Marxism vs. Libertarianism: Part 1

If one was to turn on the news or any politically oriented talk show program, it would not take long for that person to discover that there are two predominant political theories concerning the distribution of wealth. One side advocates for personal possession of capital; they claim to be on the side of individual liberty. The other side aims to achieve the benefit of the community by equally distributing the wealth among the citizens. Those who advocate the former view will give themselves a variety of names, such as Conservatism, Neo-Conservatism, and Libertarianism, but broadly speaking, is known as Libertarianism.

Libertarianism is broadly defined as the view that government should be small and that its primary responsibilities [are] the protection of individual liberties. The other view is also presented under different names, such as Socialism, Communism, Marxism, and Statism. All these views come under the definition of Marxism, which, like Socialism, is defined as a utopian society where “all resources are [equally] held by common members of society.” Libertarianism and Marxism present two completely different views on how to distribute the wealth of a nation. This two part article shall present a comparison of the ideologies of Libertarianism and Marx, view their objections, and show that out of these two views, Libertarianism presents a more effective method when it comes to the distribution of wealth.

The Marxist

The political ideology of Marxism was originally made known by the German-Prussian philosopher Karl Marx in his magnum opus The Communist Manifesto. Marxism strongly holds to the idea that every citizen is entitled to an equal part of the wealth. Marx believed that the war between the classes which he found inherent through history would subside if everyone was on an equal level with each other.  Therefore, the goal of Marxism is to achieve equality. An ideal Marxist society is a society in which there is no individuality, but all people are amalgamated as one.One way this is accomplished is primarily by eliminating private property.  Marxism is essentially utopian in its thinking, and its utopian dream was for all citizens of the state to be equal with each other on every possible level.

Vladimir Lenin reinforced the utopian desire when noting that “when there are no classes (i.e. when there is no difference between the members of society)…Only then will a really complete democracy become possible and be achieved.”  A true Marxist society will be achieved when all people are equal to each other. In an ideal Marxist society, everything made, and everything that everyone has belongs to the entire community. Marx makes this clear in his manifesto by declaring that capital, all goods or services, is “a social power. When, therefore, capital is converted into common property…it is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses class character.”  Marx, believing that the elimination of social classes would lead to a better society, sought to make this happen by making all capital communal instead of being held by an individual.

Marx’s method of assuring that everyone gained true equality was through the communal redistribution of wealth. This idea is summed up in his famous statement “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”  The wealth would be evenly distributed among the citizens by the government. One tenant of Marxism is for the “centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of national band with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.”  With the centralization of finances in the possession of the government, the government now has the ability to indiscriminately redistribute finances to its citizens by means of a “graduated income tax.”

Marxism also achieves redistribution of wealth by having all “factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of wastelands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.”  By owning the factories and the land, any product or wealth made would immediately fall into the possession of the State for redistribution. However, an inherent problem arises with everyone receiving equality in income, and that is that no matter how much Marx tried to portray men as equal, he by his own admission affirmed man to be unequal.

He conceded this fact when he stated that “one man is superior to another physically or mentally and so supplies more labor.”  In order to rectify this natural inequality, Marx decided to have those who are better laborers in one form distribute their work amongst the rest of the community in exchange for an “equal amount of labor in another form.”  By equally distributing the product of the citizens of the state, Marx believed that equality could be grasped.

Although Marxism presents an attractive argument, especially concerning equality of the citizens and distribution of wealth, it has some serious flaws in its ideology. Perhaps one of the most persuasive arguments against Marxism was made by Plato, who ironically wrote in favor of a Marxist form of philosophy as the ideal way to run a city. In The Republic, Plato discusses how an ideal city should be built and operated.

In the fifth book, Plato examines three key theories to running the ideal city in his three waves of laughter, which are called waves of laughter for the seeming ridiculousness of the ideas being presented. In his second wave, Plato presents several Communist-like methods to run the city, namely the communism of property and wives. The goal behind these measures, which were almost identical to Marx’s ideas, was to unify the city by uniformly distributing property and wives among each other.

However, Plato knew this could not be implemented into practice for he knew that when a government enacts a system of justice without merit, universal laziness occurs. Even before he suggested this wave, Plato doubted that it could be enacted by saying, “there’s doubt both about its possibility and about whether or not it’s beneficial.”  Plato understood the impracticality of implementing a communal system of redistributed wealth in practice, even though he believed it was the ideal system in theory.

Plato makes this distinction near the end of his second wave when he reminds the reader that, “we were making a theoretical model of a good city.”  Plato spends this wave talking about what is the ideal, but warns not to put that which is ideal into practice for Plato believed that it is not possible “to do anything in practice the same as in theory,” for “the nature of practice [is] to grasp truth less well than theory.”  Therefore, although Plato believed in Marxist-esque ideas for an ideal society, he was careful to make a distinction between that which was ideal and that which should be put into practice, for Plato believed that the ideal society could never be actualized.

This is part 1 of a 2 part series on Marxism vs. Libertarianism

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Follow Caleb Casto on Twitter @Caleb_Casto

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