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Tag Archives: marx

William Ratliff has published another interesting article, this one titled Cultural Values, Not Dictators Like libya’s Qaddafi, Are Chief Obstacle to Arab Progress.

The demands for freedom, democracy, and better lives for poor and often repressed peoples are compelling, but these outcomes are unlikely unless basic challenges are clearly recognized before inevitable frustration settles in. Real progressive change requires time and patient commitment.

To be sure, a rapid transition to some form of democracy would be a source of pride and accomplishment. But would it aid Arabs in confronting the deeper obstacles that have for so long prevented their political and economic development? The fever of revolution has not encouraged enough sober thought about the morning (and the decades) after.

For me, the point here is that these revolutions in the name of freedom and democracy are probably about something else. Ratliff mentions “traditional culture and values” as a possible motive, and later mentions Max Weber’s European Protestants, and that brings the real motivation. Those materialistic values of having a society where everyone has opportunity for success, financially or otherwise.

Ratliff claims that Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East are not there yet, but I believe he is wrong. I think those Protestant Ethics are widespread enough to bring great discontent to those living in authoritarian regimes.

It is largely a Marxist idea, that significant historical change happens  for materialistic reasons. That is also different than a revolution that is driven by ideals of freedom and democracy.


The Atlantic Wire has published an editorial about the fight over labor unions in the US state of Wisconsin. The popularity of unions has suffered greatly since the 1970’s as people recognize that unions can sometimes bring higher prices and contribute to unemployment.

Another purpose of unions is to shift power and income from the wealthy to the middle and lower classes. It is largely a response to Marxist economics that has largely become irrelevant in our modern society.

Stripped of the power to collectively bargain, Wisconsin public unions will have lost their ability to “act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions,” argues Paul Krugman. “You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy.”

I have written before that I believe American politics is mostly concerned with big business and helping the profits and income of the wealthy. This seems another example of just that. At least there is some controversy and argument left in the American people.

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Karl_MarxMore and more the headlines make me think of Marx, but none so much as this–Two Giants Emerge From Wall Street Ruins.

Forget revolution of the proletariat and all that. Let’s look at the foundation of Marx’s argument that capitalism is a destabilizing economic system. Economic growth leads to surplus, decreases in spending bring about recession, capital prices move lower, and the stronger companies are able to buy-out the weak companies at a bargain, reestablishing growth.

The one overriding trend? Greater and greater concentration of productive capacity and market share. As the owners of larger and wealthier firms, the capitalists gain power and influence over government and policy, increasing the divide between rich and poor. That, according to Marx’s dialectical materialism, is what drives the major conflicts and changes of history.

Of course Marx’s followers used the argument to justify armed revolution, but it is not completely clear that is what Marx intended. That point, in fact, may explain Marx’s statement  from his deathbed, “I am not a Marxist.”

As J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs begin to dominate financial markets, we also see demands that government take more control and establish guidelines for how the market will run. Does not seem like a revolution, but it sure sounds socialist.

As an educator, the real point for me is that Marx needs to find his way into our economics curriculum.

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Karl_MarxInteresting editorial here that echoes some of my sentiments from weeks (months?) ago, that Marxism is showing itself valid and relevant again. I still have doubts about the real possibility of a revolution in the relatively near future, but it is likely that revolution–in the strict sense–is not needed.

Interviewer: “Nowadays we call these ‘crises’ recessions. You predicted that over time, capitalism would become dominated by larger and larger firms.”

Marx: “[T]he concentration of capital and land in a few hands.”

Interviewer: “And how does this concentration bring on socialism?”

Marx: “By paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.”

Interviewer: “So the bigger firms become, the harder they fall. In the US economy, some firms have become ‘too big too fail,’ and the government has moved in. As this plays out, what will happen to capitalism?”

Marx: “Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”

It is true that much of the policy designed to help the US finance and auto companies seems particularly socialist in that government is taking over the control of many larger firms. Not sure that counts as a victory of the proletariat, but I also read today that governement is limiting executive pay. That levels the playing field a bit.

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800px-flag_of_the_communist_party_of_nepal_unified_marxist-leninistsvgI often disagree with this journalist, but here she argues something that I have been wondering about.

It took a lot to drive average Americans into a torrent of populist outrage, ready to tar and feather executives of American International Group and other greedy financiers who brought the world economy to the brink of collapse and then dared to demand outrageous compensation for their work. Given that regular stiffs have been struggling for decades, it’s a wonder that anger took so long to build.

The article goes on to talk less about the populist anger and more and more about wage disparities in the US, including this statistic: “In 1965, CEOs earned 24 times the pay of the average worker; by 2007, the factor was 275 times.” Wow. I bet that is way beyond anything Marx had in mind when predicting the socialist revolution. I always thought Marx’s approach to history–dialectical materialism–was spot-on. It is probable that a Marxist revolution does not need to be violent, only a dramatic change.

Is it happening?

I gotta see this–

bralds_marx-s-2An all-singing, all-dancing stage version of Das Kapital is being produced in Shanghai to show how the thinking of Karl Marx is as relevant in today’s economic crisis as when his book was first published in 1867, producers said Monday.

No schedule given in the article, but they said the script is still being put together, so I have not missed it yet. What a great field trip. Not on their syllabus, but every economics student should know a little bit about Marx. Shanghai is not so far away.

What a funny idea. A little like The Producers and their musical parody of Hitler and the war.