Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nouriel Roubini Video: Karl Marx Was Right

Roubini's a gifted economist, although this is the first I've seen him on video. He comes across more radical during interviews. At WSJ, "Nouriel Roubini: Karl Marx Was Right." (I had to click on the "pop-up player" to get the clip to load.)

I wrote previously on this here: "Capitalism in Crisis?" And see also Christopher Whalen, "Why Nouriel Roubini and all of us are wrong about Karl Marx":
When I hear people talking about Marxism in reverent tones it makes me nauseous. Marx was not right at all about class being the key determinant of human action. Yet despite America’s pretensions to being a free market, democratic society, the Marxian world view won the battle for ideas in the 20th Century. The New Deal and Great Society efforts to increase the scope of government in America all stem from the socialist ideas of FDR and his political heirs in both parties.

So much of our economic discourse in America today is entirely Marxist in nature — a reference to both Karl and Groucho Marx, as noted above. The legacy of FDR and the two world wars was to kill the American republic and put in its place a cheap imitation of France with platonic regulators pretending to moderate the bad old ways of greedy private business...

The fact of our intellectual reliance upon the work of Karl Marx to benchmark our economic success show humans to be creatures of habit, not reason. Marx embarked from a position of dialectical mysticism borrowed from Hegel and then attacked the classical economists, the enlightenment thinkers such as John Staurt Mill and Adam Smith who elevated the role of the individual. Those who laud Marx disparage all things American.

Ludwig von Mises writes in his book Human Action, that Marx stigmatized the economists as “the sycophants of the bourgeoisie.” He notes that Marx was “the son of a well-to-do lawyer,” and Engles, “a wealthy textile manufacturer, never doubted that they themselves were above the law and, notwithstanding their bourgeois background, were endowed with the power to discover absolute truth. It is the task of history to describe the historical conditions which made such a crude doctrine popular.”

Not only was Marxism crude, but it missed most of the major developments of the 20th Century. Revolution occurred not in bourgeois Germany but in brutal, backward Czarist Russia. More important, the class-centric view of Marxism proved incorrect in a world of greater openness, mobility and individual choice. The act of conscious choice driven not by greed, but the desire for betterment; of human action as von Mises coined the term, rejects Marxist class determinism.
That reminds me of an essay, Eric Foner's, "Why Is There No Socialism in the United States?" Foner wants to minimize American exceptionalism while holding out more commonality with the European experience than scholars acknowledge (which is leftist baloney, of course). See also, Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks, "It Didn't Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States."