Monday, November 03, 2003

The Allure of Marxism
This isn't new stuff, but it is well done. Excellent, really. Denis Dutton discusses why we are still afflicted with Marxists despite the plain-as-day fact that capitalism is better at securing out freedom, prosperity, and happiness. Essentially, the reasons are all emotional. People want a grand movement. People want the excitement of a revolution and the "economic justice" promised by a systemic "plan." Of course, what they get instead is gulags.

Capitalism is not nearly as sexy. Instead of glorifying conquest or pomp or deifying a leader, its chosen virtues are mundane and boring - thrift, self-reliance, cautious investment, politely serving customers, obeying the law and paying your debts. What's worse, there is no divine right or grand moral justification for capitalism: it accepts that self-interest is at the bottom of most human action and figures out how to use this impulse for the good of everyone.

Simply put, capitalism lacks moral grandeur. Smith's invisible hand is innumerable accountants tediously balancing their books. Marx's more stirring, romantic vision has invisible forces of historic destiny pulling us towards utopia.

Still, it's no wonder that nostalgia for a Marxist utopia persists. Marx at least gave us a vast, coherent perspective on human destiny, with its dramatic picture of good and evil, workers and the ogres who would exploit them. It's a secular replacement of Christian eschatology. All capitalism offers, on the other hand, are workers who are transformed into consumers and spend all their money on things that probably aren't good for them. What chaos human freedom is.

For people in search of a perfect world, that will always seem an unsatisfactory solution. For those who love freedom, it's not a bad thing at all.

Props to Zogby Blog.

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