Frederick Douglass

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them..." Frederick Douglass

Monday, February 27, 2012

Marx And The Free Market Fraud

Every so often capital revives the old ruse under a new banner. The most recent incarnation of the free market dodge is Milton Friedman, but before Uncle Milty there was Mises and Hayek and the so-called Austrian School.

It is not for me to defend Marx as I am not a Marxist. The details are unnecessary here, but it suffices to say that as a socialist I am familiar enough with his writings and theories that I can attest that the argument advanced by Mises in the video is chock full of errors. It is inexcusably bad.

There are too many to catalog here, but he starts by saying that Marx' Law of Wages was at the base of his criticism of capitalism: false! Marx' ideas about wages, which are substantially different from how Mises describes them, are if anything on the periphery of Marx' exposition of the contradictions within capitalism.

Mises says that Marx' law of wages had been long in existence (false); generally known as the Iron Law of Wages (false); and had been thoroughly refuted before Marx employed it. Who might the latter be? I am familiar with the refutations of both Marx' view of wages, and the Iron Law of Wages, which occurred subsequently, but not of any which occurred prior to his making his views known. (Das Kapital was published long after he had made public his theories.) It's quite possible this is true and I am unaware of it. It is also quite possible that Mises is full of shit.

The truth: The Iron Law of Wages is the theory of Ferdinand Lasalle, leader of the German socialist movement. Unlike what Mises would have you believe, Marx did not agree with the theory and critiqued it. In fact, Marx' criticism of Lasalle's law isn't too different from Mises'.

Let's review: Mises attributes the Iron Law of Wages to Marx, says it is the basis of Marxian economics, and describes it as "vicious". The first two are demonstrably false, and the latter is an opinion not often heard and hard to understand.

So let's not forget that Mises is actually critiquing Lasalle, not Marx.

The question is: Is Mises a fool or a liar? It is impossible for me to believe he doesn't know that Marx lampooned Lasalle's theory, and what the nature of that criticism was. If Mises is a fool, then his colleagues are, so too the institutions of higher learning which accredited him, and the besotted loons who post this nonsense on the web.

Mises then goes on to say that the Industrial Revolution was "the inauguration of a new principle of marketing," hereby offering effect as cause. And then adds that "what characterizes capitalism as such is that it is mass production for the satisfaction of the needs of the masses."

Capitalism as philanthropy! Who knew!

In defense of Lasalle, to the extent that workers anywhere enjoy a standard of living beyond that of mere subsistence, it is because such advantages have been won by struggle, sometimes bloody, and over the often violent objections of the "philanthropists" who employ them. Personally, my inexpert opinion is that Lasalle was right and Marx and Mises are mistaken in their condemnation. It might be the only thing Lasalle got right. Beyond this one point, Marx' reproaches of Lasalle's theories and policies were well deserved.

What we see in this video is highbrow propaganda. Mises knows what he's saying is nonsense, and he is prostituting himself on behalf of capital. He knows what the disputes between Marx and Lasalle were and is deliberately obscuring them. And the arguments he advances are risibly stupid.

Mises' colleague Hayek published the oft-cited The Road to Serfdom in 1944 as WW2 was winding down, just as the Iron Curtain was descending. Coincidence?

Oddly enough, that same year saw the publication of Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation. These books come to radically different conclusions about the free market.

I recommend the latter, but if you are undecided, perhaps you should read both and decide for yourself.