You Just Might Be a Marxist

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.