Marx A Lot
A guy responding to his times, 174 years ago
I’ve been reading some Marx, but not Das Kapital,. just the short and engaging "Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy"
and the (evidence that Marx had to work as a hack for a living sometimes) "Communist Manifesto"
It was kind of fun reading this “easy Marx” stuff. Marx and Engels got hired by the new German Communist Party to write the party platform, which had a lot of points they needed to work into it. This was a paid job.
Most of the goals of the Communist Manifesto (1848) were realized long ago, largely by the industrial capitalist model of Henry Ford. Things as mundane as women-voting and kids going to school were highly controversial in 1848.
Ten Revolutionary Measures advocated in The Communist Manifesto:
1) Abolition of private land holdings (nobility, untaxed land). Application of land rents to public purposes. These have been accomplished by land taxation (rents). There is not private untaxed land in most countries (exceptions & special cases).
2) Progressive income tax. ("Income" redefined if one is rich enough, though.)
3) Abolition of inheritance rights. This was written in England at the end of the era of landed gentry. The dangers of concentration of productive property, land or factories, have been well understood. Inheritance taxes have been worked out by societies, but always need ongoing work.
4) Confiscation of the property of rebels and emigrants. We have seen how well it works to confiscate the property of political dissidents, but it always happened in history, anyway, including in the US, when loyalists to the crown lost everything after the revolution. Taking the property of "emigrants" should be looked at. Globalists hold property anywhere, and have no loyalty to their country of residence. Is this a good idea? Globalism?
5) Centralization of credit in the hands of the state by means of a National Bank, an exclusive monopoly. Ellen Brown says the same thing, and gives the Bank of North Dakota as an excellent working example. Why pay taxes twice?
6) Centralization of means of communication and transport in the hands of the state. These were natural-monopolies at first. They are not now, but electrical generation is, and other utilities, and public roads are. Natural monopolies should not be privately held, because it's an invitation to price gouging. It bleeds society.
7) State ownership of factories and farms. We saw how that worked out. "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us". Bad products and lies until it collapsed. There needs to be individual initiative and responsibility for failures and successes at every level.
8) Equal liability of all to labor. Everybody has to work. This is an ongoing societal negotiation worldwide. It will change as the means available to any society changes.
9) Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries, abolition of distinctions between town and country, by more equitable distribution of people across the land. The mechanization of farming, and specialization of all economic tasks did it's own thing. People can now do intellectual work remotely, and people can drive anywhere with gasoline. The massive explosion in human population was not foreseen by Marx & Engels.
10) Free Education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor. Combination of education with industrial production (trade schools).
*) Status of women as "not mere instruments of production"; women and children as people-not-property, were decried at the time, but are long understood as obvious now. Marx did discuss that further mechanization in any field made the work increasingly suitable to women (and children) not just to men.
The social injustice decried by “The Communists” was that workers got nothing and died when they didn’t have work. There was a new two-tiered system of owners and exploited laborers.That got fixed, by Henry Ford, then the Global-Financial-Capitalists broke it again.. Marx died in 1888. In his later years he saw capitalism adapting to society, saw the potential for evolutionary accommodation and seems to have doubted the need for a proletarian revolution. The simplistic fix of the state holding the factories for the workers after a proletarian revolution got tried out later. We now know the problems it had, like power corrupting. A lot has happened with capital-control-systems, like stock-markets, since 1848. Workers holding a significant fraction of the stock in the company that employs them could prevent the gutting of companies by "activist shareholders".
“Capitalism” was already careening around the globe seeking an advantage in 1850. The most salient feature of capitalism is that it is always seeking the new, unexploited advantage, to make competitors obsolete. It can only be "stable" in monopoly, which is a condition of sickness for the economy, because the monopoly extracts from the political-economy, rather than supporting it. Healthy Capitalism of the mid 19th century was an aggressively hunting and devouring beast, and the most productive economic engine ever, powered by steam.
The other brief introduction by Marx is better philosophically, and should be read first. He postulates that the means of production determine the thoughts and opinions and philosophy of societies, and that “problems” are not even “seen” in history until their “solution” is already possible, or nearly possible. The “Bourgeois” Marx speaks of are industrialists, who concentrated “Capital”, the means of production, as factory complexes.
It’s funny to see that with the distribution of “ownership of the means of production” through stock-holdings, his existential problem of the wage-workers is solvable, and that solution is already old hat 401k. Granted, it’s just a sip… The government owning the factories was the only simplistic solution those guys could come up with. We saw how it worked out. Totalitarianism-in-flavors.
We are still faced with all of the practical problems of the transition of an age-of-productive-means. We still exist in the Bourgeois-Age, according to Marx, and we might call it “Industrial Society” instead. Marx didn’t adequately comprehend the coal-as-means-of-production thing so much as we do now. It’s ok. He comprehended a lot. He was basically a historian and philosopher who didn’t go far in law, and got backed-into Political Economy. He did note the necessity of his feeding himself impinging heavily on his study and writing. He complained of the prostituting of people by bourgeois economy.
Analysis of political-economy is not primarily about words, though political speech can be. Marx was really good with words. He cheated repeatedly in the Communist Manifesto, opening with broadly agreeable philosophic and social arguments, then skillfully inserting unsupported statements at the end of paragraphs.
He knew he was doing it, because he was a smart guy. His dad was a lawyer, Marx himself studied law, and it was lawyerly use of language to bend facts towards a desired conclusion.
We can lay blame, but at this moment in history we need to figure out how to modify our current industrial economy with the least damage to all of us.or we won't have done anything of much practical use. Whatever name we call our revised industrial economy, it needs to harness the means of production, like farming, manufacturing, transportation, energy and communication, to the support of a healthy human society.
We can see that the amount of debt that exists can't be paid, or even serviced. The debt-money printed since 2008 has mainly been to service debts. There are derivatives that we can't see, which multiply the problem we can see.
The BRICS countries are now trading outside the $US regime. As this alternative trade regime broadens, it will be an invitation to default on $US debts when the system gets up to speed.
When the $US global financial regime collapses, there will be plans like central-bank-digital-currency which we will need to avoid. Cash can be devalued by inflation, but a CBDC "wallet" can go "POOF!" if you say "ivermectin-treats-COVID", or "Russia is winning".
To my analysis, government banking, like postal-banking, eliminates unearned income by the financial class, a form of "rent", and puts it in the public account, paying less total rent, and getting public services. Ellen Brown lays out the Public Bank Solution here: https://ellenbrown.com/books/the-public-bank-solution/
Human society is an ecosystem. It was fed by the sun, and could support more people under farming than under hunter-gatherer constructs. The big power increase to western civilization came with industrialization, particularly the use of steam power, and with globalization of trade and markets through shipping and railroads. Chemistry discovered how to make chemical fertilizers, and fossil fuels powered mechanical tractors, harvesters nd transport, as well as refrigeration. Suddenly, the world could support ten times the human population.
It looks like half the oil has been pumped. Exponential economic growth appears (to me) to have peaked and is starting to "de-grow", as they say.
Marx saw the destruction of complex social orders by industry, and concluded that the workers needed to take over the factories, because they were starving and were denied meaningful lives. He already saw the start of this improving before he died. It was a transient phenomenon. it was much better by the time I was born.
Industrial economy became a complex human ecosystem. Industrial society will now need to re-form as a new complex ecosystem as available oil and industrial output decline.
Exponential real-growth is an exhausted paradigm. Currently, there are a lot of "compliance" jobs, but we did fine without them 50 years ago, and many countries still do. We have to find useful applications of our talents to meet our personal and family needs, and to support a healthy human society.
This will be dynamic, with a lot of downs before we reach a bottom where new systems are possible. We have to do this, make things work. It won't be done for us, because the vested-interests just see getting rid of most of us as the near-term fix to keep their economic system working for them. I cleared out and tidied up 5 vegetable beds in Austin yesterday and today, and planted 3 of them for fall/winter. I got some sunburn. It was more work than it seemed like it would be. I never learn.