Dyson discovers that the profit system sucks
It’s official – Dyson “bagless” vacuum cleaners suck, but capitalism sucks harder.
On 5 February 800 workers in Wiltshire found they would soon be jobless when the vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson announced that it intended to switch production to Malaysia. Few were surprised by the decision, which was motivated by economic considerations, primarily the high cost of labour in Britain compared to that in Malaysia. According to BBC Radio 4, the average cost of labour in Malaysia is just £1.50 an hour, compared to £11.50 in Britain. By transferring production, Dyson will be able to cut production costs by 30 percent.
A difficult decision?
If the newspapers are to be believed, this decision was not taken lightly. James Dyson, the millionaire inventor who owns the company which bears his name, is a self-appointed ‘champion of British industry.’ He claims to have a deep commitment to the cause of manufacturing in Britain, and insists that he fought hard to make remaining in the country a viable option. But staying in the country was not a viable option. If Dyson had not been prepared to cut costs he would soon have found himself forced out of the market by other companies which were prepared to take that step. Dyson would not be able to match the prices of his competitors without sacrificing his profit margin. It was not Dyson who decided that his firm must move to the Far East – it was the crazy economic system under which we live.
Profit comes first
As Dyson and the workers in his factory have discovered, under capitalism it is profit which must come first. In the whole affair there has been no mention of what anybody wants – not the workers, not the consumers and not even Dyson himself. The only consideration which matters is the need to make a profit.
Dyson: decision made
The whole Dyson affair highlights the fact that, in many ways, the profit system imprisons bosses and workers alike. The owners of companies, factories, services etc. can amass enormous amounts of wealth, but they cannot go against the demands of profit. They must do its bidding, whether they like it or not, as James Dyson has demonstrated. Capitalism does not run, and cannot run, on the basis of what people want. Dyson may want to stay in Britain, he may want not to have to lay off workers, but what he has to do is make a profit.
What about quality?
Another factor has been noticeably absent from discussion of the Dyson affair. There has been no question at all of how to make the best or most effective vacuum cleaner. Capitalism doesn’t care what you make or how you make it – as long as you sell it at a profit. On top of which, it must be admitted that vacuum cleaners ought to be a pretty low priority anyway in a world where most people don’t even have the necessities of life. That never enters into it, however, because the world is not run on the basis of what people want, it is run on the basis of making profit.
What about the workers?
Eight-hundred workers will find themselves jobless as a result of Dyson’s transfer to Malaysia. In this instance, many will probably find new jobs relatively quickly, since Wiltshire has fairly low unemployment.
The point, however, is that will only find work if someone can make a profit from their labour. The fact that there are hundreds of thousands of useful things that people could be doing makes no difference. They could, for example, manufacture basic medical supplies which could save the lives of millions in developing countries. That activity would be a major priority in any system based on meeting human needs. It isn’t going to happen under capitalism though, because it would not make a profit.
As long as we allow the resources of the world to remain in private hands, profit will continue to reign supreme. However, there is an alternative. The world’s resources could be owned and controlled by everyone, and run in the interests of society, not in the interests of profit. This is common ownership and democratic control, the object of the Socialist Party.