Sign Painters of the World Unite!

James McWilliams is an historian at Texas State University-San Marcos who has appeared on this blog before. He writes to tell us that he was driving in Austin when he passed a (presumably) homeless man holding up this sign:


McWilliams liked the sign so much that he offered the man $10 for it. “Evidently,” McWilliams says, “more than his labor was for sale.” The sign now hangs in McWilliams’s office.

Perhaps capitalism doesn’t suck as much as the man thought.


This reminds me of that "'Capitalism Sucks' T-Shirts: $29.95" comic.

It also reminds me of those benches selling their own ad space, that say "by looking at this ad can calling this number, you're *proving* bench advertisements work." But by not calling it, the proof is gone. You make the right decision either way. Weird.

While the situation itself is humorous, his sign doesn't even have an arguement. It just has a bunch of Marxist-style words and sentences and then a stark evaluation of capitalism. It shows how vapid our culture's political analysis that this sign is considered insightful.


Well, the sign says that "capitaism", not capitalism, sux. So maybe he is opposed to those who discriminate on a per capita basis.


This is a case where the commentator obviously has not read Marx. If he did, he'd understand that it requires labor to make this sign. Hence, the homeless guy was in fact selling his labor.


Derick (#1)--Did you really expect him to write the entire argument on a single sign? It is an amusing summary of the argument and is nicely illustrated by the circumstances of the guy holding the sign


@xuanie: unless someone else made the sign and donated to the homeless man :-)


That sign is from a much higher standard than the typical "Will work for food." begging sign but far less smart of an idea than the "Please dontate money to keep me from stealing." sign which is perhaps inspired by corporate methodologies.

Free Drive Ro


No need for the sign to make an argument, look around you for the proof (unless you're a bankster, then life is probably good)


he probably stole that marker.

if he did, he was paid to steal. or encouraged, rather.


Irony aside, you gotta wonder why someone with the education and know-how to make a sign like that still needs to resort to begging on the street to earn himself some coin...

Who am I kidding, he is probably a liberal arts major.


That guy has very clear handwriting.

Mike B

It gives credence to my theory that the "homeless" one sees by the side of the road are in fact performance artists working for tips. This one just happened to attend some very left leaning school.


Bumper sticker argumentation, the height of American discourse.


My Austin-homeless-man-love goes more to the guy with the "Why live in a $500,000 house when I can live under a $5,000,000 bridge?" Maybe this is just because I work in bridge design...


@4: It's not bad because it's short. It's bad because it doesn't even summarize. Saying a few words related to something isn't a summary.

I, capitalist, own nothing but my mind.
My mind is for sale.
Socalism sux!

I even kept the mispellings. Deep, eh?


@7: There's really no points in arguing with someone who says "my beliefs (Marxism in this case, apparently) are self-evident and if you disagree you're a member of this unpopular group," but I do have something to say about his mention of "banksters", for the sake of third party readers. I'm a young man born in the slums, living in the slums, currently working on his way out, and I grew up around enough of the "proletariat" to believe in capitalism. Before we assume that "men in offices with lots of money doing unscrupulous things to make more money = capitalism, poor people in tough times = socialism" let's remember it was incompetent corporate executives who were propped up by *government* money with the bailouts, which was stolen from people who (rich and poor) earned it, via tax and inflation. Remember that the federal reserve, fannie and freddie, the community reinvestment act, and many of the financial powers that be in our society that had a hand in this situation of ours were government-imposed.

Just as race and gender do not draw the true battle lines of whose interests contradict whose in our society, neither does economic class. The exploiters and the exploited both exist among the poor; the exploiters and the exploited both exist among the rich. The barrel of the government's gun does not favor the rich nor the poor, but the exploiters as opposed to the producers.



I always liked this sign that I saw in college in downtown Detroit: "Bet you can't hit me with a quarter!"



i don't think that socialists are all that keen on the political system of the US, nor its government. while they may want more government, it most likely isnt the same kind we got now.
the US government also went and had a war in iraq, something that socialists world wide opposed. just because socialists want more government, doesnt mean they want more bad government.

if anything, the example you give is a reason to doubt capitalism, not socialism.


rather than:

I, capitalist, own nothing but my mind.
My mind is for sale.
Socalism sux!

it should be:

I, bourgeoisie, own nothing but the means of production.
my factory is for sale.
socialism sux!

the intellectual labor is still labor. a mathematician is just as much a worker as a janitor.


@Derick: I think it shows how vapid our culture's political analysis is that a simple bum sign could generate several blog posts from Derick. The bum probably spent 10 minutes of his own labor to generate $10 but also waste several minutes of Derick's labor output as an unintended consequence.

Robot Mistake

'McWilliams says, “more than his labor was for sale.” '

I guess there are some subtleties I do not understand. But how did he not sell his labor in this case?

I see the sign as the product of his labor. Which he sold to someone with a sense of humor. He sold his labor, right?

The materials are valueless without the input of his labor. The sold product was not to tell someone to make a sign. The product that was made with his labor was sold.

The sign was made by an artist, and sold as art.

What did he sell that was not his labor? Thank you.