“We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence. Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily. Or do you mean the modern bourgeois private property? But does wage-labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labour, and which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage-labour for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labour.” – Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
I feel for Marx sometimes. He really did make some decent arguments based on what he saw in the world around him. He just took a “throw the baby out with the bath water” approach to the problem.
Of course, you also have to feel for him on the bases of the outcome of his work. He and Darwin laid the academic and propaganda framework for the destruction of more human lives than any other two thinkers I can imagine. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and others using Marx; and Hitler, Margaret Sanger, and a number of other “eugenists” using Darwin and attempting to help the human race evolve a bit faster by wiping out the undesirables. But that is another post …
We hear from socialists, marxists, and progressives that men are not truly free unless they have sufficient means to make use of or enjoy their freedom. Arguing this on principle seems ludicrous. We who believe in freedom as a gift from God recognize that it has nothing at all to do with wealth, but rather self-determination. You always have a choice, even if they are not as numerous or joyful as the choices available to wealthy men.
If we are to address the marxist view on this, we must consider it beyond strict definitions – we obviously and simply disagree. Even still, let us consider in what sense the inequity of wealth could possibly imply injustice, and therefore something like unequal freedom.
Is it inequality of talents and abilities? Here we have nowhere to turn and no means to resolve the conflict. “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” – Isaiah 29:16. People are not uniformly equal in height, weight, hair color, beauty, or natural ability – there’s nothing for it.
Suppose though that what Marx really opposed, really railed against, was inequity in reaping the benefits of exercise of freedom. Recall that economy is efficient use of resources, including the time and skills of men. It is the productive efforts of men that build wealth. When Marx saw men laboring more, producing more, and benefiting less from their productivity, he saw injustice. In an age of industrial growth it was the wealthy who had the necessary means to cross the “start up threshold” for entry into industrial production. They also kept most of the proceeds.
We know how the story turns out though. Eventually the industrial revolution comes and goes, and men become more valuable again. Yes, there was some help along the way from collective bargaining – a practice I fully support as part of freedom of association. But, men did not ultimately become slaves to a few wealthy robber barons – we made it out with our freedom still intact (for the most part).
Even with this, is there still a systemic fault in the free market that allows the rich to keep the poor in “their place”? Many of the socialist ideologues who love Marx so much strongly oppose any sort of “wealth inertia”. Thus, we see things like the “death tax” to make sure the rich don’t simply transfer accrued wealth to their children. They see an inequity in the system where the rich stay rich and the poor continue to suffer.
I’d like to point out though that in a truly free market, inertia is all on the side of the worker, not the wealthy. Barriers to entry are coming down. It is the people who still hold the key to productivity. Free men, exercising their freedom to produce goods and services desired by other people, to be used in trade – this is what drives economy. Those free men can easily choose to trade their productive means with each other (and they often do) – we are in no wise slaves to the wealthy.
Of course, we are not ultimately free in our free market. The government provides all manner of intrusion into our free interaction with one another. Most often, the government intervenes to prevent freedom in the market when prevention of that freedom is in the interest of the wealthy … who have bribed the government.
One wonders where the great Marxists are on this issue? Marx, as with right-wing theologians, when the route of greater government control. While the theocrats want to use the power of government to enforce proper moral behavior, the marxists want to use government enforce equality of stuff; no more rich-stay-rich and poor-stay-poor. The rest of us are stuck here in the middle, simply wanting to be free, and wanting both sides to leave us alone.
I feel for Marx; I do. I have doubts as to whether he really intended to oppress mankind in the process of ending oppression in the working class of his day. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions though. It would certainly seem so.