Posted by: The Busy Post | August 12, 2012

Marx: The prophet of an irrational faith | Obama: The candidate of an irrational party


For the Marxists ye have with you always – Telegraph Blogs

I was involved in a revealing exchange yesterday. Something I had Tweeted – a diffident question about whether pushing more and more people into university was necessarily desirable – prompted a series of responses along the lines of ‘Typical: like all capitalists, you don’t like poor people’.

The criticism came in such a blizzard that I felt some sort of reply was in order, so I took to the keyboard again: ‘I love all these “capitalists don’t like poor people” Tweets. It’s true: we want to turn them into rich people. It’s socialists who need their client groups.’

What happened next got me thinking. One after another, the Lefties on Twitter lined up to argue that capitalism couldn’t survive without poverty, that its essence was the widening of inequality, that it concentrated more and more power in the hands of fewer and fewer plutocrats, that its days were numbered. I won’t bore you by quoting them all. One – from the prolific Labour blogger Sunny Hundal – might stand for many: ‘In fact capitalism (by definition) needs more poor people and prefers poor bargaining rights and gross inequality’.

What’s fascinating here is not just that Sunny’s proposition is wrong; it’s that, like all the other responses just cited, it is lifted directly from Karl Marx.

Marxism, uniquely among political philosophies, defined itself as a science. To its adherents, its propositions were not speculative but empirical. As a good Hegelian, Marx saw his forecasts as part of an inexorable historical process. Yet every one – every one – of them turned out to be false.

Capitalism was supposed to destroy the middle class, leaving a tiny clique of oligarchs ruling over a vast proletariat. In fact, capitalism has enlarged the bourgeoisie wherever it has been practised. Capitalism was supposed to lower living standards for the majority. In fact, the world is wealthier than would have been conceivable 150 years ago. The whole market system was supposed to be on its last legs when Marx and Engels were writing. In fact, it was entering a golden age, hugely benefiting the poorest. As Schumpeter put it, the princess was always able to wear silk stockings, but it took capitalism to put them within reach of the shop girl. The living standard of a Briton on benefits today is higher than that of a Briton on average wages in the 1920s.

I don’t know how many of the people parroting Marx are aware that they’re doing so. But, whatever name we call it by, his doctrine has proved stunningly impervious to events. You’d have thought – I did think – that the collapse of the Warsaw Pact regimes in 1989 would have definitively refuted revolutionary socialism. Yet successive generations continue to fall for it.

The more I read of behavioural psychology, the more I think that ideologies are as much a product of people’s nature as of observed experience. The perverted doctrines that actuated the Bolshevists may be immanent in a portion of humanity. Some people are determined to see every success as a swindling of someone else, every transaction as an exploitation, every exercise in freedom as a violation of some ideal plan, every tradition as a superstition. How delicious that, as we approach the bicentenary of his birth, Karl Marx should have turned into the thing he loathed above all: the prophet of an irrational faith.

via For the Marxists ye have with you always – Telegraph Blogs.

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