Neither Karl Marx Nor Adam Smith

January-February 1987By John C. Cort

I've been thinking a lot about Karl Marx lately. Nearly two billion members of the human race liver under Marxist regimes, while leaders of the major opposition to oppressive regimes in Africa and Latin America usually look to Marx -- and sometimes to a queer composite of Marx and Jesus Christ -- as the inspiration and guide to their vision of a just society. And they may live to impose that vision on millions more in those troubled areas of the world.

Meditating on these matters, I have been reading Das Kapital (Capital), Marx's monument to the notion that economics is an exact science that proves, when correctly understood, that the only hope for the human race is to eliminate private ownership of land and other means of production and replace it with, what? Well, mainly state ownership of the same. Marx, though strong in critique of 19th-century capitalism, was painfully weak in explaining what should replace it.

This is a three-volume work, running to over 2,100 pages. It is indeed a monument, if only to the fact that Marx, a brilliant man by any standard, labored like Hercules to prove his point. The three volumes are so impenetrable, murky, boring, and unreadable as to provide prime examples supporting Mark Twain's remark that "a classic is something that everybody wants to have read, but nobody wants to read."

It is puzzling that Das Kapital is the major basis for the claim that Marx provides the answer to the riddle of why, in a world of potential abundance for all, millions of men, women, and children must continue to be ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-housed, and that the workers of the world should follow Marxist leadership into a dictatorship of the proletariat that will allegedly put an end to this immoral condition. Perhaps the very impenetrability of the book contributes to the myth that therein, hidden from our poor human comprehension, lies the answer.

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