Popular myth is that Karl Marx, thinking deeply about life from within a library in London, came up with profound economic discoveries.
Dear Reader, does one discover deep truths of the real life from within the confines of a library? Today, would you trust a ‘profound thinker’ whose working day is spent surfing the web and theorising?
REALITY: One learns about real life and the economy by being out in the middle of economic action; by earning a living, talking with an open mind to workers, farmers, factory owners, shopkeepers – learning from them, understanding their lives, understanding what we all seek. The realities of economic life – extremely harsh though they may be – must be experienced before any workable solution is formulated and proffered to the world.
Karl Marx, who otherwise failed at life and therefore possibly also felt jilted by society, came up with many volumes of writing to get back at society. He said, in effect: “That’s what you get for ignoring a great genius and a prophet! Now watch how I bring down your whole ugly system!”
Unfortunately, in the vacuous so-called ‘intellectual circles’ of the modern age, the most trivial of assertions can be built up into voluminous pieces of alleged scholarship. Nobody has the patience and the objectivity to examine the grounds upon which the pseudo-intellectual edifice is built.
Instinctively, people either follow the theory proffered or oppose them – both camps driven largely by perceived self-interest and herd mentality. Rational analysis has no place. Politics takes over.
(1) It is a no-brainer that the means of production available to a society determine greatly the economic, social and organizational structures of the society. This has been true since the time early man formed social groups to survive in difficult circumstances; nothing new here.
(2) It is also true that, in a capitalist economy, workers are highly likely to end up being exploited. This sounds tragic – and arouses many a prophet, hair on fire, to over-heated proclamations and calls for violent action.
But it is also true that workers are themselves not averse to exploiting others of their own kind when a chance presents itself. This is something innate in human nature, no matter the economic situation of a person. This situation has prevailed for millennia, both before and after every revolution.
(3) Does market competition make worker exploitation inevitable? “Yes, definitely!” is a hasty generalization which ignores much about human nature which is central to life and human economies.
Competition may indeed add to the economic stress for employer and employees – but exploitation occurs even in monopoly conditions. The underlying cause is limitless human greed and insecurity – which will work their way into any economic framework dreamed up by theorists.
(4) Positive aspects of human life include creativity, ingenuity, initiative, enterprise, perseverance and cooperation. Each of these, in various ways, add dynamism to economies and help alleviate harsh conditions. Prophecies fail when prophets are blind to these excellent human qualities.
(5) Old-fashioned compassion, much maligned by the modern crowd, plays a huge role in community life and the larger society. Government policies can play a role in providing education, health services, training, and so on.
REALITY: Many millennia of human life attests to the amazing potential of human beings to overcome challenges, using their highest qualities. If a modern ‘theory’ ignores the history of mankind and predicts only ‘inevitable class struggle’ then, quite simply, that ‘theory’ is based on erroneous understanding of human nature. There will always be struggle – individual or collective – in human life. But there will also be much else that is uplifting, invaluable qualities which give value to human life.
Marx’s explorations in the library left him blind to the profound truths of human potential. To learn about human potential, one has to be out in the real world, and observe compassionately how people cope with challenges.
Therefore Marx’s theory has huge blind spots. Predictions of inevitable violent conflict in society, with no possibility of finding truth and reconciliation, have had immensely tragic consequences around the world.
In effect, Marx assumed that human beings attain happiness by bread alone. This flies in the face of what Jesus Christ said, that man does not live by bread alone. Any person’s honest introspection will provide the same insight.
Did Karl Marx himself live by bread alone? Of course not! He definitely also needed the added satisfaction of working assiduously towards what he – even if mistakenly – believed was the common good.
If Marx himself did not live by bread alone, then why did he assume that an employer or an employee lives by and for bread alone?
Dear Reader, do not ever be taken in either by misleading labels such as ‘Marxism’ and ‘Communism’, or by reputations. Observe life closely, objectively, compassionately. Think. Meditate. You will discover invaluable truths of human life which the prophet sitting in in the library missed.
[Sadly, ‘capitalism’, the label which distinguishes ‘the opposing camp’, has lost any true meaning that it might once have had. But we must not digress.]
[To be continued.]