Wednesday

The Good Marxist

Yes, I’ve started reading Marx’s Capital. The reason: Marxism is on the rise.

At first, I thought it was just a college nimrod thing. I mean, how can anyone with an ounce of sanity (of which academia has virtually none) believe in Marxism? But then I started fearing that it could actually be on the upswing for real. That concern was legitimized when I listed to Thaddeus Russell’s most recent discussion with Doug Lain, a self-professed Marxist in Oregon. Notwithstanding my kneejerk disgust, I started listening to it.

I was stunned. Here was a Marxist who wasn’t an unmitigated bastard. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. And on top of that, he was intellectually honest, something that I thought I had pretty much disappeared from the left altogether over the past ten years, but here I was, listening to a man from the far left who had common sense and acknowledged problems with his positions. When Russell pointed out that capitalism has done more to help the poor than any government has done, Lain said, “You’re right. That’s something we have to develop an answer for and right now, we don’t have one” (rough quote). Wow. He then said that capitalism creates untenable problems, like nuclear weapons and chronic stress for the capitalist society’s denizens, which I kinda agree with (though I don’t know why he blames capitalism for The Bomb, since it was the U.S. government and the USSR that developed it). Quite frankly, I agreed with almost everything he said, and I found him engaging and a heckuva decent guy that I’d like to have a beer with.

In fact, I’d love to have a beer with him and discuss his views about capitalism’s problems and how Catholicism might offer a solution.

The problem is, I doubt Lain much cares for what a Catholic thinks and, moreover, I haven’t entirely worked out my own views in this area (I no longer believe in Distributism . . . sorry GKC fans out there!). But I can’t get past Plato’s dictum that society is man writ large. If each individual put his own soul in order, society itself would improve. That’s the starting point. Concurrently, we would need to get government’s jackboot off individuals’ souls, and that starts by dismantling the entitlement system that kills individual initiative (which is nothing less that fortitude and diligence), kills charity, and rewards envy. It also requires reducing the central government altogether, so it doesn’t have the power to do things like make The Bomb and conscript young men to fight its foreign wars. I honestly believe, though I’m not yet prepared to prove, that the bulk of society’s more complex ills emanate from a central government that has distorted the natural functionings of society.

That’s what I would like to explore with a Marxist of goodwill like Mr. Lain.

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