Select Page
  • Version
  • Download 270
  • File Size 937 KB
  • Create Date 29 June 2020

Abstract

Leo Tolstoy is well-known as a novelist. It is less well known that he also studied economics, conducting empirical research and field work on the causes of poverty. His writings on economics yield an insightful critique of modern economics. Economists, on the other hand, are less familiar with his writings. In this excerpt, the concept of the production function – central to economics for the past two centuries – is shown to be not an analytical tool, but a political one. The central interest here is, however, the role of money – a subject usually evaded by economists entirely. Tolstoy concludes: “In modern times, since the discovery of America and the development of trade… the monetary tribute becomes, with the enforcement of political power, the chief instrument for the enslavement of men, and upon it all the economic relations of men are based. … If I tried to invent a most telling illustration of how in our time the peremptory demand of money has become the chief instrument for the enslavement of one class of people by another, I could not discover one which would be more glaring and more convincing than this true story, which is based on documentary evidence and took place recently” (112). Using the example of the island of Fiji, Tolstoy relates how the colonial conquerors (Americans), required a monetary tribute from the locals and their leader, and, as a consequence, the majority of the indigenous people became workers on the plantations of the colonists, forced to work for a scanty wage to survive. The process is disaggregated in stages, while money was serving as an instru­ment, enabling those in power to appropriate the results of the labour of those who did not possess money and power. This destroyed the existing social order of the locals.