Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Marxism: It Looks So Good on Paper

Barack Obama's views have been characterized as Marxist. Just because

The Obama campaign's blacklisting of a television station that asked Biden to respond to the idea that Barack Obama is a Marxist, but that didn't keep people from wondering.

Obama's response to his "spread the wealth around" and "redistributive change" statements getting discussed is, basically, 'Marxist, Schmarxist: can't we all ignore this?'

Barack Obama a Marxist? Not Exactly

I still won't say that Obama is a Marxist, but he does seem to like the ideas of Karl Marx. And Marxist professors. And Marxian economics.

One of news articles I found about the (redistributive) change candidate's philosophical roots said:

"Obama's affinity for Marxists began when he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles.

" 'To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully,' the Democratic presidential candidate wrote in his memoir, 'Dreams From My Father.' 'The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists.' "
(FOXNews (October 28, 2008))

Obama supporters and the Obama campaign have, as far as I've seen, shown the good sense not to say that the quote is a lie. Their line will probably be that it was taken out of context. That's almost true, but not quite.

The young Barack Obama was struggling with what I'll call ethnic identity. Obama explained that he didn't want to ingratiate himself to white people, and did want to identify with blacks.

Snopes.com ("Urban Legends Reference Page") gives quite a bit of information about a claim that an "E-mail lists racist passages taken from Barack Obama's books." Snopes demonstrates that Barack Obama is not, by Snopes' standards, racist.

The extensive passages from "Dreams of My Father" do, however, seem to show that the young Barack Obama was very intent on establishing his own identity: And that doing so involved not ingratiating himself to white people, seeking out Marxist professors, and showing loyalty to the "black masses."

Judging from what Barack Obama said to Joe the Plumber, not much has changed.

But, I won't say that Barack Obama is a Marxist, strictly speaking. He does seem to be a college professor who admires the economic theories of Karl Marx, and thinks that it would be nice if somebody was forced to give money to black people: to make up for what happened in the 18th and 19th centuries.

That makes him an American college professor, but not necessarily a Marxist.

Do We Really Want Redistributive Change?

As I wrote yesterday, Reparations look good, as long as you're on the receiving end. And don't look too closely on what it does to the people who write your paycheck, and those of your neighbor.

Russian leaders, from about 1927 to 1991, made what I think is an earnest effort to apply Marxian principles to the real world. It didn't work out quite as well as some had hoped.

In my opinion, it makes no sense to penalize people for being productive, and reward those who aren't. And, like it or not, people like Bill Gates and Ted Turner have earned the money they acquired: by finding and developing new ways of providing goods and services.

I'll grant that some CEOs and other management types are overpaid: and I find "golden parachutes" disgusting.

Again, I see no sense in rewarding people who are not productive. Particularly if they're the ones who drove a company into the ground.

(Don't) Look For This in the News

I'll be surprised if these little matters will wind up on the front page of The New York Times:
  • Obama's preference for Marxist professors
  • His opinion that one of "the tragedies" of the civil rights movement was its failure to bring "redistributive change"
  • His more recent statement that it's a good idea to "spread the wealth around"
  • The Obama campaign's blacklisting of a Florida television station for asking embarrassing questions
But it could happen. Barack Obama's interest in Marxism didn't seem to strike a chord with most news services. But, the Obama campaign's blacklisting of a television station for asking the wrong question might.

In the news:
I read, and gave what I believe to be a reasonable paraphrase, of the relevant paragraphs of "Dreams of My Father" quoted on Snopes.com However, don't just take my word for what Obama wrote.

For one thing, I had to leave out many details, and did not attempt to mimic Barack Obama's tone.

There are substantial passages from "Dreams of My Father" at that Snopes page. I suggest searching for the paragraph that starts with the words "To avoid being mistaken for a sellout".

Better yet, buy "Dreams of My Father" online. I'm going to see if my budget will let me.

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