Below is a debate topic that I am supposed to present for a course. I have some stuff outlined but I am looking for feedback and opnions I guess.
In a free market capitalistic system and in the “mixed” economic system of countries like the United States, inequalities of wealth occur. Marx writes in “The Critique of the Gotha Program”: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!” Should the government take steps to correct, as much as possible, the unequal distribution of wealth in American society—equalizing every adult citizen’s wealth and material prosperity? Why or why not? What would be the effects, positive and/or negative, of doing this? Would American citizens welcome this change? Why or why not?
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Persons opposing Marx's ideas here might argue the following (among much else):
* Communist economies have been tried in the 20th century; none has succeeded, and several (particularly North Korea and the China of fifty years ago) resulted in spectacular failures.
* Communist economies, according to some theorists (such as Hayek) almost by defintion cannot succeed since the relatively free market is the best way to allocate resources efficiently.
* Communist economies almost by definition involve a suppression of political liberty, resulting in such monstrosities as the "Berlin Wall" and other ways of preventing people from voting with their feet and fleeing communism.
Aside from the objections raised in post #2, I think it's important to remember that Critique of the Gotha Program is a document that is a product of its own time and place. Marx is presupposing a class revolution that would destroy industrial capitalism. With bourgeoisie capitalists no longer in control of the means of production, then society could organize itself (with direction, of course, of smart people like Marx) along the lines he posits in this critique. Marx thought that motives like acquisition of wealth, in addition to more desire for public acclaim, were products of capitalist society, not fundamental to human nature. Once capitalist society was gone, then, people would in fact be willing to work toward communal ends, as he thought (rather simplistically) they had for millenia in pre-capitalist societies. Marx was writing to socialist leaders in Germany who wanted to, as he saw it, compromise on key points of socialist thought, in particular the necessity of class revolution. We can question the conclusions Marx reaches, most of which in my opinion are hopelessly utopian. But we need to understand that these ideals were actually grounded in a fairly hard-nosed analysis of industrial capitalism, and that he was by no means blind to the cataclysmic social change that would have to happen to bring about these outcomes.
Lots of negatives in my opinion. First, how do we determine what everyone's ability and everyone's need is? More importantly, can we really get over the fact that people are motivated largely by material gain? If all he got from it were public acclaim and private satisfaction, would Bill Gates have busted his butt to develop Microsoft? It's hard to imagine he would have.
So it sounds great, but I don't see that it's possible to do it, particularly not in a way that would allow us to remain prosperous.
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