50 Years Ago: Bugs are Capitalists

We are fairly well acquainted with that type of anti-Socialist to whom all tools are capital and consequently all tool-owners are capitalists, no matter whether it be plain Bill Smith who has “set up on his own” as a plumber, or romantic Robinson Crusoe, when he discovered the utility of a hammer.


Sir Arthur Keith, however, presents us with a rather interesting variation of this fantasy.


According to him, any means of subsistence not immediately consumed is capital. Thus the bees which store up honey, fowls which lay eggs, our mothers when in a certain condition (with milk available) are all really capitalists, little though they may dream it. One can imagine the bosom of the speculative investor swelling with pride at finding himself classified with such time-honoured institutions.


We fear, however, that Sir Arthur has been too well brought up to be sufficiently comprehensive. For instance, he omits entirely to mention those interesting examples of industrious capitalists, the bug and the common flea. It is a matter of observation that they cannot pursue their activities indefinitely but make periodic retirements in order to consume the sanguinary fluid which they have so assiduously acquired and stored up within the appropriate portion of their anatomy.


(From an article “The Anatomy of Capital—Sir Arthur Keith’s Economics”, by Eric Boden. Socialist Standard, November 1927.)