Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Almighty Buck News

Marx May Have Had a Point 1271

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the but-i'm-not-a-commie dept.
Hitting the mainpage for the first time, Black Sabbath writes "While communism has been declared dead and buried (with a few stubborn exceptions), Karl Marx's diagnosis of capitalism's ills seem quite bang on the money. Harvard Business Review blogger Umair Haque lists where Marx may have been right." It's a pretty good read once you get past the author's three paragraph disclaimer that he is not a communist. The MIT news also ran a short interview discussing the economic trends in August this morning.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Marx May Have Had a Point

Comments Filter:
  • by Squiddie (1942230) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:22AM (#37326472)
    I think everyone knew that even Capitalism has its down sides, we just agreed that they were acceptable. Yeah, he may have been right, but it's nothing we didn't already know.
    • by BeardedChimp (1416531) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:25AM (#37326518)

      I don't think everyone agreed that they were acceptable, I think that the wealthy agreed that it was more profitable.

      • by grimmjeeper (2301232) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:32AM (#37326632)

        And yet under communist rule there are still wealthy power brokers who know how to game the system for their own profit.

        • by TWX (665546) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:39AM (#37326728)

          In Capitalism, Man exploits Man.

          In Communism, it's the other way around.

          • Attribution: (Score:5, Informative)

            by pyrr (1170465) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:55AM (#37327048)
            --John Kenneth Galbraith
            • I like another quote of his better:

              If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error.

          • by tmosley (996283) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:30PM (#37328696)
            Everyone who wants to discuss Marx should read this first: http://fofoa.blogspot.com/2010/07/debtors-and-savers.html [blogspot.com]

            The author identifies the fundamental flaw with Marx's theory--he used a false premise. The author here starts a corrected premise and proceeds to give a very interesting history lesson, one which applies quite strongly to today's economic environment.
            • by makomk (752139) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @02:00PM (#37330038) Journal

              That blog post has one rather glaring flaw: it fails to analyse why there are debtors and savers in the first place and who actually gets the opportunity to become a saver. In particular, it fails to account for some quite significant economic reasons why some people would be financially unable to save money. TFA has, in my opinion, a better explanation of why debt explosions are inevitable.

        • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:40AM (#37326760)

          That's because communism has never been tried. A communist regime in the model that Marx was pushing hasn't ever been implemented. Marx wanted a state like the US, except where the people owned all of the shares of the companies they worked for rather than random investors. And where there was only one class.

          To date there has been precisely zero countries where they did away with class and where the workers truly owned the means of production.

          The level of ignorance that people express about how it's been tried and failed just boggles my mind, when it hasn't even been tried once.

          • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:46AM (#37326846)
            It's been tried and failed because Marx made the critical mistake of assuming you could remove greed from the human condition, it can't be done.
            • by dhfoo (238759) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:03AM (#37327214) Homepage
              In the same way that capitalism has been tried and failed because you can't remove greed from the human condition. Someone will always take advantage of their position and grab more than they deserve leaving the less able or unfortunate with less than they deserve. The downside to communism appears to be stagnation/reduced competitiveness which in a global society is less of an issue than it used to be when states used to compete with each other.
              • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:28AM (#37327702) Homepage Journal

                In the same way that capitalism has been tried and failed because you can't remove greed from the human condition.

                No, that's totally wrong. Capitalism (free markets in their most-free form) actually recognizes and utilizes greed to promote the system. It's greed and profit motive that drives and motivates the producers in the system. The winners are the ones that can satisfy the needs of consumers expending the least resources to do so.

                • by wwfarch (1451799) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:25PM (#37328642)
                  I agree with this and will add a bit. The failing of capitalism is not in accounting for greed. For capitalism to work you need an educated consumer base. This is where capitalism fails in reality. Marketers intentionally deceive consumers which wouldn't be a problem with an educated consumer base (they would be able to catch the deception). The problem is that it's literally impossible to be educated about all products on the market so you simply can't have the educated consumer base necessary for free markets to operate as theories would indicate.
              • by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:49AM (#37328040)

                In the same way that capitalism has been tried and failed because you can't remove greed from the human condition.

                In capitalism the greed is meant to be used as a balancing factor. Sure one man is a greedy fucker who will abuse all of his workers to death ... but ... there are 1000 greedy workers with less 'power' but just as much greed, and they'll do things to balance it out ... like vote.

                Communism pretends humans aren't humans.

                Capitalism uses human nature against human nature as a moderator.

            • by pdabbadabba (720526) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:54AM (#37328122) Homepage

              I think this isn't quite right. Marx believed that you could transform man's greed for material wealth into greed for something else, not that it could be eliminated.

              Marx, being a Hegelian, believed that man's psychology could be altered through social changes; he thought that changes in social structure could create corresponding in the peoples' incentive structure. Thus, in a successful Marxist state as Marx envisioned it, peoples' greed for gold would be replaced with a zeal for contributing to society (and, perhaps, greed for the social recognition that would come from those contributions). So, in a way, a successful communist system would be as much driven by greed as a capitalist one.

              It may not be possible, of course, to modify peoples' incentives in this way, though it's never truly been tested since the prerequisite social structure has never actually been created (and I don't think it's accurate to say he "assumed" that they could; it was certainly something he explicitly argued for). It doesn't seem crazy on its face, though, that people can be conditioned socially to value something other than material wealth.

            • by InterGuru (50986) <jhd@in[ ]guru.com ['ter' in gap]> on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:55AM (#37328130) Homepage

              Blaming greed on the collapse of a system is like blaming gravity on the collapse of a bridge. In both cases they are permanent conditions they have to be factored into the design of the system.

          • by zixxt (1547061) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:54AM (#37327012)

            It has been tried but not under the term Communism. There was a form of primitive Communism in the Bible read the book of Acts. So yes Christianity and socialism are very compatible.

            Acts 2

            44: And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45: And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

            Acts 4

            32: And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33: And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34: Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35: And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36: And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37: Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

            • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:49PM (#37329026) Journal

              It was voluntary, not state mandated. Communes and Kibbutz in Israel also function well, and are "communistic". However people are kicked out for not doing what they are able, and everyone is responsible for everyone else. The problem with state mandated communism is that it necessarily is abusive of power, or sufficiently weak that it doesn't work.

              Expectations of work, and the condition of expulsion of those that are able, but refuse to work allow for Communes and Kibbutzes to function. A large state cannot function in that manner.

          • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:55AM (#37327050)

            I wish I could mod you up right now...

            I'm so sick and fucking tired of the Communist bashing that goes on even to this damn day in the US. Communism hasn't failed mankind, mankind has always failed Communism. The true question is whether or not a society will mature enough that it's people do not constantly want to posses more of whatever goddamn thing they see than their neighbor. As long as there is that one selfish dickface that just has to hoard bread, or money, or whatever else he gets his hands on, Communism fails. It depends on people acting honorably.

            I have faith in humanity that eventually we will get to that point, but I'm not gonna sit here and say it will never happen as a justification for my own greed. We get enough of that as it is. Enough with the Randian bullshit. Just say "I want more than your neighbor because fuck him" and be honest with yourself and others. At least we'll know who not to piss on when they're on fire...

            • by SQL Error (16383) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:06AM (#37327264)

              I wish I could mod you up right now...

              I'm so sick and fucking tired of the Communist bashing that goes on even to this damn day in the US. Communism hasn't failed mankind, mankind has always failed Communism. The true question is whether or not a society will mature enough that it's people do not constantly want to posses more of whatever goddamn thing they see than their neighbor. As long as there is that one selfish dickface that just has to hoard bread, or money, or whatever else he gets his hands on, Communism fails. It depends on people acting honorably.

              An economic system that only works if every person acts ideally at all times is a recipe for mass graves.

              Capitalism, for all its imperfections, is built on self-interest. It expects people to be people, not ants. So it works.

              Communism doesn't; never has, never will.

          • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:14AM (#37327416)

            > That's because communism has never been tried. A communist regime in the model that Marx was pushing hasn't ever been implemented.

            Oh please. Have you even _read_ the Communist Manifesto or even know what "allodial title" means??

            I'll repeat them here for your benefit ...

            1. "Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
            2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
            3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.
            4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
            5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
            6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
            7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of wastelands, and the improvement of the the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
            8. Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
            9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries, gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of the populace over the country.
            10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form."

            And quoting the excellent analysis ....

            - - - 8http://www.buildfreedom.com/tl/wua11.shtml

            1. Abolition of Property Rights.

            U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8: The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises. (Taxes on things, including property.)
            Zoning laws and regulations - the Supreme Court ruled zoning constitutional in 1921.
            Federal ownership of land; Bureau of Land Management - in Nevada 87% of land is federally owned.
            Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - broad powers to seize any private property during "emergency."

            Communist percentage: 25%.

            2. Heavy Progressive Income Tax

            U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8: The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises. (Taxes on things, including income.) The Sixteenth Amendment classifies income tax as an indirect tax, or tax on a thing, as opposed to tax on a person.
            Corporate Tax Act of 1909.
            Revenue Act of 1913.
            Social Security Act of 1936.

            Communist percentage: 85%. (Maybe 15% of the population don't pay the taxes.)

            3. Abolition of Rights of Inheritance

            U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8: The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises. (Taxes on things, including inheritances.)
            Estate Tax Act of 1916.
            Social Security Act of 1936.

            Communist percentage: 30%.

            4. Confiscation of Property of Emigrants and Rebels

            Confiscation of property of American Indians.
            IRS confiscation of property without due process.
            Internment of Japanese-Americans during WW II; confiscation of their property.
            Confiscation of drug-merchant property.
            RICO Act of 1970 (Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organizations) - used as a basis to confiscate property.

            Communist percentage: 20%.

            5. Monopoly National Bank

            U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8: The Congress shall have the power to coin money, r

        • by geekmux (1040042) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:41AM (#37326770)

          And yet under communist rule there are still wealthy power brokers who know how to game the system for their own profit.

          Corruption is corruption, no matter what "wrapper" we put around it. Greed (whether personal or financial) always has been and always will be the Achilles heel of ANY model. Every model will fail if greed and corruption are left unchecked. Again, this should come as no surprise to anyone.

        • That because we've never actually seen real communist rule, we've seen fascist rule calling itself communist. I mean, the Nazi party was the National Socialist German Workers' Party but they sure as shit were not socialist.

          Seems like we should actually see real communism in action before we dismiss it as being a failure. The question is, will a society ever mature enough and be enlightened enough to actually try it?

    • by Evangelion (2145) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:43AM (#37326784) Homepage

      Who was "we"?

      Wealthy capitalists pretty much spent the first half of the twentieth century indoctrinating every western culture they could into believing communism and socialism are capital-E Evil. Some places the propaganda took better than others.

      This is a direct factor in why the healthcare debate in the states is so broken. When a good portion of your culture genuinely believes that socialism is absolutely Evil, trying to build a modern system to help them is difficult.

      The silly thing is, is that there are huge sections of the US that are entirely funded by tax dollars (and they aren't necessarily what you think [partialobjects.com]), but to ever acknowledge that in public, and to try and make it better, given that it is what it is, is heretical.

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:23AM (#37326474) Homepage Journal
    Actually, as the article shows, he had several. However, the people who most loudly proclaimed to be acting out "Marxist ideals" generally had no idea what his points were. One point that was crucial to Marxism - and not mentioned in the article - is that Marx was specifically laying out the communist manifesto for smaller countries (no larger than Germany or the UK) as he did not expect it to be applicable to larger countries like Russia or China.

    While he never outwardly admitted it, he likely realized on some level that an idealistic approach such as his communism would not be able to stand up to the crushing weight of human want and corruption in a large country. Which is, of course, exactly what happened in Russia and China; neither of which ever accomplished true communism on a national scale.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grimmjeeper (2301232)

      The fundamental flaw in Communism is human nature. Humans are corrupted by money and power. True communism can never be free from that corruption no matter what the scale. Even a small community eventually sees the inequities build and the exploitation start.

      Then again, pure capitalism suffers that fatal flaw as well. The corruption of money and power allow capitalists to exploit people just the same.

      And, of course, this problem of money and power going hand-in-hand with corruption is the fatal flaw of

      • by TheNarrator (200498) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:04AM (#37327226)

        The flaws in Marxism were all figured out in the 1920s. Here, let me explain:

        If you have goods that are directly consumable like bread or cheese you can divide them up among people evenly. That works. What doesn't work and is essentially an NP hard problem without money is how goods that are used to make other goods are used. Let's take an example of a freight railroad. What do you ship on the railroad? Shoes, fuel, tiny sub-assemblies of combine harvesters? If you have a piece of construction equipment, what do you build with it? A school, a factory, a playground, a road? In a modern economy all this creates an astonishing amount of complexity that is intractable from a central planning point of view.

        How does this work in a capitalist system? Simple : Prices. The price of everything determines what the railroad ships, what the construction equipment builds, etc. In a complex investment decision, such as where to build a factory and what to produce in it, the managers use estimations based on prices of the factors of production and how much they can get for the goods produced to determine whether to build a factory, and where to build it. Prices are a distributed highly multi-threaded information system that tells people what is scarce and what is plentiful from moment to moment and thus directs production.

        Prices are somewhat distorted by bank credit money creation and the associated credit cycles, which is what causes the booms and busts in capitalism. That can be fixed, but that's a topic for another day.

        The history of the Soviet Union is full of massive planning errors. They built many towns in the middle of Siberia that they abandoned once the Soviet Union fell because the production output was minimal, they cost an enormous amount to heat and deliver supplies to and nobody wanted to live there. They didn't know this until they knew the real prices for running these cities. No communist government, except for the psychopathic regieme of Pol Pot ever dared to completely get rid of money, and even he admitted it was his biggest mistake!

        If you want to dig into the theory of the planning problem in capitalism, I'd recommend Mises "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth"

        http://mises.org/resources.aspx?Id=71e20725-ee72-4adb-ade2-34dfdabf7755 [mises.org]

    • by psychonaut (65759)
      Cite? Everything I've read from Marx indicates that he intended for communism to be an international goal. This was most famously stated in The Communist Manifesto: "Working men of all countries, unite!"
  • by Sparx139 (1460489) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:25AM (#37326520)

    Karl Marx's diagnosis of capitalism's ills seem quite bang on the money.

    *squint*

    I see what you did there...

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:27AM (#37326544) Journal
    In the United States: The abolition of slavery, taxation, social security, child labor laws, welfare, the interstate highway system, eminent domain, anti-trust laws (Sherman Act), minimum wage, the draft, the inability to sell your organs, pollution laws, laws against exploiting poor people, the list is endless really. We started out as a very Capitalist nation and have slowly migrated to a better middle ground with some Socialist programs and laws. Conversely, China started out fairly Socialist and everyday move toward more Capitalist tendencies. You can argue all day which is the better way but the truth is that 1) for every country it's different and 2) the best solution is always somewhere in between the spectrum of capitalism and socialism. So you can shut up about demanding "pure capitalism" and "truly free markets" just as well as you can stop branding someone a "socialist" for merely proposing or exploring or investigating movements toward the middle.
  • by h00manist (800926) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:27AM (#37326546) Journal

    Has made both labor and capital obsolete. Capital has been defined as sufficient money to contract salaried labor. It other words, nothing but the force and ability to gather and organize labor, by paying for it. Technology substitutes a lot of the labor, and now, it's substituting the methods for gathering, organizing, and paying for the labor.

    Capitalism died a long time ago, but (almost) nobody knows how to work any other way. Humanism remains an idea nobody has ever heard of.

    • Consider advancements in automation, robotics, AI, and networking... the world is increasingly becoming run by non-humans. The only impediments to our continued success are global natural disasters, climate change, disease, war, political and religious extremism... The means of production will be irrelevant, it's only the access to the raw materials, security, free flow of information, and goods and services that will determine our collective prosperity.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      That's come up in the past, if the government doesn't step in and tell the rich that they have to give back their ill gotten gains, then things are going to get ugly. As technology gets better and productivity improves there's going to be a permanent job shortage. Which wouldn't be a problem if wages would increase so that a person could feed himself and his family on the reduced wages. But that's not happening, people are being expected to take on multiple jobs, and deprive other people of those jobs becau

      • Re:Technology (Score:4, Informative)

        by Maxwell'sSilverLART (596756) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:26PM (#37328652) Homepage

        Which wouldn't be a problem if wages would increase so that a person could feed himself and his family on the reduced wages.

        Alternatively, we could reduce the cost of feeding. Technology, changes to distribution methods, increases in productivity of all kinds have done precisely that:

        Americans paid a high price to support this balkanized system for conveying food from farm to table. Food was hugely expensive, relative to wages. The average working-class family in the 1920s devoted one-third of its bud get to groceries, the average farm family even more. Most households spent more to put dinner on the table than for their rent or their mortgage. And for the average house wife, shopping for food consumed a large part of the day. This money, time, and effort bought plenty of calories, but only moderate amounts of nutrition.

        http://www.npr.org/books/titles/139761304/the-great-a-p-and-the-struggle-for-small-business-in-america?tab=excerpt#excerpt [npr.org]

        According to the interview with the author (which I heard while driving, and cannot find a transcript), the budget fraction for groceries is now somewhere near 5%.

        Meanwhile, the standard of living has continued to rise. We talk about our poor, but what do we really mean by "poor?" Consider http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/07/what-is-poverty [heritage.org]:

        As scholar James Q. Wilson has stated, “The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.”[3] In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation.[4] In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

        The home of the typical poor family was not overcrowded and was in good repair. In fact, the typical poor American had more living space than the average European. The typical poor American family was also able to obtain medical care when needed. By its own report, the typical family was not hungry and had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.

        Poor families certainly struggle to make ends meet, but in most cases, they are struggling to pay for air conditioning and the cable TV bill as well as to put food on the table. Their living standards are far different from the images of dire deprivation promoted by activists and the mainstream media.

  • by thepainguy (1436453) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:27AM (#37326552) Homepage
    Would you rather be poor in Marx's day or today? It seems to me that today's poor have it pretty good, considering.

    You could also argue that a big part of the problem of late is people living beyond their means. A nice, but modest, suburban home like the one you grew up in is no longer acceptable. Now, you need a McMansion, and that drives the overextension and the debt. Just watch any of the "Real Housewives" shows.

    In terms of immiseration, the problem isn't exploitation but globalization (and cheap transport and communications). Back in the day, you competed for wages largely with people in your own country. Now, you're competing with workers from around the world.
    • by Hydian (904114) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:45AM (#37326822)

      I don't know. Going hungry is about the same no matter what era it is in. Freezing to death under a bridge or in your unheated home isn't really any better in 2011 than it was in the middle ages. Dying from the flu or some other easily treated ailment seems to be just as much of a downer today as it was 40 years ago when such things weren't so easily treated.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nedlohs (1335013)

        Except that poor people don't do that as much now.

        Assuming you are talking about the civilized world of course, you know Australia/New Zealand/Canada/Germany/etc and not the USA where they have made the expicit choice to screw the poor.

        • and not the USA where they have made the expicit choice to screw the poor.

          Im pretty sure most of the poor here dont starve in the streets either. Im not able to find any specific stats about starvation, but I think there are very very few cases where someone starved because food was hard to get (most cities-- i would hazard "all") have homeless shelters, food handouts, etc; there are food stamps for those with insufficient income; theres unemployment; there are community outreaches, etc.

          If I lost my job tomorrow, and someone took all my money, and all of my clothes except some s

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:51AM (#37326964) Journal

      You could also argue that a big part of the problem of late is people living beyond their means. A nice, but modest, suburban home like the one you grew up in is no longer acceptable.

      Pardon my french, but that's horseshit. Look at housing prices compared to household incomes (which considers that many more households have two wage-earners in them than in the past). Even for modest, smaller homes the cost is several times higher than it was 30 years ago (in terms of wages).

      In terms of immiseration, the problem isn't exploitation but globalization (and cheap transport and communications). Back in the day, you competed for wages largely with people in your own country. Now, you're competing with workers from around the world.

      That's part of the problem -- it feeds into the exploitation issue. But in many ways, it's an excuse given for profit-taking by capital. The workers have been conditioned to lick capital's boots, for fear of losing their jobs. Household debt plays into this, since it's one of the anchors that keeps people from rejecting low wages.

  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:28AM (#37326558)

    But there needs to be some way to prevent capital from influencing politics, especially in a democracy. Our representatives are owned wholly by the people that give them the most money, and until we definitively block money from being a driving force in politics we will be ruled by the richest.

    Barring direct financial contribution to political candidates and forcing them to run on equal funds would help. Barring the movement between high public office and private business, especially government contractors, would help as well. Good luck on any of this every coming to pass. Our elected representatives directly benefit off the system the way it is now, and as they're the only ones who can legally change it, we're pretty much effed...at least, until the general public breaks out the torches and pitchforks and goes all French Revolution on their asses.

  • Bakunin (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:30AM (#37326606) Journal

    Bakunin saw that Marx was right in his analysis of capitol, but did not appreciate the dangers of the state either. He famously said "liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality". Marx accurately predicted the end state of Capitalism. Bakunin accurately predicted the end state of Marxism.

  • by drolli (522659) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:30AM (#37326614) Journal

    But identifying a problem is not identical to finding the correct solution.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:35AM (#37326682)
    The author's examples do not support his point. Over the time period where he shows that average workers incomes have stagnated is the same time period where the government has increasingly intervened in the market on the basis of socialistic principles. The examples the author gives of the "failures" of capitalism are the result of the government applying Marxian theory to "ease" the failings of capitalism. This does not mean that capitalism is perfect, no system involving humans, or designed by humans, will be.
    This is a common argument I see: problem A is evidence that we need more government regulation, even though problem A was caused by bad government regulation in the first place. Problem B is evidence that Marx was right, even though problem B is the result of applying Marx's theories (usually partially).
  • by Brian Stretch (5304) * on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:36AM (#37326696)

    "card carrying communist!!"

    Given that a suspicious looking brown guy whose political mentor in Chicago was a communist domestic terrorist [nationalreview.com] has been elected President, I think you're safe Haque.

    (Let the battle between "+1 Funny" and "-1 Troll" commence!)

  • by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:48AM (#37326890)

    Communism, nor socialism did not exist in the USSR. The USSR was a state capitalist country where a wealthy elite controlled and owned all resources. Communism is a stateless society where there is no elite at all and no central planning or authority. Socialism is a system where there is a democratic system whereby the people elect those who will make economic decisions and everyone has an equal voice in economic issues.

    The Economy of the USSR is actually pretty similar to that of the USA, with a wealthy, powerful elite that controls all of the resources (capitalism). There is very little difference between state capitalism and corporate capitalism, both lead to massive consolidation of wealth and capital. In the US, the corporations maintain their dominance by controlling resources and capital people depend on, and controlling markets, this is maintained by factors such as size advantages, economy of scale, and other monopolistic-oligarchistic practices. The Corporations also have their own security forces which could even protect and assert their control over these resources. The only limit on corporate, unelected power is a democratic government, corporations would vastly expand their power in the case that democratic government is weakened or abolished, and that is the goal of the Republican party, to overthrow democratic government in the US and usher in the Corporations as absolute unelected economic royalty.

    Communism as i said is a stateless, anarchic system. It is the opposite of corporate capitalism or state capitalistm found in the USSR, or today in North Korea. I do not sure Communism would work as, while most people are really wonderful, eventually an evil few would try to consolidate resources and begin to build up aggregations of resources, along with a security force to maintain such control, these things usually lead to the formation of a absolute monarchy. Free market mom and pop type capitalism in absense of a democratic government is almost exactly the same as communism, and would fail for the same reason that communism can often fail, that out of the decentralisation some evil individuals will try to decentralise and consolidate power.

    A democratic state is necessary to guard against the antidemocratic consolidation of power by such evil, power hungry people. Democratic states rarely form spontaneously, the trend in centralisation by a want-to-be elite is to get power and keep it. Creating a democratic state by filling the power void can pre-empt the formation of monarchies however. And the more democratic government is weakened, the more the non democratic capitalist systems will take its place. In the US today, we have an already established anti democratic agalmation of power and the more the democratic government is weakened, the more of democracy itself that we lose as the corporations become even less regulated and their powers become more boundless.

    Marx was properly correct in his diagnosis of the problems of capitalism, in that it is utterly repressive and seeks to exploit common workers to enrich an elite. Capitalism also seeks to manipulate or totally destroy democratic government, as democratic government limits corporate power, eliminating democratic government would infinite expand corporate power and turn corporations into economic monarchies. We have the fact that is the fact that capitalism is an emerging economic monarchy that often fights a war with or totally defeats or pre-empts formation of democratic states. Despite what people in the US believe, our capitalist system is not associated with democracy, it is a anti-democratic system where a few control many via vast control of resources. Power corrupts people and therefore it is wise through democracy to distribute power authority, both politically and economically, this means higher income taxes on the wealthy and limits to resource ownership that assures resource and income distribution are more equal.

    Marx however, was overly optimistic and believed that capitaists could be easily defeated o

    • by pyrr (1170465) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:04PM (#37328298)
      Please don't invent new definitions for socialism. There is absolutely nothing in that economic structure that requires it to be a democracy. You're blending and confusing economic systems with political systems. The USSR's economic system was quite socialist, even if their government system was a totalitarian, single-party limited republic. The key hallmarks of socialism are a command economy in which the government owns the means of production.
  • by martyros (588782) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:54AM (#37327022)

    Capitalism certainly has lots of problems. But I think Marx looked at the wrong things. He should have asked, what has made capitalism work as well as it has so far?

    There are two things that I think make capitalism work as well as it has.

    • Diversity Lots of people just try different things. Some of them work great, some of them work OK, some of them don't work at all.
    • Feedback In capitalism, money is power; not (generally) the power to make you do something you don't want to do, but the power to get you to do something that you're willing to be paid to do. People who invest their "power" in ventures which create real value for people generally get more money back -- and thus more "power" to invest in the future. People who make foolish decisions with their "power" often end up with less power.

    Now it's clear that Capitalism doesn't always work this way; there are lots of times when there's a lack of diversity or feedback for some reason; people are rewarded for destroying value, or not rewarded for the value they create.

    But in communism, as it has thus far been practiced, neither of these things are ever true. The State makes has a committee and makes one decision, and that policy is implemented nation-wide. Moreover, often it's taken as gospel truth, and it's heresy to even question it. Furthermore, when officials make decisions, there is almost guaranteed never to be the same degree of feedback, either good or bad.

    So Marx saw what didn't work well, and tried to change it; but he didn't see what *did* work well, and try to keep it. On the contrary, he took away what worked well.

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:56AM (#37327062) Homepage Journal

    False consciousness. According to Marx, one of the most pernicious aspects of industrial age capitalism was that the proles wouldn't even know they were being exploited â" and might even celebrate the very factors behind their exploitation, in a kind of ideological Stockholm Syndrome that concealed and misrepresented the relations of power between classes. How's Marx doing on this score? You tell me. I'll merely point out: America's largest private employer is Walmart. America's second largest employer is McDonald's.

    I struggle to think how anyone could have thought up worse examples to undermine their own point, no matter how hard they tried. The turnover at McDonalds and Wal-Mart is amazing, and the very idea that these workers are happy and don't feel like exploited disposable cogs is laughable. Seriously, these two companies may be the very very worst to use as examples, in all the history of humanity, to make an argument for some kind of Stockholm Syndrome.

    The dude needs to rewrite that paragraph to avoid distracting readers from his point, with that glaring over-the-top WTF. I almost wonder if he put that into his article as an "are you really reading?" joke or test.

  • by fusiongyro (55524) <faxfreemosquito&yahoo,com> on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @10:56AM (#37327070) Homepage

    Marx's crazy ideas are only palatable to the ignorant and wishful-thinking because he got the diagnosis so spot on. The problem is that his solution is completely unworkable—much, much worse than the condition. His ultimate contribution is a resounding indictment with no real solutions offered. So nothing gained.

  • RTFA, Anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by overshoot (39700) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:38AM (#37327852)
    So naturally all the comments turn to the subject of The Communist Manifesto rather than Marx' descriptive (not prescriptive) work.

    For those who have even glanced at a history of economics, Marx takes on a rather different appearance. Along with John Stuart Mill and a few others, Marx was one of the founders of analyzing the stability of market economies in the wake of early-19th century boom/bust cycles -- which according to prevailing theory were impossible.

    Later, Ricardo was so thoroughly embraced (for reasons not relevant here) that most of that prior work was swept under the rug until the Great Depression. Then we had Keynes, Hicks, and others (who disinterred the works of the economists of a century earlier). They in turn were swept under the rug by the 70s until the current depression -- which the prevailing theories of the last 30+ years tell us is impossible.

    And so it goes.

  • Eat The Rich (Score:4, Informative)

    by wcrowe (94389) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @11:47AM (#37327994)

    I still think P.J. O'Rourke's Eat The Rich [wikimedia.org] is the best book on this subject. Every Economics major should have to read this book. His basic premise is that almost any socioeconomic system can work provided that there is rule of law and private property rights. Take away these things and nothing works, whether it be capitalism, socialism, communism or anything else.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      His basic premise is that almost any socioeconomic system can work provided that there is rule of law and private property rights. Take away these things and nothing works, whether it be capitalism, socialism, communism or anything else.

      Notably, we are losing both of those cornerstones in America. Hundreds of billions of dollars were misappropriated in the years leading up to the financial crisis of 2008 and not one person has even been indicted criminally.

  • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:19PM (#37328534)
    The extremists always win, but to me it seems like the best way is a healthy mixed system where we have regulated capitalism in the marketplace, and socialism for things like infrastructure and health care.

    But what do I know.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @01:18PM (#37329430) Homepage

    Marx's analysis of the flaws of capitalism is generally considered to be reasonable. His solutions are now known not to work too well. (On the other hand, in the last century Russia has tried monarchy, democratic communism, dictatorial communism, democratic anarchy, capitalist oligarchy, and the current capitalist semi-dictatorship. None worked all that well for them.)

    Marx was quite right about a key point - if capitalism is allowed to use competition between workers to drive wages down, buying power drops and the system stalls, or stabilizes with most people just above some minimum survival level. That's where we are now. (Wal-Mart has a useful way to measure this. [cnn.com] They look at weekly store-to-store sales over each month, and observe that their customer base is presently running out of money before the end of each month, and they then stop buying until their next paycheck.)

    Unions were developed to beat that problem. The purpose of unions is to force employers to pay employees more than they are economically worth. This helps both union and non-union workers; in a society where a sizable fraction of workers belong to unions, non-union employers have to pay wages competitive with union shops to avoid unionization. This was well understood in the 1930s through the 1970s. The phrase used back then was "labour should not be regarded merely as a commodity or article of commerce." That sounds strange today. Which is part of the problem.

    After a slow decade in the 1970s, we got Reagan, the "great communicator", who sold America on "unfettered" capitalism. US median per-capita real income hasn't gone up much since, after a huge rise in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The US peak was in 1973.

    Government is not neutral in this. Deregulation, free trade, weak antitrust and labor law enforcement, anti-union state policies, and tax cuts for the rich all helped to reduce US wages.

    The point here is that the economy has more than one stable state. One stable state looks like a third-world country - wages are at poverty levels, a few people have most of the money, disposable income is low, and production is limited by available disposable income. Another stable state has much higher wages and consumption levels. The US has seen both, and has chosen the former.

    • by erice (13380) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @09:35PM (#37335234) Homepage

      After a slow decade in the 1970s, we got Reagan, the "great communicator", who sold America on "unfettered" capitalism. US median per-capita real income hasn't gone up much since, after a huge rise in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The US peak was in 1973.

      After WW2, the US stood essentially alone as an industrial power. Japan and Europe were in ruins. It took decades for foreign competition to return in a major way. When it did, in the 1970's, the results were catostrophic. The steel and auto industries were nearly wiped out.
      Reagan thought that loosening controls on capitalism would restore American competitiveness. Union wages aren't of any use if the factory shuts down.

      Whether it really worked for the economy as a whole is debatable but, at least for a time, it did seem improve the competivness of American businesses.

      Socialism seemed to be failing against foreign competition so policy became more laissez faire.

      Unfortunately, the economy is now even more complicated. American goods don't just compete with foreign goods. American labor competes with foreign labor in service of American based companies.

      American companies thrive but employees and the wider society no longer benefit.

      Capitalism is supposed to harness monetary greed for the greater good of society. Unfortunately, deregulation and globalisation has permited the engine of capitlism to slip its harness.

      Socialism is still not competive so I think we are stuck with some sort of capitalism. Further loosening the reigns is a non-starter. Release the horse from the wagon and it may indeed run faster but the wagon won't move at all. We need a new harness. I wish I knew what it was.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

Working...