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Economic Justice, Tzedakah, Marx and where Marxism fails.

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on June 29, 2007



From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!” (Karl Marx) also read my blog entry: The Concept of Tzedaka

Karl Marx was Jewish, though converted to Xianism, he had been raised in the Jewish Tradition, with it’s concepts and ideas. Nowhere is this better seen than in the quote above.

It is a sound idea, because from a Marxist perspective it suggests a collective responsibility for each individual in the collective. It has been criticized, and those who criticize it most strongly do so from the perspective that those who need might need too much or, as Ayn Rand suggested “that people should receive as much as they ask for, and they argue that the unproductive will ask for more than they produce, or more than they deserve“.

But the problem is not with the Marxist concept of the collective responsibility, but with the bits and pieces that are missing. The idea of Tzedakah is based firmly in the Ethical Monotheism of Judaism. Marx rightly or wrongly criticized organized religion as something that kept people from aspiring for more than to be just what they were at one specific moment, thus they would never rise and shake off the yoke of financial slavery. He attempted to replace Ethical Monotheism with Marxism as a system to build a society from, using concepts that had originally been rooted in the idea that a Higher Principle could, would and was governing people’s actions and interactions. The incentive for keeping the principle of Ethical Monotheism was the very survival of the people. No such incentive exists in Marxism. Although Marxism is still concerned with the collective responsibility for the individual as in the quote above, it fails to address the “Why?”.

Marxism works fine in a collective where the common goal is the same and where some basic principles are incorporated prior to it’s implementation. Marxism needs a Higher Ethical Principle that puts an incentive on both the individual and the collective to stay within the parameters of what is good for both. Without such an incentive Marxism is just Theory and nothing else.

Those that have taken Marx’ theories and run with them “as is” have sooner or later ended up in exactly the same place that their society were right before the implementation of Marxism. Corruption, financial slavery, injustice and limited personal Freedom. Those who have based their Marxism in some sort of Higher Principle, and have encouraged people to use their personal freedoms to develop new adaptation of Marxism within the parameters of the Higher principle have succeed.

Generally it seems that Marxism is suitable for smaller units of people, rather than larger units, such as Nations. This might be the case because as humans we are not capable of over viewing larger units than a Clan or a Village. It is simply not possible to connect the smaller units structurally unless you allow for “collective-individual” adaptations that takes into consideration the specific needs of each unit.

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