Marian L. Tupy writes: Marx’s disciples from Cuba and Venezuela to South Africa and Zimbabwe are committing the same mistake today.
Marxism was supposed to have brought about a lot of positive changes, including the creation of a classless society, where everyone lived in peace. To these ambitious goals can be added substantial reduction in the amount of labor required from the proletariat.
As Rodney G. Peffer from the University of San Diego put it in his 2014 book Marxism, Morality, and Social Justice:
Marx believed the reduction of necessary labor time to be…an absolute necessity. He [claimed] … that real wealth is the developed productive force of all individuals. It is no longer the labor time but the disposable time that is the measure of wealth.
Little did the German economist know that free markets would achieve his objective with aplomb.
The number of hours worked per day has fluctuated throughout human history. Based on their observations of extant hunter-gatherer societies, scholars estimate that our foraging ancestors worked anywhere between 2.8 hours and 7.6 hours per day.
Once they secured their food for the day, however, they stopped. The foragers’ workload was comparatively low, but so was their standard of living. Our ancestors’ wealth was limited to the weight of the possessions they could carry on their backs from one location to the next.
The total number of hours worked rose because people were willing to sacrifice free time in exchange for a more stable food supply.
About 12,000 years ago, people started to settle down, cultivate crops and domesticate animals. The total number of hours worked rose, because people were willing to sacrifice free time in exchange for a more stable food supply. Since artificial lighting was prohibitively expensive, daylight regulated the amount of work that could be done on any given day.
In summer, most people worked between six and 10 hours in the fields and an additional three hours at home. In winter, shorter days limited the total number of work hours to eight. For religious reasons, Sunday was a day off and a plethora of feasts broke the monotony of agricultural life.
Our expectations as to what constitutes a good work-life balance are obviously very different from those of hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. It makes sense, therefore, to compare today’s workload to that at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
In 1830, the workweek in the industrializing West averaged about 70 hours or, Sundays’ excluded, 11.6 hours of work per day. By 1890 that fell to 60 hours per week or 10 hours per day. Thirty years later, the working week in advanced societies stood at 50 hours, or 8.3 hours per day. Read the rest of this entry »
The New York Times has crossed a moral line, writes James Taranto.
Jan. 11, 2011, James Taranto wrote: After the horrific shooting spree, the editorial board of New York Times offered a voice of reasoned circumspection: “In the aftermath of this unforgivable attack, it will be important to avoid drawing prejudicial conclusions . . .,” the paper counseled.
Here’s how the sentence continued: “. . . from the fact that Major Hasan is an American Muslim whose parents came from the Middle East.”
The Tucson Safeway massacre prompted exactly the opposite reaction. What was once known as the paper of record egged on its readers to draw invidious conclusions that are not only prejudicial but contrary to fact. In doing so, the Times has crossed a moral line.
Here is an excerpt from yesterday’s editorial:
It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.
That whirlwind has touched down most forcefully in Arizona, which Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described after the shooting as the capital of “the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country.” Anti-immigrant sentiment in the state, firmly opposed by Ms. Giffords, has reached the point where Latino studies programs that advocate ethnic solidarity have actually been made illegal. . . .
Now, having seen first hand the horror of political violence, Arizona should lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments.
WASHINGTON— Laura Meckler writes: Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose liberal call to action has propelled his long-shot presidential campaign, is proposing an array of new programs that would amount to the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history.
“Sen. Sanders’s agenda does cost money. If you look at the problems that are out there, it’s very reasonable.”
— Warren Gunnels, Sanders’s policy director
In all, he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal, a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause. Mr. Sanders sees the money as going to essential government services at a time of increasing strain on the middle class.
His agenda includes an estimated $15 trillion for a government-run health-care program that covers every American, plus large sums to rebuild roads and bridges, expand Social Security and make tuition free at public colleges.
To pay for it, Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent running for the Democratic nomination, has so far detailed tax increases that could bring in as much as $6.5 trillion over 10 years, according to his staff.
“One of the demands of my campaign is that we think big and not small.”
— Bernie Sanders
A campaign aide said additional tax proposals would be offered to offset the cost of some, and possibly all, of his health program. A Democratic proposal for such a “single-payer” health plan, now in Congress, would be funded in part through a new payroll tax on employers and workers, with the trade-off being that employers would no longer have to pay for or arrange their workers’ insurance.
“The Sanders program amounts to increasing total federal spending by about one-third—to a projected $68 trillion or so over 10 years.”
Mr. Sanders declined a request for an interview. His campaign referred questions to Warren Gunnels, his policy director, who said the programs would address an array of problems. “Sen. Sanders’s agenda does cost money,” he said. “If you look at the problems that are out there, it’s very reasonable.”
Calling himself a democratic socialist, Mr. Sanders has long stood to the left of the Democratic Party, and at first he was dismissed as little more than a liberal gadfly to the party’s front-runner, Hillary Clinton. But he is ahead of or tied with the former secretary of state in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and he has gained in national polling. He stands as her most serious challenger for the Democratic nomination.
“By way of comparison, the 2009 economic stimulus program was estimated at $787 billion when it passed Congress, and President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts were estimated to cost the federal treasury $1.35 trillion over 10 years.”
Mr. Sanders has filled arenas with thousands of supporters, where he thunders an unabashedly liberal agenda to tackle pervasive economic inequality through more government services, higher taxes on the wealthy and new constraints on banks and corporations. Read the rest of this entry »
Hillary Clinton: Dukakis in a Pantsuit?
Yes, I confess, this is mainly an excuse to use this really scary photo of Hillary. We already know what Mrs. Clinton looks like in a pantsuit. But how many of us know what it’s like to be that close to one of her eyeballs? Highlights from Jonah Goldberg’s weekly G-File. It includes a bonus excerpt from Jonah’s review of Piketty’s Marxist book (there’s no other thing to call it) and since it’s a book that even dedicated neo-Marxists only pretend they read all of, I imagine even some of them are taking Jonah’s word for it. See that full review, in Commentary, here.
For the article excerpted below, see the full text here. (I suggest you read all of it, otherwise you’ll miss the joke about spoon-banging on a high chair). Anything else? Yes! Order Jonah’s book here.
…I have no doubt that Clinton likes data. When she was working on Hillarycare in the early 1990s she assembled hundreds of wonks collecting literally millions of pieces of data, filling filing cabinets like the warehouse in Indiana Jones. When a journalist asked her if she needed anything else, Clinton replied something like “just a little more data.” As if her entire Rube Goldberg machine would click into place and hum with perfection if she just got a few more columns of numbers on heart-bypass rates in Missoula.
But just because Clinton likes data doesn’t mean this isn’t a crock. Oh, it’s savvy. But if her husband taught us anything, it’s that bullsh*tters can be savvy. First, all of this data talk is a brilliant way to exploit the “Big Data” fad in elite circles these days and subtly play lip-service to the liberal conceit that “facts have a liberal bias.” If she were running in the late 19th century she’d be talking about canals on Mars.
If she were running in the 1920s, she’d be saying “Engineering, Engineering, Engineering.” In the 1960s, she’d be saying “Plastics, Plastics, Plastics.” If she were running in 50,000 B.C. she’d be going around saying “Fire, Fire, Fire.” I talked about this a bit in my review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century:
Marx tapped into the language and concepts of Darwinian evolution and the Industrial Revolution to give his idea of dialectical materialism a plausibility it didn’t deserve. Similarly, Croly drew from the turn-of-the-century vogue for (heavily German-influenced) social science and the cult of the expert (in Croly’s day “social engineer” wasn’t a pejorative term, but an exciting career). In much the same way, Piketty’s argument taps into the current cultural and intellectual fad for “big data.” The idea that all the answers to all our problems can be solved with enough data is deeply seductive and wildly popular among journalists and intellectuals. (Just consider the popularity of the Freakonomics franchise or the cult-like popularity of the self-taught statistician Nate Silver.) Indeed, Piketty himself insists that what sets his work apart from that of Marx, Ricardo, Keynes, and others is that he has the data to settle questions previous generations of economists could only guess at. Data is the Way and the Light to the eternal verities long entombed in cant ideology and darkness. (This reminds me of the philosopher Eric Voegelin’s quip that, under Marxism, “Christ the Redeemer is replaced by the steam engine as the promise of the realm to come.”)
But the more important point is that Clinton’s messaging gambit is an entirely obvious indictment of Barack Obama. The need for “evidence-based optimism” isn’t a shot at Republicans. It’s a shot at the guy who beat her out for the nomination in 2008 by running as the Pope of Hope. Read the rest of this entry »
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 29, 2014
Communism is dead; long live Marx! The Soviet Union is gone. Das Kapital is little more than a punch line in academic economics. Dialectical materialism is barely even a thing. Yet Marxism continues to be essential for understanding modern political struggles, because Marxism continues to inform the thought-habits and inclinations of the modern Left.
Let me explain what I mean by thought-habits and inclinations. Do you think a person should be able to follow whatever faith he likes? You probably do. In fact, you probably answered, “Of course!” without even thinking about it. And you most likely answered this way, not because you are a student of John Locke, but because it’s just a habit of mind you’ve imbibed from our generally liberal culture. The farther left you go on the political spectrum, the more and more you find similar habits and instincts that are informed by Marxism. Of course, since we all live together and influence each other in this country, there’s no strict dividing line between American liberals and American Marxists. While Bryan Caplan is clearly a liberal and Cornel West is clearly a Marxist, most people are muddling around with a potpourri of ideas inherited from both sources.
It’s true enough that Marx and his intellectual heirs appropriated a liberal idea, equality (a word that is often used in mutually exclusive ways), but they rejected every single other intellectual and cultural principle of liberalism. For that reason, a Marxist’s egalitarianism is no more “liberal” than a Muslim’s monotheism makes him “Christian.” Marxism’s rejection of liberalism is so thorough that there is a dark, alternative-universe antecedent to each of the founding principles I outlined in my previous article.
- The class. The fundamental unit of Marxian loyalty is not the state! The chief object of a person’s loyalty, love, and allegiance is his or her class. A person with a conscience fully formed by Marxism feels the deep revulsion at the sight of class betrayers. When leftists openly fantasize about defecating in Sarah Palin’s mouth or publish racist cartoons about Condi Rice, they’re not merely engaging in double standards. They are naming and shaming class betrayers. When someone indoctrinated with Marxism sees a woman affirm the high value of her marriage, her husband, and motherhood and repudiate socialist government, he has the same visceral reaction that you or I do when we learn of a woman who murdered her two-year-old so she could have more time to get high, or a man who beats his wife and impregnates his masseuse. The class occupies the same emotional and moral space for the Marxist as the family does for a person civilized in liberalism. Indeed, Marx himself wrote that marriage is oppressive and to be done away with under communism.
- Equalism. The reverse of capitalism is not simply socialism. It is equalism. For example, fascism was a kind of socialism, but it was not equalist at all. Equalism teaches that neither the entrepreneur, the investor, nor the engineer are in any sense better than the line worker, the barista, or the unemployed beach bum, and therefore do not deserve more social respect, more income, or a better livelihood. Equalism is more dogma than theory, as it is easily disproved by even a cursory familiarity with biology or economics. But because of this, obtaining equalist result requires ever-increasing applications of violence, as there is simply no way for Lebron James and yours truly to end up with the same income, the same number of championship rings, the same public accolades, and the same number of interested women without a gun pointed at someone’s head. The killing fields were not an accident of Communism; they were the point.
- Revolutionary justice. Marxists tend to completely reject the rule of law, as it does not produce equal outcomes or serve the interests of “oppressed” classes. Marxists conceive of justice not as the consistent application of comprehensible, moral laws, but as the promotion of oppressed classes and the toppling of the oppressor classes. Whether or not someone is guilty or innocent of a crime is not just irrelevant, it is that Marxists deny the concepts of guilt, innocence, and law. In The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn related numerous chilling stories of innocent men who were told by the court, “Your guilt or innocence is irrelevant. What matters is whether your conviction will advance the revolution Read the rest of this entry »
The Left is Trying to Rehabilitate Karl Marx. Let’s Remind Them of The Millions Who Died in His NamePosted: November 3, 2013
Where it all ends – the Killing Fields of Cambodia
Tim Stanley writes: I can’t quite believe that I’ve just sat through ten minutes of BBC television in which British journalists Owen Jones and Zoe Williams have defended Karl Marx as the prophet of the End of Capitalism. Unbelievable because I had thought Marxism was over with the fall of the Berlin Wall – when we discovered that socialism was one part bloodshed, one part farce. But unbelievable also because you’d have to be a pretty lacking in moral sensitivity to defend a thinker whose work sent millions of people to an early grave.
I don’t want to have to rehearse the numbers but, apparently, they’re not being taught in schools anymore – so here goes. Sixty-five million were murdered in China – starved, hounded to suicide, shot as class traitors. Twenty million in the USSR, 2 million in North Korea, 1.7 million in Africa. The nightmare of Cambodia (2 million dead) is especially vivid. “Reactionaries” were sorted out from the base population on the grounds of being supporters of the old regime, having gone to school or just for wearing glasses. They were taken to the side of paddy fields and hacked to death by teenagers.
For those too young to remember the Cold War but old enough to be trapped by the Great Recession, Marxism holds new appeal
Note: The same financial crash prompted young intellectuals to revisit Ayn Rand, too, judging from the surge in sales of Atlas Shrugged. Goldberg’s article—exploring Marxism’s renewed popularity among the disenchanted youth—is but one example of the resurgence in philosophical questioning and renewed examination of historic texts that inevitably follows economic disasters. I think this is natural. I wouldn’t be surprised if this dual popularity of these two competing philosophies effectively cancel each other out.
The darlings of the Left will always reengineer and promote various brands of Marxism–easily the most successfully murderous ideology in human history, 94 million deaths worldwide and counting–for impressionable neophytes, in spite of its undeniable record of doom, death, and suffering. And romantic young intellectuals will always have an appetite for its radical appeal.
But the optimist in me hopes that the current Libertarian movement on campuses (which I’ll write about soon) prevails, with more lasting influence. In the meantime, here’s a famous quote, see if you can guess (without googling it) who originated it. Answer at the end of Goldberg’s essay, after the jump. (Don’t cheat!)
“How do you tell a Communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”
Okay, on to our featured essay:
Michelle Goldberg writes: Eight years ago Jay McInerney, poster boy for a certain kind of glossy 1980s literary chic, anointed Benjamin Kunkel as the voice of a new generation. Writing on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, he hailed Kunkel’s first novel,Indecision, for making “the whole flailing, postadolescent, prelife crisis feel fresh and funny again.” He wasn’t alone; many critics were impressed by Kunkel’s evocation of a privileged young man’s passivity and ennui. They were less sure of what to make of his narrator’s culminating conversion to radical politics in South America. “Explaining socialism to the postironic, ambivalent, hopeful, generous twentysomethings of 2005, I suppose, is what sequels are for,” Michael Agger wrote in Slate.
Next March, Kunkel will release his second book, Utopia or Bust. Though not a sequel to Indecision, it will in fact seek to explain, or at least explore, what socialism means now through a series of essays on contemporary leftist thinkers like Fredric Jameson and David Harvey. After the success of Indecision—a spot on the best-seller list, translations into a dozen languages, a Hollywood option—Kunkel didn’t milk his newfound literary stardom in the manner of, say, Jay McInerney. Instead, after falling into a deep depression, he followed the example of his own narrator, moving to Buenos Aires and immersing himself in anticapitalist political theory. In a draft of the introduction to his new book, he writes, “To the disappointment of friends who would prefer to read my fiction—as well as of my literary agent, who would prefer to sell it—I seem to have become a Marxist public intellectual.”
If you think of yourself as a Marxist or a progressive, you need to read this. (Tea Partiers may want to steer clear.)
Marxist theory can be summarized in two distinct ways.
The first view (held mostly by its detractors) is that Marxism is little more than the politics of resentment — a philosophical justification for the hatred of success by those who failed to achieve it. The politics of resentment offers three different methods for bringing its program of economic jealousy to fruition: Under socialism, the unsuccessful use the power of government to forcibly extract wealth and possessions from the successful, bit by bit until there is nothing left; under the more extreme communism, the very notion of wealth or success is eliminated entirely, and anyone who seeks individual achievement is punished or eliminated; and finally under anarchy, freelance predators would be allowed to steal or destroy any existing wealth or possessions with no interference from the state. Marx himself saw pure communism as the ultimate goal, with socialism as a necessary precursor, and perhaps just an occasional dash of anarchy to ignite the revolutionary fires.
But there is another, more intriguing and less noxious, view of Marxist thought that gets less attention these days because its anachronistic roots in the Industrial Revolution seemingly render it somewhat irrelevant to modern economics. Marx posited that factory workers should own the factory themselves and profit from its output, since they’e the ones actually doing the work — and the wealthy fat cat “capitalists” should be booted out of the director’s office since they don’t really do anything except profit from other people’s labor. Marx generalized this notion to “The workers should control the means of production,” and then extended it further to a national scale by declaring that the overall government itself should be “a dictatorship of the proletariat,” with “proletariat” defined in this context as “someone who actually works for a living.” The problem with this theory in the 21st century is that very few people actually work in factories anymore due to exponential improvements in automation and efficiency, and fewer still produce handicrafts, and the vast majority of American “workers” these days don’t actually create anything tangible. Even so, there is an attractive populist rationality to this aspect of Marxism that appeals to everyone’s sense of fairness — even to those who staunchly reject the rest of communist theory. Those who do the work should reap the benefits and control the system; hard to argue with that.
Although the “factory” is no longer the basic building block of the American economy, Marx’s notion that “The workers should control the means of production” can be rescued and made freshly relevant if it is re-interpreted in a contemporary American context.
Visualize the entire United States as one vast “company,” with citizens as employees and politicians and bureaucrats as managers. Everybody, in theory, works together to make the company successful. But there are two realities which shatter this idealized theory: first, only about half the employees actually ever do any work, while the rest seem to be on permanent vacation or sick leave; and second, our bureaucratic “managers” — just like the wealthy fat cats in Marx’s vision — simply benefit from the labor of others without ever producing anything of value themselves.
Now, this “company” known as the USA doesn’t operate in the way traditional companies operate. In our system, we create only a single product every year, a gigantic pile of money we call the “Federal Budget.” Each “employee” is free to engage in any profitable activity or profession of his choice, just so long as at the end of the year he (or she, obviously) adds his earnings to the collective pile, setting aside a certain amount for living expenses. The “managers” then decide how this gigantic pile of money is spent, presumably to keep the company healthy and strong.