Thursday, November 24, 2011
By Barry Rubin
In writing my satirical article, “Karl Marx Visits Occupied Wall Street,” I reread the Communist Manifesto several times and found it very useful to do so. It recalled for me the wonderful course in Western Civilization taught by the incomparable Professor Carroll Quigley I took more than four decades ago in which we read and analyzed the great works of political philosophy. The fact that there or so few courses like that anymore—and especially not mandatory ones—is an important factor in the decline of American higher education and of the dumbing down of America to the low point of the Obama era.
But I digress. In reading the Manifesto, I was fascinated to see a problem emerge at the very center of the current political-intellectual mess. If we examine how Marx got things wrong on this issue, a lot becomes clear.
As you know, Marx considered himself to be a scientist uncovering the iron laws of politics, society, and history. Up to a point, he does try to take that approach, even if you disagree with him. But at a certain moment he turns from hardheaded realist to starry-eyed utopian. And the key issue is one on which the founders of America got it right: the problem of government.
First, a little background: in attributing history, politics, and society to class struggle, Marx discussed one important aspect of these things. The problem is that he made this the only issue of any importance. Left out were such things as ideology; psychology and human nature; deep-seated drives of some individuals for power, wealth, and fame; family, tribal, and national loyalty; and other things as well. Marx is a reductionist, a man who constantly must reduce complex issues to a single cause.
Yet his biggest blindspot—the one that has cost millions of lives and that is steering much of the Western world in the wrong direction today—is the role of government.
The founders of America knew very well that every democracy in history had failed. They knew that unless they understood why this had happened and remedied it, the United States would soon become just another monarchy or dictatorship.
They found the answer in this principle: No one can be trusted with power; every individual, party, or group will inevitably abuse power. Thus, the solution they proposed was to divide up power, to ensure that nobody got too much of it. They did this in several different ways:
Posted by Rubin Center at 1:15 PM