Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why Marxism Failed

The incentive that impels a person to act is always some uneasiness. Humans, unlike purely instinctual creatures, strive for subjective happiness. A newspaper headline reads, “Successful Business Man Throws Self From Building.” The phrasing is misleading as this man had clearly not attained success where it counted.  Material gain and happiness are very often mutually exclusive.
So what does it mean to be happy?  As this is a subjective question, the answers are and will continue to be innumerable. That true happiness can not be imposed is the only objective certainty. So then the consideration must become whether the pursuit of subjective happiness is a right or a privilege. What aspects of human nature must be suppressed or controlled in some to create serviceable societal conditions for most?   
Writer Theodore Dalrymple provided this passage from Marquis de Custine’s Le Russie en 1839 in which Custine described a Russian official: “This member of the machine…functioning according to a will which is not his own, lives as much as the movement of a clock…One asks oneself what [such men] can do with their excess of thought and you feel uncomfortable at the idea of the force that had to be exerted against intelligent beings to succeed in making them only things.”
As with two competing empirical science experiments, the comparison of a planned economy with a market economy must be examined using a control. That control is human nature. Unlike the empirical sciences, however, using the facts of human nature to predict the exact form and result of human action is not a quantifiable undertaking. We must consider the law of unintended consequences. It is irresponsible to prescribe often politicized social and economic fixes on the whole of society based on theoretical results. Unlike the trial and error of empirical tests within the confines of a laboratory, haphazard social experimentation can irreversibly influence individual and collective human physiological development. 
The study of human action, or praxeology, dictates unequivocally that people will naturally, unconsciously compete for material gain, peer approval, and improved socioeconomic status unless satiated with opposing stimuli. Therein lays both the inherent risks of free market competition and the questionable socioeconomic implications of Marxism. In other words, with competition there is always a winner and loser. With Marxism, there is oppression of the individual to eradicate competition all together. If everyone is not only receiving an equal share but scorned for individual achievement, there is no motivation to produce more than is necessary. This, Marx contends, would produce a fair society with no inherent purpose for nationalistic or competitive exertion on others and consequently no mode or purpose to wage war. But these output levels are not static as each subsequent generation will require more aggressive negative stimuli to produce comparably.  
     Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises suggests that individual human action driven by subjective goals is the necessary catalyst of any functioning socioeconomic condition. “The road to the performance of great things must always lead through the performance of partial tasks,” he wrote. A market society thrives not on the benevolence of government, but on the individual citizen’s attempt to improve or maintain their lot in life. A planned Marxist economy would stagnate and collapse beneath government ownership of industry and steadily expanding forced collectivism. This is theoretical because political upheaval and violence have consistently stalled socialist experiments. Attempts like the Soviet Union and the short lived Paris Commune of 1871 have descended into chaos and death.  Of the Paris Commune Lenin wrote, “…when the mass revolutionary movement of the proletariat bust forth, Marx, in spite of the failure of that movement, in spite of its short life and its patent weakness, began to study what forms it had discovered.” Not what a particularly astute Communard had discovered, but what “it” had discovered. One may infer that Marx and Lenin considered death and turmoil as nothing more than faceless chain reactions in an experiment servicing their desired ends. The people of Karl Marx’s ideology were not individuals; they were the proletariat and the bourgeois. The Workers Paradise exists to collectively perpetuate the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. "Why study a man, when you know Men?", Dalrymple writes sardonically. Today, even the socialist politicians have learned the value of personifying the individual, though these citizens’ tales of adversity and triumph are often exploited; habitually used as the means to political popularity rather than celebrated as the ends of a free society. Adversity is focused upon quixotically to leverage votes when some forms of adversity are precisely what guide and drive us to better ourselves. 
     Marx offered an official correction to his and Charles Engels’ Manifesto of the Communist Party: “One thing was especially proved by the Commune…that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.’” Violent revolution was to establish a weak State or, as Lenin put it, “a fuller democracy” which would theoretically wither away and give rise to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. In reality, the “weak State” is a soft tyranny which naturally progresses, despite Marx’s promises of a Worker’s Paradise, to Totalitarianism. 
The Conservative argument maintains that absolute governmental power corrupts absolutely. The road to enlightenment is disciplined, educated choice amidst a reasonably regulated free market and a strong, entrpeneurial private sector--which includes, for example, mal practice insurance reform to enable doctors to practice their vocation and treat the needy pro bono--and a clearly defined public sector with limited term rather than career politicians. Mises wrote, “People fell prey to the fallacy that the improvement of the methods of production was contemporaneous with the policy of laissez faire only by accident. Deluded by Marxian myths, they consider modern industrialism an outcome of the operation of mysterious ‘productive forces’ that do not depend in any way on ideological factors.” Consider again the projected output of a society whose members have no means or motivation to excel because they are prescribed an equal share: recession even amidst forced labor would occur, at which point Capitalist principals would need to be reestablished to generate growth, followed by a resurgence of violent upheaval to reestablish the Communists' "weak State" and so on. A cyclical whirlwind of human calamity. The “peace, bread, and land” propaganda used during Lenin’s October Revolution in Russia professed a far different view of the future than what even a cursory examination of Marx’s theories would suggest to an objective mind. 
Marx professed to believe that all systemic conflict stemmed from social inequality. Is that what drove both his daughters to commit suicide? Or did Marx's own disorganized, bohemian existence juxtaposed with his maddening attempts to control their's do the trick? Social inequality interested many of Marx’s contemporaries, including Charles Darwin. Darwin was puzzled over the apparent lack of social hierarchy amongst the Fuegian Indians of South America. He wrote, “even a piece of cloth is torn into shreds and distributed; no one individual becomes richer than another.” He thought this “perfect equality” would “for a long time retard their civilization.” Judging from this excerpt he failed to grasp that social hierarchy could manifest itself differently than the conventional societal stratum he was accustomed to. But Darwin nonetheless recognized that a lack of competition would not only adversely affect the exchange of commodities, but would retard society as a whole. 
Is their a lesser evil when choosing between bureaucratic competition and free market competition?  Sustained economic success under Stalinism, Maoism and other Marxist inspired regimes was illusive due to internal and external political upheaval.  Mass oppression and genocide, however, were starkly evident. Capitalism has yielded both quantifiable successes and disastrous social oppression.  Of the latter result in the United States, arguably a grotesquely mutated sense of entitlement, interventionist militarism, and general disregard of the principles of Federalism have contributed to and nurtured this oppression.     
     The devout allegiance to a particular ideology is as much a catalyst for passionate debate and outright conflict as social inequality has been professed to be.  John Milton wrote, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  Consider these intentions. Texts that promise to ease the ills of society have received more understanding and adulation by some than have the people and places that make-up that society. In these cases, the Utopian reality is more appealing than the plausible, achievable results within the confines of our actual reality. The inescapably messy, convoluted nature of human existence is a barrier such delusional minds will never fully understand. In nature, self-deception occurs so that organisms may present themselves as whatever it is in their genetic interest to be. Presumably these creatures lack self-awareness. Some orchids, for example, that look like female wasps to attract and devour male wasps are not, as far as we understand, aware of what they’re doing.  Humans, on the other hand, have taken deception and self-deception to new and infinitely more destructive places.   

No comments:

Post a Comment