Tag Archives: Marx

Utopia, Do Not Enter

People who claim to know the ultimate, perfected state of society are dangerous maniacs.  This claim is in the same category as perpetual motion and quack cures for cancer, only more dangerous.  The patient may choose his own treatment, but a utopian will foist his delusion on us all.

Obviously, if you are working to bring about paradise on Earth, you have a license to kill.  Utopia is worth any sacrifice of human dignity.

This has been going on from Aristotle to Marx, and the victims never wise up.  When Plato writes about his “philosopher king,” whom do you suppose he has in mind?  We must have the gold people to rule over the bronze people, the shepherds to lead the flock.  That’s right – the flock.  Sheep.

Marx claimed that his utopia was the inevitable result of inexorable “laws of history” that he, alone, had discovered.  LOL.  Gee, Karl, if it’s inevitable, maybe we don’t need to put quite so many people in the gulag!  Utopia probably doesn’t need a barbed wire fence to keep people from escaping.

Perfect societies like Aristotle’s usually depend on a caste system, which the inventor has to justify.  In fairness to Marx, he was hoping for some kind of self-organizing collective.  In practice, though, you get the Party, and the Party rules just like any other despot.

The needs of society outweigh the rights of the individual.

The first thing to consider when you read this stuff – especially if you are reading it in school – is the plight of someone not born into the ruling class.  Would you have any kind of social mobility?  Would you have any free will at all?  Often, the answer is simply “no.”

Individuals exist to serve the greater good.  The metaphor of a beehive is invoked, which sounds lovely until you actually think about it.  Fascists love to say that “the needs of society outweigh the rights of the individual.”  This is great if you are the one implementing the needs of society – not so great for the individual whose rights are outweighed.

Individual freedom must be the basis of any just society.  Beyond that are philosophical questions about where individuals’ rights may conflict, how much power to delegate to the government, etc.  The real work lies in creating institutions that appropriately safeguard the rights of the people, joint and several, and then revising the institutions over time.

This is an incremental, and difficult, process wherein society may improve steadily over time.  Anyone who has worked at it will tell you that “better than before” is sufficiently grand.  Someone claiming to know the ultimate answer is either clinically insane – or a charlatan.


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More Lethal than Plague

Karl-MarxRobert Conquest died last month. The Economist ran a proper tribute, and even the left-leaning New York Times gave him his due. It is fashionable to dismiss Conquest as merely an accountant, the first to calculate how many people Stalin had killed, and obsolete now the Soviet archives are open. This misses the point entirely.

The point is that Western observers were so enamored of communism, in theory, that they were willfully blind to what it was doing in practice. Six to eight million died in the famine. Something like ten million were sent to Siberia. Millions more died in the Gulag. Conquest’s estimate of total deaths is 20 million.

Even after flag-waving supporters of the Soviet Union had dwindled to irrelevance, the conviction that communism was a good idea poorly executed persisted

Lenin thought mass murder was justified because he was building a socialist utopia. Stalin, Mao, Che, and Pol Pot thought the same. This is no coincidence. When a leader believes he is obeying the law of history – Marx’s idea – he can justify unspeakable atrocities.

Here is an idea that killed millions. Millions! People were starved, shot, gassed, imprisoned, and tortured – all over the world. Pol Pot killed two million, and there is no telling how many tens of millions Mao put to death. You really have to believe in your workers’ paradise to sweep that under the rug.

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Maduro’s Marxist Markdown

CommieSantaHistory buffs have a rare opportunity to watch three countries in various stages of socialist collapse.  In Venezuela, the army has occupied the Daka electronics chain – their equivalent to Best Buy – and marked everything down to what the government considers “fair” prices.  It’s the mother of all Christmas sales.

Appliances were overpriced only if you believe the official exchange rate.  Venezuelan money is just about worthless.  In a nice symmetry, there is also a shortage of toilet paper.

Argentina’s government began moving away from market-friendly economic policies toward a more populist attitude that grants generous government subsidies on everything from public transport to social programs.

We see Argentina unraveling, too.  It’s the same pattern of populism and price fixing that led to the previous collapse.  It all starts with the notion that “government should take care of us.”

We want to go to college for free.  We want a guaranteed job with a minimum wage.  We want rent control and cheap gasoline.  Why stop there?  We want fixed prices for everything!  We want the government to nationalize the airlines, the hospitals, and the power grid.

We also want a gallon of free ice cream, and a pony.

It’s hard to feel sorry for them.  If some politician promises you all this stuff, and you’re stupid enough to believe him – you deserve what you get.

See also:  Free Corn in Corral

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Homo Marxii

Most people know the Message to Garcia as an employer’s complaint about the quality of his workers and their work ethic.  You may have not have noticed the reference to socialism.

… incapacity for independent action … the things that put pure Socialism so far into the future.  If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all?

It was a common belief at this time, even among “capitalists,” that mankind would evolve to a state of perfect socialism.  This was part of a mindset about evolution and perfectibility.  The humans we have today are lazy, greedy, and grasping, but we will produce a new race of humans – possibly through genetic engineering.

Successful socialism depends on the perfectibility of man. Unless all, or nearly all, men are high-minded and clear-sighted, it is bound to be a rotten failure in any but a physical sense.

Let’s call this new breed homo marxii, Marx’s man.  He works selflessly for the greater good.  Talented specimens may be more productive than their fellows, and that is its own reward.  We can be sure that the less productive are trying as hard as they can, and all are faithfully working to the best of their abilities.

Homo marxii is content to have what everyone has, and live as everyone lives.  There is no coveting, no crime, and the Gini coefficient is zero.  From here, it’s not a stretch to say that marriages are open and children are communal.  In any case, family is subordinate to the Party.  Homo marxii is a social animal, like bees or naked mole rats.

We must stop here, before further exposition turns to caricature.  What Jeremiah really wants to talk about is capitalism, and for that we need homo marxii.  Capitalism is often described as a concession to human nature, “harnessing greed,” and so forth.  It is seen as the best we can do with the humans we have.

In future posts, Jeremiah will show that even homo marxii cannot function without the mechanisms of capitalism – mechanisms like price discovery, specialization, resource allocation and risk pricing.  Socialists keep trying to force poor, flawed, homo sapiens into their grand design, but – it’s the design that’s flawed.

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