The Failures & Inconsistencies of Karl Marx

Government 1B: Lesson 70

The theology of Marx 

Communism has found favour in the majority of the world’s leading countries today because of the claim that it is a system that is geared toward and in favour of the working-class people. Karl Marx wrote many books bashing the evils of the capitalist system while promoting the brilliance of the communist system but he failed to ever coherently explain how the said system would work or come about. The closest Marx ever gets to an explanation was to say that human action may slightly speed up or slow down the direction of social evolution, but communism will inevitably be replaced by capitalism. This vague answer perfectly depicts the popularity among intellectuals to view mankind as simply another member of the zoological class of mammals and the effects Darwinism had on society during Marx’s time. Marx and fellow intellectuals did not think to view men above anything but primitive cavemen, which in turn made them diminish man’s God-given nature to that of a robot.

Everyone believes in something. Marx did not believe in God, and he certainly did not believe in man, so what is left? One might say that his belief then lies in social evolution, yet when he was once questioned that if he believed the whole process of capitalism to communism was inevitable, why did he not favour evolution instead of revolution? His answer was, “There are no evolutions in life. Is not birth itself a revolution?” 

With this bit of Marx’s theology in mind, let us now go over some of his critiques of capitalism and the inconsistencies found in his claims.

Critiques on Marx

Critique #1

The first of Marx’s critiques is that of the Business Cycle. He claimed that communism was superior to capitalism because capitalism underwent regular economic fluctuations. Any form of economic organization in society can only survive if it can make full use of society’s resources, therefore capitalism is fated to be replaced because the business cycle proves that capitalism cannot maintain full use of its resources.

This ridiculous critique clearly shows how little Marx understood economics and the nature of the business cycle. The business cycle is the very way the economy regulates and can make full use of its resources. Rather than having natural resources, capital goods, and labour tied up in unproductive and inefficient areas of the market, the rising and falling of the business cycle signals to the market that it needs to move, buy or sell its resources. While communism and socialism would have no business cycle and the inherent rise and fall of the economy, society would become extremely inefficient. Businesses and the government would have no way of knowing if resources are being productive or wasted. In a free market and capitalistic society there will always be a rising and falling of a business cycle, but there would never have to be the dramatic plunges of a recession or depression if the government restricted itself from interfering with and regulating the market.

Critique #2

Marx believed that capitalism was based on the exploitation of wage labour and that the capitalist businessman pays his workers only enough to keep them alive rather than according to the value they create.

The first question that quickly comes to mind is value according to whom? Who imputes value on a person, his labour, and the product his labour produces? What Marx gets fundamentally wrong here is assuming it’s the upper class that decides the value of the workers, when in fact it is the workers who decide the value of the price of goods and services and antecedently the labour needed to produce them.

Workers are ultimately consumers. They are in charge of the free market and the direction it will take. As economist Ludwig von Mises points out in one of his lectures, what really destroyed Marx and his critique was he could not see that “the main objective of capitalists is to produce for the broad masses. Nor did Marx see that under capitalism the customer (the worker) is always right” (Mises, Marxism Unmasked, 2nd lecture).

Marx was in favour of the “iron law of wages” which is still taught in many textbooks and can be found in the policies of politicians and consequently in their laws. The “iron law of wages” states that the wage rate will be determined by the amount of food and necessities needed for the preservation and reproduction of an individual worker’s life, as well as to support the workers’ children until they can go to work in the factories. The wage rate is not allowed to rise above the set rate, because that would increase the number of workers and the increased number of workers would bring the wage back down again. The wage rate is also not allowed to drop below the set rate because that would cause a shortage of labour. This ‘iron wage law’ that Marx was so enthusiastic about, is starting to sound very similar to what he is accusing the capitalists of doing: exploiting the labourer and paying only enough to keep him alive. “This law considers the worker to be some kind of microbe or rodent without free choice or free will” (Mises, Marxism Unmasked, 2nd lecture).

Critique #3

Marx did not like the idea of one person being stuck in one position for the rest of his life. Capitalism ultimately promotes the specialization of labour, but under communism, people would be less selfish, more versatile and creative, have more personal autonomy, and live where human potential is encouraged. A system like capitalism is based on self-interest and will involve friction, conflict and rivalry between people.

“Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society: all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labor of others by means of such appropriation. It has been objected, that upon the abolition of private property all work will cease, and universal laziness will overtake us” (Marx, The Communist Manifesto).

The theology Marx held diminished the creation and value of man to that of a machine. We may decide to play his own game and counter this third critique of capitalism by saying that no machine is without friction. That is a phenomenon man has tried to discover since the beginning of time. But a healthy economy includes competition. A business becomes lazy and inefficient if there is no one to compete with, just as an athlete becomes lazy and slows in his sport if there is no team to compete against. Capitalism and the business cycle allow for productive competition and keep the economy from becoming clogged with lazy businesses and wasteful with recourses.

“For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic” (Marx, The German Ideology / Theses on Feuerbach / Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy).

Marx seems to have believed that the free market life is a boring life, where the specialization of labour would lead people to trapped in a prison of the capitalist’s making. His famous quote about being able to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, and criticize after dinner while under a communist system, leaves every cattleman wondering where on earth he gets the time to fish, hunt, and criticize when he has a whole farm to run. The idea is laughable. The specialization of labour allows the people to freely choose a skill to develop and master. A society with a million jack of all trades and masters of none is not going to raise the standard of living. At most it will keep the standard of living where it is. But society will never develop to great heights and the geniuses will be smothered by the many jobs and activities Marx declares will make their life less boring.

Critique #4

The final critique that deserves addressing, is Marx’s claim that athletic enjoyment is reduced under capitalism.

Marx makes two assumptions in this statement. 1) That people do not have time to enjoy sports under capitalism because they are forced to work and 2) that there are fewer athletic activities to enjoy in a capitalistic society.

Both assumptions are wrong. Marx assumes that people would choose to play sports right now instead of working and perfecting their skills. It is instant gratification and leisure vs. building wealth and enjoying riches later. In a free market, people are free to go and enjoy athletic sports whenever they choose, some may even make it their career and specialize in the mastery of a sport. But people have to make a choice, leisure time in exchange for money. Many people would rather work hard to gain wealth and then enjoy their leisure time later. Entrepreneurs have the incentive to increase productivity which increases leisure.

Under capitalism, there is the ability to develop new sports, events, and competitions. Entrepreneurs can expand the sports industry and provide entertainment, jobs, games, etc, for the masses (who if you recall are the working class people) and profit from them. But, if it turns out the public is not interested in what the entrepreneur has to offer, then he must move to a different industry and take the skills, capital goods, and natural recourses elsewhere, where they will be used more fully for something the market actually wants.

Why Communism fails – A quick critique of Marxism-Leninism

After Marx came a new theory called Marxism Leninism. While Marx believed that the rise of communism was inevitable and mostly non-violent, Lenin believed that left to themselves, the workers would never rise up and realize communism was the superior system and they would only go as far as establishing trade unionism. Lenin seemed to see the blaring inconsistencies of Marx’s theories, and by 1902 he wrote the book What is to be Done, where he suggested that there would be a need for a “vanguard of the proletariat”, or a class of professional revolutionaries to spur on the workers to revolt against the class system and into communism.

It is noteworthy, that if an idea can only be achieved through the use of force by professional revolutionaries, the idea is probably not a great one. If Lenin is an entrepreneur with an idea for a product that he thinks will save society, he is going to need investors to help finance his idea and get it off the ground. Now if this idea is any good, he will have no problem pitching the business plan to investors and having them sign on immediately. If it is really that amazing of an idea, as Marx claimed it was, investors will be begging to give him money. But, if Lenin as an entrepreneur cannot for the life of him convince investors that his idea will save society, and then resorts to stealing and bank robbing for money, you can bet his idea sucks. 

Those in the Austrian school of economics and those that believe in capitalism and the free market, know that communism will never work in any society, not just because of the example above, but because if communism cannot work between two people on an island, it most certainly will not work in a society of two billion. This is the famous Robinson Crusoe economic example.

What would happen when two men are all alone on an island, and then one declares to the other, “This system of barter and trade that we have going is not working. What we need is for me to decide what you really need and want.”  The thought is ridiculous! The two men would instantly be fighting for who rules over the other, and neither of them would now be benefiting from freely trading with one another. Both parties suffer and the land now suffers because there will be no development of natural resources and capital goods.

“This great gain for both men is made possible by two primordial facts of nature—natural laws—on which all of economic theory is based: (a) the great variety of skills and interests among individual persons; and (b) the variety of natural resources in geographic land areas. If all people were equally skilled and equally interested in all matters, and if all areas of land were homogeneous with all others, there would be no room for exchanges. But, in the world as it is, the opportunity for specialization in the best uses for land and people enables exchanges to multiply vastly and immensely to raise the productivity and the standard of living (the satisfaction of wants) of all those participating in exchange. (Rothbard, A Crusoe Social Philosophy)”

If Crusoe and Friday are not able to work with one another and exchange goods and services, then the concept of money will never enter society. If more people joined this island that was divided and in chaos, there would be a great halt in the development of the market, and it would be a long time coming before they all could develop their individual skills and begin to barter and trade. Marx’s claims that communism would usher in more personal autonomy, creativity, and selflessness, and encourage human potential are thrown straight out the window.


By 1921, Lenin realized if he wanted communism to ever work and his country to not be utterly destroyed by starvation, he would have to backtrack and implement a few free market, capitalistic policies. Lenin’s ‘New Economic Policy’ allowed private businesses to be legal again, and farmers were able to sell their products and pay taxes in food. That was the result of the communist system.  The theory of Marxism-Leninism failed once again, and instead of communism saving the working class from utter destruction, it was capitalism that saved the day.


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