Jordan Schwall

Student - B.A. Philosophy,

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Is it possible for both Karl Marx and Ayn Rand to be correct?


Two pop-cultural experiences this week got me thinking; is it possible that both capitalism and socialism have their place in society? Is this what historically maintains economic equilibrium (at least, one theoretical and organic)? We industrialize, followed by a period of economic redistribution and cultural 'flourishing,' and repeat this process. 

These two contrasting ideas both had their time in history, and here is pop-culture to prove it: 

television: socialism, Marx

“Do what will make you happy, and don’t lie to yourself, the latter of course a main theme of the series. “I always thought that you were very single-minded about your dreams and that that would help you through life,” he tells her. “But now I see that you skipped the struggle and went right to the end.” “It’s not the end, it’s the beginning,” Megan says. “This apartment, this wealth that someone handed to you,” he replies. “This is what Karl Marx was talking about. And it’s not because someone else deserves it. It’s because it is bad for your soul.” “Don’t pick at me with your politics because you hate that I love Don,” she says. “No, I hate that you give up. Don’t let your love for this man stop you from doing what you want to do.” 
-- Mad Men (

literature: capitalism, Rand

-- Scott Hoover (

Look at the here and now: we value economic achievement, a capitalist ideal. but on a temporal economic scale, say the 1920s, marxism attempted to redistribute those economic achievements so that people could work less and thrive culturally (marxism was obviously only a consideration in economic policy that would change, at the time, failing capitalism). Many contend that the same is being done now (Obama as changing capitalism). Is there a natural cycle to this?

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    Feb 13 2013: Karl Marx said, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.".
    On the same subject Ayn Rand said, "The upper classes are merely a nation's past; the middle class is its future."
    One despised classes and the other praised them. One thought the people should own nothing, the other thought the government should own nothing.
    China today is conducting an experiment. Totalitarian political and social control over sort-of-free enterprise. Torrents of capital fueling a runaway techno/industrial/financial firestorm. Let's watch.
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      Feb 14 2013: Very poignant. Before China runs amuck, or defeats us all, can we discuss this from a theoretical basis? I hope you will have some things to say now that I have better flushed out my intents in prior replies.

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        Feb 14 2013: I say let's watch the Chinese Experiment because we (USA) are too broke to participate. We have become an Indentured State. Would Communism, or its gentler form Socialism, have saved the American Experiment from death-by-debt? I don't think so. I do not see the concept of not spending what you don't have as rocket science. Payback is a bitch. Duh! Usery is a destroyer which The Federal Reserve System has used to amass gargantuan wealth for some while ever-so-surely taking us ignorant, apathetic Americans to the brink of national insolvency and finally into Socialism. No, no, a thousand times no. Ms. Rand and Comrade Marx must never be seated together at the dining table. In fact, invite one or the other, but not both. Together they will disrupt a lovely dinner every time.
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    Feb 13 2013: Ok heres my opinion on marxism (since I've now seen a dozen articles, forum posts, videos and now TEDtopics on this subject within the space of a week)...

    Perhaps no one knows what Marxism is (Thats what the evidence is showing --Just an onslaught of people forever claiming to know what it is whilst simultaniously claiming everyone else doesn't) because Karl Marx's economic positions were either:

    1. Disproved with a series of practical applications (Such as specific aspects of Communism, 'Marxism', Socialism and Capitalism) and claimed none of any given characteristics were his because it would demonstrate his failure and he wanted to save face and continue to be known as an intellectual.

    2. He couldn't form a coherent structure and definition of a questionable idea, hence why no one knows what it actually is, even generations later.

    I'd be willing to bet money that if we could bring Marx back to life and ask him what Marxism was, he would go and study every model in history and present day, claim none of them are in any way like Marxism and then spout a pile of double-speak and incoherence to us all, act like it made sense and then quickly leave the stage..

    Just my two cents, somewhat based on continued observations on how when someone popular is disproven and/or unsure, nobody seems to 'understand' or 'get it right'..
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      Feb 14 2013: Very true. As such, I had hoped people would subscribe to my two proposed, oversimplified and discounted, viewpoints on capitalism and Marxism. So if you are to read:

      capitalism--industrialization, wealth

      Marxism- economic redistribution and cultural 'flourishing' 

      then what do you think?

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        Feb 19 2013: -Namaste
        My simple answer would be yes. It is possible for them to both be correct in a society. Right and wrong is a very relative statement. In a sense both have brought a perspective of social order and they both have valid points. If we can blend the two we can come up with something like we have in many Scandinavian countries currently. Socialism for social structures, communism for community structures and capitalism for economic structure. Now my question to you is.... Will all these structures work, if the foundation they are built upon is egocentric in nature and rewards division of reality, over the creation of unity? Agreeing to abide by the current system of monetary laws is creating a paradox of what is reality, in my opinion. Hopefully I am incorrect, but I can see its influence on me, and through perspective, I would understand its affects on others. I think its time for a new chapter in human consciousness that begins with awareness and education of self. You can only open doors for others to look into, it is their choice to walk threw that door or not.
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    Feb 13 2013: Here's the thing. If everyone in the world was totally self centred and focussed only on there own needs Ayn Rand would be right. If everyone in the whole world was totally altruistic and only concerned with what is best for society as a whole then "Karl Marx" would be right. (Marx is in quotes because what is popularly considered Marxism isn't actually Marxism) Lets say pure socialism. The problem is neither of these scenarios is a realistic representation of the world. Therefore neither of them are right.
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      Feb 13 2013: The world gets much closer to Rand than Marx, as the prior is organic to humans and the latter is a perversion of humans.
      • Feb 13 2013: Survival of the genes is intrinsic to humans (Dawkins) ... both altruism and selfishness exist in humans. Under certain circumstances self centered behavior works best for individual fitness and under other circumstances altruism within cooperative groups works best to promote the fitness of a group. Both human inclinations have survived the test of time.
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        Feb 13 2013: That depends on the company you keep ;-)
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          Feb 13 2013: That would be the people of Earth? (8^(l)
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        Feb 14 2013: I seek out altruistic hippie types so I can live off their good intentions and not have to do anything for myself.
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          Feb 14 2013: How is that working for you?
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    Feb 18 2013: As far as I can say something about it: All systems have lifecycles. If one is not working anymore people seek for alternatives or change/reevaluate. It is like an ecosystem.
    • Feb 19 2013: You could argue that Capitalism does have a lifecycle and will burn out without the distraction of another World War.
      Around 200 years ago the Luddites broke into factories to smash up all the new machinery that replaced skilled labour with machines. We now live in an age were machines have taken up most of the manual work.
      Now that we have the technology we don't need as many jobs, the result being there aren't enough jobs to go round. But no one wants to admit it.
      Imagine an education policy that failed 9 out of 10 pupils, it wouldn't last two minutes, yet we persevere with an economic policy that does just that.
      The majority of people don't know anything different, "there is no alternative". There is very little coverage or debate of alternatives by the mainstream media because they are all run or owned by the capitalists.
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    Feb 14 2013: Jordan, One last thought. If you are looking for a trend ... follow george Seros , the man who broke the bank of England.

    He is the chief donator, and most frequent visitor to the White House. He is said to be Obama's handler.

    If there is a pattern here it will show up when Seros makes his monitary move against the United States Dollar.

    He is the power to be reconned with on this issue.

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    Feb 19 2013: Marxism and Capitalism are almost identical.
    Both result in central decision making bodies.
    The only difference is whether a corporation or a government holds the reigns.
    Socialism and capitalism are not oposites.
    The true oposite is anarchism.
    Anarchy is best expressed in the "free market". It respects that most systems are self organising and do not require central planning/control.
    The role of the "collective" is to set the parameters of these systems to prevent them becoming unstable. It is not the role of the collective to interfere directly with system outcomes.
    Both Marxism and Capitalism delight in direct interference in the market.
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      Feb 19 2013: And here I thought that anarchy was the absence of law enforcement. Which begs the question? Are all humans without sin?
      We can beat the philosophical horses to death ie. anarchy, communism, et. el. They all imply that man will play by the rules. And it isn't that it hasn't been tried. Even in the USA, there was the town in Ohio, a couple of communist colonies and they all came to the same end. Some of the participants didn't play the game
      and messed it up for everybody.
      Now in capitalism, the individual invests his capital has he sees fit to achieve some return for himself or not.
      He has the opportunity to fail and lose his capital.
      In Anti-capitalism, the state controls all the capital and distributes it as it sees fit.
      And don't be hard on those big corporations, they are usually a bunch of individual capitalists that got together to grow their capital. Unlike government, who have the force of law behind them. You don't pay your Sear's bill, they can try to sue you for the money. You don't pay your tax bill and they will take your house, your first born and put your backside in the slammer. I think that is a significant difference.
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        Feb 19 2013: There is no such thing as "sin".
        In the moral continuum there is only advantage/disadvantage spread across the array of personal-->community networks.
        In other words, sin is what you get penalized for - it is a label applied after the fact.
        Non anarchistic systems fail by confusing parameter laws with direct interference laws.
        For instance, if you criminalize drugs, you increase drug usage and benefit the incarceration industry. This is an example of outcome laws.
        On the other hand, the laws which regulate agression will reduce murder by identifying self defence. Agression is a known parameter - the law applies to the threshold tollerance with outcomes taking care of themselves.
        A group which does not regulate outcomes or parameters will fail if numbers exceed around 200 individuals.
        A tribal group which is pre-indoctrinated by dominance will never form a stable tribal cell. For stability to arise requires de-programming of pre-existing states.
        Likewise, a tribal group which is not formed of famillial history will fail if not re-acquainted of the default mechanisms of family. I.E. throwing a bunch of strangers together will fail.
        Anarchy recognises defaults - including evolutionary encoding - this includes family in humans.
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          Feb 19 2013: Huhh!

          My premise is that Rand and Marx are diametrically opposed and I prefer the Rand model because it fosters individuality vis. collectivism where the individual is usually lost.
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        Feb 19 2013: Yes, it looks that way.
        But individuality and collectivism are not diametrically opposed.
        Collectivisim is a result of individuality.
        What you see are the results of centralism - this is a different thing.
        Both Rand and Marx were wrong.
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    Feb 17 2013: No. They are diametrically opposed.
    Under Rand, each individual is responsible for his own success. Failure is not an option.
    Failure happens. Too bad. It is best if they were kept out of the gene pool.

    Well, that is a little heartless!

    Under Marx, society distributes success to all individuals, responsibility is not considered, failure is not allowed.
    But, there are failures and can we be sure success would be distributed fairly? " From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is what Marx proposed. And who determines how much of the abilities and how much is the need. It seems like President Obama is that person in the USA and he has even said so.

    Well, that is a little dictatorial!
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    Feb 16 2013: I dont think about economic systems in terms of right or wrong because it just doesnt make sense to do so. How can we say an economic system is right or wrong if the one system uses a diffrent reasoning then the other... in fact they are both right in the end or wrong depending on wether you look at the premises marx or rand used or the system they created. a system cant be wrong, thats why its a system which defines rules whicht then create the difference between right and wrong.

    I also wouldnt say one system works better then the other i just think that we shouldnt use a system forever and ever as if it was the allmighty and only true system.
    Capitalism leads to economic growth yeah... but once a certain point is reached it extends its arm beyond just economy takes over politics and prevents us from making the safer, more foreseeing decisions in favour of short term profits.
    This point is reached and its the point where capitalism suddenly turns bad and prevents us from growth other then economic growth.

    What communism or socialism does is that it creates a system in which the state itself takes control it leads to economic stability (rather then growth) and gives back the power to the state which is then able to make the appropriate long term decisions, once those are settles we might jump ontop of the growth train again.

    Why dont we combine those two? Why dont we create a seperate instance nemely a system which is completely remote from any economic or governmental influence which decides when to use which system. Why stick with the same system if its clear its got its flaws and doesnt work perfectly at all times? Why threat them like religions where theres the believers and the nonbelievers?
    You dont believe into an economic system ... you use it thats what we created said systems for.

    EDIT:And before anyone tells that marxism didnt work... go read up on marxism, then figure out that what he imagined never existed but a system using his name.
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      Feb 16 2013: How do you define "right and wrong," then--morally? No one has yet posited this notion of right v wrong, good v evil. I believe that's a matter of political ideology. However, you have just expressed your own political ideology, and framed marxism and capitalism exactly along the axes of right v wrong.

      The reason I am looking into cyclical trends within economic systems is because that would very much empirically support one system "working better" than another. That is, if we find a State both prospering, and comparatively excelling, then we may vie for a certain economic policy. However, we must explicate the relationship between economic cycles and politics--my aim here-- so as to see if there is any independence between the two. This debate is concluding upon: NO.

      There is very, very strong positive correlation (likely causation) between politics and the economy. Aptly, "economic policy." Can you, or anyone, propose a variable INDEPENDENT of politics that forces the economy in one direction? For example, consumer spending habits, global weather patterns, etc. And, can we find a stronger correlation between said hypothetical variable and the economy, than politics and the economy?
  • Feb 15 2013: Okay, They are both wrong because Groucho is right. All I mean is that there are many ways to explain something, and the topic is the social sciences not physics.
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    Feb 14 2013: Why are we still talking about Marxism? It's failed miserably everywhere it was tried. It's even failing in China. Now those still enamored of the idea try to somehow distance Marxism from Communism, though they're about as separable as capitalism and civil rights.

    Marxism has been tried and it failed. Let it die.
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      Feb 14 2013: it failed before it was tried. why mises is missing from our history textbooks??
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      Feb 14 2013: We're not talking about being proactive, that is, advocating implementing Marxism; we're discussing (or at least I'm hoping to) historical trends and economic cycles.

  • Feb 14 2013: I think Marx needs to be viewed in an historical context. He was onto something when discussing the merits of a more collective approach to things being done. After all we currently have an economy that clearly only works for the 1%. That's a bad system.
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      Feb 14 2013: Gee Craig, guess that is why everyone wants to come to America ... because our system is so bad. You could always enjoy the leadership of your choice in the thriving country of Cuba. Good luck with that. Are you still enjoying the koolade labeled the 1% is to blame for everything. Good luck with that too.
      • Feb 16 2013: Robert,
        America is a nice place, I've been and look forward to my next visit, but that's all. I wouldn't want to live there.
        We are blessed with an institution that doesn't discriminate based on the size of your wallet, it's called the NHS.
        Cuba, I'll not go there.
        I'm not blaming the 1% for everything, you get what you deserve in a democracy.
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      Feb 14 2013: "clearly" is a word that saves you the burden of arguing
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      Feb 16 2013: "Clearly" is an opinion.
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    Feb 13 2013: capitalism is in fact a misnomer. we should call it "freedom". so your question boils down to: is it possible that freedom and lack of freedom can both be good?
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      Feb 14 2013: I like where you're going with this, but could you expound on why capitalism is a misnomer? The issue at hand, however, isn't semantic. Rather, I am inquiring about economic policies as innately cyclical from a historical/temporal viewpoint.

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        Feb 14 2013: the name capitalism suggests that it is about capital. it is broader than that. capitalism means total economic freedom, including join, leave, found or dismiss a company, buy any sort of goods, services or any assets on the market, or even to move around undisturbed. this is inseparable from the more general concept of freedom.
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          Feb 16 2013: I don't think I ever debated the contrary, though I do appreciate the 'translation' of sorts. But, where are you going with this?
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    Feb 13 2013: There are few who understand Marx. Most errantly equate Marxism with communism. But as Marx said of Communism: "If Marxism is Capitalism, then I am not a Marxist".

    There are innate truths in Ayn Rand's works. But she pushes the envelope in a direction that does not have to be the only direction.

    Where Rand and Marx meet is a beautiful ideal. Could it work? Yes, but our cultures are too insane still to allow it to. Most people do not even know that there is a SELF that should be fully respected by self - and that by doing so, the entire culture blossoms - though not necessarily economically.
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      Feb 14 2013: I'm not necessarily asking if it could work, though I would very much enjoy your proposal. What I am asking is if there is an innate truth to the economy such that it will cycle between the two?

  • Feb 13 2013: Ayn Rynd was crazy and Kearl Marx was naive Groucho Marks was right Okay, let's return to General Semantics Your comment is Aristotalian life is more complex than either or
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      Feb 14 2013: If we are to return to general semantics, would you mind returning to general grammar? Sincerely, I want to give you all due credit for your points, but I don't want to have to grammatically decipher them.
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    Feb 13 2013: Jordan, Yes there does appear to be a cycle. It looks like it takes about two or three generations to forget the bad times and what got us there. As we appear to not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.

    Read the events that caused Argentina to fall in 1916 .... you can almost replace the names and events from then to now.

    As a student - BA Philosophy, you Have probaly read Plato: Republic and Aristotle: Politics. In Republic Plato paid close attention to the progression of Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny. He clearly shows the association and graduation from one to the other.

    Best of luck in your studies. Bob.
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      Feb 14 2013: Bob, this is what I am hoping to explicate: that there may be a cyclical link between the two. History tells us that when one fails, the other *allegedly* prevails. We have not yet implemented some cyclical rotation until the Obama administration. Now I am NOT accusing/terming/conjuring Obama to be marxist, but rather than his economic policies overlap with Marxist theory. Just one other example I can think of is Hoover prior to FDR-- very capitalistic policies compared to FDR.
      Now this begs the question-- aren't you just noticing the differences between democratic and republican economic policies? That would force me to ascribe socialistic economic policy with democrats, and capitalistic policy with republicans. But I am not concerned with that, as that will only supports that economic policy changes as presidential parties change.

      What I am wondering is if this is a natural occurrence to maintain equilibrium rather than one dependent upon the presidency? Certainly politics will support the mutual existence of capitalism and socialism, BUT can a temporal, equilibria cycle also? Meaning, is it the nature of the economy, that strives to achieve equilibrium, that allows these ideas to recurrently manifest themselves? Is there a force innate to the economy that seeks equilibrium independent of politics?

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        Feb 14 2013: Jordan, The difference between the Reps and Dems in regards to economic poloicies is Keyenshian and Austrian. The cyclic link would be dependent upon who is in office. The problem we are facing today is not so much the dems keyneshian economics, as most all democrats in office have used this theory .. but rather the Obama administrations addition of 32 new czars, the application of UN Agenda 21, the spending at record pace, the stimuluses, the fed buying up acid loans, the trillions to support illegals through lack of Constitution / federal/immigartion laws, and the straw that broke the camels back ... Abuse of Executive Orders.

        Even with austere measures like Ike did ... it will take 10 to 20 years of dedicated concentration to the budget and reduction of government to get out of this mess .. if at all.

        We have followed Argentina of 1916 in economics and socialism ... they are still recovering.

        I don't see the trend ... only irresponsbility and lack of understanding at the citizen level.

        Thanks for the reply. Bob.
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          Feb 16 2013: I'll tally an "it's all politics" for you. Thanks.

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    Feb 13 2013: No