Sunday, October 25, 2009

Abilities and Karl Marx

In the last post I discussed why Marxist socialist thought could never be the basis for a working society in that if needs are infinite because of infinite wants, government can never provide for everyone's needs. It is easy to dare someone to try it and find that out, but, darn it, numerous countries have tried it and it hasn't worked out too well. No need to try again.

However, occasionally it is fun to beat on a dead horse, if for no other reason than they don't fight back. The other half of the equation is that awful "each according to his ability" phrase. It assumes that people have abilities and each contributes to society what they have. Its magic how people got those abilities, and future generations will magically have even more abilities. The problem is this: if the people don't have an incentive to get those abilities, they lose interest in obtaining them in the first place. If you go to the trouble of training to be a, say, a heart transplant specialist, and get paid what hamburger flippers get, it doesn't look like a very good allocation of resources. In time, the people who have abilities in specialized fields will disappear as the current ones retire. In a free market where property rights are protected, people work to obtain abilities that provide value to others to the extent others would be tickled pink to trade with you. When self interest is at stake, people don't have to be pushed to things that make their lives better. In a free market people are free to train for the professions that will allow them to have the best shot at getting what they want. And they don't have to ask the government for it.

The thing I've never understood about Marxism is why people are so interested in trying to make human beings be what they are not. Everyone is poorer, less fulfilled, and continually frustrated by a government that will not let them be what they could be. Marxism on both the abilities and needs ends proves unsustainable if not dead on arrival.


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