Karl Marx

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Loria's treatment of the subject is closely akin to that of Marx, though Loria differs from Marx in that he speaks with admiration, nay almost with veneration, of the author of The Principles of Population. As regards the main issue, Loria contends that while Malthus elucidated a profoundly important truth, he erred in respect of many of its applications. In present conditions, i.e., under capitalism, says Loria, there is no excess of population over food supply, but merely (in certain countries) an excess of people in relation to the privately owned capital which is able to secure profitable investment. Hence, as a result not of over-population but simply of capitalist conditions, we have in addition to the mass of the workers who obtain subsistence, on the one hand an owning class with a[Pg 24] superfluity, and on the other a parasitic class of dependents, paupers, semi-criminals, and criminals.

He contends, further, that Malthus' theory is invalidated by the ascertained fact that, as far as human beings are concerned, an excess of food over population does not necessarily lead to an increase in the birth rate—that a rising standard of life is nowadays apt to be characterised by diminished procreation. Speaking of certain postmalthusian applications of Malthus' theory, he writes (Contemporary Social Problems, p. 79): "Some also suggest various physiological expedients—the obscene abominations of the so-called neomalthusians—to limit population. Do they not see that there is no excess of mouths to be fed, and that procreation will of itself diminish with the amelioration of the condition of the working classes, without recourse to loathsome and unnatural practices?"

In this passage, as repeatedly in his Malthus,[Pg 25] Loria fails oddly (for so acute a mind) in his analysis of operating causes. As the result of a rising standard of life—consequent upon improved economic conditions among the proletariat—the workers, we are told (Malthus, p. 80), "become less prolific." Thus the growth of population is "automatically" regulated by economic means, and there is no need to have recourse to "physiological expedients" to limit population. Yet he nowhere endeavours to elucidate the working of this economic factor in the biologic field, or to show how it can possibly operate unless precisely in virtue of what he is so strangely and so inconsistently moved to condemn, viz., the deliberate application of increasing physiological knowledge by individual couples in order to regulate the number of their offspring. In a word, by birth control.

As far as past stages of economic evolution are concerned, the transition from primitive tribal communism to slavery, from slavery to[Pg 26] serfdom and the guild system, and from these to capitalism, Loria himself insists that the prime motive force has been the pressure of increasing population on the means of subsistence. Thus in Contemporary Social Problems (pp. 128 et seq.) he writes: "We easily understand how evolution takes place in the sphere of economic phenomena provided we steadfastly hold in mind the simple premise that ceaseless increase in population makes necessary the occupation and cultivation of lands ever less fertile, hence requiring more efficacious means of production to combat the increasing resistance of matter. Given, therefore, a certain density of population and a certain degree of fertility of cultivated land, there is rendered not only possible, but also necessary, a determinate economic system permitting human labour to attain a commensurate productivity; but population increasing, and the necessity of cultivating less fertile lands becoming urgent, the economic system hitherto[Pg 27] existing proves inadequate, since the degree of productivity which it permits to labour is insufficient to combat matter now become more rebellious. As the economic and productive system which corresponded with the preceding degree of the productivity of the soil has grown incompatible with the new and more exacting conditions, it must be supplanted by a better system. Then follows an epoch of social disintegration which destroys the superannuated form, from whose ashes a new structure arises; on the ruins of the shattered economic system is erected a new one which allows human nature to become more productive, and is therefore adapted, for a time, to combat the increasing resistance of matter. However, with each additional increment to population, a moment comes when it is necessary to bring under cultivation lands which are still more resistant, and for the development of which the prevailing economic system is found to be inadequate; consequently this[Pg 28] system suffers the fate of those which have preceded it, and it is in turn destroyed to give place to a new and superior form."

The detailed application of these ideas is one of the main themes of Loria's Analysis of Capitalist Property. We learn, he says, from history and statistics that capitalistic property (the term is here used by Loria in the widest sense to include all the forms of property which render possible the exploitation of one human being by another) is everywhere and at all times due to one and the same cause, the suppression of free land. As long as there is any free land, as long as any man who so desires can take possession of a piece of land and develop it by his labour, capitalistic property is impossible, because no man will willingly work for another when he can establish himself for his own account on a piece of land without paying for it. Where there is free land, labour owns the means of production, so[Pg 29] that agriculture is carried on by free peasants on small holdings, whilst manufacturing industry (in so far as this exists at such a stage) is in the hands of independent artisans. In these conditions labour is isolated, and isolated labour rarely produces anything more than the labourer's subsistence. The regular supplementary production of "income" is the characteristic feature of associated labour.

This brings us to The Economic Synthesis, a work which bears as sub-title "A Study of the Laws of Income." It is, Loria tells us, "the complement and the theoretic crown" of all his earlier writings. The meaning he attaches to the word income is, in truth, simple enough; but that meaning is the very core of Lorianism, just as surplus value is (for many) the very core of Marxism. Isolated labour, labour of the kind described in the last paragraph, produces, says Loria, first of all subsistence—the bare necessities of life. In exceptionally favourable conditions even isolated[Pg 30] labour may produce something more than this, and that something more is income. But as a rule, and more and more as population increases and land of diminishing fertility has to be brought under cultivation, isolated labour fails to produce anything beyond subsistence, fails to produce even that, so that it becomes necessary to have recourse to the superior productivity of associated labour. Now for this, since the natural man is averse from associated labour, some form of coercion, direct or indirect, is essential; and the history of all the developed economic systems that have hitherto prevailed is the history, in one form or another, of the coercion to associated labour.

Income, in the Lorian sense of the term, is "the specific product of associated labour"; i.e., it is the surplus produced by labour because it is associated, over and above what the labourers could have produced in isolation. Working in isolation they produce, or theoretically might have produced, subsistence for[Pg 31] themselves; associated they produce something more, which is income, and this accrues to those who control and direct the associating force.

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