Marks of Marx

Washington Times  8.25.98
Balint Vazsonyi

American attitudes and policies in relation to developments in the Eastern regions of Europe and of Asia rest on the assumption that a switch to "capitalistic" practices will ring in the bells of freedom.

Both the word "capitalism" and the thesis that economics determine the political structure come from Marx and have no foundation in reality. Nonetheless, we have adopted these views with the fervor of a gospel and even the least Marxist among us uses them as the basis for rational argument. As a result, we are bound to make costly mistakes on a grand scale.

Until recent times, the interested researcher looks in vain for the word "capitalism" among the pages of the father of all reference books: the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is nowhere to be seen in the famous Eleventh Edition, and the essay in the 1968 edition is written in purely Marxist terms.

Indeed, those are the only terms in which such an essay can be written. Marxists have tried to disseminate the myth that Adam Smith had coined the word, but of course he couldn't have: he was engaged in creative thinking, not in political warfare.

The suffix "-ism" at the end of a word almost always indicates a theory to which reality has to conform. Our free enterprise system is the very opposite of that. Best described by Friedrich Hayek as the "extended order of cooperation," its complexities preclude any organization by mortals. It is the result of man's creativity unleashed by the removal of artificial constraints.

Marx simply needed an "-ism" to be seen opposite his own "-ism" to justify the war he and his followers conduct in the name of "social justice." A glance at the ingredients of his "capitalism" would persuade any rational person that America's course invalidates it even on paper. Marx's capitalism depends on a class that possesses nothing but its labor, called the proletariat. The ownership of a single over-the-counter share of stock transforms one into a "capitalist." Case closed.

That leaves us with the still greater trap of viewing the economic structure of a society as the "foundation," and all matters political and cultural as the "superstructure." Marx, again.
Since Marx's world of the future relied on the confiscation of people's possessions, he had to tell himself, and the rest of us, that such a development would produce the "desirable" effect in all other realms of life. How generation after generation in free countries - supposedly governed by common sense - buys into the doctrine of foundation and superstructure is a measure of the immense intellectual conquests of socialism.

In fact, observation of history teaches us the opposite. The unprecedented and unparalleled wealth of this nation - and the ever-increasing access to it by a constantly growing proportion of its people - was built on a foundation of laws, morality and corresponding political institutions, not the other way around.

Consequently, to assume that a few private businesses in Shanghai will turn communist China into a society of free-thinking citizens, living by the rule of law, is about as logical as the weekly speeches by every communist party secretary in the Soviet Empire claiming that "American imperialist monopoly capital is about to be overthrown by the starving masses, and it is only a matter of time before the American proletariat joins hands with the Socialist International."

Then there is Russia. That country has never been home to what we would call legal concepts, has no working political institutions in its 700-year history to "restore," and to believe otherwise will be costly not only in economic but - more importantly - in security terms. Perhaps the recent crash of the currency will open some eyes.

That brings us to the "Pacific Rim," as the Far East has been called ever since Lenin's "political correctness" has replaced plain English. What seems only a few minutes ago, American business had persuaded itself that "Europe was the past - the Pacific Rim is the future." Thus, the domino-like collapse of, even, the Japanese economic miracle is met with utter bewilderment.

It ought not to be. Unlike the United States, none of those countries possesses foundations and traditions of law and corresponding political institutions that can support a consistently expanding economic universe. None has a concept of its own of freedom. None has unleashed the boundless creativity of the individual which alone fuels the engine of American business.

That reminds me: America's socialists have done away with the label "American business." Instead, we now have "the private sector," to the best of my knowledge a term of purely communist origin and communist rationale. Or can someone can point to a different source?
Perhaps the same person can also tell us where "capitalism" comes from, if not from Marx, and "politically correct," if not from Lenin.