Karl Marx would’ve turned 200 on May 5. What better way to commemorate the occasion than to recall the fact Karl Marx’s ideas have led to the deaths of 100 million people, extreme poverty, immense suffering, and relentless oppression — and you can’t even say he’s a nice guy.
Marx treated people cruelly, was two-faced, and used racial slurs. In a 1862 letter, Marx described an opponent as a “Jewish Nigger“. He was also a slob. “Washing, grooming and changing his linen are things he does rarely, and he is often drunk,” a Prussian police spy reported.
Marx had an affair with his life-long family maid Helen Demuth, who was, ironically, never paid for her backbreaking labour. The affair resulted in a child that Marx refused to acknowledge and was fostered out. When the child came to visit he was forbidden from using the front door and obliged to only see his mother in the kitchen.
The striking feature of those who claim to support Marx’s socialist ideas is that they know practically nothing of Marx the person, who was a monster, and the result of his ideas, which is monstrous societies.
Lenin and Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia were oppressive and unsuccessful. The “people’s revolution”, the socialising of the means of production directly inspired by Marx, led to the thousands of murders, millions of deaths in famines, and decades of political oppression and economic failure.
Today, Venezuela is the latest socialist catastrophe. Venezuela, despite having the world’s largest known oil reserves, is desperately poor. Nine in 10 Venezuelans go hungry. Prison inmates desperately forage for dead rats. Basic prescription drugs are unavailable. HIV/AIDS cases are flooding hospitals because of the lack of contraceptives. Babies are dying by the thousands. Crime and murder are spiking.
It is often remarked that socialism is “good in theory, bad in practice”. It’s a pretty rubbish theory if in practice it has failed every time it has been tried.
Socialism is built on shoddy intellectual grounds. Socialism depends on people working for others, with no immediate benefit. Socialism can only be implemented with coercion and force. To stop people from private economic, social and political activity, you have to oppress. That is why, in socialist countries, opposition political parties are banned, dissenters are jailed, and speech is curtailed.
So, what’s the record of the system Marx labelled “capitalism”? The free market has unleashed human flourishing and delivered freedom. The adoption of markets and free trade in the developing world has lifted a billion people out of poverty in the past 30 years. Global life expectancy has doubled in the last century from 30 to over 60 years. Meanwhile, global inequality is declining for the first time since the industrial revolution.
In capitalism, you can pursue you own desires, live as you choose, earn money as you please, and spend it on what you want. In socialism, you are inevitably oppressed, if not staved.
Matthew Lesh is a research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs. Tweet him at @matthewlesh.