The progress of humanity has been greatly enhanced by those who, after thoughtful analysis, expressed views that are contrary to popular thought. Persons like Voltaire, Galileo, Socrates, Nietzsche, and the father of both the American and French revolutions, the great Thomas Paine, whose "Rights of Man" and "Age of Reason" would make him the contrarian of all time in my book.

It is in the spirit of these polemicists that I create this blog. It is my intent to challenge popular suppositions. While it will become evident that I am generally a progressive liberal, hopefully I will have the courage to take opposing viewpoints to those of my own comrades when appropriate.

No comments will be deleted based solely on the political , social, economic or religious views you may have. In fact I encourage thoughtful discourse. I will however promptly remove any postings that contain overtly vulgar comments, racial slurs, hate speech of any kind, or multiple postings of "conspiracy theories". Though not required, please post links for references to the point you are trying to make, or at the least, give us an idea of where you found the information that supports your cause or claim.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Driving While Blind

I remember vividly the day the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. The newreels of German citizens chipping away at the blocks, the jubilant cheers of Berliners, and the sighs of relief in the free world all led to a feeling of celebration. There was much talk of a "peace dividend", the idea that we would now have more money to spend on projects other than defense now that the Cold War was finally over. The neo-cons collectively declared the "death" of socialism. Capitalism could, and eventually would, become a worldwide phenomenon. Even places like China and Viet Nam were openly participating in free markets. Our economies were to become global. There grew much talk of the emerging economies of third world nations and new stock exchanges opened in many such places. According to many, we were on the verge of a new world, where American free market ideals would spread rapidly. All could participate if they worked hard enough. Some were even forecasting an eventual end of poverty. It would be likely we could all look forward to a comfortable retirement. All was good.

Or so many of us thought. But were we driving while blind?

I'll cut right to the chase. We Americans have made many into demons, and some deservedly so. I personally, thank God, am not acquainted with anyone who thinks Hitler was a good man. Charles Manson is another good example. Their bad deeds are clearly documented. But in the case of a few others the evidence just isn't there. I'm referring to a man named Karl Marx. His name is most generally associated with the tragedy of the aforementioned Iron Curtain and with the Maoists of Red China. People like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung combined in their efforts to give Marx a bad name. Never mind that they followed a narrow version of socialism that hardly resembled what Marx had in mind. The truth is, all Marx did was write a book.

I believe there is good evidence that the solution Marx presented in "Das Capital" has at least one, if not more, fatal flaws. His solution was grossly inefficient, creating oversupplies followed by shortages of goods and services. It required a huge government bureaucracy with all of the elements of fraud and collusion that goes with it. Even Fidel Castro has recently admitted that the model doesn't really work very well. Furthermore, Marx's ideas on collectivism were grossly misused in Russia and elsewhere for political purposes.

But just because Karl Marx's solution was flawed, can we really afford to ignore his analysis of the problem? I think not. I have always thought his description of capitalism was remarkably accurate. His tracing of it's emergence from the mercantilism of the fuedal ages is still regarded by economists as one of his greatest contributions. In light of the current global economic plight, and the blame game that is now occurring, I believe it is time to revisit Karl Marx for a closer look at his analysis of the problems capitalism faces. That is, if we want it to survive. Just because socialism failed doesn't mean capitalism won.

The following is a video by one of the preeminent students of Marx, David Harvey. David is a professor of Anthropology at City University of New York. He gives a chillingly compelling account of recent economic events from a Marxian point of view.


  1. News reels? I'm not sure if I have ever seen a news reel in a theater. SMILE

    Capitalism is something I've adhered to all my working life. Though not all businesses privately or via stockholders are capitalistic, though they would put that label on themselves. When an industry has to be supported for a long time [multi-generational] it is not a private business operated for profit in a free market. Examples are farmers, oil exploration companies, rail roads, airlines, over the road trucking, health insurance companies, health care providers such as non-profit hospitals, etc.

  2. @Charlene: My Dad referred to TV news as "newsreels". Ha! Funny how that has stuck with me. Not sure where you were going with your comment on capitalism. We're all part of a capitalist system, wether we work for a non-profit or not. For example, anyone who has ever purchased a product on which a profit was made, has participated in the system. I'm not anti-capitalist at all. I just think we need to recognize some of it's inherent negative side effects. I believe most systems are actually hybrids. I've had the thought that capitalism can't survive without a dose of socialism and vice-versa. Perhaps they are not mutually exclusive. Thanks Charlene.