Fri, Jul 11, 2003 - Page 8 News List

What we need is a dose of Marxism

By Chu Yen-ming 朱言明

Now that the world's economy has become globalized under capitalism and life is defined by material gain, more and more people are yearning for Karl Marx's moral ideals and are once again examining his economic theories in the hope of creating a more just society.

The most obvious example of this was when the Reuters news agency conducted a survey of economists just prior to the end of the 20th century. The economists were asked to pick three people who had the most influence on economics over the past centuries. The three selected were John Maynard Keynes, Adam Smith and Karl Marx.

Why do economists still favor Marx? As Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) said, we must learn from Marxist thought. Regardless of people's differing views on Marx, the fact that he stressed the spirit of sacrifice and dedication, as well as the need to speak up for disadvantaged groups and poor people truly deserves our deliberation. Consider the following example.

First, the labor theory of value emphasizes that labor is sacred and that only labor can create value. Many start-up companies began during Taiwan's stock-market boom. There are also lottery winners who became billionaires overnight. This opportunistic mentality is present every-where in society.

Pleasure-seeking people dream of fast advancement in their career. No one wants strenuous work. When people seek employment, they look for those jobs that offer high pay, carry little responsibility and are close to home. As a result, the society is full of greedy and selfish people who seek quick success and instant benefits.

The labor theory of value argues that the amount of labor value should be measured according to the length of labor time. It means the hourly rate of physical labor is as same as that of mental labor; the wage of laborers working one hour should be as same as that of college professors teaching or doing research for one hour.

Just as a Chinese jingle says, one might as well sell tea eggs as make atomic bombs, or one might as well employ the razor as hold the scalpel.

However, Marx's argument that people with better knowledge and ability ought to serve the masses in the spirit of sacrifice and dedication is still sonorous.

Second, the theory of surplus value demonstrates that capitalists and merchants exploit the workers and consumers to accumulate surplus value (or profits). They often raise their prices, extend the working hours of laborers and reduce the wage of workers. Sun once denounced the Ford Motor Co's policies, demanding it reduce prices, reduce working hours and increase wages.

Because of his study of surplus value, Marx detested two groups of people: capitalists and merchants. In Taiwan, for example, the Labor Standards Law (勞基法) to protect the rights of workers and the Consumer Protection Law (消費者保護法) to protect the rights of consumers are still unable to completely eliminate exploitation. The result is more worker protests and consumer complaints.

Third, the theory of capital accumulation and concentration offers compelling insights and has such a great impact on the world. Capitalists first accumulate wealth by gaining surplus value. Big capitalists then swallow up small capitalists by mergers, thereby creating the so-called king of automobiles, king of oil, king of plastics and so forth. Gradually, capital is accumulated in the hands of a few big capitalists. The world is then split into two major classes: bourgeoisie and proletariat.

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