How do you respond to the argument that capitalists are entitled to profits as a reward for their risk-taking?


from The People, February 9, 1991, page 6

Socialists maintain that the capitalists'profits are a theft from the working class because the working class produces all social wealth. But how do you respond to the argument that capitalists take risks when they invest their money in a business -- and therefore are entitled to profits as a reward for their risk-taking?


If someone broke into the home of our questioner and stole, say, his television set, he wouldn't likely conclude that the thief was i entitled to it. And yet, by the logic of the argument posed here, the thief would be entitled to it -- as a "reward" for "risk-taking." After all, the thief did indeed take a serious risk in breaking into our questioner's home!

Such is the "logic" of defending a system that is predicated upon theft -- the daily robbery of the working class by the capitalist class.

Yes, some capitalists do take some "risks" -- in the sense that they may, in making a certain investment decision, risk losing their ownership of productive property and their position as a capitalist. That is, they "risk" having to join the other 95 percent of us in the working class, and having to work for a living.

Actually, however, the concentration of wealth under capitalism is such that most top, established capitalists, with their massive and diverse stock and bond holdings, rarely face even that sort of "risk." Most of that "risk" is borne by the small-scale or petty capitalists operating in the margins of the economy, and by those workers who try to make it as capitalists by starting up a small business.

That such "risk" exists on an incidental basis cannot justify the ongoing process of theft through which capitalists accumulate the capital they risk and continue to accumulate more capital after it is risked. Nor is the fact of exploitation altered by the occasional worker who risks his or her life savings in a (usually failing) bid to become a capitalist.

Such "risk" is simply a natural consequence of a system in which separate privately owned firms compete for the same markets. To then say that the "risk" justifies the profit-making operation of that system is circular logic, for neither the system nor the risk are necessary. In a socialist society, new products could be developed, tested, introduced, and if a certain threshold of interest in the product was shown, produced on a mass scale -- all without risk to anyone.

Not only are the capitalists' "risks" unnecessary; so too are the far greater risks that the capitalist system imposes on the working class. For every day that they continue to accept living and working under this system, workers risk losing their jobs and livelihoods, their ability to feed, clothe and shelter themselves and their families, their health and even their lives. The fact that the likes of a T. Boone Pickens or a Donald Trump may "risk" losing part or even all of their fortunes gambling on a particular business venture is no defense of the system that subjects the working class to these far graver risks.