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Post 40

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 6:31amSanction this postReply
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Can anyone explain what Marxism is and in what way Obama is a Marxist? Last time I checked Marxism was a theory of history predicting the violent overthrow of bourgeois capitalism by the industrial proletariat in a sudden revolution involving the abolition of private property.

Although I admit that I've only read a dozen books about Marx and I might be confused, maybe Marxism really means "Anything to the left of Reagan conservatism?"

Post 41

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 7:00amSanction this postReply
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Jeremy:

The following is a part of a dialogue I had on the subject in my local newspaper.

Lenny Tischler in his letter of July 16 disputes my assertion that "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" was a basic philosophy of Marx. Mr. Tischler states that it was merely a prediction of how communism would finally evolve. Marx's actual words were: "... only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!" It is clearly an ideological goal and rallying cry for action and is thus far from a benign peek into the future. 

A central point of Obama's campaign is to "spread the wealth around" which is another way of saying, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." Therefore I don't think it's inaccurate to describe Obama as a Marxist.

 

Sam

 

 



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Post 42

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 7:10amSanction this postReply
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Well, ok, but Obama hasn't proposed any radical redistributive policies. Yes he supports taking some money from the rich and spending it, mainly, for the benefit of the poor - but so does *everyone* who supports taxes, that's what taxation does. Even a flat % tax on all income would take more money from the rich because they earn more.

Basically, unless you support the total abolition of taxes and public spending, you support redistribution. If that makes you a Marxist, then most people in America and almost everyone in Europe is a Marxist.

Which leaves me wondering why the actual, card-carrying Marxists and Communists think Europe and America are far too capitalist.

Post 43

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 7:25amSanction this postReply
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Jay Abbott wrote:
    "I agree with your concern, but thought it worth mentioning that Republicans have been trying to do the same (stacking the court) for the 'religious right' extremists who share their beds."
Jay:

I agree. We generally take it in the shorts one way or the other. It's almost breathtaking how little the Constitution or founding principles of this country are even mentioned during any presidential campaign that I can remember. Generally, people are concrete bound and want pragmatic answers to the immediate problems they face. Few have the ability to examine the scope of history and identify trends that help predict the future, and fewer still have translated that historical awareness into solid principles to guide their choices.

Of course, any intellectual that attempted to campaign on principles but only spoke in generalized abstractions would be seen as hopelessly out of touch with reality. It takes a very special person to have a set of well defined principles and then be able to translate those principles into a set of consistent concrete proposals to address immediate concerns, while at the same time being charismatic enough to effectively sell their program. The Republicans and Democrats, both lacking a real philosophy, generally move in circles, accomplishing various things and then contradicting them with other actions. However, my concern is that Obama does actually have a very bad, unarticulated, underlying philosophy that will guide him towards a more focused goal which means he may well accomplish more than previous administrations. Already, this morning on the radio I hear Obama being compared to FDR in his ability to reshape this country. "The beginning of a new error" indeed!

Regards,
--
Jeff

Post 44

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 7:36amSanction this postReply
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Great posts Erica and John.

Post 45

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 7:42amSanction this postReply
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Jeremy:

The legitimate use of taxes is to fund necessary public amenities and services in some equitable manner. Insofar as it is impossible to objectively define what is "equitable" some approximation of that is generally accepted. Anything that departs from it is what could be described as "redistribution of wealth," which is a Marxist tenet.

Sam


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Post 46

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 9:28amSanction this postReply
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Jeremy: "Well, ok, but Obama hasn't proposed any radical redistributive policies."


No? The man has already knocked "the virtue of selfishness," and his is Marxist in spirit:

Obama; "...the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.

To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasnít that radical. It didnít break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states canít do to you. Says what the Federal government canít do to you, but doesnít say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasnít shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that. Ö

Iím not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isnít structured that way."

He will if he can...

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Post 47

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 9:52amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

I sanctioned you post #38, but I have a suggestion. You used the term "Crony Capitalism" - we should all stop using that term and attack it whenever it pops up. It makes it sound like there are these closely related variants of Capitalism and it severely weakens arguments for Capitalism when one has to disentangle it from things that aren't Capitalism at all.

When government, by regulation, by law, or by administrative fiat, favors anyone in the marketplace it is fascism, not some variation of Capitalism. If some parts of the economy or political landscape are free and others are fascist then we have a mixed economy - again, not Capitalism.

Austrian Economists have used the phrase "State Corporatism" which would be okay - although a little ackward. "Cronyism" by itself would be okay as long as it was explicitly unhooked from Capitalism. "Corporate Welfare" works.

There is also a phrase the Marxists have used, "State Capitalism" which has a different meaning, but should also be attacked any time it is encountered. Since that too is an invalid use of the word "Capitalism."

It is certainly time to be fierce in the education about and defense of Capitalism.

Post 48

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 9:56amSanction this postReply
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But he's never said what he means by that. He's never actually proposed any redistributive policies. And those tax plans he has proposed are far from being "major redistribution".

If you read his books it's obvious that he is a centrist on economic policy. (Well who knows what he is "really", in his heart he could be a Nazi for all anyone knows, but the position he has staked out in print is a centrist one.)

anyway, Marx didn't want to redistribute wealth. He wanted to abolish wealth. He saw attempts to use democratic means to help the poor as completely futile - only revolution would do it, he thought.

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Post 49

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 10:00amSanction this postReply
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Here's Joe's Obama quote distilled for Jeremy's sake:

... the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of ... economic justice in society.

... the Constitution ... doesnít say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and ... one of the ... tragedies of the civil rights movement was ... because the civil rights movement became so court focused ... there was a tendency to lose track of ... the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that. Ö

Iím not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts.
So, when Obama talks about how it was a tragedy to mistakenly rely on the courts -- because the courts don't bring the redistribution of wealth and "economic justice" that is supposedly valuable -- then it's safe to assume that Obama plans to exact the "economic justice" himself.

"Economic justice" is a Marxist concept. It involves things like leveling the pay scale so that there aren't any CEOs making two orders of magnitude of pay over-and-above the lowest paid employee in the same company.

A clear interpretation of that is: "Equal pay for unequal work" or "From each according to his abilities, ..."

Ed


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Post 50

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 10:47amSanction this postReply
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Jeremy said, "Marx didn't want to redistribute wealth. He wanted to abolish wealth."

He wanted to abolish that class who possessed more wealth by taking it away from them and giving it to those who had less of it. Your statement equivocates on the term "wealth" by using it in one place as that which one could redistribute, and in the other place as a class or status or difference in levels of ownership.

That is a the kind of fallacy that one sometimes sees in socialist writings. You mentioned that have read a great deal of Marxist literature, are you in agreement with much of it? I couldn't tell anything about your beliefs from your profile.

Also, there are many variants of collectivism that are enthusiastic about the idea of redistributing wealth - even if Obama's model wasn't pure Marxism, it could still be a socialist or collectivist rose of another name.



(Edited by Steve Wolfer on 11/06, 10:51am)


Post 51

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 11:25amSanction this postReply
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What is the difference, then, between 'state corporatism' and 'merchantilism' ?

Post 52

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 11:46amSanction this postReply
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Robert,

Here is what it says in Wikipedia:

"Mercantilism is an economic theory that holds the prosperity of a nation dependable upon its supply of capital, and that the global volume of trade is "unchangeable." Economic assets or capital, are represented by bullion (gold, silver, and trade value) held by the state, which is best increased through a positive balance of trade with other nations (exports minus imports). Mercantilism suggests that the ruling government should advance these goals by playing a protectionist role in the economy, by encouraging exports and discouraging imports, especially through the use of tariffs.
Mercantilism was the dominant school of thought throughout the early modern period (from the 16th to the 18th century). Domestically, this led to some of the first instances of significant government intervention and control over the economy, and it was during this period that much of the modern capitalist system was established. Internationally, mercantilism encouraged the many European wars of the period and fueled European imperialism. Belief in mercantilism began to fade in the late 18th century, as the arguments of Adam Smith and the other classical economists won out. Today, mercantilism (as a whole) is rejected by economists, though some elements are looked upon favourably."


And, "All the European economists who wrote between 1500 and 1750 are today generally considered mercantilists; however, this was initially used solely by critics, such as Mirabeau and Smith, but was quickly adopted by historians. Originally the standard English term was mercantile system. The word mercantilism was introduced into English from German in the early 20th century.
The bulk of what is commonly called "mercantilist literature" appeared in the 1620s in Great Britain.[2] Smith saw English merchant Thomas Mun (1571-1641) as a major creator of the mercantile system, especially in his posthumously published Treasure by Forraign Trade (1664), which Smith considered the archetype of manifesto of the movement.[3] Perhaps the last major mercantilist work was James Steuartís Principles of Political Oeconomy published in 1767."


And, "The Austrian School of economics, always an opponent of mercantilism, describes it this way:
ď Mercantilism, which reached its height in the Europe of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was a system of statism which employed economic fallacy to build up a structure of imperial state power, as well as special subsidy and monopolistic privilege to individuals or groups favored by the state. Thus, mercantilism held exports should be encouraged by the government and imports discouraged."
(from Murray Rothbard, ďMercantilism: A Lesson for Our Times?Ē)
-------

Today's paleoconservatives have a fondness for tariffs, and nearly all of the current crop of politicians are fond of "special subsidy and monopolistic privileges to individuals or groups favored by the state."

Post 53

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 12:00pmSanction this postReply
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Robert,

Here is what Wikipedia says on "Corporate Statism":

"Corporate Statism is an approach to state organization, the likes of which Othmar Spann, Benito Mussolini and others are credited with developing. Corporate Statism involves the ruling party acting as a mediator between the workers, capitalists and other prominent state interests by institutionally incorporating them into the ruling mechanism. Corporatist systems were most prevalent in the mid-20th Century in Europe and later elsewhere in developing countries. However, both in academia and practice, Corporate Statism (or Corporatism as it is also sometimes known) has fallen out of favour. Globalisation and economic and social diversification are both credited with corporate statism's decline. According to this critique, interests, both social and economic, are so diverse that a state cannot possibly mediate between them effectively through incorporating them. Social conflicts go beyond incorporated dichotomies of labour and capital to include innumerable groups. Furthermore, globalisation presents challenges, both social and economic, that a corporate state cannot sufficiently address because these problems transcend state borders and approaches."

Wikipedia has a much longer article on Corporatism:

"Historically, corporatism (Italian: corporativismo) refers to a political or economic system in which power is held by civic assemblies that represent economic, industrial, agrarian, social, cultural, and/or professional groups. These civic assemblies are known as corporations (not the same as the legally incorporated business entities known as corporations, though some are such). Corporations are unelected bodies with an internal hierarchy; their purpose is to exert control over the social and economic life of their respective areas. Thus, for example, a steel corporation would be a cartel composed of all the business leaders in the steel industry, coming together to discuss a common policy on prices and wages. When the political and economic power of a country rests in the hands of such groups, then a corporatist system is in place."

And, "Some critics equate too much corporate power and influence with fascism. Often they cite a quote claimed to be from Mussolini: "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." Several variations of the alleged quote exist. However, no text written by Mussolini has yet been found with any variation of the alleged quote."

To me this reads like fascism dressed up to make it look more palatable by pretending that it is a negotiating mechanism, or power sharing mechanism - it is also clear that it is a way collectivists and the confused can blame business for evils done by politicians - like our current blame-the-Wall-Street-greed situation.

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Post 54

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 12:19pmSanction this postReply
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Jeremy, I think you're WAY off...but that's ok...the college students who parade around wearing Obama shirts and soviet flags know what I'm talking about...at least they're not evading the reality.

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Post 55

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 12:43pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

Jeremy isn't evading reality.  There is no reality to evade until something actually happens.  You can make all the predictions you like based on your perceptions and conceptions and predispositions, but you can't say "I told you so" until after the fact.  If you do, then you're the one evading reality.

Let me restate what I'm trying to say.  You don't know what's going to happen.  The students you refer to don't either; they're stating what they want to happen.  You don't even know what Obama is going to try to do.  Wait until he's in office and has actually done something before you condemn him for his actions.  At this point, it's just armchair politics.

Thanks,
Glenn



Post 56

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 1:16pmSanction this postReply
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Glenn : Thanks.

Joe : Several McCain supporters were heard to shout "Kill him!" and "He's an Arab" at McCain rallies. Which I find... irrelevant. I don't think that they represent the majority of Republicans and I certainly don't think that they represent John McCain. So could you return the favor, and not take a handful of kids on some blurry clip to be representative?

Steve : "You mentioned that have read a great deal of Marxist literature, are you in agreement with much of it?" Actually I said I'd read a dozen books about Marx, not by Marxists. Marxist literature is generally as dull as ditchwater, I can't read the stuff.

I'm not a Marxist, I'd describe myself a Burkean conservative at heart, I believe in pragmatism rather than ideology and that includes supporting an essentially free market (with appropriate regulations) over any kind of socialist economy. So does Obama. I know for some people any kind of taxation and economic regulations are inherently wrong, but the vast majority of today's leaders - left and right - disagree with you.

I invite those of you with long memories to think back to the day when Cho Seung-Hui shot people at Virginia Tech. At the time, there was a lot of speculation on RoR that Cho would turn out to have been a Muslim. He didn't. Obama turning out to be a Communist is about as likely.

Post 57

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 1:29pmSanction this postReply
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Cho posthumously disavowed his being a m^slim (or, disputed what was argued here, that he was influenced by an isl@mist text in his use of the version of the name Ismail rather than Ishmael)?

I had not heard that.

What "medium" do you subscribe to for such news?

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Post 58

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 1:40pmSanction this postReply
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The reports were false rumors - someone claimed to have heard that someone heard... this is Ok to print now, it appears - which is amazing.  But that said, I don't think too many people credited it as being true.

I think Marxist is often used because he has a good number of early influential people and friends who were, indeed Marxists.  Ayers is a Marxist, and Rev. Wright was a follower of a version of Marxism called Black Liberation Theology.  In addition, his mother was part of a very Marxist Church, he worked with the very Marxist group ACORN, and so on.  That, combined with statements such as spreading the wealth, direct "windfall profits" on companies, universal healthcare, cradle to grave schooling (starting pre-school now run by government) and more are all leftist to marxist. 

I hope he does not turn out to be that way, and he probably won't really be a Marxist, but I find even a remote association too dangerous to ignore.  I certainly think the electorate made a huge, huge mistake.  Hopefully, we can weather the storm, or these really were just conveniences for him.

Also - most people who are "Marxists" and self-identified as such have a lot of other ideas that have built up from the original theories by the filter of Lenin, Mao, and others, that are also part of the creed.  So just because it does not explicitly fit the book theory does not mean it is not true.

(Edited by Kurt Eichert on 11/06, 1:42pm)


Post 59

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 1:57pmSanction this postReply
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A Marxist? You tell me:

10 Planks of the Communist Manifesto

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c., &c.[5]

(Edited by Ted Keer on 11/06, 1:58pm)


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