Does Anybody Understand This Stuff?: Part 7, Radical Economics – A Thumbnail Sketch of 4,000 Years of Economics
Key Economic Points
The beginning of the 20th century saw an explosion of violent and radical application of various economic principles.
First let’s lay out a couple of economic theories. Then we will visit their application.
Plato contributed the concept of “The ideal State” to the Western world. The problem with his contribution is two fold:
1. Plato couldn’t have been totally serious in his ruminations of the “Ideal State.”
2. Even if Plato was serious, he said that Philosopher Kings would rule his imagined society. In other words, you had to have Philosopher Kings for Plato’s Ideal State to work, and the people who adopted his rationale were far from that pious and honorable stature.
Hegel contributed the concept of the Dialectic:
The Dialectic is nothing more than a means to describe human progression. In a nutshell, Hegel’s Dialectic suggests that “reality” is a matter of mind and through the individual process of ideas and acting on those ideas, we eventually come to the perfect state of existence. He is attributed to explaining this process in these terms: your current understanding of life, “your reality” today he describes as “Thesis.”
No sooner does one become comfortable in that reality when it is challenged by a counter-reality called “Anti-thesis.”
These two struggle, and finally merge into a new reality called “Synthesis.” This synthesis now becomes the new thesis and the process begins anew.
Hegel said that this process continues for a lifetime, a continual process of refining, or perhaps until the synthesis becomes so pure that no antithesis appears to challenge it.
As a number of authors have suggested, Marx took Hegel’s Dialectic and turned it on its head, or in other words, corrupted it. Hegel’s whole point was that we don’t know where the Dialectic will take us, hopefully continual improvement. But Marx hijacked the Dialectic and contributed these several points:
1. The end goal is Plato’s Ideal State
2. The means of getting there is Hegel’s Dialectic (highly modified)
3. History is driven by a variety of economic factors (especially class conflict/warfare). The control of the means of production* by the state is vital.
4. The way to speed up history is to promote the antithesis of the current thesis (In Hegel’s world, the antithesis is natural and comes about on its own, but Marx believed that he could actually analyze the current thesis and then create and direct the antithesis as a way to speed up the progression to a more ideal state.)
5. The ideal state could be achieved by revolutionary communism as a way to move toward democratic socialism.
6. This Ideal State must be global. It cannot be nationalistic.
7. The Proletariat (working class) must revolt against the bourgeois (middle class or merchant/landed gentry), because it is the middle class that exploits the working class. He doesn’t say much about the rich or upper class.
8. The vanguard of the proletariat (a small, highly-organized band of intellectual revolutionaries) will carry out the revolt for the proletariat, and then see that they are taken care of (AKA – the rich and upper class).
9. Morality is nothing more than bourgeois prejudice.
10. There is no God, and religion is just an opiate of the masses.
Radical Economics Since Marx (since about 1890 or 1900)
Key Economic Points
1. Lenin- Sped up the dialectic with violent revolutions and military might.
2. Stalin- Socialism in one country can work. National socialism is better than none.
3. Mao- Return to Marxism, not Leninism or Stalinism.
4. Hitler- Biological Marxism.
5. Gorbachev- Return to Leninism.
6. European Socialism (ie, Sweden & Britain)- Fabian Socialism. Gradually increase in governmental power. Government provides more and more and government takes away more and more.
7. United States Socialism- Changed the name to welfare and programs for the less fortunate, but does the same as European. In fact, from 1890-1920 the Brits were very big in propagandizing socialism to American universities and circles of power.
All of these systems have been implemented since about 1900 or so, under the argument that it had to be tried before we knew whether or not it would work. In some cases they have taken on new faces but are still promoted under the argument that it has never really been tried. All failures are blamed on the fact that implementation has been “half-done” instead of fully executed.
Today, Marxists are taking on a whole new philosophy:
- No longer class conflict, but race conflict and cultural strife
- Not economic but biological
- Multiculturalism is, in some ways, the “New Marxism”
- Herbert Marcuse, an influential 20th century philosopher known as the “Father of the New Left,” promoted the concept that Western culture was the great evil. The non-western or anti-colonial cultures must be liberated from the great exploiters (American and European powers). A vanguard of the oppressed cultures must revolt and set up the social democracy where the liberated can thrive. He suggested that the most likely groups to lead this revolution are:
-nonconformist youth (disenfranchised high school age students)
-young middle class intelligentsia (college students)
-ghetto populations (disenfranchised young men and women who seem to have not future, nothing to lose)
In light of the direction American education has taken over the past 50 years, this quote from Lincoln is chilling, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”
With the next two posts I will finish up the “Attention Span” article and then come back and finish economics.
Don’t forget that there are now 45 posts or mini lectures available on this blog. These of course, are designed for 2 purposes:
1. to share my thoughts and feelings on the topics.
2. to give you a taste of what your children will experience as students at Monticello College on campus or online. www.monticellocollege.org.