Karl Marx is the most influential economist in human history. Since the publication of The Communist Manifesto, co-written with Friedrich Engels, in 1848, and Marx’s magnum opus, Capital (Das Kapital, in its original German) the first volume of which was published in 1867, Marxist scientific theories regarding the exploitation of workers have motivated revolutions throughout the globe. Marxism has been the primary force behind the ideological hostility to free-market economics, which Marxist theory argues allows non-productive classes to rob and dominate productive classes.

Karl Marx didn’t pull his scientific theory of working-class exploitation out of a hat. It was a logical extrapolation from the “labor” theory of value. This originates with the second-most influential economist in human history, Adam Smith — generally considered the father of capitalism and of economics as a science, itself — with publication in 1776 of Smith’s book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

Adam Smith argued that a product’s value comes from how much labor went into making it. Marx took that a step further and postulated, therefore, that if someone other than the person who made a thing was getting more back for selling it than the person whose labor went into making it, there was a gap which Marx termed “surplus labor value” — and the difference between a sale price and how much went back to the laborer was “exploitation” of the worker — a systematic robbery.

It was to close this exploitation gap and restore equity to the worker that Marx developed his class theories and divided the world into productive exploited classes and non-productive exploiter classes.

Now, it’s not at all uncommon throughout human history for a scientific theory to become widely adopted even if it’s dead wrong. The classic example is the cosmological theory that the earth was the center of the universe (because it was created by God) and therefore the rest of the universe rotated around the earth. Those who made astronomical observations which disproved this theory took a lot of heat for suggesting what is now regarded as scientific orthodoxy: that the earth is but one planet revolving around a star, one of many stars in a galaxy made up of billions and billions of stars, one of a universe made up of billions and billions of galaxies … and don’t even get me started about whether there might be billions and billions of universes.

The counter of Marxist theory comes from more-modern economists who started from scratch and decided that Adam Smith’s theory of value was obviously wrong — that you could spend years as a laborer making a grandfather clock that is worth less to you than a bottle of water if you happen to be dying of thirst — and came up with the idea that a thing’s value is only what you’re willing to trade for it at an exact moment in time. Deductive logic follows from there and ends up with a holistic argument for unfettered free trade so everyone gets precisely what they want most.

But that’s actually a side-argument for me at the moment.

Regardless of going about it all the wrong way because everything they were doing was based on what today can be regarded as outmoded crackpot science, Marxism has its heart in the right place: justice for the productive class. When Marxism identifies freeloaders on the backs of the productive worker, it sees it as its job to free the worker from the freeloader … not burden the worker with more freeloaders.

That is the exact opposite of what’s going on in what is seen as left-wing politics today, which claims to be the workers’ friend but burdens their productivity with taxes, regulations, and setting up workers to go to war against each other by dividing them into “unionized” workers and “scab workers.”

Scab workers are independent workers willing to work for less than the government-protected price for labor the unions have negotiated for themselves. Businesses like to hire the cheaper guys because if they don’t, other businesses elsewhere (like China) who don’t have to pay union rates can undersell them and drive them out of business.

With most U.S. manufacturing now having gone elsewhere, keeping labor prices artificially high creates a new ex-working class that now organizes to tax workers so they can get their food, rent, and healthcare paid for.

If Marx were alive to see this, he’d have to go back to the drawing board and ask himself if ex-workers are now the biggest burden on the diminishing working class.

Marx wasn’t nearly as hostile to capitalism as most Marxists. Marx saw capitalism, exploitation of the worker and all, as a necessary evolutionary phase on the way to a stateless utopia in which nobody had to exploit anybody else. Once again, if Marx had managed to live long enough to see how his theories worked out in practice — Marx died in 1883, 34 years before the first Marxist revolution in Russia — he might have gone back to the drawing board.

Regardless, when conservatives and Republicans — Glenn Beck being the best example — constantly harp on members of the American Democratic/progressive movement being Marxists, they’re giving far less credit to Marx than Marx deserves, and far too much honor to the American Democratic/progressives than they deserve. They should be so Marxist as actually to care about productive people and want to get the free riders off their asses.

Marxist or Capitalist: it’s time to cut the crap and for leftists to admit that anything that enslaves productive people under the thumb of the non-productive and exploitative special interests is counterrevolutionary … and needs to be denounced and opposed.

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