Ralph R. Reiland: Marxism: Organized delusion
This column isn't about the type of news you get from People magazine about the birthdays of J-Lo or Kanye West, with a net worth, respectively, of $360 million and $145 million.
As an economist, I suppose it makes more sense that I write to say we're now in the month of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, born in Trier, Germany, on May 5, 1818, and, famously, the co-author with Friedrich Engels of “The Communist Manifesto,” written in 1847.
For committed collectivists and diehard redistributionists, that makes May 5 somewhat like Christmas for those who believe that no one should be permitted to live an unequal and lavish life in places like the mansions on Shadyside's Millionaire's Row while others are living in a few dingy rooms with no cable TV.
As Marx explained, “The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”
I can nearly be just as brief in explaining why communism delivered more economic wretchedness than egalitarian bliss: “The irrationality and unworkableness of communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property and other incentives for work, investment, innovation and productivity and there will be a continuing deterioration in what is available for confiscation and redistribution.”
Winston Churchill provided an accurate description of capitalism and communism and the end results of the opposing systems: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”
The dissimilarity, in short, between capitalism and communism, respectively, is the difference between a decentralized economic system that's delivered unprecedented levels of overall societal affluence and a collectivized system rooted in authoritarianism and self-delusion that's primarily delivered common deprivation.
The wishful thinking of socialists and communists about creating a blessed economic utopia on earth was well expressed by Moses Hess in his “A Communist Confession of Faith,” published in 1846: “The Christian ... imagines the better future of the human species ... in the image of heavenly joy. ... We, on the other hand, will have this heaven on earth.”
That isn't how it turned out, with a hell on earth unleashed by Marx and his devotees producing a barrage of horror, shock and panic and nonstop waves of massive killing around the world by way of torture, massacres, penal camps, repression, mass deportations, tyranny, crime, terror and targeted famines.
The result, rather than the promised societies with more fairness, freedom and equality, was a murderous tragedy of planetary proportions, the most colossal case of political carnage in history with a grand death total over 80 years estimated at between 85 million and 100 million — as many as 25 million in the former Soviet Union, 65 million in China, 2 million in Cambodia, and on and on.
Comparing these killing totals with those inflicted by Nazism, estimated at 25 million, shows that Nazism turned out to be distinctly less murderous than communism.
To paraphrase Joseph Stalin: “One death is a tragedy; 1 million is a statistic.”
Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (firstname.lastname@example.org).