Marx wrote the commercial and men like Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, Castro, Hitler and Pol Pot actually made the product. As anybody who has been on this planet for more than a few years can attest, the difference between the commercial and the product is a given. Carl Marx did not have to deal with any real world conditions when he wrote the commercial. His only objective was to make the product look desirable. He does appear to have succeeded there.
Socialism is a vice that masquerades as a virtue. I have no doubt that its practitioners are honest in their belief that they are doing a great good for the whole world. They are saints in their own eyes. That belief is what makes them so strong and so dangerous. The argument always seems to turn back to doing socialism right since nobody has followed the blueprints of Carl Marx to this point in history.
Although Socialism pays lip service to community, its practice is atomic and utilitarian. Subjects of socialism are labor units called workers. A worker can never be promoted to the level of a slave. When a labor unit wears out, it can be discarded and replaced. The job and only the job has value.
I call the system atomic because, in order to capitalize on individual greed, it has to see society as a collection of individuals. The vast majority of us can be kept in a state of enduring misery as long as we can all be made to feel that nobody is getting ahead of us. That seems to be the biggest draw of socialism in practice. How are we going to help the poor with socialism? If we beat up the kid who broke the grade curve, then we get our due.
Amongst the vast portion of socialist subjects, nobody can be allowed to get ahead. This does not help anybody; however, it does prevent anybody from having a measure by which to quantify failure. Poverty, with no gap between the richest and poorest subject, may be absolute but there is nobody to be jealous of. Socialists judge all people as being cookie cutter drones absolutely equal in every way in order to justify their belief that nobody playing fair can ever beat anybody else.
This seems to go back to Carl Marx. Carl Marx, in projecting history as a product of class struggle, puts specialization way too far into the development of society. He does not seem to grasp that specialization is biological instead of ideological. A society of any size must perform a specific set of tasks efficiently enough to sustain itself. There is no way to structure a functional society with any survivability based entirely upon malice.
It may be possible for a society to coast for a generation or more on the products of past generations, yet the essential structure of a society has to be built upon the efficient achievement of specific survivability goals in order for the society to really endure. This must come with the realization that everybody has a skill that is useful to the greater whole of society. That is the basis of specialization. Harmony comes from the realization of the value of your own skill. In the propaganda films, socialism claims to understand this although societies that make efficient use of specialization naturally move away from socialist ideology.
Forces that are beyond the understanding of mortal men organize free populations into their most efficient configurations far better than any centralized authority is capable of producing. This actually appears to be the result of decentralization. Resources go to where they are most needed in order to survive. A resource that sees a new need is rewarded in ways that draw additional providers of the same resource into the same area. Decentralization makes s system less vulnerable to a large scale disruption because there is no single point of failure for the disruption to exploit.
Many socialists that I have had contact with are actually anarchists. They do not seem to have the central planning ideology of orthodox socialists. Socialists in this camp seem to be saying that organization, anything beyond the end providers of labor, is unnecessary. Experience has shown that this is not true. Organization and allocation of resources are also specialties required in a healthy society.
To produce the armed conflict that Carl Marx was after, he projected history in terms of a conflict between the labor and the owners of the means of production. You could, if you wished, portion people out into social classes in any way that you desired. A small upper class is produced by placing the boundary for inclusion in this class high enough to leave the largest portion of the population out. Then you create lines that define as many other classes as you wish. These lines will be arbitrary.
In developed societies, contrary to the beliefs codified by Marx, there are no true classes of people. You can only produce amorphous classes based upon your own defining factors. The people within those classes will move between classes over time. Socialists have had a hard time producing feudal style classes in developed societies without greasing the ladder of success. Such greasing can conveniently be disguised as an assault on the demonized rich class.
Development of corporations did something else to Marxism. Socialists have dogmatized the conflict between the labor classes and the class that owns the means of production. The last time my data was updated, most stock, which represents ownership of the means of production, was owned by retirement funds. In short, the labor class already owns the means of production. When the greed of the subjects of the lower classes is rallied against the owners of the means of production, the same people feel the consequences.
Citizens of free republics in the developed world already have what socialists promised their subjects. Keeping people blind to their true status in society is possible, yet it is not easy to maintain. An emotional population, blinded by hostility toward itself, is necessary to building a socialist undercurrent in the developed world. Socialists have to rely on people who have had no contact with real socialism in order to gain converts. It is easiest to import then from places that still have feudal classes.
It may be Carl Marx’s greatest fault that he tried to decree an absolute value to wealth. By absolute value, I mean to imply that Carl Marx was trying to make the value of wealth a physical property of the world around us. The simple observation that things our ancestors valued have ceased to have meaning to us should have demolished this idea. I find it hard to accept the belief that Marx was the first person to try to theorize about the source of wealth. My own observations make his reasoning seem uninformed.
I was not even in my teens when I made a simple discovery about money. There is not much difference between play dollars and federal reserve notes. A dollar is no more money than the binary digits that represent it in the banking computer network. Dollars could be every bit as worthless in trade as Confederate money is today. The value of the dollar, in money, is whatever you can get somebody else to trade you for it.
Socialists seem to believe that wealth falls from the sky, like Manna, and that poverty results when some people take more than their share. The wealth that socialists constantly try to redistribute more equitably only exists in our minds. There was a time when a man could provide for his family with only forty dollars a week. Before that, thousands of dollars had the buying power of millions of our dollars. I will use the term money to mean the dollar’s ability to buy other things in exchange.
Marx attached monetary value to objects based upon the labor required to produce them. This is entirely the wrong end of the equation to affix value to. Firstly, that would mean that excessive production has no effect on monetary value of the product. I could write an additional thousand words and trade with you for an additional steak dinner. If you are free to decide for yourself, you will not take what you do not want from me nor will you give me more than you feel that my product is worth.
Markets are not entirely free. Since my writing is less necessary to survival than the steak dinner that you have to offer, you have more latitude in the market. Because I must eat to remain alive, I have to produce whatever the lowest priced food producer asks for his product. I can still produce more if I can find somebody else who is willing to trade for something that I want more, but I must meet the minimum market price for my needs. Market inefficiency will exist in any real world system.
Another reason that you cannot affix a monetary value based upon production is that markets fluctuate with time. No object can have a singular, fixed value over the whole span of a market. There are things, like human life, that are beyond value at all times. Exceptions are additions to an imperfect system and do not invalidate the whole general rule. Marx would still be wrong to assign value based only upon the labor involved in production if monetary value was variable even one quarter of the time.
When socialists try to eliminate poverty by equalizing the wealth within a system they fail to account for the fact that such equalization will effect the monetary value of that wealth. If we both had ten dollars, would you be willing to trade me something for my ten dollars if some well meaning socialist was then going to take the additional money from you and give it back to me? I would then have ten dollars, just like you, and whatever I got from you in exchange for it. You would be justified in resenting me for cheating you. All the dollars in the world will never eliminate poverty if nobody is willing to trade for them.
Poverty is independent of the wealth gap even though eliminating the gap entirely would result in universal poverty. It is hard to define poverty and I cannot discuss it without a definition. When most people of my acquaintance discuss poverty, they are talking in terms of people being unable to obtain the essential products and services required to sustain life. I will go further in my definition and give poverty as the financial level required to reach a minimal comfortable standard of living. That means I am placing the poverty level at least high enough to allow for one luxury.
People who do not know to separate the concepts of money and dollars assume that this minimum level would be achieved by providing additional dollars to people below that line. Since the monetary value of the dollar is not fixed, giving people more dollars can actually make them less able to trade their dollars for the basic requirements of life. Somebody else must be able to trade for your dollars or your dollars are worth no money. More than that, somebody else has to be encouraged to produce the products and services being bartered for. The problem is not the number of dollars but the value of those dollars in money.
Dollars, whatever you call your local currency, represent how much value you place on the things that you want. It is completely possible for dollars to become so plentiful that nobody wants them. In order for the dollar to have monetary value, I have to be able to trade them with somebody else for something that I want. The dollar is not the end of the chain of commerce. People who already have plenty of dollars will be less willing to trade for dollars and more likely to trade for something else.
After nearly a century of socialist dogma, our conditioned response to poverty is to blame people who have more than they need. The best that this does for the poor is nothing. Good old Christian charity would help. Socialist punitive action takes money from the accounts that the labor class’s paychecks are drawn on. Crushing industry puts a great many additional people on the streets while cutting the gap between rich and poor.
Socialists never seem to understand that all bank accounts are finite. It is like the old Ponzi scheme. If you got ten dollars from every legal American citizen, then you would have more than 3 billion dollars. That means that taxes of three billion dollars only amount to about ten dollars for each of us. Drain the accounts of the richest men in this country and the rest of us could buy one tank of gas.
It is not that socialism has failed because it has been done wrong. Socialism fails where it is done right. Looking to the commercials of men like Carl Marx will not make socialism work. This fallen world is imperfect and we will all do best if we live in the knowledge of its imperfection. Seeking perfection in this world is our failure as much as it is the failure of socialism.