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Economists

An Economist on Marx

HISTORIC MATERIALISM AND THE ECONOMICS OF MARX, by Benedicto Croce. Geo. Allen & Unwin, Ltd. 5s. nett.

One of the advantages of being a University Professor, or a Lecturer at a College, is that one may write arrant nonsense and pass it off for great wisdom on the uncritical reader.

The net result of the various essays forming the above volume is to leave the student with the conviction that the elder Weller's statement can still be applied with force when he asked whether "it was worth while going through so much to learn so little." Words, words, words, my masters, but little of real ideas or thoughts represented by these words and still less of any real criticism of Marx's works.

Voice From the Back

ORWELL AND HUMAN NATURE

Cooking the Books 1: Doom and gloom

In November David Segal of the New York Times interviewed a number of economists to see what ideas they had about how to get out of the current slump (www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/weekinreview/28segal.html).

His opening words were “we are not going to shop our way out of this mess”. Which is true enough since capitalism is not a system geared to meeting consumer demand but one driven by capital accumulation out of profits. Consumer demand merely reflects capital accumulation. If capital accumulation stalls, as at present, so does consumer demand. Consumer demand can only increase if capital accumulation does; it can’t wag the dog.

Keynes’s World (A Capitalist Utopia)

Maynard Keynes imagined a society that would be centred on the pursuit of enjoyment rather than accumulation, but like other reformists he couldn’t fathom a future without money and commodities.

Markets, profit, money, and private property seem as natural as the air we breathe to most people. Like Adam Smith, they believe that the “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another” is an aspect of our human nature. So it is naturally assumed that commodity exchange will continue to exist in the future, and that the only realistic way to overcome the problems we face is through a reform of capitalism. This is the “common sense” of today. And from this perspective, socialists appear to be unrealistic dreamers.

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