Monday, May 23, 2016

Chris Dillow — Bad arguments against Marxism

One of the problems with being a Marxist is that one is the subject of silly misunderstandings. Here are a handful of the bad arguments against Marxism I often see, and my replies.…
Marx's key fundamental is class struggle. On that criterion, even Warren Buffett is a Marxist:
There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning. — As quoted in "In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning" by Ben Stein, in The New York Times (26 November 2006)*
It's class warfare. My class is winning, but they shouldn't be. — Interview with Lou Dobbs on CNN (25 May 2005)* 
The free market’s the best mechanism ever devised to put resources to their most efficient and productive use. … The government isn’t particularly good at that. But the market isn’t so good at making sure that the wealth that’s produced is being distributed fairly or wisely. Some of that wealth has to be plowed back into education, so that the next generation has a fair chance, and to maintain our infrastructure, and provide some sort of safety net for those who lose out in a market economy. And it just makes sense that those of us who’ve benefited most from the market should pay a bigger share. … When you get rid of the estate tax, you’re basically handing over command of the country’s resources to people who didn’t earn it. It’s like choosing the 2020 Olympic team by picking the children of all the winners at the 2000 Games. — To Barack Obama, as quoted in The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006), Ch. 5*
Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. — Statement of January 1991, as quoted in Of Permanent Value: The Story of Warren Buffett (2007) by Andrew Kilpatrick*
I happen to have a talent for allocating capital. But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society I was born into. If I’d been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can’t run very fast. I’m not particularly strong. I’d probably end up as some wild animal’s dinner. 
But I was lucky enough to be born in a time and place where society values my talent, and gave me a good education to develop that talent, and set up the laws and the financial system to let me do what I love doing — and make a lot of money doing it. The least I can do is help pay for all that. — To Barack Obama, as quoted in The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006), Ch. 5*
This is an important post by Dillow in that it debunk some of the major myths associated with socialism.

For one thing, Marx did not advocate state socialism as in Stalinism and Maoism or derivatives. Trotskyism is much more faithful to Marx. Moreover, Marx advocated for the withering away of the state. He was a libertarian or anarchist who opposed the utopian anarchists of his day.

Here is a notable observation Dillow makes:
For example, a citizens income combined with a meaningful jobs guarantee would be a step towards real freedom, and might kill off the most exploitative forms of capitalism by allowing workers to reject bad jobs.
This makes a lot of sense in terms of Marxist Michal Kalecki's The Political Aspects of Full Employment.

Stumbling and Mumbling
Bad arguments against Marxism
Chris Dillow | Investors Chronicle



Dan Lynch said...

@Tom said Marx's key fundamental is class struggle.

Spot on. You can disagree with some of the fine points of Marxist economics and still appreciate Marx the sociologist & historian for viewing society as driven by class struggle.

Howard Zinn's affiliation with Marxism as a young man shaped his view of history as a class struggle.

Tom Hickey said...

Class struggle is the sine qua non of claiming to be a Marxist. One can disagree with much if not most of what Marx said as either known to be inaccurate or no longer relevant, but the insight into class struggle as the shaper of history remains true today.

See, for example, C. Wright Mills, The Power EliteThe Power Elite.

The Power Elite is a 1956 book by sociologist C. Wright Mills, in which Mills calls attention to the interwoven interests of the leaders of the military, corporate, and political elements of society and suggests that the ordinary citizen is a relatively powerless subject of manipulation by those entities.

This is borne out empirically by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens