Given the insane state of our political situation, I have been trying to refresh my mind on the origins of this lunacy. In doing so, I have been reading “Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life” by Jonathan Sperber.
One of the first and stronger impressions one gets about Marx is that he was a dishonest and disgruntled spendthrift sponge. He sponged off his father, which is natural and not terribly blameworthy if not taken too far. He sponged off his mother and harassed he constantly for funds pushing for advances on his inheritance from both her and his father. When his mother took longer to deliver or parted with less than he wanted, he became more obnoxious than usual. The question of money bedeviled his relationship with his mother until she died.
Marx was virtually always in debt. He put the touch on friends and colleagues on a regular basis. In fact, he developed a bad reputation of not paying back what he owed. He was extremely lucky that Engels finally started working for the family firm and made enough money to help support Marx and other leftists.
The only period in which Marx was not constantly harangued by poverty was during the period between 1852 to 1860 when he actually had to work for his money. He did so by writing for several newspapers including the New York Tribune. Even then, he could not get out from under his debts.
After years of being chased by creditors and friends for outstanding debt he was finally able to pay off his bills as the result of two inheritances, one expected and the other a surprise. But true to his bad character, he was back in debt shortly thereafter.
It is somewhat ironic that a spendthrift who seemed to think the world owed him a living has become the idol of an insane economic religion.
While many philosophers consider man’s ability to reason, or think abstractly makes one human, for Marx, what made mankind human was the ability to “produce” i.e. to made things. This is no doubt why he became obsessed with “means of production” and economics.
Like many intellectuals, particularly German intellectuals, he looked down somewhat on empirical observation. He was of the opinion that mere observation did not get to the root of why something happened. Therefore, he had to come up with a theoretical (Hegelian) framework around which he could then add positivist observations. This type of thinking has led to all sorts of nonsense, not only from Marxism but from many other isms. For all these crack-brain systems, if the facts don’t fit an expert’s theories, the facts must be wrong. This is why fanatics like Marx, Lenin, Stalin and others had to constantly try to shape reality to communist theory and this resulted in catastrophe for millions.
Marx’s economic model and theories are based on the state industry as it was in the United Kingdom at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. His economic teachers were Adam Smith and David Ricardo who were pioneer economists, but neither had the benefit of experiencing the development of the industrial revolution into the middle and late 19th century. It is from these men that Marx developed his belief that the value of a product was derived from the labor put into making it. The value of a product was not necessarily the price of the product and this difference was one of the problems of capitalism. This idea had been proven wrong and has been superseded by the modern school of economics which consider the value and price of the product are the same and this is determined by supply and demand.