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You Just Might Be a Marxist

Many people uphold Marxist tenets without considering themselves Marxists.

by
Rand Simberg

Bio

October 28, 2010 - 12:00 am

With his new book, Stanley Kurtz has done what the media refused to do — finally vet the president and his radical past, two years too late to prevent him from becoming president, but just in time to issue a restraining order on him next Tuesday.

Yet people seem to be under the misapprehension that in order to be a Marxist, one has to be as explicitly so as the president has been with his deliberate associations with socialist and communist organizations and individuals. But Marxism isn’t a doctrine so much as an attitude. It is founded on a couple of key illogical and immoral foundations, which many people find superficially appealing, human nature being what it is.

The first is the notion that what people “need” is an objective rather than subjective notion, which can be determined by benevolent third parties. After all, if one is going to reorder society and redistribute wealth, it is only “fair” that people be allowed to get what they “need” before depriving them of anything beyond that to satisfy the “needs” of others. This concept is exemplified by the famous phrase: “To each according to his need, from each according to his ability.”

But of course, in the real world, the difference between “need” and “desire” is purely subjective, and varies with the individual and their degree of self-actualization. At its most basic, there is no “need” for anything except air, food, and shelter. And such needs can be met in a North Korean prison. But when someone is lecturing someone else about what they “need,” what they really mean is that because they don’t perceive a need for those things, no one else really has one either — whether it’s flat-screen television, an SUV, a lobster dinner, a second home, or another handgun. They are perhaps happy to live in a rabbit warren, eat macrobiotic food, and ride their bicycle to work, and don’t think that anyone else should “need” more. And of course, since those selfish people don’t really need more, the rest of their resources are now available to satisfy the unmet “real” needs of the rest of society.

The other mythical foundation of Marxism is the labor theory of value, and its corollary, that “intrinsic” value exists. Like the “need” myth, it is one of subjectivity versus objectivity. Marxists believe that there is a knowable objective value for everything, and the very act of work creates it. That is, if a worker works a certain number of hours, his output is intrinsically valuable.

But of course, a little thought reveals this to be nonsense. Nothing has intrinsic value. Absent a person to value it, nothing has value at all. And the value of things is entirely subjective. If it weren’t, no trade would occur. Every voluntary exchange occurs because two people have something to trade, and each person places a higher value on the other person’s object than their own. If they both valued both equally, there would be no point in swapping. Even though there is a price denominated in dollars on an item in a store, that doesn’t mean that’s what it is worth. It won’t move off the shelves unless its price is lower than its value to some of the customers. If it is higher than the value to everyone, it will not be sold.

Both of these notions undermine the logic of the free market, and when they are implemented into policy and law, as they have been over the past century or so, the growth of wealth of the nation, and sometimes its absolute value, is accordingly reduced. And while they are intrinsically Marxist notions, many hold them who do not consider themselves Marxists.

So, with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, let me disabuse them of their false consciousness:

If you believe, as the president does, that “it’s good for everyone when we spread the wealth around,” you might be a Marxist.

If you believe that “the rich” don’t “need” tax rate reductions, you might be a Marxist.

If you believe that, at some point, other people have “made enough money,” you might be a Marxist.

If you believe that we have to “keep people in their homes,” even when they have never had any equity in them, and despite the fact that they can’t afford the mortgage and the market is not being allowed to clear, then you might be a Marxist.

If you believe that there is a floor on the value of everyone’s labor, and it is a single number applicable in every state of the union, regardless of the cost of living, then you might be a Marxist.

If you believe that handing someone who pays no taxes a government check is a “tax cut,” you might be a Marxist.

If you believe that the government should pay the “prevailing local wage” on government projects, you might be both a Marxist and a racist, since Davis-Bacon was instituted to shut lower-paid minorities out of such projects.

If you believe that unemployment checks are the surest, fastest way to stimulate the economy, you might be a Marxist.

If you believe that the capital gains tax should be increased, even though it would result in reduced government revenue, because that’s what is required for “fairness,” you might be a Marxist.

If you believe that you know better than someone else what they “need,” and are willing to impose your belief on them at gunpoint and force them to purchase it, and not allow them to purchase things that they think they need, then you just might be a Marxist, too.

Rand Simberg is a recovering aerospace engineer and a consultant in space commercialization, space tourism and Internet security. He offers occasionally biting commentary about infinity and beyond at his weblog, Transterrestrial Musings.
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