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Quotational Therapy: Part 40 -- Karl Marx, On Free Trade.
Karl Marx, On Free Trade-
Karl Marx had quite a lot to say on the issue of free trade during his life. Free trade, in the mid-19th century, was not a new concept in the grand scheme of history, but it was frightening and new to those, such as Marx, without a grasp on reality. Take a look at what Marx said in a speech to the Democratic Association of Brussels at its public meeting of January 9, 1848:
In 1829, there were in Manchester 1,088 cotton spinners employed in 36 factories. In 1841, there were no more than 448, and they tended 53,353 more spindles than the 1,088 spinners did in 1829. In manual labor had increased in the same proportion as the productive power, the number of spinners ought to have reaches the figure of 1,848; improved machinery had, therefore, deprived 1,100 workers of employment.
Update a few of those numbers, and it is the same rhetoric we hear from a significant portion of the Democratic Party today.
It was foolish then, and it is foolish now. The economy is not a zero-sum game. Rich nations must not grow wealthier at the expense of poor nations. Today, each part of the integrated global economy grows wealthier, together.
Progress can be temporarily painful for some, but imagine if Manchester had protected the jobs of all those spinners, for the rest of their lives. All that would have done is provide disincentives for innovation, disincentives for the creation of newer and better jobs, and a lower standard of living for the society as a whole.
And, obviously, those lost jobs in 1830s Manchester eliminated inefficiencies and lowered prices, while allowing the creation of new jobs. Today, Manchester has lower unemployment, better jobs, and a higher average standard of living than Marx could have ever imagined.
But Marx was a tyrant and thus incapable of conceptualizing the power of freedom, both politically and economically. And he made his feelings on freedom perfectly clear in the same speech:
Gentlemen! Do not allow yourselves to be deluded by the abstract word freedom. Whose freedom? It is not the freedom of one individual in relation to another, but the freedom of capital to crush the worker.
The recent rise in anti-free trade sentiment among elected Democrats is troubling, to be sure, but it is fairly predictable given that Marxism is the intellectual soul force of the modern Democratic Party.
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Posted by Will Franklin · 29 August 2005 09:49 AM
Very interesting. Makes you wonder why so many people found him so inspiring.
Posted by: the english guy at August 29, 2005 02:47 PM
If you had no interest in making money or a better life for you or your kids, he's right up your alley.
Posted by: Hoodlumman at August 29, 2005 06:03 PM