Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mailer on Marx

Norman Mailer was a famous American writer who died in 2007, who wrote with great forcefulness. People can still have interesting things to say (or in Mailer's case, say them in an interesting way), yet still be moon-bat crazy in many areas of their lives. So, listening to this video on Youtube, I was taken by this passage:



Marx's Das Kapital is utter bullcrap, and makes Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon seem like Euclid's Elements. It was before the marginalist revolution, so did not understand 'value', instead thinking all value came from labor. To note how stupid this is, think about someone spending 10 hours writing a paper--does this make it worth '10 hours' worth of 'steel'? Depends on what came out, and probably its worth is inversely correlated with the time spent on it. You can see a nice summary of its irrelevancy by going to the Wikipedia on volumes 1, 2 and 3, and note that the economic arguments are not even used by Marxist economists today (falling rate of profit? recessions becoming wider every time? Surplus value?).

They say sure, he got the details wrong, but he had great vision. Most of the book was very specific, and those little examples and arguments were all wrong. I guess by some cosmic analytic karma, if all your particulars are wrong the theme must be really profound. Literary types have always like it because it gives a scientific pretense to their statist and egalitarian instincts (based on hope alone, as all socialist enterprises turn out to labeled 'state capitalism' or some other oxymoron). Yet I like it when people like Mailer make such points, because it lays clear how hollow their base assumptions are, because it is simply impossible to 'think more clearly' after reading such a book.

6 comments:

J said...

In early kibbutzim (collective agricultural settlements) in Israel accounting and planning was based on work-hours. It makes sense when you live in a homogeneous monastery. It was applied for seventy or so years but now it has been abandoned.

Bob said...

An arguement made by the Marxist's is that the theories have never truly been implemented and I agree that Russia and China etc...were not true implementation of Marxist's theories.

However over my years of observation and pondering the issue, I have come to the conclusion that Marxism can not be implemented, it is at it's very presumptions in conflict with human nature. The system corrupts those charged with implementation.

Mercury said...

It always amazed me that Marx was so flummoxed by the concept of what he termed “surplus value” (how can $10 of labor + $10 of raw material yield something the capitalist can sell for $30?) Well Karl, because the capitalist alone (in this pure-play example) is putting up the venture capital, taking the risk and reaping the profit or loss.

Camille Paglia is the last person I know of who, like Norman Mailer and Hunter Thompson (among other more straight-arrow types I can’t recall just now), politically self-identifies as a “Libertarian Democrat”. That such a characterization was ever openly embraced or even made any sense shows how much the Left has changed in the last 40 years. Can you imagine a prominent liberal today fretting about “Big Brother” type personal invasiveness as Mailer does here in his 1950’s reminiscence?

Anonymous #5 said...

Well Karl, because the capitalist alone (in this pure-play example) is putting up the venture capital, taking the risk and reaping the profit or loss.

You must have missed the memo, there is no risk premium.

Anonymous said...

"An arguement made by the Marxist's is that the theories have never truly been implemented and I agree that Russia and China etc...were not true implementation of Marxist's theories."

Did Marx ever mention exactly how communism was supposed to be implemented? I can't imagine many scenarios where the guys with the most marbles willingly give them up.

Bernard Guerrero said...

+1 for Anonymous #5. Though to be fair, I believe that it's arms-length investment that displays no risk premium. I can't imagine somebody starting a small business due to envy. I don't envy people who have to be up at 4 in the morning....