Uncle Karl was a man of the 19th Century whose ideas prospered well beyond his time. He was taken to the boneyard on 14 March 1883. Today marx the 133rd year of his passing, and about two hundredth year of his birth.
Unlike many men, his ideas have been noticed; still fewer men’s ideas have been followed; only a few have been as exhaustively tested empirically and found utterly worthless.
We should let him rest in peace.
Marx thought that the leadership of the people should be vested in the philosopher, and in the economist. It was not all that stupid an idea when he proposed it, although it had failed demonstrably in many settings. One of the contradictions to Marx is that such a concentration of power will evoke the evillest in man – that was known long ago. Marx only suffered the hubris of Modernism, which is a characteristic flaw in humanity – out of ignorance, we pretend that we can make bad ideas work, if only tried once more.
His ideas were more or less played out in dozens of countries. All of them are former Marxist countries. 9 November should be a national holiday, the Mauerfall, when the Berlin wall changed from a feared barrier to an annoying piece of bad Modernist sculpture, and was removed as an annoying impediment.
That moment was as powerful a statement as Jefferson’s Declaration. Why did we ignore it, and keep on going? The problem was, the memes and concepts of Marxism stayed alive in the free countries. We did not stop to think how thoroughly refuted his ideas finally were when the Wall came down.
Everyone in America knows the fundamental principles of Marxism. Few are aware of their origins, or how to refute them.
I saw that, when asked to attribute the quote, “From all according to their abilities, to all according to their needs,” a preponderance of Americans put it as part of the US Constitution.
The Science of Marxism
The mis-identification of Lenin as one of our founders is a serious problem, not a trivial answer to a trivial question. We should have spent the last 25 years hosing the debris of Marxism out of our gutters – we did not.
In the contest of minds between Jefferson and Marx, several relevant discoveries in far-flung fields have been made. In IT, disseminated autonomy – “individuality” – is more efficient than centralization of processing. In vertebrate neurology, “raw data” is gathered briefly and discarded, while the processing of signal takes place along the nerves leading to the brain. The cerebral cortex does not receive a “map” of the world, as we imagine it does – it receives a highly processed and coded stream of information evoked by intelligent processing along the optic nerves and brainstem. In the US Civil War, disseminated autonomy into units allowed the Confederacy to fight and win many a battle that the centralized, Prussian style of combat of the North did not permit. It was only when the modern principle of total war by mass efect crushed the Confederacy out of existence. The scientific examples of the deficiency of Marxist analysis are painfully clear, and they are legion.
It is no more sensible to hate Marx or his theories, any more than it is to hate Freud; or our colleague Dr. William James’s exploration into the psychology of pragmatism, or the will to believe. It is not that they are wrong; they are obsolete concepts.
Art can be nostalgic; science, never. An old piece of art from the days of the Flemish masters can still speak to us. Computers which run on magnetic tape are not; they have value only in the art of history. A view is offered of a display in the Japanese Computer Museum, of a bank of tape readers. They could retrieve and transmit data at 192 kbps; that’s about 1% of the creakiest Wi-Fi systems for your telephone – and that itself is about 1% of what is used today. There is no utility for a machine running at 0.01% of standard – it is obsolete.
When a philosophy ventures into testable science, it can be testably refuted. There is no more need to despise Marx for his bad ideas, than to sneer at Fujitsu for its slow memory retrieval. But to consider Marxist principles as credible, is as absurd as calling Fujitsu to purchase one of their FACOM 603 Magnetic Tape Unit. The Fujitsu technical services rep would be pleased to assist you, but regrettably, that model is no longer made.
Bye-bye, Uncle Karl.