Grouchy Marx

From the Mises blog, Henry Hazlitt on Marxism-

The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man who is better off than you are. Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community. Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others.

Never under any circumstances admit that your own failure may be owing to your own weaknesses, or that the failure of anyone else may be due to his own defects — his laziness, incompetence, improvidence, or stupidity. Never believe in the honesty or disinterestedness of anyone who disagrees with you.

This basic hatred is the heart of Marxism. This is its animating force. You can throw away the dialectical materialism, the Hegelian framework, the technical jargon, the “scientific” analysis, and millions of pretentious words, and you still have the core: the implacable hatred and envy that are the raison d’être for all the rest.

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  • Mohit  On December 11, 2009 at 8:57 am

    “his success may be due to his own efforts,”

    From my limited knowledge, this was not true in the context when Marx wrote. Czars and their entourage were born wealthy, they did not have to work for it. The hatred was against the unfairness of an inherited good life as opposed to an earned one.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On December 11, 2009 at 12:08 pm

      I am not sure why you are referring to the czars here. Because of the connection between Russia and communism? Marx was a German who spent his life mostly on the continent, and then in Britain, where he died. His intellectual forefathers include madman Hegel, and Feuerbach. I don’t know if he ever visited Russia or how much influence the politics of the country had on him, but one really does not have to go there to create a theory of “class conflict.” There’s enough “conflict” in Western Europe to fill a hundred volumes.

      Its not just the czars, all European royalty followed a similar parasitic, I repeat, parasitic lifestyle. But to create an entire philosophy based on a misreading of contemporary politics, and thereby letting monsters like Lenin, Stalin and Mao loose, is unforgivable to say the least.

      # “The hatred was against the unfairness of an inherited good life as opposed to an earned one.”
      As long as the person from whom the inheritor inherits his estate has worked for the same, there’s nothing “unfair” in it. If I can’t dispose of my assets in a manner of my choosing, what’s the point of earning it? And who else, other than the person who is my rightful heir, has a better title to the same? The government, or the mob?

      • Mohit  On December 13, 2009 at 3:41 am

        “I am not sure why you are referring to the czars here Because of the connection between Russia and communism? “.

        Ack. Implicit association in my head, thanks for pointing it out.

        “If I can’t dispose of my assets in a manner of my choosing, what’s the point of earning it?”

        This is a question worth pondering. In a hypothetical world, where inheritance was not an option (say they just burnt up your money and your house), people’s consumption patterns would change. It would be interesting to follow that chain of thought and see where it leads to, I have not had the time to do it.

        Also, I tend to think the traditional model of inheritance leads to dynasties and I think dynasties are bad in the same way that monopolies are bad. Reduced competition for leadership roles, consumers suffer.

        I will think about these things and write something more substantial up someday.

        Cheers!

  • blr_p  On September 6, 2010 at 3:31 am

    So what do you make of his work ‘Capital’ ?

    • Aristotle The Geek  On September 6, 2010 at 4:05 am

      Haven’t read it. I did read the first chapter early last year but had to stop midway because he goes on and on about value without understanding that it’s scarcity that determines the “exchange value” of a commodity. But if he understood that and were an honest man, his pet labor theory of value would never exist, would it?

  • blr_p  On September 6, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Umm, i think it would be a bit premature to say that going on just the first chapter :)

    Capital is not an easy read to do by oneself and it helps to have some guidance. David Harvey has been teaching this for thirty years and has an online course for Vol 1 here. I’ve only been through Chapt 1 and its a fascinating listen so far, (the video stream did not work but the audio did) if i recall correctly he says to ignore supply-demand which would address scarcity, for later. He states that it only comes together towards the end ie the beginning chapters tend to be a little disjointed and Marx does not use a causative method at all, its all dialectics and the book is rather like peeling the layers of an onion, going inwards and then outwards to understand it.

    Why read it ? ..because it appears to be the most comprehensive treatise on the subject to date. It adds another perspective.

    It’s a classic and feel it would be a mistake to not do based solely on developments that had more to do with his Communist Manifesto and Engells rather than Capital alone. Not to mention the unique circumstances that existed in Russia at the time.

    Ultimately if you disagree with what’s said your crtiques will be sharper :)

    • Aristotle The Geek  On September 6, 2010 at 4:07 pm

      # “it would be a bit premature to say that…”
      But my understanding of Marx is hardly limited to the first chapter of Capitalism Capital V1. Those paragraphs only confirmed my view that he’s going about it the wrong way. A man could write 6000 pages of unreadable crap before stating his conclusion, and if the conclusion can be proven to be wrong, the process of coming to that conclusion isn’t very relevant.

      # “rather like peeling the layers of an onion…”
      Extraordinary patience is not one of my virtues. If someone cannot use plain language to say whatever it is that he’s saying, I get very fidgety and move on to something else. If Marx insists on peeling onions, he’ll never be read, in full, by me.

      # “if you disagree with what’s said your critiques will be sharper”
      Heard of this?

      I’m convinced that he’s wrong, it’s all that matters. Marx can dress up the labor theory of value in whatever garb he wants. The fact of the matter is that it’s indefensible. He’s fallen victim to the diamond-water paradox and doesn’t realize it. No wonder he’s struggling with different kinds of “value.”

      A use-value, or useful article, therefore, has value only because human labour in the abstract has been embodied or materialised in it. How, then, is the magnitude of this value to be measured? Plainly, by the quantity of the value-creating substance, the labour, contained in the article.

      and

      A thing can be a use-value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour. Such are air, virgin soil, natural meadows, &c. A thing can be useful, and the product of human labour, without being a commodity. Whoever directly satisfies his wants with the produce of his own labour, creates, indeed, use-values, but not commodities. In order to produce the latter, he must not only produce use-values, but use-values for others, social use-values. Lastly, nothing can have value, without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value.

      The concept of scarcity can solve this headache easily. But he’s not looking for solutions; instead he’s hellbent or creating problems. That’s why I can’t give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • blr_p  On September 7, 2010 at 2:19 am

    # The concept of scarcity can solve this headache easily.
    So you’re saying scarcity is the prime determinant in the exchange value of a commodity assuming demand is constant. Too much supply, exchange value diminishes and vice versa irrespective of the labour expended on the commodity. Sure, no disagreement there, now whether Marx deliberately ignores this point, atm i cannot say :)

    # Extraordinary patience is not one of my virtues. If someone cannot use plain language to say whatever it is that he’s saying, I get very fidgety and move on to something else. If Marx insists on peeling onions, he’ll never be read, in full, by me.
    I’m just listening to Harvey’s course initially, he touches on the main points and will decide later whether to read the book or not.

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