As evidence that everything that is old is new again, I’ll re-post something from July 9, 2012 as Joe and Komrade Karl re-debate the evil that is socialism/Marxism/communism. I would just point out that in a capitalistic, free market society, the socioeconomic model is driven by what people want and aspire to – if there is a cool product that is desired (like the iPhone, for example), then there are assets that voluntarily align to produce what the people want and through each transaction, it immediately sends signals through prices of goods that immediately realign the worth of “value” of a good or service to the consumers. Through these “signals”, it constantly self-monitors and adjusts. It is the same with social structure, society reorders itself to respond to the desires of the individuals in it – this isn’t always good for society, that’s why we have laws to prevent us from falling victim to fads.
In short, society and the economy voluntarily reacts to desires, wants, aspirations and needs of the people – freedom.
In a socialist/Marxist/communist society, the directions of economies and societies are NOT decided by democratic votes as Karl proposes because direct democracy on a macro scale is simply not practical – no decisions would ever get made if we had to call a referendum in a country of 312 million people. In these unholy triumvirate of ideologies, there is a structure created to decide for the people what they can have based on what some committee or controlling entity decides what would be best. Rigid prohibitions are put in place to assure that people conform to the expectations of the “plan”. There are no immediate adjustments of value as there are no price signals in a collectivist socioeconomic system – nothing changes until the central planning authority decides it will – therefore no innovation or change in the system is possible no matter how much the people want – or need- it without the intervention of some arbitrary authority.
In short, people are forced to react to desires, wants, aspirations and needs of society and the economy as determined by some controlling entity – autocratic rule and tyranny.
The original post from July 9, 2012:
Last week, Stuart Jeffries of the UK Guardian presumed to explain: “Why Marxism is on the rise again”.
Capitalism is in crisis across the globe – but what on earth is the alternative? Well, what about the musings of a certain 19th-century German philosopher? Yes, Karl Marx is going mainstream – and goodness knows where it will end…
Class conflict once seemed so straightforward. Marx and Engels wrote in the second best-selling book of all time, The Communist Manifesto: “What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”
That hope, perhaps, explains another improbable truth of our economically catastrophic times – the revival in interest in Marx and Marxist thought.
Jeffries never really pins down the exact reason but it seems to be that young people and those hammered by the financial crisis are looking for an answer to the dual questions of equality and security.
Aren’t Marx’s venerable ideas as useful to us as the hand loom would be to shoring up Apple’s reputation for innovation? Isn’t the dream of socialist revolution and communist society an irrelevance in 2012? After all…the bourgeoisie has failed to produce its own gravediggers…
I ask Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal, a 22 year-old English and drama student at Goldsmiths College, London, who has just finished her BA course in English and Drama, why she considers Marxist thought still relevant. “The point is that younger people weren’t around when Thatcher was in power or when Marxism was associated with the Soviet Union,” she says. “We tend to see it more as a way of understanding what we’re going through now. Think of what’s happening in Egypt. When Mubarak fell it was so inspiring. It broke so many stereotypes – democracy wasn’t supposed to be something that people would fight for in the Muslim world. It vindicates revolution as a process, not as an event. So there was a revolution in Egypt, and a counter-revolution and a counter-counter revolution. What we learned from it was the importance of organisation.”
Sounds so scientific and philosophical coming from an English and drama student, doesn’t it?
Well, I’m obviously not as qualified to speak on this as an English and drama student in London as I’ve only clawed my way from being so poor that we didn’t even have dirt floors (those were reserved for the upper class in Mississippi) to being reasonably successful, so my retort perhaps will be a little less erudite but…
I can think of two reasons that have very little to with science and more to do with my observations of human nature. These are:
- Communism is easy.
- Capitalism is hard.
To be a communist today, the only requirement one needs to meet is to be able to sustain this thought process in their heads: “There are people out there who have things that my degree in English and drama will not provide for me and that is unfair because I really, really like English and drama, so they must give me what they have so that we are equal.”
All you need is envy and the perception that because you value what you do, everybody should feel the same way…and the desire to use government to force everybody to pay for your skill whether it is valued or not.
To be a capitalist involves risk. You have to create something of value to others. It might be a product or service to be sold in the open market or it could be your talent or a particular skill that a company needs and is willing to pay you for. You have to put yourself in a position to fail…but in doing so, you are only limited by yourself…if you possess a skill that is oversubscribed or one that is not valued highly, like say, a degree in English and drama, then you will not be compensated as much (or at all) as an in-demand skill like an engineer or a similar skill.
The market sets the value of your product at the point where you are ready to sell and the buyer is ready to buy. If you are good, you get paid, if you aren’t, you don’t.
Marxism is enjoying resurgence because it is easy and we have a nation of ill prepared, low skilled and in some case unemployable adults, who grew up in our entitlement society where we don’t keep score, every kid gets a trophy and we all go to Pizza Hut after the game.
Marxism is just an easy excuse for failing at producing value in society. It is no answer to any problem.
Just for reference, below are the ten planks from Marx’s Das Kapital:
- Abolition of private property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose.
- A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
- Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
- Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
- Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
- Centralization of the means of communication and transportation in the hands of the state.
- Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
- Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of Industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
- Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.
- Free education for all children in government schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.
How many can you see in today’s America?