Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Real Struggle for Communists is Reading Marx's Work

Karl Marx

By Don Boudreaux
Ages ago, as a grad student at NYU in the early 1980s, I took a course in Marxian (or was it called Marxist?) Economics from NYU Econ’s resident Marxist, Prof. James F. Becker. I enrolled in this course in order to give myself sufficient incentive actually to read Marx’s key works.
I recall very much liking Prof. Becker and his text, but finding – not to my surprise – Marx’s writings to be turgid, profoundly confused, and mostly downright absurd. I don’t remember the precise grade that I earned to pass the class, but if Marx’s labor theory of value were correct, then that grade damn well ought to have been an A+. Reading Marx was a struggle. It’s a task at which one must labor hard.
I am now again reading many of Marx’s ‘scientific’ economics writings (in preparation for a conference that I’ll attend next week). What a crock! Marx’s ramblings are far more ridiculous and difficult to penetrate than I’d recalled.
I’m astonished that Marx’s lumbering, thick, repetitive, and entirely inelegant prose somehow won for him any popularity beyond a tiny handful of crazed and semi-literate followers. Reading Marx is a figurative form of grinding red-hot embers into one’s eyes and trying to make sense, through the pain, of the resulting confused and distorted scene.
More than one person whose opinion and judgment I greatly respect insist that Marx, for all of his many mistakes, is nevertheless a thinker with some worthwhile ideas – a thinker worthy of careful study and respect. Well, if so, I’ve missed something. I’ve not come close to stumbling upon any original thought in Marx that is worth the ink used to record it onto paper. Nothing in the old fool’s oeuvre that I’ve read is remotely worthy of respect. It’s all, as far as I can tell, nonsense that is more difficult to digest than cement and with less intellectual nutritional value.
The above originally appeared at Cafe Hayek.


  1. I have a fairly early copy from last century of one of the volumes for Marx. I can confirm it's every as unreadable as he says it is. Since Marx did not bother to bathe or support his family, I guess he was able to find time to write such dreck with the help of his sponsor.

  2. Yep, completely agree. I was totally shocked how Marx's Das Kapital could have such an impact. I stopped around page 150 as it was clear that everything before was so wrong, and everything that followed was based on this first part, I couldn't get myself to continue. Whatever amount of socially necessary labor time Marx put into this, it resulted in total garbage and lot's of dead people because of it.

    I guess most self described Marxits never made it even that far in the book..

  3. The hand in the coat is the a sign of a what?

  4. I had to study (and pass exams!) Marx in both school in university.

    The inanity of his massive corpus of logical fallacies is stunning. I tried hard to forget this crap. Unfortunately, I'm cursed with good memory.

    My pet theory is that as long as the opus is voluminous its inanity and opaqueness add to its popularity - idiots like to pretend they "get it". Other idiots are impressed with this claim by the first idiot readers, and also pretend. And so it goes on and becomes the sacred text of a whole idiotic cult. Witness: The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Das Kapital, Mein Kampf, Of Grammatology, and all other sacred books.