Is Capitalism equivalent to theft?
Imagine that in an apocalypse scenario where this is possible, you walk into the woods to make your life anew. You spend weeks finding the right spot, and then months of hard work building a house. Towards the end of your labours a rather seedy looking man with a rifle comes and watches you work. You toil day and night while this person watches on, sat on a nearby log and occasionally using his rifle to shoot deer. Eventually you finish, and you look back on your work with a smile, when all of a sudden you hear the cocking action of a rifle.
“Thanks. Now be on your way” says the seedy looking man.
To Locke, such an an action is inherently wrong; it goes against all notions of natural justice, since people should own the product of their labour.
Using exactly the same argument Marx later said that Capitalism is theft, since under this system you don’t own the product of your labour. He wrote for example about a political debate that was happening at the time. Reformers argued to restrict the number of working hours in the day, whilst capitalists argued that doing so would restrict the potential for profit. Now to Marx this would be good, since profits are viewed as relating to surplus value. For example if you produce enough in 4 hours to cover the resource and labour costs then all value produced thereafter is surplus. It no longer benefits the worker, only the owner of the capital. And thus it fails the liberal, Lockian test of allowing workers to benefit from the toil of their own labour. Furthermore capitalism inevitably worsens this margin according to Marx i.e. as businesses grow workers become able to produce more in the same time, and yet are still required to work long hours due to competitive forces and the need for profit.
In arguing along such liberal lines, and using capitalism’s own logic to undermine it, does Marx have a point? Is Capitalism theft?