Saturday, July 06, 2013

Playing The Percentages

Dreams die hard, and the dream of an international socialist takeover dies hardest of all.  Which is why every time there's a bust in the world of capitalism, a certain set pretends it's a serious crisis that challenges the very economic structure of society. Case in point, the opening paragraph in a silly piece (for other reasons) in The National Interest:

We are told these days that Karl Marx—one of the most influential thinkers of the nineteenth century, if not the single most important one—is enjoying a kind of renaissance. This is attributed by some to the great economic crisis that began in 2008 and destroyed considerable wealth around the world. Given that this crisis is seen widely as a crisis of capitalism, it is natural that many people would think of Marx, who was of course the greatest critic of capitalism in history.

I don't wish to make light of the real pain caused by the latest recession and slow recovery, but let's have a little perspective. Even after this disaster, countries that are part of the "capitalist" world are considerably richer than communist (and other non-capitalist) nations.

Many on the left try to pretend the top 1% exploits the bottom 99% (as if the top 1% is a stable group), but, in fact, it's pretty obvious the top 10% are doing fine, the top 50% and doing pretty well, and even the bottom 50% are doing better than just about any bottom 50% in the past, and also better than all but the top in a communist society.  This is exploitation?

If these people have a better idea, I'd be glad to hear it, but we've sure tried a lot of other systems and this is the one that works best.  To toss it out because of (relative) bad times is like saying we elected a bad leader so let's get rid of democracy.

PS  Here's a somewhat different example from the Los Angeles Review Of Books of someone who believes a bust disproves everything anyone has ever theorized in favor of capitalism.  Here's his hopeful ending:

If Marxism is to inspire millions of people once again, rather than the flaccid hand-wiggling of the Occupy movement or the academics who spend their time picking over the corpse of what Marx actually wrote, it needs to fight for the commanding heights of intellectual life — in this case, to present a radical interpretation of the best formal political economy which has come our way since Marx’s time. Its aim would be to show how, via a logic traceable through those very concepts, we arrived into a world where we began to think of ourselves as utility-maximizing consumers — and how, having got there, the promise of the public choice theorists came unstuck. The tools are all there, and if the frat-boy juvenilia tell us anything, it’s that there’s no lack of thirst for bold ideas. Read books: get started.

Wow.  Marxism needs to fight for the commanding heights of intellectual life? I thought that's all it had--when practiced at lower levels, it destroys.  And it needs a radical interpretation of the best formal political economy which has come our way since Marx?  Now that's an idea--Marxist thought which eschews Marx.

James Harkin, who wrote this piece, seems confused about a lot of things.  My suggestion to him: read books, don't review them.


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