He’s probably just saying this to be contrarian but I find a lot to agree with in Matt Yglesias’s Marx-curious post:
In honor of May 1, Brad DeLong reposted a very interesting 2009 talk he delivered on “Understanding Karl Marx” that offers a number of criticisms of Marx that I would have enthusiastically endorsed in 2009 but which look weaker four years later. In particular, DeLong says that Marx the political activist was too pessimistic about the idea that the ruling class would agree to make economic growth pareto optimal within the context of a market economy:
[T]hat even though the ruling class could appease the working class by using the state to redistribute and share the fruits of economic growth it would never do so. They would be trapped by their own ideological legitimations–they really do believe that it is in some sense “unjust” for a factor of production to earn more than its marginal product. Hence social democracy would inevitably collapse before an ideologically-based right-wing assault, income inequality would rise, and the system would collapse or be overthrown. The Wall Street Journal editorial page works day and night 365 days a year to make Marx’s prediction come true. But I think this, too, is wrong.
To me that unquestionably looked wrong as of 2009. But in the interim, those Wall Street Journal editorial page tendencies have grown much stronger. You see a rising tide of Rand-inflected moralism about market outcomes and a reduced emphasis on Friedman-style pragmatism. You also see a sharply reduced emphasis on belief in any kind of macroeconomic stabilization policy, in favor of a “let them eat cake slash move to North Dakota” moralism about unemployment.
In summary, I’m not a Marxist. But I worry that political conservatives are going to turn me into one.
If the choice is between Marx and FDR, I’ll take FDR every time, but if it’s Marx and Rand…well, that’s a different story.