Consider the diagram above. We have a continuum of freedom, power and responsibility going from individuals and families up to progressively larger organizations. Not only does freedom decrease as we go to the right, so does equality. (While “people's republics&rdquo claim to be egalitarian, their leaders usually wind up with god-emperor powers.) According to this diagram, freedom lovers and egalitarian leftists should be on the same side. Yet, far too often, they are not.
Sneaky Elites and Pseudo Science
It is worth noting the history of socialism at this point. The early “utopian socialists” tended to be aristocrats. They pointed out that the grinding poverty seen during the Industrial Revolution was due to a lack of noblesse oblige on the part of newly rising capitalist class. The arguments did have some merit, but they also overlooked the tremendous abuses of the nobility of the halcyon past. (It is also instructive to look at writings the Southern apologists for slavery and their attacks on capitalism.)
Karl Marx scoffed at his socialist predecessors and called for replacing their brands of socialism with “scientific socialism.” Unfortunately, Marx's scientific socialism was really philosophical socialism. A truly scientific socialism would perform experiments on new economic and social arrangements before calling for worldwide application based on extrapolations. Indeed, within the Marxist literature, there is very little on the theory of the actual operation of a socialist or communist system. All the intellectual ammunition is instead aimed at criticizing other systems.
Marx's extrapolation is based on “dialectical materialism,” which is basically the theory that when things get bad, societies react to fix the problem. Thus, to make things better, you must first make them worse. Then, somehow things will rocket back it the other direction. Applied at the personal level, dialectical materialism dictates that if it is hot outside, you should put on a fur coat; this way, you will sweat more. Or, applied to an economy, if the concentration of wealth is excessive, finish the job and put all the wealth into the hands of a dictator.
I prefer to operate in a more straightforward manner: to make things better we should make things better. If the concentration of wealth and power into a few gigantic mega-corporations is a problem, then let us figure out how to get back to more, smaller corporations; let us figure out how to have more partnerships, small coops and sole proprietorships.
My interpretation of Marx's thought is based on readings done a rather long time ago. Memories grow rusty. You might want to double check my work.
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Copyright© 2003, Carl S. Milsted, Jr. All rights reserved.