by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It was inevitable that Karl Marx would become a Marxist — at least according to the precepts of that ideology. He was brought up in an environment in which savings had been destroyed by inflation and a failure to keep up with the Industrial Revolution was impoverishing local people. Today we profess to live under capitalism, yet state spending represents 40 percent of GDP, while much of the rest of the economy is distorted by state-determined ultra-low interest rates and state-imposed regulations. Overall, only a modest percentage of decisions are determined by a willing buyer–willing seller price mechanism, while the rest are determined directly or indirectly by government. That may not be socialism in the most precise sense of the word, but, in some respects, it is uncomfortably close to it. …
… The obsolete economic structures and monetary folly of Marx’s childhood environment prevented capitalism from functioning properly, yet at that time it worked very well in Britain and the new United States. In those countries, land was freely held, governments were small, and tariffs were applied only at international borders. Consequently, first in Britain and then in the United States, capitalism was able to exploit the Industrial Revolution. This brought continual productivity and living-standards improvements, even for working men and women, which led to the abundance of today.
We are now in a situation similar to that of Marx’s childhood, in an economy that purports to be capitalist (or in Marx’s era, proto-capitalist) but does not work with the efficiency of a true capitalist economy. First, the state sector is unimaginably larger than in Marx’s day, around 40 percent of GDP in the United States. … In America’s state sector, decisions are made not on a free-market, willing buyer–willing seller basis, but through bureaucratic fiat or political pull.