The Communist Manifesto and Human Capital

The Communist Manifesto and Human Capital
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The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, was first published in 1848.  The introduction in my edition, by Martin Puchner, confirms what I also suspected, that Communism as described by Marx and Engels has been a slow-growing force of ideas and ideals that is undermining old forms.  Class distinctions aren’t so clear anymore, even though in the US, at least, there’s the glamorization of pretense, symbolized by Hollywood and the media.  Words like “successful,” or “wealthy,” imply ease or comfort but not necessarily happy or fulfilled.

 

In the Manifesto itself, I was surprised at ideas I’ve thought were my own but also at ideas abhorrent to me.  I liked the first part, which discusses the origins of community “from Ireland to India” as “communes” with land held in common.  Cities grew from that, and industrialization spread social organization, leading to metropolises, centralized power, and globalization.

 

The Communist Manifesto describes the “capitalist” as someone who owns the means of production.  Adam Smith, the “father of modern capitalism” lived in earlier times and did not define capitalism.  In fact, it seems he never used the word in Wealth of Nations, published in 1776.  It struck me at the time I read it as odd. 

 

So we have Marx and Engels defining “capitalist,” but Smith getting the acknowledgement.  However, the means of production has no value without human effort.  The land—unless it produces spontaneously—or machines, do not produce capital.  This is the great fallacy in reasoning that no one except me seems to debunk.

 

Human capital is the driving force behind production, so the ‘ownership” question becomes debatable.  In a slave society, you could make a case for the “capitalist” owning the means of production.  No wonder labor in the early industrial days grumbled.  They felt owned but were just emerging from feudal societies and situations in which they were slaves in every way except terminology.

 

Marx and Engels disparage private property.  To a point, I agree with them.  The greedy acquisitiveness of the land grabbers attests to the private property concept run amok, yet it is hard to maintain all that property without organization, including paid or conscripted labor.

 

Marx and Engels were idealists, for sure, in that they believed the proletariat more noble than the bourgeoisie/capitalist exploiters.  They call for abolishing private property and structuring agriculture like the military, but they also call for centralization of power, including a central bank and state ownership of communication and transportation.  They call for a heavy progressive income tax.  As we saw later, in the USSR, the state became the new aristocracy/bureaucracy.  By owning or controlling the “means of production”—the people, according to my definition--it became the exploiter but without the sense of responsibility to insure equal distribution.

 

Marx and Engels make a case for labor owning the means of production, and that makes sense to me, too.  I don’t understand why this isn’t more common.  The desire for perpetual expansion may lead industrial decision makers to seek outside investors.

 

That the banks and stock market attached themselves to the industrial revolution and grew with it renders them integral to the modern concept of what capitalism is.  However, both have served in their way to displace labor, or to undercut labor, as their revenues come from skimming unearned income off the top, or encouraging debt on which they collect interest.

 

The government, at least in the US, has enabled this process from the get-go.  This is probably the greatest lie of US history:  that government exists for the people.  The government exists to fund itself by enslaving the people under the “rule of law.”

 

Marx and Engels’ explanation regarding the rise of the bourgeoisie (capitalist) class makes sense, as far as it goes.  They claim this class undermined the aristocracy and feudal social structure.  The proletariat, the laboring class, became necessary to the success of industrialization, and peasants were attracted to cities and factories, believing steady work and income would make for easier, more secure lives.  I guess.  But it seems they merely traded one form of oppression for another.

 

It takes a lot of farm to feed a city, as The Land Grabbers so aptly shows.  Yet people are still piling into cities, we are told, encouraged by centralized governments, like China’s.  In many cases, it is forced migration, as their land is expropriated, war-torn, flooded, poisoned, or increasingly unaffordable.  The age of money, which also accompanied industrialization, banks, colonization, global trade, and centralized government, has fostered an atmosphere of dependency on it.

 

While Marx and Engels claimed class struggle is at the root of all human discord, their solution—for a dictatorship of the proletariat—merely reverses the inherent problem.  They make a grand leap of logic by suggesting a “dictatorship of the proletariat” would eliminate social hierarchies. In practical terms, unions assume their own social hierarchies.  Power delegated to union bosses carries the same risk as any delegated power and is easily abused.

 

I’m sure such a proposal was popular with the oppressed laborer, but the call for them to “unite” showed the same idealistic blindness that Marx and Engels criticized in early socialists like Robert Owen

 

I, too, have noticed the layering of society into ill-defined but distinct classes.  The media refers to the 0.1% wealthy, the oligarchs, the disappearing “middle class,” and the “poor.”  Marx and Engels talk about the “ruling class,” which was the aristocracy and the clergy, I guess, but they were undermined by capitalism and the bourgeoisie, based on industry, imports and exports, globalization and world-wide markets.  The bourgeoisie are united in their common pursuit of money, or capital, but, the authors say, the proletariat, often rural and isolated, is disorganized, not realizing the individual cause is the group’s cause.  The proles need to unite.

 

I do agree that class distinctions create class conflict.  Social hierarchies make no sense to me, but they won’t be abolished by decree.  Other people either like them or have become habituated to them and don’t imagine a truly egalitarian society.  People want “leaders,” someone on a pedestal and in the role of decision-maker for the group.  It seems they (people) want to be led.

 

Marx and Engels downplay the issue of how to accomplish the leveling of society.  They call tentatively for violent revolution, which may be why Marx was exiled from Prussia and Paris.

           

“Money is power” some claim, but I say money is delegated power.  Personal power needs no medium of exchange.  Marx and Engels seem to take the position that personal power is inconsequential.  Workers only have power en masse, so are susceptible to being divided and conquered. 

 

The Communist Manifesto politicizes natural human tendencies.  It misplaces emphasis by demeaning the value of individual human capital.  Here I come back to my fundamental belief in the individual, so denigrated by the collectivists, politicians, economists, churches, and everyone who believes in delegated power.  To practice self-control seems impossible to the control-freaks, so they gang up to control others.

 

Comments

Pardero Added May 3, 2018 - 2:02pm
Katharine Otto,
I enjoyed the article and particularly your outlook. You have certainly added to my scanty knowledge base.
 
I replied to your comment on my last article. Take a look if you get a chance.
Stone-Eater Added May 3, 2018 - 2:08pm
Great.
Dino Manalis Added May 3, 2018 - 2:34pm
Communism has failed repeatedly, while no state has pure capitalism, we try to maintain our entities with some socialism in combination.
Tubularsock Added May 3, 2018 - 3:42pm
Katharine, great post.
It appears to Tubularsock that people want to be lead because they don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives so they pass off their control to “Government”.
 
Now Our Government doesn’t want to take responsibility so the President attempts to blame the Congress for not taking responsibility and the Congress attempts to blame the President for not taking responsibility and the end result is that RESPONSIBILITY is cast to the dust bin of history.
 
And the reason! IF YOU TAKE ON RESPONSIBILITY you are held responsible!
 
And hey, you get paid either way so .........................
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 3, 2018 - 3:48pm
"Human capital is the driving force behind production, so the ‘ownership” question becomes debatable."
 
You seem to divorce the separation of the capitalist business owners with the proletariat  or  semi-skilled workers who perform, as instructed, the duties that produce products and services. 
 
It is the capitalist that has put venture capital into risk to generate a business that increases by producing more capital, a process known as growth. 
 
The worker has no ownership in such an arrangement except in  the fevered minds of the far left who would have the government control all capital if possible. 
 
Anybody can be a capitalist. 
Even A Broken Clock Added May 3, 2018 - 3:55pm
Katharine - the Manifesto has been on my "to do" list for a long time. Your post may hasten my reading it. It is difficult to come up with a one-size fits all structure for society, because the individuals who make up society are so diverse. Thanks for the post.
Jeff Jackson Added May 3, 2018 - 3:56pm
Very well-stated case, Katherine. I think Marx saw society drifting into classes that were or eventually were, at war with each other. While Marx wanted more people to be happy and share the prosperity, there are no guarantees that when everything is equal that everyone will be happy. Marx saw the elites as uncaring and unsympathetic to the working class, and on that point he may have been right. However hard the elites worked to gain their wealth, in some cases, the wealth gained far exceeds the effort put forth. Having read a lot of Marx myself, I think he may have been sincere in his efforts, but as an economic system, I have never been convinced that a fair society would ever really exist.
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 3, 2018 - 4:03pm
JJ
 
 
" Marx saw the elites as uncaring and unsympathetic to the working class, and on that point he may have been right."
 
One wonders how caring and sympathetic Lenin and Mao and Stalin were to the unfortunate folk who fell under their power. 100 million dead in the last century. 
 
Marx was a drunk. 
Doug Plumb Added May 3, 2018 - 4:14pm
re "People want “leaders,” someone on a pedestal and in the role of decision-maker for the group.  It seems they (people) want to be led."
 
Or they are just made to think this way through the media programming.
 
Good post, check out stuff on "Cultural Marxism". I think "The German Ideology" is the best commie book, its complex materialistic philosophy that underlies the idea of Marxism, written by Marx.
Kant wrote the Critique Of Pure Reason to shred the material notion to pieces, and he warns of it being adopted as the dominant political view in much the same way that contemporaries do but he only gives this about a paragraph. He throws a few comments in his academic philosophy that pertain to political realities. My fav quote of his is "Judaism is a political movement, not a religion". He talks about the Bavarian conspiracy (illuminati in todays parlance) as being silly and that no one could be made to go along with it - the only thing he was wrong about IMO.
 
Dave Volek Added May 3, 2018 - 4:27pm
Katherine
 
I have read synopses of this book from other writers. One part I do like is the eventual fall of any truly capitalist society. To put this fall briefly, eventually workers will be squeezed of their wages such that they can no longer buy whatever the industrialists manufacture. 
 
To me, this makes a lot of sense. And it certainly reflected the outlook of the masses in those times. In 1848, Europe was subjected to a lot of street protests from working people who saw no hope. To keep the peace, the political decision makers ceded some of their power and wealth to appease the working masses. And that was the start of modern democracy in Europe. This included progressive causes.
 
I believe it is these progressive causes that kept Marx's predicted collapse from not happening.
 
 
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 3, 2018 - 4:53pm
Dave Volek
 
"To put this fall briefly, eventually workers will be squeezed of their wages such that they can no longer buy whatever the industrialists manufacture. "
 
And the government replaced by what?
 
Even the Chinese and Russians have had to step aside from  their monolithic interpretation of communism and put in some capitalist nuances that to make enough food and such.
 
The PRC has evolved from poverty and terror to a modern mercantilist state  that used more capitalism than communism. 
 
Communism has never fulfilled any of its objectives. It offers only terror and poverty. 
George N Romey Added May 3, 2018 - 5:23pm
Very good article Katharine. I think Marx understood some of today’s problems in the sense that capitalism turns into crony capitalism as wealth and power get filtered into a small elite subclass.
 
His sense is that if workers owned the means of production there would be far less class division. Remember in his time workers were mostly illiterate. Today most people have a least a high school education. The question is now could workers own or decide the means of production. To a limited sense yet but wholesale we’re decades away. 
Mustafa Kemal Added May 3, 2018 - 8:49pm
Katherine Otto,
what a breath of fresh air it was to read your article. Certainly they saw many of the evils of capitalism, but they could not forsee the evils of communism. Of course, I suppose that might be hard to do when you are inventing a new ism that will, and did, change the world.
 
I have just finished McMeekin’s the Russian Revolution and Montefiore’s Young Stalin and now I am in the middle of the latter’s Stalin.
 
Since the opening of the archives after the fall of the USSR, new information has come to light. 
In particular, it is clear now 
 
1) the revolution was not organic and was due to the actions of a small group of people.
2) the proletariate was one of the enemies of this revolution. In particular, the kulaks, peasants wealthy enough to own a farm and maybe hire some labor were murdered and the since the peasants were closest to the food supplies, during the famine war was waged even on the poor peasants.
3) Stalin was an avid Marxist. He was extremely intelligent. However, the reason he became Lenon’s right hand man was essentially that he had no scruples. He was an excellent criminal, extortionist and conspirator; The book Young Stalin is absolutely a riveting adventure story.  In fact he loved the consipirational environment.  He came from a world of loyalty and betrayal and this world made him perfect for Lenin’s Leninism. Stalin said that the Party made him.  From the looks of it, this effect was both ways.
4 One of the ”definitions” of a Bolshevik was that “:the Party is Right”, no matter how wrong it is.
5) The Kremlin was like a family living in a little community. Stalin might just knock on your door and say “Anyone want to go see a movie?”
And as such, it was filled with familial type intrigues.
6 Neither Lenin or Stalin were ever numero uno. Indeed, Stalin had to go through  a little dance to get vacation time. IMO, it is this hypocrisy which plays a large part in the viciousness of the Bolsheviks; instead of clear leadership roles, they duked it out for power in a familial Kremlin.
 
7 Evidently Stalin was very charming. Although completely devoid of empathy he could make you feel very important.
 
8 Evidently Lenin also had no real idea how to get to the Socialist Utopia. Apparently he thought he would kill his way into it. Stalin essential also said as much.
I cant imagine anyone really thinking you can kill your way into a utopia of any egality.
 
9) Stalin established a sort of Intellectual sponsorship of people such as Gorky. This served two purposes. One, to fan their vanity and two, to open a channel with which to input their ideas into literature and art.
 
Mustafa 
 
Katharine Otto Added May 3, 2018 - 9:36pm
Pardero,
Thanks for that.  Responses on WriterBeat, as well as the articles themselves, certainly add to my knowledge base.
 
Stone,
Thanks for reading.  I had a history professor who insisted on using primary sources.  I've heard so much about communism throughout my life, I wanted to read the original document.
 
Dino,
While communism in may have failed, elements of the doctrine have become embedded in modern societies worldwide.  Central banks, centralized government, progressive income taxes, to name the most obvious ones.
 
Tubularsock,
Isn't that a question of maturity?  Adults are willing to take responsibility for their own behavior.  I agree people seem to want to be led from behind, meaning they want "leaders" who can read their minds and do what they want.  At least the stagnant quo keeps the government from doing stupid things faster.
Katharine Otto Added May 3, 2018 - 9:53pm
ryck,
You offer the traditional definition, which I'm trying to re-conceptualize.  In Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith essentially says the wealth of a nation consists of the annual production of land and its labor.  He then goes on to discuss all the ways labor can be squeezed to increase profits for tax collectors and stock holders.  That cold-blooded attitude may increase profits, at least in the short term, but it doesn't make for good labor-employer relations.  Ultimately, I believe it harms profits, too, because of increased accidents, turnover, lawsuits, employee illness, and any number of passive-aggressive methods of retaliation.
 
Clock,
It's worth reading, and it's relatively short.  I will look forward to your assessment.
 
Jeff,
I believe Marx was an idealist, but he didn't understand human nature.  He also believed the magical State could level society without becoming stratified itself.  He states explicitly that class struggle is the basis of suffering, as you suggest.  However, I  believe that was too simplistic.  None of us knows what it would be like to have truly egalitarian societies.   
Tamara Wilhite Added May 3, 2018 - 10:08pm
When you explain everything as the result of oppression, the end result is oppression until you have to kill your scapegoats.

When Victimhood Leads to Genocide - Prof. Jordan Peterson on Dekulakization
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeYRK16PIlA
Katharine Otto Added May 3, 2018 - 10:08pm
ryck,
No one has a monopoly on accusing the other guy of being uncaring.  It seems the underprivileged, the poor, the disenfranchised, the proletariat, are used as weapons repeatedly, without their consent, for the control-freaks to claim and pretend they are on the side of "helping."
 
Doug,
Putting such a high value on materialism seems strange to me, but it's the world we live in.  I'm an ascetic at heart and wonder why anyone would want more than he can easily manage or use.  I don't know much about the Illuminati, but I gather they think they're smarter than everybody else.  Seems to me there are lots of people and groups that think they are, too, but none of them have proved it.
 
Katharine Otto Added May 3, 2018 - 10:17pm
Dave,
That period of history was a powder keg of fast changes, displacements, population shifts, transformation of the nature of work, place of work, and all the other changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution.  I know American history better than European history, but we had the same unrest here.  Not only did Lincoln's war change the entire economy of the South, but it stimulated the vast industrialism in the North, along with its labor disputes, strikes, and miserable working conditions.  I agree that the progressive movement dampened the fires, but it didn't put them out, as we are seeing now.
 
rycK,
A truly equitable society would need minimal government, because everyone would want to play fair.  You can't cheat people without creating resentment, even if you're a government.  China may be becoming more capitalistic, while the US is becoming more socialistic, and the human nature problem is still unsolved.
Katharine Otto Added May 3, 2018 - 10:33pm
George,
Very insightful comment.  Literacy today is a giant step forward.  It gives people more options, for one thing.  The internet is still in its infancy, but forums like this one allow people all over the world to exchange all kinds of wacky ideas and imagine small and large solutions.  In Marx's time, probably few people ever strayed far from where they were born, physically or mentally.
 
Mustafa,
Sounds like you are much better versed in Communist history than I am, and thank you for the information.  It expands and improves this whole discussion.  
 
It interests me that those who would take control often start with the food supply.  Julius Caesar did it.  I just read about how the British cut off the food supply to the French in the capture of Quebec in the 1700s.
 
In contemporary life, it makes me concerned about Big Food, and the mergers of the big seed, GMO, agricultural, chemical and pharmaceutical companies:  Bayer with Monsanto, Dow with Dupont, and Syngenta with China National Chemical Corporation.  I haven't checked lately.  Is anyone else keeping up?  Totally off-topic, I know.
Mustafa Kemal Added May 4, 2018 - 3:29am
Tamara Wilhite,
re:"When you explain everything as the result of oppression, the end result is oppression until you have to kill your scapegoats."
 
Peterson has excellent videos on Jung's shadow. It appears to be relevant here also.
Neil Lock Added May 4, 2018 - 3:45am
Katharine: Really good article. Thank you.
 
The means of production has no value without human effort. Spot on. The ultimate factors in productivity are human time, effort and skills.
 
They call for abolishing private property and structuring agriculture like the military, but they also call for centralization of power. There you have the failings of communism in a nutshell. Take away people's land and their power to earn, and treat them as objects to be used, not as human beings. And a small privileged cadre, the Party, enjoys the proceeds. Oh, wait... that's how the "system" works today, isn't it?
Thomas Sutrina Added May 4, 2018 - 9:33am
Katharine O., good article. I have a paper back copy of Wealth of nations sitting on my book shelf. It makes 'Gone with the Wind' thin. I have however read 'Free to Chose' from Dr. Milton Friedman that present Smith's principles. I find this not making sense, " In Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith essentially says the wealth of a nation consists of the annual production of land and its labor. He then goes on to discuss all the ways labor can be squeezed to increase profits for tax collectors and stock holders. That cold-blooded attitude may increase profits, at least in the short term, but it doesn't make for good labor-employer relations. Ultimately, I believe it harms profits, too, because of increased accidents, turnover, lawsuits, employee illness, and any number of passive-aggressive methods of retaliation."
Katharine O., how does your quote jive with, "Adam Smith put it, an individual who "intends only his own gain" is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good." ... "an individual who intends only to serve the public interest by fostering government intervention is "led by an invisible hand to promote" private interest, "which was no part of his intention." . . . the interest of the dealers however, in any particular branch of trade or manufacture, is always in some respects different from and even opposite to, that of the public and therefore to that of the social structure itself. . . . the uniform, constant, and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his conditions, the principle from which public and national, as well as private opulence is originally derived," has been, "powerful enough to maintain the natural progress of things towards improvement, in spite both of the extravagance of governments and of the greatest errors of administration. Like the unknown principle of animal life, it frequently restores health and vigour to the constitution, in spite, no only of the disease, but of the absurd prescription of the doctor." Wealth of Nations Vol 1, page 325 book II chapter III 1776 edition edited by Edwin Cannan 5th edition London Methuen & Co Ltd 1930 The page is for the last quote. These are all quotes from Adam Smith in 'Free to Choose' and cited.
Adam Smith lead the free trade and elimination of tariffs which again seem to be opposite your quote. The creation of the UK empire and America are from following Adam Smith.
Labor I agree was squeezed by industrialist, but the feudal system, class system, that existed in Europe and the UK for centuries also squeezed labor. Class system creates barriers to labor thus skewing opportunities, choices in the trade between labor and industrialist. This can be considered a squeeze but industrialism is only the latest upper class trader that skewed opportunities in their favor. Slavery is just the bottom level of the historic class society. The elimination of slavers is the major result of industrialization.
David Montaigne Added May 4, 2018 - 9:50am
Dino M said: "Communism has failed repeatedly, while no state has pure capitalism" that about sums it up.  Capitalism is the worst system, except for everything else.
Tamara Wilhite Added May 4, 2018 - 10:04am
Mustafa Kemal I've watched quite a few Dr. Jordan Peterson videos. That we shouldn't see it as a dark side/light side, but tame the dragon and use it to be brave. Recognize that we all have the darker impulses and refuse them, but don't see helpless victimhood as moral because it enables true evil.
Dave Volek Added May 4, 2018 - 12:12pm
Ryck
It's interesting to see how all ideologies compromise themselves. I was in Czechoslovakia shortly after communism fell. I quickly found out there was a great big underground economy happening. If you wanted your car repaired, don't take to the government owned shops. Take it to the backyard mechanic. This fellow "worked" at the government shop from 8-5, but had a side business at his home for evenings and weekends. He stole the tools and parts from the government shop.
 
Legally, he was not supposed to set up this business. And everyone knew about it, including the communist bosses. I guess they wanted their cars fixed too.
 
In any society, we will always find some balance between capitalism and socialism. Neither "ism" has the whole truth.
 
The trick is having a system of government to find the best balance.
Dave Volek Added May 4, 2018 - 12:16pm
Mustafa
Nice response to this thread. We in the west have a belief that dictators are absolute control over government. Yet we find them playing all sorts of games with their subordinates, who could topple them at any time. If nothing else, both Lenin and Stalin were skillful political players in the game of power gathering. Their skills for  management of the country were actually quite poor.
 
 
Thomas Sutrina Added May 4, 2018 - 12:40pm
Dave V.  USSR collapsed.  Cuba, Venezuela, and other communist countries are being held up by the end of a gun.  China let in capitalism enough to keep it from collapsing that was in process from the Cultural Revolution.    And why you answered so effectively, "Legally, he was not supposed to set up this business. And everyone knew about it, including the communist bosses. I guess they wanted their cars fixed too."  You see Adam Smith's insight were correct for all people, "intends only his own gain" is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."  He violated the rules of his government that he is an enforcer of. 
 
The Marxist leaders formed a government that, "intends only his own gain" is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention," a government worse then the one they removed.  That let famines run wild. 
Jeffrey Kelly Added May 4, 2018 - 12:53pm
I read “The Communist Manifesto” years ago.  Thanks for the reminder, it isn’t something I really want to read again.
 
I think reality intrudes too much for true ideology to work.  Communism (the bastardized version that eventually morphed into Leninism and Stalinism) eventually turns on its founders, devolving into brutal dictatorships in its early stages and then morphing into hapless commitee dictatorships in its latter stages.  The only really successful one is the Chinese version and then it needed to compromise on capitalism to really work.
 
No “Communist” country, a classless community where everyone worked in harmony with each other, ever existed.  Humans at this stage aren’t capable of it.  “Communism” only came to power in relatively backward countries, it never seized true power in developed countries.  Even in Eastern Europe it was imposed from above, Eastern Europe before WW II was staunchly anti-Communist and in many countries it was against the law.
Dave Volek Added May 4, 2018 - 1:01pm
Thomas
 
You are missing the point of my post. Dictators may not have to deal with the public in the same way democratically elected leaders do. But behind the doors with many courtiers, there is a lot of political maneuvering going on. Lower level courtesans are looking to advance their influence. Factions are being created. A successful dictator needs to keep on top of the court and make the right moves at the right times--lest he be overthrown. 
 
There is no such dictator that can rule with absolute impunity. Eventually (and if they don't die in office) they are held to account one way or another.
 
 
 
 
 
Stone-Eater Added May 4, 2018 - 1:12pm
Marx wasn't a poor guy but at the time he had the financial resources NOT TO WORK and THINK about what happened in his time concerning worker's conditions and rights. Some might say that a wealthy guy who fights for the rights of workers is a hypocrite. But is it so much different today ?
 
The people who call themselves philosophs are all coming from wealthy families because otherwise a) they wouldn't have gone to universities to study and b) they don't have to work all day to live and are too exhausted at night to even start THINKING.
 
Communism per se would be a system that in theory would fit us all better. The only thing that Marx didn't consider IMHO is that people don't work that way. You might think it to be possible when you, as said, have a financial security. But then you don't see the fight people are in for survival and underestimate their capabilities of understanding what you try to tell them. Because they don't have the same level of education than you.
 
And then they will refuse you. They will simply say: He's not one of us, so who the fuck does he thinks he is ? He don't know nothing at all....
 
PTW: Marx was not the first to talk about that.
 
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-ethics-politics/#Comm
 
I mean that was 2000 years before Marx....the dream of a society for all is thousands of years old. Quite logical when the peasant compares himself to the landlord and asks WHY ?
Dave Volek Added May 4, 2018 - 4:42pm
Stone
 
Quite logical when the peasant compares himself to the landlord and asks WHY ?
 
This question has been answered many times by libertarian-type thinkers on WB. The peasant is just lazy! Or perhaps more tactfully put: he made a choice where he traded hard work for some comfort.
 
There, that is all you need to know.
 
You probably have heard this axiom before, but if hard work is all that is needed for financial success, half the women in Africa would be millionaires by now.
 
 
 
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 4, 2018 - 4:56pm
Katharine Otto
 
"rycK,
A truly equitable society would need minimal government, because everyone would want to play fair.  You can't cheat people without creating resentment, even if you're a government.  China may be becoming more capitalistic, while the US is becoming more socialistic, and the human nature problem is still unsolved."
 
Full agreement here with the size and efficiency and fairness of government. But, we have no clue as how to adapt a government such as Plato recommended lacking, of course, a philosopher king with attributes we can only imagine. 
 
I do not known what a solution to the 'human nature problem' might look like except for the idea that all citizens should have room, education, jobs,  food and medial attention and access to social events and programs. 
 
We have small snippets of such places in Switzerland, Monaco and a few other places but they all seem to have special circumstances that allow for such social benefits. It takes money and power to guarantee a decent place for all citizens such as the two mentioned above and in places where the social conditions are miserable it seems they have power but little money or the money is concentrated in small groups. 
 
Apparently, money and power cannot be spread around equally among the members of the polis. Democracy in Athens failed miserably.
Doug Plumb Added May 4, 2018 - 5:40pm
Thomas re " "Adam Smith put it, an individual who "intends only his own gain" is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. "
 
I think this is fundamentally true to the point of being an actual maxim.
I think our problems started when we started mixing the water with the wine, Gods law with mans, Governments (who's function is to maintain the common law)  with business who must profit.
Problems start when a 22 year old makes 50 billion dollars and has the political power associated with that money, same as older generations, who's money mostly came from drug dealing, drug peddling and selling snake oil.
People who create something great will make a lot of money. They should be taxed to prevent them from getting all that unaccountable power. Let them be examples for others and that recognition along with a life of only comfort and ease with all the objects that money can buy be the reward. They should be remembered, read and studied. I wonder how it is that Trump got to where he is. He may be very intelligent and articulate in private, and he may actually be deserving, and maybe even a moral example for the rest of us. With today's press, there is no way of knowing.
Mustafa Kemal Added May 4, 2018 - 9:45pm
Tamara Wilhite. re:
"Recognize that we all have the darker impulses and refuse them"
 
As stated I disagree. I think the  errors occur when the dark side is not balanced with the light side.  For example, IMO, i should not refuse my capacity for physicial violence, but instead have it in tune with my light side so it can diffuse the situation so that no physical violence is necessary. And if it is, you are ready and able to deliver.
 
To me, coming to terms with my Jungian shadow amounts to sitting at the Pivot of the Tao.
 
Mustafa
Mustafa Kemal Added May 4, 2018 - 9:47pm
Dave Volek, 
re;"Their skills for  management of the country were actually quite poor."
That is abundantly clear, in a mind boggling sort of way. I think it was some sort of perverse miracle that it succeeded. 
 
Mustafa
Michael B. Added May 4, 2018 - 9:55pm
Interesting post, Katherine. 1848 was certainly a banner year for social unrest, as many revolts in Europe were brutally crushed, and many Europeans, deciding that life was fucked for them as long as they remained there, split for the States and other areas of the world. A former lime-sucking co-worker succinctly summed it up: "We sent the religious fanatics to the States and the criminals to Australia." I had to correct him by saying that before Australia and the American Revolution, America and adjacent areas were nothing more than a gigantic concentration camp/penal colony composed of outright slaves, indentured servants, and minor criminals like petty larcenists who were given the sentence of "Transportation", which usually meant being worked to death on a plantation somewhere in the New World. They promoted diversity back then too, as no matter what color somebody was, chances were good that they arrived in the New World in chains.
Katharine Otto Added May 4, 2018 - 10:30pm
Neil,
Thanks for your compliment and comment.  I do believe communal land holdings could work if they are internally, rather than externally, arranged.  The Land Grabbers gives several examples of communal land holdings and communal decision-making about it.  But as you note, and Marx recommended, Communism would take away the rights of self-determination.
Katharine Otto Added May 4, 2018 - 10:54pm
Thomas,
That's a long-answer question.  I'm giving my interpretation, which may be different from Dr. Friedman's.  I know people believe Smith was a proponent of laissez faire, but he was also addressing the enormous debt the UK acquired from the Seven Years' War.  At that time, Britain had trade monopolies, it dominated the seas, and was looking at all possible ways to raise revenues.  Smith's book was so successful that he was appointed customs commissioner for Edinburgh after it was published.  Remember, the Revolutionary War was fought over taxes, specifically duties, charged the colonies.  
 
But my reference to Wealth was to the attitude he conveyed about labor.  I took notes--27 typewritten pages worth--and will review them to provide more specifics, if you like.  This post only mentions Smith because I thought his attitude showed what Marx and Engels were complaining about.
 
By the way, I've read Free to Choose, too, but a long time ago.  I'll look that over and maybe post something about both books.
Katharine Otto Added May 4, 2018 - 10:58pm
David,
I would say that centralization of power is the worst system, and capitalism and communism, as we know them, both have that failing.  Absentee bosses, who don't know or care about specific localities' problems, make sweeping decisions in one-size-fits-nobody style, but everybody has to pay.
Katharine Otto Added May 4, 2018 - 11:10pm
Dave,
That mechanic needn't have had any ideology in order to work on cars.  He was just doing what he knew to do, appropriate under the circumstances.  Do you think he had to pay someone off to be left alone?
 
Maybe the trick is having a government too lazy to enforce its laws.
 
Your response to Mustafa makes me think dictators and kings are parallel, what with their court intrigues and subordinates vying for favor, always looking for an edge.
Katharine Otto Added May 4, 2018 - 11:17pm
Jeffrey,
The Communist Manifesto is shelved under "philosophy" at Barnes  & Noble, which tells me it is considered theoretical but not really practical.  That's how I read the book, even though there are countries that claim to be Communist.  What most interested me was that so much of what Marx and Engels proposed has come to pass, even in our so-called "democracy."  The central bank, centralization of power, and the progressive income tax are three of the most salient.
Katharine Otto Added May 4, 2018 - 11:26pm
Stone,
I don't know much about Marx' personal life, but the introduction says that he was at times quite poor and had to depend on Engels (who was from a capitalist family) for support.  It strikes me as hypocritical that he was disparaging capitalism while depending on it to support himself. 
 
You hit on a good point, though.  Generally, I question the motives of the "haves" forming non-profits and lobbying the government for the supposed benefit of the "have-nots"
 
You also make the quite valid point that people learn more from what you do than what you say.  I believe people, from childhood up, learn better from being shown the way than from being told.
Katharine Otto Added May 4, 2018 - 11:37pm
Dave,
Undoubtedly there are limitations on the peasant's becoming the landlord, but they are not as insurmountable as in the past.  
 
Lazy is not a bad thing, according to me.  In fact, the older I get, the more I'm cultivating lazy.  I simply don't want the responsibility of having and maintaining a lot of stuff.  
 
The notion that everyone wants or should want "financial success," whatever that is, is a cultural bias that does more harm than good.
Katharine Otto Added May 4, 2018 - 11:44pm
rycK,
I believe it requires a major attitude shift to create a saner society.  First, we need to quit looking to the government to provide for us.  We need to take better care of each other, starting with the people closest to us.  It sounds simplistic, and it is, but we are taught to fear and distrust each other.  
 
I believe it is a fallacy to believe money and power will do it.  Actually, greater things may be accomplished by cultivating dignity and respect on a small scale, one person at a time.
Katharine Otto Added May 4, 2018 - 11:54pm
Doug,
Frankly, I wasn't too impressed with old Adam Smith.  He made vast generalizations, was way too cavalier in his assessments, and left out lots of important considerations in reaching his conclusions.
 
An individual looking for his own gain may or may not benefit society.  John D. Rockefeller, for instance, believed he was doing the world a favor by insuring affordable kerosene, but he also did himself the enormous favor of destroying competition.  It's debatable whether seeking his own gain to that extent benefited society.  Who's to say what might have been?  Adam Smith was not the ultimate judge of what benefits society.
Katharine Otto Added May 5, 2018 - 12:00am
Mustafa and Tamara,
You seem to be agreeing more than disagreeing.  If you don't harbor dark thoughts, you are less likely to act on them.  It's important to recognize the dark thoughts, but dangerous to feed them.  
 
Katharine Otto Added May 5, 2018 - 12:03am
Michael B.,
You're right.  I'm currently reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin.  One of the complaints against the British was that because they exported their criminals to the colonies, Philadelphia was suffering from a severe crime problem.  Indentured servants murdering their employers and the like.
Bill Kamps Added May 5, 2018 - 8:43am
Katherine, interesting article, and complicated issues.
 
There is no perfect solution, because none of these situations is black and white.  Capitalism often treats workers like a cost, and not as true contributor to the company.  However, it depends a lot on the worker and situation.
 
Some workers simply put in their time, and do precisely what they are told to do.  They are paid for their time and effort and not much more. Some workers want it that way.  Other workers create new ways for the company to prosper, and are really creating a multiplier on their time and effort.
 
Companies can and do offer stock ownership to workers.  Some companies offer it to everyone, and others just to those selected workers that have made significant contributions.
 
Often times workers want the ownership benefits without the ownership responsibilities.  They may not want to, or be able to take the financial risk of ownership, often times they dont even want to make decisions.  I have had employees shrink from making decisions they were capable of, just because they were very risk adverse and wanted to defer to someone that knew better.
 
One of the problems with socialism, is that while on paper the workers "owned" the means of production, they didnt make the decisions or rules and got few benefits from this ownership.  Often socialists are more top down than capitalists.  Having the state own the means of the production is not the same as having the workers own it. Often socialists give lots of rights and freedoms to the workers, UNLESS exercising these rights harms the collective.  Imagine if we had freedom of speech in the US, unless it was deemed harmful to the state. This is what the Chinese have, freedom of speech, with very large caveats. 
 
Society is a mix of flavors of capitalism.  Depending on the industry companies may be heavily regulated, even to the point where their pricing is regulated, and their profits controlled by government.  As workers, people can choose to work where they fit the best, for a company that offers ownership, or for a company that just pays them for their labor.  Today it is easier than ever to be self employed and have more control over one's time.
 
Obviously not all workers have all choices available to them.  This is true regardless of the system.  More often in socialist systems your options are fewer, but your risks are also lower.  You will have some kind of job, and some kind of place to live,  just maybe not one you like.  In more capitalists systems, you have more choices, more responsibilities, more risk, and more potential upside and downside. 
Don Allen Added May 5, 2018 - 9:37am
Update...
 
In the olden days, Marxism was about capital and labor as the evil and oppressed. Today, the argument has switched to an energy denominator. There are the energy have nots and the energy haves. There is the control by capital of energy sources allocated to the same and denied to others. There is talk of genetically altered crops as evil or good. There is the subvention of infrastructure sites by liberators claiming yet another higher loyalty.
Marxists, neo-Marxists, and pseudo-Marxists can’t get anything published anymore. Nothing is new. But convert all the arguments toward energy and crops, and we see an explosion of exploitation (of man by whomever) literature.
Bill Kamps Added May 5, 2018 - 10:11am
Don, as long as there have been people, there have been the haves and haves nots.  True enough.
Katharine Otto Added May 5, 2018 - 10:31am
Bill,
It's very hard to generalize, but I believe the size of the company is important.  Large corporations, like those publicly traded, and international corporations, may be more likely to see individuals as dispensable, with short-term profits (and the appearance of profits) more heavily emphasized.  Small businesses, on the other hand, don't have so much wiggle room but benefit from investing more care in their labor, especially if they can't afford higher wages.
 
Socialism, it seems, makes the government the de facto employer, and does not have to attend to the bottom line.  In one sense, the preponderance of government jobs--at every level of government-- makes the US a socialist country.  Government workers enjoy the best benefits and pension plans, are very difficult to fire, and can punch a clock for 20-30 years and never have to perform beyond their literal job descriptions.  There's no incentive to stand out and active dis-incentives for rocking the boat.  Ever heard the phrase, "It's good enough for government work"?
 
Forget freedom of speech if you work for the government.  Employees of a local college in the state system are not allowed to have political bumper stickers on their cars.  That they are willing to accept this shows how compromised our system is.
 
In fact, I believe the US has moved more toward socialism than anyone acknowledges.  While "corporate welfare" definitely exists, there's a counterweight in the heavy regulation that usually hurts the little guy more than the big guy and effectively squelches competition.  Corporate lobbyists and lawyers often write the regulations so know what the loopholes are.
Katharine Otto Added May 5, 2018 - 10:47am
Don Allen,
The world has chosen to place high value on energy, especially oil, because its use has become so pervasive since the advent of the industrial age.  Also, oil is crucial to war and international shipping, both of which maintain the world-wide oligarchies.
 
The illusion that GMO crops are a technological improvement is scary.  The idea of producing sterile seeds, which will then supplant natural crops, seems extremely dangerous in the long run and more likely to produce famines--especially in poor cultures--than feed the world.  I don't believe in patented seeds and plants, but Monsanto and Dow have more lobbyists and lawyers than I do.
 
It's hard to identify pure Marxist thought anymore, because it has become so mixed in with other "isms."  I agree with you that the control freaks have latched on to energy and food as two points of "economic narrows."   By manipulating these, and access to them, the exploiters maintain the upper, top-dog, hand.  That's why Marx called for abolishing private property, probably.  Farmers, if allowed land for farming, can be the most independent people of all.
Bill Kamps Added May 5, 2018 - 10:52am
In fact, I believe the US has moved more toward socialism than anyone acknowledges.  While "corporate welfare" definitely exists, there's a counterweight in the heavy regulation that usually hurts the little guy more than the big guy and effectively squelches competition. 
 
Yes, I agree.  Untangling the benefits and subsidies government provides, with the regulations and burdens it also requires makes it difficult to tell whether government is help or hurting any given industry.  Tobacco is an interesting one, where they subsidize the farmers but heavily tax and warn against the use of the product. Agreed also that while big companies complain about regulation, they often participated in creating it, to slow competition.
 
By at least one measure there are 17% of US workers working in the public sector, which is a high number you are correct. 
 
Agreed, large companies are more likely to see workers as an expense, rather than a potential contribution.   Many reasons for this, but  it takes an exceptional individual to "move the needle" at Exxon while at my company of 14 everyone moved the needle one direction or another.
 
A debate about "capitalism" is a false debate.  Rather we should be demanding more accountability from corporate leaders.  Too many failed leaders get paid tens or even hundreds of millions to just go away, either because of incompetence or malfeasance.  For many corporate executives, after being on the job a couple of years, the best thing that can happen to them is to be fired, given how golden parachutes are often constructed.  Unfortunately it is an incestuous club where board members are all club members, and no one wants to punish someone, since they any of them may be in the hot seat at some point.
George N Romey Added May 5, 2018 - 11:16am
Today we have more of a professional C level class. Born to wealth, attending the best of schools and well connected into the upper crust and warmly invited and protected by “class.” At one time the CEO was more of the talented guy that rose through the ranks. He or she was true tested over the years for their ability to think deeply, lead others, allocate resources and blend data with critical thinking. They were also more adapt to have a strong moral compass.
 
Today CEOs and CFOs are under extreme pressure to produce outsized results quarter after quarter. Should we be surprised at what that pressure turns individuals into.
Katharine Otto Added May 5, 2018 - 11:53am
Bill,
As far as government workers goes, I've heard the number is much higher, up to 50%.  That would probably include the military, and workers at state and local levels, too.  Also, I suspect many corporations, like Boeing, rely heavily on government contracts and wouldn't be nearly so profitable without them.
 
Yes the CEO/CFO in-crowd have created cushy deals for themselves.  Getting fired is probably very profitable, and they end up in board seats, government or lobbying jobs, and other richly rewarding positions.  Why, when Enron failed, one of the principals, Richard Kinder, formed Kinder Morgan, and is pushing pipelines through British Columbia and Georgia as fast as he can get away with it.  Where do the tangible assets go when a company goes bankrupt?  Who now controls Enron's pipelines?  
 
That's why I agree with you, Bill, that the term "capitalism" has become virtually meaningless.  We don't have direct access to corporate leaders, which is why we depend on government to monitor them.  Unfortunately for us regular people, I've come to believe the government and the corporations are two heads of the same hydra.  The little guy can call for boycotts on products and stock shares, as some are doing with energy stocks, but where to put money instead?  Get out of debt, for starters.  I have no other answers.
Katharine Otto Added May 5, 2018 - 12:01pm
George,
They are becoming more and more distanced from the little guy, which is why I agree with you that we're headed for some major economic reversals.  The foundations are no longer supporting the penthouses.  Forget the "middle class."  Think about the truly down-and-outers, like the homeless, the prison population, the drug users and dealers, the sickly, retired, and those who have simply given up. The numbers are growing, and the pervasive attitude is disheartening.   I understand the "Why try?" learned helplessness that so many people are experiencing.
Bill Kamps Added May 5, 2018 - 12:29pm
Kath, OECD estimates it at 17% including state, local, and military.  Im not saying they are gospel on the  matter.  If you have a link that shows 50% I would  be interested.
 
Government spending at all levels as a % of GDP is about 40%.   This is probably a better measure since it includes contractors.  However, you measure it, it is a lot.
 
Unfortunately for us regular people, I've come to believe the government and the corporations are two heads of the same hydra. 
 
Well it is true.  I suppose it is disheartening for those people who ever assumed the system was about someone other than the rich.  If we look back a few hundred years, the King's controlled everything, more than 99% of wealth.  Since the Industrial Revolution there is this myth that someone other than the elite controlled our situations, because the workers have more status mobility.  More mobility than the serfs of 1600, but not as much as we might like to think.
 
There is this notion that the system is getting worse, and I always ask "worse compared to when?".   When was it not about the people at the top? 
 
Yes in the US the middle class had a few good decades, but that was more a matter of labor being necessary to make the corporations prosper.  There was also little world wide competition in those days.  That middle class prosperity did not signal a change in who was in control.
 
People think globalization is a new thing, and signaled a shift in corporate priorities.  Corporation priorities were always about making money for the owners, technology made globalization easier, but it is not new. The East India Company practiced globalization, worker exploitation by region, and used the UK military to improve its competitive advantage.  Not much new going on there.
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 5, 2018 - 4:18pm
Katharine Otto
 
"rycK,
I believe it requires a major attitude shift to create a saner society.  First, we need to quit looking to the government to provide for us.  We need to take better care of each other, starting with the people closest to us.  It sounds simplistic, and it is, but we are taught to fear and distrust each other. "
 
A government not providing entitlements must find another way to rise to power if any variant of democracy is in effect. Most governments today must offer entitlements to 'buy' votes and any politico who attempts to take away entitlements will probably be short of votes. 
 
Most of us cannot trust  the far left for good reasons. 
 
We are stuck with what we have. 
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 5, 2018 - 4:22pm
Katharine Otto
 
"rycK,
I believe it requires a major attitude shift to create a saner society.  First, we need to quit looking to the government to provide for us.  We need to take better care of each other, starting with the people closest to us.  It sounds simplistic, and it is, but we are taught to fear and distrust each other. "
 
A government not providing entitlements must find another way to rise to power if any variant of democracy is in effect. Most governments today must offer entitlements to 'buy' votes and any politico who attempts to take away entitlements will probably be short of votes. 
 
Most of us cannot trust  the far left for good reasons. 
 
We are stuck with what we have. 
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 5, 2018 - 4:23pm
Katharine Otto
 
"rycK,
I believe it requires a major attitude shift to create a saner society.  First, we need to quit looking to the government to provide for us.  We need to take better care of each other, starting with the people closest to us.  It sounds simplistic, and it is, but we are taught to fear and distrust each other. "
 
A government not providing entitlements must find another way to rise to power if any variant of democracy is in effect. Most governments today must offer entitlements to 'buy' votes and any politico who attempts to take away entitlements will probably be short of votes. 
 
Most of us cannot trust  the far left for good reasons. 
 
We are stuck with what we have. 
Bill Kamps Added May 5, 2018 - 4:28pm
ryck,  you are right the welfare state is not going away easily, too many people benefit from it.   The people at the lower end of the income scale have not yet figured out what a bad deal it is for them.  While they dont pay income tax, they pay very regressive taxes in payroll tax, sales tax, property tax, and so on.  These things, and other issues work to keep people at the bottom without some bit of luck.
George N Romey Added May 5, 2018 - 5:17pm
People can’t get it through their thick skulls this isn’t a right or left thing. Both political parties have added to government and squandered money particularly on the US trying to maintain economic and military hegemony. Now other countries are tired of US hegemony and thus the military, corporate and financial elites are sounding the war drums. You’ve been used if you identify with either of these political parties and the shrills that represent either, commonly referred to as politicians.
Bill Kamps Added May 5, 2018 - 7:17pm
People can’t get it through their thick skulls this isn’t a right or left thing.
 
True, the rich run the show, and it doesnt matter which is the party. 
 
Politicians pit the voters of one party against the other for their own gains. Both have their own angles but of course they are just looking out for themselves.
 
corporate and financial elites are sounding the war drums.
 
They  just sound the drums, but dont really mean it, at least not on a big scale. They have too much to lose with the stock market doing well, no one wants a big war, just a war that makes defense stocks do well.
 
Of course this has been true since the times of the Pyramids. Now they pretend they are representing the common man, they dont.
Mustafa Kemal Added May 6, 2018 - 12:22am
George Romey, 
re:"People can’t get it through their thick skulls this isn’t a right or left thing. "
Right on. This simple fact seems to be out of our grasp. Evidently our minds cannot adjust. to this simple yet obvious reality. I suppose this flaw in our natures is what allows this abuse to continue.
 
Flying Junior Added May 6, 2018 - 2:22am
Well...
 
It's still the Cinco de Mayo on the West Coast.  I just wanted to wish everyone a happy bicentennial of the birth of Karl Marx.
 
I will be glad to read the substance of this article tomorrow.  Please tell me it isn't about liberal Americans incorporating the ideas of Marx???
Katharine Otto Added May 6, 2018 - 12:32pm
Bill Kamps,
Much as I hate to admit you are right, you are right.  I just finished re-reading my notes on Wealth of Nations, which confirms what you say, and more.  
 
I would be happy if you are right about the 17%.  I don't have statistics to contradict you.  It seems like more, but maybe I'm including all the people the government pays, whether they work or not.
 
Maybe I'm disgruntled by the illusions that regular people have a stronger voice than they do.  Instead, they seem to have bowed to the notion that since the rich have always been in control, they always will be, so it's better to try to join them, or align with them, than to balance the books.
Katharine Otto Added May 6, 2018 - 12:36pm
rycK,
We are stuck with what we have until we outgrow the need for government, or until the government admits to bankruptcy.  You are describing a scenario of government against the people, except the people it bankrolls.  I suspect the people are waking up to that, now, as government policy is working so against the good of the whole.
Katharine Otto Added May 6, 2018 - 12:39pm
George,
As usual, you reflect my views, too.  Unfortunately, those other countries seem to want their own hegemonies, and the rich are trans-national.  The attitude is also transnational.  
 
I just read this yesterday and haven't confirmed whether it's true, but the Mayans supposedly lived 500 years in peace without money or circulating currency.  I would like to know more.
Katharine Otto Added May 6, 2018 - 12:49pm
George, Bill, and Mustafa,
I suspect individuals are beginning to catch on, but the MSM still hasn't a clue.  It's too easy to categorize and generalize.  Bill, I suspect war will be prevented because nations can't seem to align within or among themselves on a common cause.  Unless they can use drones or nukes, and sell war bonds, I don't see much momentum.  The New York Times, seems to be doing everything it can to stir things up, but even the Whines has been distracted by its rabid focus on Trump.
Katharine Otto Added May 6, 2018 - 12:53pm
FJ,
I'll leave that for you to decide.  I think we have incorporated some of Marx' ideas, without even realizing it.  But it seems many ideas attributed to him originated long before he incorporated them in the Communist Manifesto and have evolved in their own way.  
 
Hope you enjoyed your Cinco de Mayo.
Stephen Hunter Added May 6, 2018 - 4:09pm
Well written article Katherine. You make many excellent points and ask good questions about why humans do not seem to apply logic. Much of this is caused by our inherent pack animal, follow the leader tendencies. Pack leaders, which looks to me like about 1 in 10, will most always abuse their leadership position. 
Don Allen Added May 6, 2018 - 4:29pm
Katharine,
You are correct. Communism has existed in many forms since ancient days, as discussed by Will Durant.  It even emerged in the days of  Luther's Reformation.  It seems an incredibly intoxicating idea, reemerging almost every generation.  
 
Taxes, death, and communism are the three constants as human politics  progresses.
Thomas Sutrina Added May 6, 2018 - 4:49pm
Don A., communism is just a title of a few other constants in human society combined in actually a very common form but put into words slightly differently.  I do not think something that has existed in human society since the stone age can be considered progress.
 
Communism is just the typical common interest groups that humans form that break into beliefs, regions, and wealth.   It seems that what always emerges is leadership by the wealth groups, presented a class, believe they are master minds and far more capable of leadership.
 
Master minds create barriers that keep the people within their class and membership in a class in inherited.   Further two types of top leadership exist, one based on ability and another based on parents passing down their title.  Even here Communism is not the first.
 
 Taxes are needed to pay for taking from others, war against other leaders with there groups of belief and region or to maintain barriers of class. 
 
Death is the result of war and maintaining the barriers of class.  And of course humans do not live for ever also.
Thomas Sutrina Added May 6, 2018 - 4:52pm
Communism advocated overthrowing your own regions leaders and replacing them.  A power struggle between those that consider their beliefs better.  They are better master minds.  Well known in history also.
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 6, 2018 - 5:26pm
Bill
 
"There is this notion that the system is getting worse, and I always ask "worse compared to when?".   When was it not about the people at the top? "
 
Good observation as it has always been that way except for the failed attempts at forming utopias in Mexico and the US during the Great Depression. 
Thomas Sutrina Added May 6, 2018 - 6:06pm
Roberspierre, rycK, Katharine, etc. Communism in practice has never come close to Marx writing.  So you may as well be discussing Plato's Republic, Thomas More's Utopia, or Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, the perfect society, Radical Egalitarianism, or All Powerful State respectively.
Don Allen Added May 6, 2018 - 6:37pm
Too advanced for me.  Are you suggesting Marx reins in incentive or rains upon incentive, maybe just reigns both people and incentive?
 
Bill Kamps Added May 7, 2018 - 7:17am
Katherine  I would be happy if you are right about the 17%.  I don't have statistics to contradict you. 
 
I think the more telling number is that all forms of government are responsible for 40% of GDP.  That includes employees and contractors.   I think most people would find this a ridiculous number for a country that claims to be based on the business, and capitalism. 
Edgeucation Newmedia Added May 7, 2018 - 9:49am
True communism (not the crap being sold as communism in any nation that exists currently), assumes a Utopian State and egalitarian ideals. People may have desires for those things but when it comes right down to it, people have selfish motivations, when given the choice between the good of the self and the good of the whole they will pick the good of the self 9 times out of 10. Both Russia and China have a ruling elite and members of that ruling elite are doing better than most of the people who lives in the State. This very concept simultaneously proves my point about self interest and illustrates how far away from true communism those two "Communist" States are. 
Bill Kamps Added May 7, 2018 - 10:33am
Ed N, true.  Workers owning the company, and the state owning the company at not at all the same thing.   If workers owned the company, then ONLY the employees of the company would be the owners and would make the decisions, not the government. 
 
Regardless of the government, they distort the system to benefit the rulers.  The US does not really have capitalism, not when the government controls 40% of GDP and heavily regulates the  rest.
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 7, 2018 - 12:51pm
Thomas Sutrina
 
"Roberspierre, rycK, Katharine, etc. Communism in practice has never come close to Marx writing.  So you may as well be discussing Plato's Republic, Thomas More's Utopia, or Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, the perfect society, Radical Egalitarianism, or All Powerful State respectively."
 
Agreed, Thomas. But, the  basic structure of Marx is still being introduced in various vocal and literary and political forms to work against capitalism, the main attack vector offered by Marx. I have seen dozens of descriptions of 'new' ideas in government that were merely back-door rehashes of Leninism or something close to that even though Lenin only borrowed part of Marx and did his own thing. Leninism works [it succeeds in a revolution but cannot produce satisfactory economic results] once in a while for a small time. 
 
No governmental system has been invented that satisfies the notion that  all citizens will be treated equally or fairly. Justice is an elastic term that has been stretched beyond recognition.
 
History teaches us  that no form of government can give us all what we want. 
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 7, 2018 - 12:55pm
Bill Kamps
 
"The US does not really have capitalism, not when the government controls 40% of GDP and heavily regulates the  rest."
 
True, and it appears to be the direct opposite of lais·sez-faire capitalism or hands on with big claws. It is a wonder it works so well given the treatment. 
Katharine Otto Added May 7, 2018 - 2:18pm
Stephen,
Thanks for reading and commenting.  Yes, there is the pack animal mentality.  It's easier to follow the crowd, until the crowd's direction conflicts with personal desires or "crowds" them out.  The media taps into and preys on crowd mentality. 
 
I believe we are coming to a point where individuals are beginning to question fundamental beliefs and to examine them more closely.  We are seeing the fragmentation  that occurs when old frameworks begin to fall apart before they are replaced by new ones.  
Bill Kamps Added May 7, 2018 - 2:26pm
We are seeing the fragmentation  that occurs when old frameworks begin to fall apart before they are replaced by new ones.  
 
It is possible.  We have seen the framework change towards more government over the past 120 years, and we may see signs that things will swing back.
 
However, "predictions are very difficult, especially about the future", Yogi Berra
Katharine Otto Added May 7, 2018 - 2:46pm
Don Allen,
I suppose in pre-Marx times, communism was built into communities and tribal in nature.  I don't think tribalism is all bad, although the term is coming to be used pejoratively.  To me, it implies a relatively small group with shared values and resources.
 
I think Marx and Engels tried to integrate tribal or communal notions into industrial society, and that's where the conflict arises.  I don't see the struggle as a class struggle so much as one of domination and control.  Who controls the land controls society, because the land is the source of all wealth, from food to minerals, to housing.  Even Adam Smith conceded that several times in Wealth of Nations.
 
Communism and its various permutations presumes land ownership in common but gives the control to the state, under the aegis of the "proletariat."  However, the centralized power in the state is impersonal, not like the personal accountability assumed in individual tribal leaders.  No one is truly accountable in large, centralized government.  We may point to a Donald Trump or a Vladimir Putin, but even they are at the mercy of unseen forces and "court intrigues" and cannot force the populace to do their will.
 
As far as incentive is concerned, when the state claims ownership of the people and their skills, talents, or products, there is little incentive to excel, and it may even be dangerous.  Another pitfall of an impersonal state, I believe.
 
You do seem to understand that my purpose is partly to show the evolution over time of certain belief systems.  The word "communism" is so loaded, as is "capitalism," that I think it's useful to separate out the individual tenets to understand them better.
Bill Kamps Added May 7, 2018 - 2:53pm
Communism and its various permutations presumes land ownership in common but gives the control to the state,
 
I dont know that Marx advocated State control of the resources.  As you say, that is the crux of the problem in the implementations of Communism so far.  If the workers of the farms, or factories, and ONLY those workers owned the farms and factories the results would  likely be different.  Then there would be local control, and then there would be incentive to prosper.  Making everything owned by the state makes it difficult to control by anyone as we have seen.  
 
To my knowledge, Marx didnt say much about implementation, which of course is the problem with most academic studies of this nature.  The  devil usually being in the details.
Thomas Sutrina Added May 7, 2018 - 3:06pm
Marx arguments are appealing but and I agree are used to get the support of the people, but that is where it ends.  No one has even considered actually making a government that matches Marx.  They make a government that is much like the one they replace.  A class society with them now being the ruling class.  Those that were suppressed before are now suppressed by the Marx rulers.  
 
Marx created an imaginary view, a utopia that was never intended to be created or could be created.  It joins the thousands of other imaginary views created in history to gain control.
 
Wealth in the time of Marx and Smith was still mostly in agriculture or mining.   Food is grown on the earth and minerals come from the ground,  Water covers the earth.  But land by itself is not wealth.  Wealth is actually the combination of human effort to harvest what is on the land or the water.  It provides a product that can be transported and then consumed or enjoyed.  And capital, which is wealth can be invested to increase the harvest for the human effort applied.  Marx and Smith realized this as man has realized this long before them.  The big change was the multiplying effect of capital investment in the land or in transportation and harvesting vessels. 
Katharine Otto Added May 7, 2018 - 3:07pm
Thomas,
Charles Darwin is credited (or blamed, depending on your point of view) with the notion of "survival of the fittest."  This is popularly interpreted as referring to the strongest, alpha male type and is used as justification for war and conquest.  There is a belief that the fittest for survival are the most aggressive, and the most intelligent, but if you think about it, the "fittest" are probably those who stay with the female and infants to raise healthy young.
 
There is a corresponding assumption that the "fittest" become the wealthiest, but I believe these are merely the most ruthless.  Under my scenario, the "leaders" set the example of ruthlessness that regular people mistakenly believe characterizes all humankind.  The common denominator in "communism," "capitalism," and class stratification is the subjugation or elimination of opposition.  
 
We have little information about social structures that didn't organize themselves around wealth, but I believe they have existed, maybe without written records, or tucked away in the jungles.  
 
As a society, I believe we give wealth (or lack thereof) way too much power over us.  This misplaced emphasis may retard "progress" of civilization more than any other thing. 
Katharine Otto Added May 7, 2018 - 3:18pm
Robespierre,
Not at all.  I used The Communist Manifesto as a jumping-off point to discuss how ideas such as these have evolved over time.  I had a history professor who insisted on using primary sources, and the Manifesto is certainly that, being the definitive expression of the 1848 set of guidelines. 
 
As other commentators on this thread have shown, though, the precepts espoused by Marx and Engels are ancient and not attributable exclusively to them.  And, as you say, the 2018 version of communism has benefited (or suffered) from attempts or pretend-attempts to incorporate Manifesto principles in government.
 
You're right about incentives, as I mentioned above, but that's only one of many problems with communism, as I see it.
Katharine Otto Added May 7, 2018 - 3:24pm
Bill Kamps,
40% is a ridiculous percentage, especially when you consider that the other 60% are expected to support them.  And for what?  Methinks you are inclined toward agreeing me that the government costs more than it's worth.
Katharine Otto Added May 7, 2018 - 3:34pm
Ed. N.,
The populace puts up with the ruling elite, maybe out of a historical belief that there should be rulers.  Or, as I mentioned to Thomas Sutrina, above, maybe "the ruling elites" are simply the most ruthless members of society, and people are afraid of them.  
 
The argument that someone forced to choose between self and society will choose self doesn't hold much water with me, because often needs of self and society are one, such as good sanitation.  Alternatively, when people are forced to support society over self, such as taxes and laws require, it leads to trouble, as we are seeing now.  For instance, how many people would voluntarily support these foreign wars, border patrols, ethanol mandate, and any number of government transgressions on personal self-interest?
 
Thanks for reading and for your comment.
Katharine Otto Added May 7, 2018 - 3:40pm
rycK,
No governmental system has been invented that guarantees justice to all, but the promise of it still looms, so the ideal exists.  That's why people engage in discussions like this and have throughout time.
 
While so many other people seem to be looking for large solutions, such as world government, I'm looking for more flexible, individualized answers, with local and personal involvement.  While other people are looking at money, I'm looking at time and a spirit of community to grow from the ground up.  That won't happen as long as people keep foisting control and responsibility on government and business to do it for them.
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 7, 2018 - 4:46pm
Katharine Otto
 
" That won't happen as long as people keep foisting control and responsibility on government and business to do it for them."
 
Agreed
 
"No governmental system has been invented that guarantees justice to all, but the promise of it still looms, so the ideal exists.  That's why people engage in discussions like this and have throughout time."
 
This has been the subject of serious thinking and contemplation for 5000 years or more. We should expect some progress or maybe we have reached the limit. 
 
Thomas Sutrina Added May 7, 2018 - 5:17pm
Katharine O., Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, Islam, etc. just kill off the opposition as all tyrannical governments do.  And often the first to go are those that they used to get on top.  They turned on the government that did exist and would turn on the tyrant. 
 
This I think is only a part, "The "fittest" are probably those who stay with the female and infants to raise healthy young,"  Being passive doesn't makes you the "fittest".  I think that a balance exist of risk taking.  That is why a tyrant has to get quite bad before their is a revolt.  The risk is high and thus you get to a point where the tyrant may destroy you because they can and are doing so.  Farmers in South Africa find themselves in this position but do not have the numbers to revolt.  The "fittest" are those that are capable of over-throwing the tyrant and surviving. Fit is not wealth but health in body and mind.   And a tyrant and society that kills its own is not healthy. 
 
Socialism in America and the Europe are not health because the government does not act in the interest of the people.  Abortion in America is at holocaust levels.   And the open boarder policies of both has resulted in crime approaching having just as much risk as a revolution.  The present peaceful revolts if not heard will be followed as things get worse with an armed revolt.  
 
My guess is that you will not find any society in which wealth doesn't result in leadership.  For one thing wealth give one the time to put into communicating leadership.  What you may find is a classless society where wealth, communications skills, problems solving, etc. are seen as equally important and one can be great at one and not at the others.  We find the artist are important but not wealthy in history.
George N Romey Added May 7, 2018 - 5:52pm
There is a spectrum between complete control and anarchy. We’ve been searching for the happy medium for centuries. I’m not sure we’re ever find it.
Katharine Otto Added May 7, 2018 - 9:24pm
rycK,
I imagine the quest will continue as long as humankind exists and is capable of imagining something better than the now.  When you think in "long time," 5000 years doesn't seem like much.
Katharine Otto Added May 7, 2018 - 9:45pm
Thomas,
I don't equate "fittest" with "passive."  Fittest may also be those with the best strategies.  Do you ever wonder, when all the men run off to war, who protects the families at home?  Lincoln's war was a perfect example of the men's going off to fight, taking the guns and ammunition, horses, slaves, and useful equipment with them and leaving their families to be invaded and to starve.  This is just one example.
 
Also, large groups tend to behave differently from small ones.  In a large group, such as a country, the tyrants don't act alone and employ mob psychology to sway the masses.  A petty tyrant in a small group can't maintain illusions so easily.
 
In places like South Africa, or even in the US, outside interests are heavily involved in manipulating the playing fields and the rules and the money.  I can't speak for the farmers, but I suspect they don't really know whom they are fighting, because the politicians are not free agents.
 
Wealth and leadership are symbiotic and buy each other, but "leadership" is a loaded term. "Control" is not "leadership," but many people believe they are the same.
 
It's probably safe to say revolution is happening now, just not in ways anyone would have predicted.  It shows in the crime, the random terrorism, the drop-outs, the drug and arms underground, the "opioid crisis," the illegals, the homeless, the passive-resistant and passive-aggressive crowd that feel betrayed by a system that promised the opposite of what it's delivering.
Katharine Otto Added May 7, 2018 - 9:49pm
George,
As long as people believe they need gods or governments, they will create them.  These will have more or less influence over different people and groups.  How many people believe they need external authority to manage their lives?  They want rules to control the other guy, but not themselves.
wsucram15 Added May 8, 2018 - 12:03am
Great article Katharine.  Very well thought out and presented. Last paragraph..loved it.  Thanks for a good read.
Bill Kamps Added May 8, 2018 - 7:59am
Methinks you are inclined toward agreeing me that the government costs more than it's worth.
 
I only disagree as a matter of degree.  The government costs MUCH more than it is worth. 
 
While we all know that government is big and inefficient, it is when I see in writing that government spending is 40% of GDP that I realize just how wasteful government is.  Think of all the things that get done with that other 60% and compare it to how little the government does with their 40%. 
 
Thomas Sutrina Added May 8, 2018 - 8:57am
Katharine you seem to have no idea about the plight of South African white farmers.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_farm_attacks
I choose quoting this article because it gets to the point with clear images.  The wikipedia article is more balanced.  https://www.rt.com/business/422319-south-africa-farmers-genocide/
 
“This is the start of genocide as far as I’m concerned, and it’s only going to get worse because the genocide has just started,” he said. “Anyone who would boil a child in a bath, rape his mother and slaughter people the way they are slaughtering them now are subhuman.”
The senator also cast doubt on the ability of black South Africans to work the land. “These people, when they do take over the farms, as we’ve seen in Rhodesia [Zimbabwe], the farms will run into ruin," he said. “Within a few more years, they’ll be asking, demanding our support and you can be sure that the United Nations will be demanding that we support these people with foreign aid.”
 
Rhodesia and South Africa were exporters of agriculture products.  To day Rhodesia must import food.  South Africa has reduced exports significantly.  The problem is that the displacement of experienced farmers with modern equipment with now or less experience farmers without the capital, equipment.  Much of the land in Rhodesia were distributed using political reasons.  South Africa seems to be following the same approach.
Thomas Sutrina Added May 8, 2018 - 9:19am
Katharine you said, "I don't equate "fittest" with "passive.""  I said, "Being passive doesn't makes you the "fittest"".  Seems we agree.
 
I am not sure the point of describing the plight of the South the last year of the Civil War.   The reason is simple this is the typical plight of the nation in a war that looses and the end comes with an invasion because the loosing nation refused to end it earlier.  Germany suffered the same fate in WWII. 
 
Obama's 'transforming America' which actually started was first stated in the 1944 State of the Union speech that included the 'Second Bill of Rights.'  The problem is that the amendment process was not used so it really was not an announcement of a 'bill of rights.'  It was announcement of a coup d'état on the Constitution.  Your talking about the tactics presented by Fabian Socialism.  
Katharine Otto Added May 8, 2018 - 3:20pm
Jeanne,
Thank you for appreciating.  I do put a lot of thought into my articles, but I tend to try covering too much ground, so they can lose clarity.  I'm glad when they make sense to others.
Katharine Otto Added May 8, 2018 - 3:23pm
Bill Kamps,
What scares me is that they do so much damage with their 40%.  Spending other peoples' money--especially their future money--seems to be a recipe for disaster.
Katharine Otto Added May 8, 2018 - 3:46pm
Thomas,
I looked at your references to South Africa.  You're right that I know nothing directly about it, except what people like JJ Montagnier have written on this site.  Books like The Land Grabbers go into all the upheavals occurring in Africa, although not South Africa specifically.  All have to do with the clash of cultures and the external moneyed interests that work through government bribes and collusion.  When apartheid ended, I worried that the un-educated population, given overnight freedom, would not be able to handle it, just as it happened with freeing the slaves in the US.  
 
I only mentioned Lincoln's war as an example of how leaving home to fight other men's battles puts home at risk.  Most Southerners did not own slaves, and many Yankees got rich off the war, which devastated the South.  Generally, I believe the nation that loses most in a war is the one in which the war is fought.  
 
I have no idea what you're talking about with the Second Bill of Rights, or Obama.  I know next to nothing about Fabian socialism, except what Griffin says in Creature from Jekyll Island.  Seems the "wolf in sheep's clothing" says a lot.  Legislative change rather than revolution.  According to me, that is the coward's way, but that's what we have.
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 8, 2018 - 5:15pm
Katharine Otto
 
"rycK,
I imagine the quest will continue as long as humankind exists and is capable of imagining something better than the now.  When you think in "long time," 5000 years doesn't seem like much."
 
The world is not exactly scarce in terms of ideas and such for governmental systems. The main problem is that the various elements  that range from Marxism  to socialism have not been successful in almost cases so there is a high barrier to  the introduction of new systems  that might work as many are convinced some form of social is best. So, they block new systems with mandates of equality for all and other follies such as guaranteed incomes from the state. The EU   is locked into this form and the system runs on intractable debt, currently. The idea that member states can continue to spend and run deficits greater than 3% is terminal in economic terms. 
 
"Bill Kamps,
What scares me is that they do so much damage with their 40%.  Spending other peoples' money--especially their future money--seems to be a recipe for disaster."
 
The trail of the quest has gone stale. High taxes and deficit spending are not going to last long as sooner or later the currency will crash. 
Katharine Otto Added May 8, 2018 - 9:18pm
rycK,
With so many different systems around, it's possible to pick and choose the best features from several of them.  Governments are rendering themselves irrelevant by spending so recklessly.  At some point, people will begin to wonder what they need these irresponsible thieves for.  
 
Of course, you can't mandate equality, and those who try are being exposed as either delusional, liars, or both.  
 
I agree that people will continue to congregate in systems, but they might mature enough to claim more individual autonomy within the systems they create.  At least, that's my hope.
Thomas Sutrina Added May 8, 2018 - 10:40pm
Katharine, the similarities of FDR's second bill of rights to the planks of Marxism is apparent.  The Democratic party have been working on achieving FDR's bill of rights and Obama achieve the last major one, national health care.    
 
"Whittaker Chambers had worked in the American Communist underground for most of the 1930s.  With the outbreak of WWII, Chambers decided he needed to inform the FDR administration of what he knew about those currently working in the underground.  When Chambers finally realized the administration was apathetic to the traitors in its midst, he had to reassess what he knew of FDR and his policies. In his classic autobiography, Witness, he describes how this rebuff affected him:

And with astonishment I took my first hard look at the New Deal. . . . All the New Dealers I had known were Communists or near-Communists. None of them took the New Deal seriously as an end in itself. They regarded it as an instrument for gaining their own revolutionary ends. I myself thought of the New Deal as a reform movement that, in social and labor legislation, was belatedly bringing the United States abreast of Britain or Scandinavia.  What shocked Chambers was that he recognized for the first time that the New Deal was far more than a reform movement. It was “a genuine revolution, whose deepest purpose was not simply reform within existing traditions, but a basic change in the social, and, above all, the power relationships within the nation.”

This “revolution” was not taking the same form as the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, but its effect was just as sinister:

It was not a revolution by violence. It was a revolution by bookkeeping and lawmaking. In so far as it was successful, the power of politics had replaced the power of business. This is the basic power shift of all the revolutions of our time. This shift was the revolution."
 
http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2010/05/22/whittaker-chambers-the-new-deal-as-revolution/
Katharine Otto Added May 8, 2018 - 10:41pm
For anyone interested, I just discovered a post on Justice4Poland.com about Karl Marx.  The title is "Karl Marx Was Rothschild's Third Cousin."  I don't know what to make of it.
rycK the JFK Democrat Added May 9, 2018 - 2:55pm
Katharine Otto
 
" Governments are rendering themselves irrelevant by spending so recklessly.  At some point, people will begin to wonder what they need these irresponsible thieves for.  "
 
We have to note that the left have concern for debt or even the currency in many cases such as in Venezuela today. The  US has nearly $21T in debt now, impossible to pay down. 
 
European debt crisis
 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_debt_crisis
 
"The European debt crisis (often also referred to as the Eurozone crisis or the European sovereign debt crisis) is a multi-year debt crisis that has been taking place in the European Union since the end of 2009. Several eurozone member states (GreecePortugalIrelandSpain and Cyprus) were unable to repay or refinance their government debt or to bail out over-indebted banks under their national supervision without the assistance of third parties like other Eurozone countries, the European Central Bank (ECB), or the International Monetary Fund (IMF)."
 
This is terminal. Something must give and that will probably be the euro as it inflates toward infinity. 
 
The left appear to not be worried as they can always "tax the rich."