalism conversations always rile people up… we were totally right, though.

K: [excitedly] Oh, I know! What was he even saying?

S: I don’t know… division of labor… laissez-faire

K: That industry was toxic, though. He agreed with that.

S: [shaking his head] No no, he disagreed.  He thought the industrial boom was great for society. He kept talking about all the jobs and merchandise it created.

K: Well yeah, but at the expense of the workers.  The free market in the UK led to the Industrial revolution, which led to a huge gap between the rich and poor.

S: I think what Adam was trying to say was that when labor got competitive, wages went down, because everyone wanted whatever job they could ge-

K: Right, which is bad for the working class.  Low wages mean more members of a family are forced to work.  They devote so much of their time to work that hardly pays off- literally, because wages still drop.  And then on top of that, they were expendable. Anyone could learn to do their job, and they could be replaced immediately.  How does that help the working class?

S: Well it doesn’t, but he did mention afterward that on the other hand, when employers got competitive, wages went up.  Like a fluctuating cycle.  I think Adam was sort of saying that it could benefit the eco-

K: [scoffs] How?

S: [he takes a moment to see if Karl is going to continue] -…benefit the economy by stabilizing it.  The whole “division of labor” idea.  Everyone gets really good at one thing, does it really well, and production increases exponentially.  This creates a booming economy, and benefits all the citizens. [He pauses, frowning.] That’s where I really disagree, though.  What good is having a booming economy if the workers can never enjoy it?  Society doesn’t really improve if the rich, business-owning class is the only one that reaps the benefits.

K: Right, and that’s when Adam agreed that the working, proletariat citizens would realize they were being oppressed and revolt against the powerful bourgeoisie.  That would lead to a proletarian-controlled society that would then develop into a truly just Communist society, where everyone puts in equal work and receives equal resources.

S: Er… no. That’s when Adam started his spiel on how the proletariat individual doesn’t matter as much as the country as a whole.  If the country is being moved along by the progressive inventions of the working class, then it is a success.

K: [glaring] That’s what you think?

S: No! You asked what Adam thought! I’m agreeing with you.  The success of a nation can’t just be defined by its levels of production… especially if high production results in low quality of life for the vast majority of its citizens.

K: [throwing his hands up in frustration] Adam doesn’t get it!

S: [he nods, inspired by Karl’s enthusiasm] How can he understand the poor? He doesn’t even get financial aid! What does he know about hard work?

K: [He pauses, furrowing his brow] Simon, isn’t your dad an investment banker?

[Both boys are silent for a moment. No eye contact is made. Just as Simon is about to speak, a portly woman hastily rounds the corner.]

DPS Agent: [out of breath] I got a call for a lockout.



St. Simon and Smith vie for the job

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. 

On Capitalism: Smith vs. St.Simon

(St. Simon [St S] from 1817 time-travels back to 1776 and conveniently sits next to Adam Smith [AS]  in a bar)

AS: Hello good sir, I am Adam Smith from Scotland. From where do you hail?

St S: Good day to you, I am called Claude Henri de Rouvroy but most commonly Henri de Saint-Simon of France.

AS: It is nice to meet you. Say, what are your thoughts regarding this glorious rise of industry and capitalism in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom?

St S: Glorious? It is the foremost poison of our society that exists today. This shortsighted drive for progress and profit will lead to the destruction of the economy itself!

AS: I respectfully disagree. Capitalism will be catalyst to a new era of progress from industrialism! A revolution, if you will.

St S: This revolution of which you speak may seem appealing, but you must consider the long-term results of it.

AS: The long-term results? Of course there will be long-term results! The consequence of this progress is nation-wide wealth and success on a scale only imagined in dreams!

St S: I completely disagree. How do you define this success of nations? Keep in mind the personal consequences of industry in addition to the social consequences to not only the business owners, but of families and the unemployed.

AS:  Would you not concur that the success and reputation of a nation is derived from two things: its skill with regard to labour, and of the number of citizens thus employed? Moreover, are not the recent innovations towards the de-specialization of professions the source of great production and new opportunities to work, and consequently wealth for the nation?

St S: The wealth of a particular nation need not be based solely on its productions. This individual egotism, this laissez-faire, laissez-passer mentality in industry leaves out consideration for the workers and those who are run out of business because of competition. One can hardly consider a nation holistically wealthy when the select few benefit from the toils and despairs of many.

AS: I offer a counterpoint that these successful few spur production and opportunities for labour for the good of the nation. Through the division of labour, with one labourer being skilled in a single aspect of production, the production efficiency and quality of goods will increase exponentially. As a result, the quality of life of even the poorest of families will become incomparably better over the majority of families in savage nations that suffer from poverty.

St S: I would hardly consider the cycle of all available workers rushing into the each successive industry with the promise of success efficient. It is a waste of resources; this action leads to deficiencies in the other industries while leaving countless men who have lost their jobs to your so-called innovations in industry with only the promise of future success to satiate their hunger.

AS: Your views are troubling, and they are only detrimental to the marvelous industrial revolution on which we are on the precipice.

St S: It seems we are of opposite beliefs then, and it appears that we will not be able to come a mutual understanding. I bid you farewell, but with a few parting words: remember my words in 30 years, perhaps you will see the errors in your beliefs.