Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Really Stupid Ideas In History Part Four: Karl Marx

I first learned about Karl Marx back when I took a course in Economics.  The professor sort of glossed the theory of Marxism, because Marxism is as much about Politics and Sociology as it is about Economics.  I was, therefore, left with the sense that Karl Marx was a generally smart person who applied his knowledge to try to create a better strategy for money and employment.  After all, with so many governments declaring themselves ‘Marxist’ to one degree or another, there had to be something rational about his theories, I supposed.

But having finally read ‘Das Kapital’, I realize now that Karl Marx was not only unable to understand basic economic facts, he was remarkably stubborn in ignoring glaring blunders in his own theories.  I read that he took thirty years to write the first volume of ‘Das Kapital’ (Engels, a singularly inept theorist in his own name, forced the second and third volumes through the publishing process and onto an unsuspecting public), but I suspect what really happened was it took Marx three decades to find a publisher doltish enough to put his rant into print.  I mean, just how dull does a student or scholar have to be to actually take Marx seriously?  A man whose formulae never once seriously addressed the risk of investors and business owners?  A man who actually tried to promote the idea that a product’s value depended on how hard someone had to work to make it?   That innovation, globalization, process improvement and logistics were somehow undesirable?  Karl Marx got more than half of basic economics wrong, and crippled the better part of three continents with his notions for half a century.

The professional success of Rosanne Barr in the late twentieth century proves that people sometimes back incredibly poor choices, but one might wonder just how Marx reached the conclusions he did.  Marx was born into a wealthy family in Germany, and as soon as he got out of school (with very poor grades at first) Karl began to punish his parents every chance he got.  Kicked out of Germany, then France, Karl finally settled down in London, where his personal application of economics left his family destitute and nearly starving.    Like most narcissists, Marx believed that the only solution to economic disparity and poverty was the scientific application of revolution and Socialism, specifically using his model for class warfare and stealing wealth from the people who made it.  By 1850, Marx had settled into finding ways to sell his rants as some kind of science, for which purpose ‘Das Kapital’ was written. 

Marx made his money through his writing and in organizing socialist groups in Europe and the U.S.  That is to say, Karl had learned what sold in the popular newsstands and took care of his family’s finances in a manner far different from his proposed solutions in his essays, speeches and books.  By the time he died in 1883, Karx had mastered the art of political hypocrisy, selling with full voice a political theory he had personally abandoned long before.