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Friday, March 24, 2006

The Red Menace, Part Deux

Rush Limbaugh received a call today from Katie, a conservative student attending Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She discussed a course she was taking - Communism (Political Science 377). I found the official description of the course (PDF file):

Explores the evolution of "communism" as a complex set of ideals, critical theories, competing doctrines and diverse practices. Attention is also given to the ways in which "communism" has been construed as a threat to prevailing modes of thought and organization, served as a target and rationale for subversion, and endures as an inspiration and a modified social project in the 21st century.

The official textbooks are:

The nature of the first book is obvious, and no class on Communism would be complete without Marx. I was initially puzzled by the inclusion of a book on anarchism, being accustomed to thinking of it in terms of anarcho-capitalism, the most radical form of Libertarianism. But one Amazon book review tells me what I kneed to know, citing the book as "a brief introduction to Proudhon, Bakhunin and Kropotkin." The Wikipedia article on Mikhail Bakunin explains the relevance of anarchism to Marxism:

The dispute between Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx highlighted the difference between anarchism and Marxism: While both anarchists and Marxists share the same final goal - the creation of a free, egalitarian society with no social classes and no government, they strongly disagree on how to achieve this goal. Anarchists believe that the classless, stateless society should be established right away, as soon as possible; they refuse any intermediate stage of dictatorship of the proletariat. Marxists believe that such a thing would be impossible and that the anarchists are too idealistic; the Marxists want a more gradual transition towards the classless and stateless society, involving a transitional stage of democratic government and planned economics, which they call "socialism"

All three were critics of capitalism. Bakunin largely agreed with Marx's assessment of capitalism (Wikipedia offers no details). Peter Kropotkin professed anarchistic communism. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon came right out and declared - in exact words - "property is theft."

The latter two books are modern anticapitalist screeds. "Parecon" is short for participatory economics - a collectivist economics theory pioneered by the book's author in concert with American University economics professor Robin Hahnel.

Katie addressed the Alperovitz book:

[H]is whole premise is he wants to bridge the gap of wealth between the wealthiest in society and the poorest, but, you know, more fairly.

Rush explained a critical error on the part of such thought (emphasis in original):

What he's trying to do, it's exactly what I told you. They look at the inequities and they see built-in unfairness and they think that there's a powerful elite that controls all the wealth and that chooses who gets it, and the that the poor and the downtrodden are selected. They're just as good as anybody else. They're just as hard working. They're just as accomplished. They're just getting screwed!

Socialists vastly underestimate the role that the talent-and-effort gap plays in the income gap. The entrepreneur who sells to thousands of customers (and who is a sound budgeter) will always make a lot more than the teacher who instructs 200 students per day.

Limbaugh's hypothetical "powerful elite that controls all the wealth and that chooses who gets it" aren't so hypothetical - they're Communists. Those who wring their hands over income gaps tend to ignore their presence in Marxist economies. Historically, poverty is rampant in Communist countries, while party elites live in varying degrees of splendor in accord with their level of privilege - and at 100% taxpayer expense.

Conventional income gap analysis looks in the wrong place. Instead of contrasting rich and poor of a specific nation, it should contrast the poor that live under varying degrees of economic freedom. See more musings over the income gap in this May 2003 post.

Earlier in the call, Rush addressed the tyranny inherent in Communism:

RUSH: To create a communist society: the first thing you do is you build a wall around wherever the people live, either the country or the county or the city. Then you put security checkpoints on top of the wall at various places and if anybody tries to get out, you kill them.


RUSH: You take away every bit of freedom that they have. Everybody that works will work for the state and will make the same amount of money. It won't be much. There will be no achievement allowed, no excellence allowed. The only people who will make out will be those who lead this community -- its president, its Politburo; I've got to use the right terms -- or what have you. It's misery. It is forced misery and death if you try to escape it. It's prisons. It is mind control. It is denial of free media and truth. It is suppression of any statement that opposes the government. Do that, and the guy ought to give you an A and probably think you have a good future.

CALLER: Well, that wouldn't really match with Marx's views on communism on his original ideas of what a Marxist society would be.

RUSH: Oh, I'm sorry it doesn't! The communists, that's what they end up having to do after their system fails.

And why is that, Rush? Why doesn't the egalitarian classless society spring up according to plan? Bakunin himself knew part of the answer, understanding why Marx's proposed dictatorship of the proletariat could never serve as a suitable interim phase to implement the egalitarian classless society:

"If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Czar himself."

In my February 2003 review of The Black Book of Communism, I offered a lengthy explanation. Aside from echoing Bakunin's sentiments in the previous paragraph, I raised two issues, starting with Communism's radical views on property. Since the Master Plan calls for state control of the entire economy, the Communist state must begin on a foundation of robbery. Second I addressed the totalitarian impulse:

Communist governments...exist because someone came forward and proposed a rigid and complex utopian vision. Such a vision violates fundamental laws of human nature - the desire for personal property, for starters. If they abandon the quest to abolish private property, they discredit themselves and the masses demand a refund. They must therefore convince the masses to abandon human nature - ironically, while the leaders do not. Marxism also demands the abolition of religion, so the masses must be forced to abandon their allegiance to whatever deity(ies). Leaders willing to take life and property by force will take belief by force when such is essential to their political survival.

Check out the rest of the transcript. At the end, Rush has links to various source material supporting points raised in the conversation. This page will probably go to the subscriber-only section in the near future, so I'll list them here:

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