Yanis Varoufakis spoke with Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow! about his new book and recent developments. Varoufakis explains in a brief and simple way, why capitalism, today more than ever, is about to collapse:
The beauty of capitalism is that it is undermining itself. Capitalism is fantastic at overthrowing capitalism. Think about all of the gadgets that it creates, the technologies.
Very briefly, imagine for a moment that this technological innovation - artificial intelligence, robots - moves in a manner in which it is moving, but even faster. Very soon, you can have robots producing everything. Now, the robots do not want to consume that which they produce and the rest of humanity is not going to have the money to buy it.
So, capitalism is going to have a massive crisis, simply because it will have a humongous capacity to produce stuff and no capacity to consume it, which is already what we are observing. The reason why Trump is the president of United States is because of this great incongruity. In the United States today we have a magnificent capacity to produce, but more than 50% of American families cannot afford to buy the cheapest car on the market for the first time in the last 70 years.
So, we have the capacity to produce all sorts of things, but not enough of a capacity to consume them. That is what undermining capitalism.
A few years ago, Varoufakis revealed what he learned firsthand from an 'insider':
“While I was watching from my window in Austin-Texas, I saw a big cloud of dust deep in horizon. Two days ago, I was walking in that area and I was surprised by the view of the big factory where bulldozers and machines were continuously working, producing the dust. From the front side of the building under construction it was obvious that (fortunately) they were not building a new trade center or apartment blocks. No, it was a big industrial center.”
“Although I didn't notice it the first time, after a few seconds I realised that something was missing from this factory: people! Specifically, I counted three. All of them were wearing helmets and protection suits and were located in a small office in a space outside with a few computers, while they were covered by a tent like those used by the army. Ten bulldozers, three cranes and more or less ten moving tools, at least from what I could see, were moving without drivers, operators, workers generally.”
“When I returned to my office, I went straight to find a colleague who knows well what's going on. He informed me that the workplace I saw, was the new factory of Apple to produce MacBook Pro. It was true that, it was constructed through almost complete automatization. The materials had been selected through a way with which, the automatic machines - therefore robots connected to eachother through a local wireless network (intranet) - to be able to construct without human interference - even the hydraulic structure of the building will be constructed by plumpers-robots. A factory that under normal conditions should employ thousands of workers is functioning with the presence of less than one hundred souls.”
“I asked him about the move of Apple to produce computers in America, by bringing back in the US the production from China for the first time after decades. 'How's that?' And the answer was the expected one, although quite impressive: 'Wages are of no importance. The export of productive processes from America to China (off-shoring) was only an intermediate stage. The production has returned to America, but not the jobs. The new factory of Apple, not only is constructed without American workers' sweat, but will also produce MacBook Pro through complete automatization, without hiring Texans. Welcome to the New, Brave World', ended with a smile, referring obviously to the Brave New World of Aldous Huxley.”
It seems that Karl Marx had predicted the self-destruction of capitalism through automation:
Marx’s economic theory was based on the labour theory of value: that the value of a good is, at it’s simplest form, the necessary labour time to make it. In “The Fragment on Machines”, Marx tackles a question that is more relevant today than ever: how do we define value when the human labour required to create goods rapidly approaches zero? Or, put more apocalyptically: when AI have taken all the jobs, who is left to buy goods?