Phillip W. Magness

U.S. Economic & Political History

On the intellectual uselessness of a certain method of socioeconomic analysis

A few brief observations:

1. The Labor Theory of Value is incapable of functionally explaining even basic economic relationships. See Menger 1871.

2. The notion that class identity functionally drives political or any other type of collective action is hopelessly incoherent and undermined by a pervasive free rider problem. See Olson 1965, Section IV.

3. Even if one were to assume that the initial allocation of all property is by mere theft (and it is not), its effectual consequences are entirely subordinate to the question of whether property rights exist in the first place. See Coase 1960.

4. The predictive ability of historical materialism in the ~150 years since its formulation is practically zero, although the cost of attempting to force its predictions into being is a hundred million bodies.

5. In practice, the concept of alienation is indistinguishable from subjective emoting about things that the individual exhibiting “estrangement” envies, and envy is a difficult concept to defend as the basis of a system of social allocation as it reduces to little more than subjective valuation executed by forcible acquisition.

Now note that one might still dispute if these particular observations are true. I’d entertain an argument as much, although they seem to be uphill battles if indeed the associated references hold. But let’s explore the implications by asking a question. Grant for a moment that the five observations are true. We may then ask what, exactly, remains of Marxist thought that is of any value in explaining anything?


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