The means of production

If you are living in the 21st century then you know what’s shifting in our economy is the death of the industrial age and that is at the heart, and center of what all this new normal, the new work model, and the accidental entrepreneur  is all about.

To try to explain this to you,  let’s take a look at Adam Smith and Karl Marx who both lived around the same time and saw the same device, which was a pin making machine.

Now the notion of the pin making machine was that before the pin making machine it took a trained pin maker  a day to make 5 or 6 pins. (Yes, like the pins in your polo shirt) Which took years of apprenticing first before that got that good, but after the pin making machine seven individuals off the street with 10 minutes of training could make 10,000 pins a day. Now that’s pretty incredible to go from 5 or 6 pins a day to 10,000 pins in one day.

Well Adam Smith and Karl Marx looked at this and Karl Marx said, “We are in big trouble workers because clearly all of the benefit would go to who owns the means of production. If you own the machine, you win! We are going to lose so we  need to unite.”

Adam Smith looked at this and said, “Quick go buy a pin making machine”. And they were both right and for 150-250 years if you bought a pin making machine, if you owned the means of production, you won.

Another example: In 2010 there was an coal mine incident in West Virginia where the company had to pay around $209 million dollars in fines for unsafe working conditions. The fact that they can afford to pay around $209 million dollars in fines tells us about the value of owning the means of production. The fact that no executives died mining coal tells us about the value of owning the means of production. No coal miner wakes up in the morning and say’s I think I’m going to start myself a coal mine.

So this notion of owning the means of production was built into our economy a long time ago.

Now why is it relevant?

It’s relevant and important because the means of production has changed. It’s gone from:

  • Do you have a building? to
  • Do you have an assembly line? to
  • Do you have a laptop?

Because if you have a laptop then you’re in the connected economy, and if you’re in the connected economy, you have access to the very same tools that every other big company has, you have access to the very same markets that every other big company has, you have access to the same resources that big companies have.

10 thoughts on “The means of production

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  • The little difference is that the big company has the money to hire 100’s of people who are probably smarter and more experienced at whatever you plan to do with that laptop. So yeah… nowadays the system might be a little more meritocratic, (and that’s great!) but in my opinion not really much easier for the common guy to own the means of production . The individual behind that laptop still needs to be damn good at whatever he does in order to have even the slightest chance to compete with the big company that enslaves him.

  • Thanks for your comment, this may surprise you but in the big companies that are can hire 100 people who are based off the industrial age, their perfect business model is to hire people with the lowest possible level of skill. Yes I said lowest possible level of skill. Because if your model depends on highly skilled people (as you mention above) it’s going to be impossible to replicate. Such people are at a premium in the market place.

    The other thing is this:Yes, there are many exceptions, especially for those you that bring either service , price, or reliability along with an existing idea. Remember, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to have a successful business. Just do something 10% BETTER or provide ADDED VALUE. And there are certainly businesses that profit from taking over after the innovator, exhausted, gives up and moves on.

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