Libertarianism, Marxism, and the Jews

Two weeks late to the party, I enjoyed Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill's Spectator essay, What’s gone wrong with my Marxism? Help! I’m a Marxist who defends capitalism, especially this part:

Yet Marx quite admired the internationalising tendencies of the capitalist system. He argued that, ‘to the chagrin of reactionists’, capitalism dislodges local and national industries and turns production into a global phenomenon. ‘The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation’, he and Engels wrote. Now, if you will forgive their 19th-century language, ‘inappropriate’ and un-PC, I know, their point is clear: globalisation at least has the benefit of smashing down silly local practices and ‘civilising’ formerly backward societies. What’s more, this opens up the potential for a truly universal culture, said the communist duo: ‘The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.’

Hurrah! Only today’s lazy anti-capitalists — locavores and ‘reactionists’ the lot of them — celebrate the local over the international, and fight to preserve one-sided and narrow-minded cultural practices around the world from what they see as the carbon bootprint of capitalist expansionism. Unlike Marx, they’re not interested in superseding capitalism with something better — with something even more global and more productive, which will leave an even bigger human footprint on the planet — but rather in returning to a pre-capitalist era of local food production, dancing around maypoles and early death from cholera or malnutrition.

This reminds me of something Steve Sailer wrote around the same time, attempting to explain why so many Jews seem to gravitate towards libertarianism and Marxism:

Jewish intellectuals tend to have shared concerns, from which they often wind up at diametrically opposed proposed solutions.

For example, Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine points out in his invaluable book "The Jewish Century" that so many Eastern European Jews became Bolsheviks because they had three main concerns for which they saw communism as the solution:

- They were discriminated against on account of nationality, so they favored Bolshevism because it promised to get rid of nations.

- They were discriminated against on account of religion, so Bolshevism would abolish religions.

- They were discriminated against by the working class and peasants because they were so good at capitalism, so Bolshevism would eliminate capitalism.

In contrast, say, libertarian Jews tend to reason (more straightforwardly) that if Jews are good at capitalism, then capitalism is good for the Jews. ...

Same concerns (e.g., Is it good for the Jews?), but different solutions.

I'm pretty much a Marxist when it comes to everything but the state and free markets, which are kind of a big deal.

Update: The article that inspired O'Neill's piece is a delight to read as well:

Far more important is the way that global capitalism has won the political argument, rendering the old distinction between left and right almost meaningless. Today, the divisions that count are the ones between libertarianism and statism; between the hard-headed empiricism of the Enlightenment and the (currently more fashionable) touchy-feely romanticism of the New Age. ...

By exploiting fashionable concerns like ecological correctness, equality and the dreaded health ’n’ safety, the state now feels it has a right to interfere with almost everything we do: what we eat and drink, whether we smoke, what we get up to in our bedrooms, how fast we drive on empty roads, how many bedrooms we have and with how nice a view, how many cheap flights we can afford, what our children’s view is to be on climate change, whether our kids get to learn anything useful, whether or not we can hunt.

If opposing the tyranny of the state, upholding the rights of the individual and standing up for scientific rigour, rationalism and empiricism makes me a Marxist, then a Marxist is what I am.

Update II: A bit more on Steve Sailer's observation above. Marxism and libertarianism were the two polar opposite reactions Jews had to discrimination based on economic success. As Sailer notes, there were also two polar opposite reactions Jews had to discrimination based on nationality: cosmopolitanism (contained in both libertarianism and Marxism) or ethnocentric Zionism. ("Other Jews reasoned that if not having a nation-state was bad for the Jews, then starting their own nation would be good for the Jews.") And, following the pattern, there were two polar opposite reactions Jews had to religious discrimination: give up on religion altogether, or embrace it with increased vigor and fundamentalism. This duality of solutions is not exclusive to Jewish concerns; we see the same duality with other minorities concerned with discrimination, e.g. the black nationalism of Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X vs. the integrationist cosmopolitanism of Booker T. Washington and MLK. So the psychological argument seems to be: If discriminated against on the basis of X, either reject X completely or embrace X completely.

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The usual explanation

Unlike Marx, they’re not interested in superseding capitalism with something better — with something even more global and more productive, which will leave an even bigger human footprint on the planet — but rather in returning to a pre-capitalist era of local food production, dancing around maypoles and early death from cholera or malnutrition.

The explanation that I usually hear is that Marx (and more generally, socialism) was refuted by events, and so in order to adapt, they had to do an about-face. What had been bad was now going to be good, and what had been good was now bad, in order to maintain the superiority of socialism to capitalism.

You said: I'm pretty much a

You said: I'm pretty much a Marxist when it comes to everything but the state and free markets, which are kind of a big deal.

Whoa whoa whoa... do you think "individual" is a fake concept created during the Renaissance to destroy class consciousness among workers? Do you think private property should be abolished? Do you subscribe to the labor theory of value? And most importantly, do you think formal liberties are irrelevant compared to "positive liberties"?

And do you have a big bushy

And do you have a big bushy beard?

I'm guessing it's Marx's materialism that Micha finds appealing.  Sasha Volokh tells me he also approves of that particular Marxist tenet.

What did Marx bring to the materialist banquet?

All I can think of is "dialectical materialism", which is not something I find appealing. I don't think history should be fundamentally analyzed as about class struggle.

If we're just going to list things that Marx believed that we also believe, I'm sure we can come up with a lot of things, but I wouldn't call myself a Marxist on that account, except as a joke.

I am thinking of his

I am thinking of his materialist concept of history, the idea that the art, ideas, philosophy, et al, of each age are derived mainly (or totally) from the existing distribution of goods.

Overestimated importance

I do not deny that people's economic position exerts a powerful influence on their thinking. However, I think the importance of it is greatly overestimated in Marxism. Also, I'm not sure that Marx is really the originator of this line of thinking, though without a doubt he took it far - but it was precisely that he took it so far which constitutes his error.

There are very few

There are very few philosophers who actually come up with something original.  Mostly they just take older ideas and present them particularly powerfully, or coherently.

Past that, I'm not going to defend Marx, since I'm neither well-versed in Marxism, nor am I in agreement with Marxism as I understand it.

Your property is that

Your property is that which you control the use of. If most things are controlled by individuals, individually or in voluntary association, a society is capitalist. If such control is spread fairly evenly among a large number of people, the society approximates competitive free enterprise--better than ours does. If its members call it socialist, why should I object? Socialism is dead. Long live socialism.

David Friedman

D. Friedman's take on real socialism

This is from a section of The Machinery of Freedom in which he also says:

Any change that makes a socialist society better makes it, by definition, more socialist.

which I think misconstrues the thinking of a lot of socialists. Sure, socialists say that the ultimate goals of socialism are [a bunch of nice things that nobody can really disagree with]. But I think it's a mistake to identify these nice goals with socialism, precisely because they fail to distinguish socialism from other ideas. Socialism, as a distinct idea, is not the nice goals, but a particular class of proposals for achieving those goals. David specifically contests this, arguing that

'Socialism' has become a word with positive connotations and no content.

which I think celebrates a bit too early, especially given that the first copyright date is 1973. He takes a sanguine view of the state of things in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia back in the days of the USSR. What ended up happening was not the gradual creep of capitalism that he thought or hoped was happening, but the sudden collapse of a system which was still decidedly non-capitalist at the moment of collapse.

Anti-concepts

Socialism, as a distinct idea, is not the nice goals, but a particular class of proposals for achieving those goals.

Of course, the very same can accurately be said of capitalism. Explains Roderick Long,

While I've said I don't want to dwell on terminological issues, I can't resist making a point about "capitalism" and "socialism." Rand used to identify certain terms and ideas as "anti-concepts," that is, terms that actually function to obscure our understanding rather than facilitating it, making it harder for us to grasp other, legitimate concepts; one important category of anti-concepts is what Rand called the "package deal," referring to any term whose meaning conceals an implicit presupposition that certain things go together that in actuality do not.[11] Although Rand would not agree with the following examples, I've become convinced that the terms "capitalism" and "socialism" are really anti-concepts of the package-deal variety.

Libertarians sometimes debate whether the "real" or "authentic" meaning of a term like "capitalism" is (a) the free market, or (b) government favoritism toward business, or (c) the separation between labor and ownership, an arrangement neutral between the other two; Austrians tend to use the term in the first sense; individualist anarchists in the Tuckerite tradition tend to use it in the second or third.[12] But in ordinary usage, I fear, it actually stands for an amalgamation of incompatible meanings.

Suppose I were to invent a new word, "zaxlebax," and define it as "a metallic sphere, like the Washington Monument." That's the definition — "a metallic sphere, like the Washington Monument. " In short, I build my ill-chosen example into the definition. Now some linguistic subgroup might start using the term "zaxlebax" as though it just meant "metallic sphere," or as though it just meant "something of the same kind as the Washington Monument." And that's fine. But my definition incorporates both, and thus conceals the false assumption that the Washington Monument is a metallic sphere; any attempt to use the term "zaxlebax," meaning what I mean by it, involves the user in this false assumption. That's what Rand means by a package-deal term.

Now I think the word "capitalism," if used with the meaning most people give it, is a package-deal term. By "capitalism" most people mean neither the free market simpliciter nor the prevailing neomercantilist system simpliciter. Rather, what most people mean by "capitalism" is this free-market system that currently prevails in the western world. In short, the term "capitalism" as generally used conceals an assumption that the prevailing system is a free market. And since the prevailing system is in fact one of government favoritism toward business, the ordinary use of the term carries with it the assumption that the free market is government favoritism toward business.

And similar considerations apply to the term "socialism." Most people don't mean by "socialism" anything so precise as state ownership of the means of production; instead they really mean something more like "the opposite of capitalism." Then if "capitalism" is a package-deal term, so is "socialism" — it conveys opposition to the free market, and opposition to neomercantilism, as though these were one and the same.

And that, I suggest, is the function of these terms: to blur the distinction between the free market and neomercantilism. Such confusion prevails because it works to the advantage of the statist establishment: those who want to defend the free market can more easily be seduced into defending neomercantilism, and those who want to combat neomercantilism can more easily be seduced into combating the free market. Either way, the state remains secure.

True, but different

Roderick Long's point is a good one. Essentially, I take it as underlining the importance of getting clear on our concepts, and taking care to point out the package-deal nature of the popular conception of terms. However, the distinction isn't between proposed means and goal per se, so it's not quite like what I was talking about. Neo-mercantilism is not a goal, nor is the free market (well, I guess absolutely anything can be made into a goal - hopefully it's clear enough what I mean). Both are advocated systems which (one might argue) serve such-and-such nice goals. Nor is it a distinction between connotation and content. The free market and neo-mercantilism are both content. So, as described by Long the term "capitalism" conflates two contents - or rather, it runs the risk of conflating two contents. I am not sure that in practice the concept is quite so monstrous (i.e., chimerical, combining parts of dissimiar things). The Webster definition of capitalism does not seem to suffer from that monstrous mixing of dissimilars:

an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital
goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by
prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined
mainly by competition in a free market

That may not be my ideal definition, but it says nothing about government favoritism, and it says nothing about the separation between labor and ownership. It mentions the free market, private ownership, private decision, prices, and competition. It seems a fairly clean, non-chimerical definition.

Someone like Roderick Long, being ideologically inclined, may read more than his fair share of communist literature. I do not deny that communists have a chimerical concept of "capitalism". It may be that what Roderick Long is really basing his thoughts on is communist literature.

Constant, Many definitions

Constant,

Many definitions of socialism say nothing about government favoritism either. Just as the common understanding of capitalism contains both elements I support (the free market) and oppose (government favoritism toward business), so too the common understanding of socialism contains both elements I support (Benjamin Tucker's understanding of true socialism - anarchistic socialism - as "the prevalence on earth of Liberty, Equality, and Solidarity") and oppose (state socialism, which advocates the expropriation and nationalization of all industry).

Nor does the relation between labor and ownership clearly distinguish between capitalism and socialism. One can be a consistent capitalist (from a free market libertarian perspective) while recognizing that the principle-agent problem and the socialist calculation problem place inherent limits on the size and scope of a firm, thereby recommending smaller, worker-owned firms as the most efficient type in a truly free market.

In this sense, I am both a capitalist and a socialist, and also an anti-capitalist and an anti-socialist.

I see no reason to think the libertarian definition of capitalism is more accurate than any of the other definitions; in fact, the term capitalism itself was coined by its Marxist critics.

"I see no reason to think

"I see no reason to think the libertarian definition of capitalism is more accurate than any of the other definitions; in fact, the term capitalism itself was coined by its Marxist critics."

Nice parry, Ghertner!

Not arguing with me

But the only thing he's parrying here is an argument for a position which I wasn't defending or even talking about. I'm not arguing about what "capitalism" "really" means. I'm not sure where he got that idea. Maybe he thought that I was arguing from Webster's authority, or from popularity (since Webster tracks popular usage), about what "capitalism" "really" means, but that wasn't it at all. I was simply asserting the popularity itself. I wasn't concluding correctness from popularity. The point was that the problem that Roderick Long outlines is less common than he fears. Roderick Long in effect correctly critiques Marxists, who employ the package-deal concept that he attacks. But as for whether his critique applies to the popular concept, there is some question. If Webster is to be trusted, then the popular usage in fact does not suffer from the problem that he describes. Long mentions Ayn Rand (I assume that's the Rand he refers to). However, she was active when communist ideology was in the ascendant. At that time, it would have made significantly more sense to identify the Marxist concept of capitalism with the general (or at least, general intellectual) concept of capitalism.

It's easy enough to win arguments with straw men, which seems to be what's going on here.

Not sure how this applies


Many definitions of socialism say nothing about government favoritism either.

[I'm having a hell of a time trying to get formatting to work to distinguish Micha's comments from mine. This is my last try.]

But my point wasn't that "many definitions" of capitalism say nothing about government favoritism. I was specifically pointing out that the Webster definition doesn't say anything about government favoritism. Webster tracks popular usage. I was making a point about popular usage. So I really don't see how your point in any way answers my point. If want to bring it closer you might make a more closely parallel point. For example, you might mention Webster's definition of socialism, so that we can see what the popular usage is:

2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

This one is the one that directly parallels the definition of "capitalism". Definition number 1 (not shown here) refers is the flip side of definition number 2 (number 1 is the theory advocating number 2; number 2 is the thing advocated by number 1), so they are related. Definition number 3 is more technical, less likely to be familiar to non-Marxists.

Definition number 2 comes in two parts, each of which is if anything even cleaner than the definition of capitalism. So, no package-deal here, either. (2a) is more theoretical than actual (with certain exceptions, e.g. the family), because attempts to implement it immediately run into severe problems. That leaves only (2b), state ownership and control of the means of production. Very simple, very clear, and hardly like "a large metal sphere like the Washington Monument".

Anyway, I was talking about popular concepts. I did not deny that certain sub-populations employ chimerical concepts. In fact I specifically pointed out that communists employ a chimerical concept of capitalism. So I really don't see in what way you've answered me. You do, of course, directly contradict me in your next words:


Just as the common understanding of capitalism contains both elements I
support (the free market) and oppose (government favoritism toward
business), so too the common understanding of socialism contains both
elements I support (Benjamin Tucker's understanding
of true socialism - anarchistic socialism - as "the prevalence on earth
of Liberty, Equality, and Solidarity") and oppose (state socialism,
which advocates the expropriation and nationalization of all industry).

That certainly contradicts what I wrote, but it does not actually act as if it is contradicting what I wrote. Since it starts with, "just as", it treats this point as a shared basis, which it is not, since I specifically argued that the common understanding of "capitalism" is not, in fact, the package deal that Roderick Long describes, if Webster is anything to go by (which I think it is). At the same time, I did not deny that there is a sub-population whose concept is an absurd package deal. The Marxists constitute such a sub-population. The absurdity of Marxism is, in part, built right into the terms that they employ, and thus is especially hard to remove. I have spent more hours than I would care to count, arguing with communists whose arguments often boil down to, "it's true by definition because capitalism is defined as such-and-such". In response, I attempt to describe alternative concepts that do not include, in the very concept, the mistaken ideas I am trying to answer. My success is limited.


Nor does the relation between labor and ownership clearly distinguish between capitalism and socialism.

No kidding. But you are here talking about one of the elements of the package-deal concept of capitalism that, as I understand it, Roderick Long was taking pains to exorcise. So I don't know why you are still talking about it. Nobody around here defends separation of labor and ownership, so why are we bringing it up? I acknowledge that communists believe that capitalism is defined by a separation of labor from ownership. So, okay, here you can be taken as attacking communist ideas. But why are you bringing it up here?

In this sense, I am both a capitalist and a socialist, and also an anti-capitalist and an anti-socialist.

I don't get that. The way I read it is, "I oppose the package-deal-based caricature of capitalism that communists employ, and I think that this makes me an anti-capitalist."


I see no reason to think the libertarian definition of capitalism is
more accurate than any of the other definitions; in fact, the term
capitalism itself was coined by its Marxist critics.

Who are you arguing with? What does "accuracy" have to do with it? There are alternative definitions, and there are clean definitions, and there are messy package-deal definitions which lead people astray. Nothing here about "accurate" or "inaccurate". Accuracy doesn't apply to definitions. The assessment of definitions must employ other criteria than accuracy.

Sure, "capitalism" was coined by Marxists (or people enough like Marxists), but this looks like an origin-based argument about what a word "really truly" means, and that's simply not at issue here. Is it?

I'm skeptical that appeals

I'm skeptical that appeals to Webster are useful for this sort of discussion. Even if we assume in this particular case that Webster has accurately tracked popular usage. we are still left with two questions: (1) is this definition simply a description of popular usage today, on December 13, 2007, but not an accurate description of popular usage, say 10, 50, or 150 years ago?, and (2) is this definition simply a description of popular usage of the U.S. English speaking population as a whole, but not an accurate description of popular usage among academics or other subgroups?

As you noted, this may be the case. But if we are indeed communicating with subgroups that differ in their use of these terms with the population as a whole (or trying to understand terminology used a century ago), then what is the point of appealing to Webster?

If we want to get to the substantive arguments and away from the semantic ones, we have to be willing to place less importance on the immutability, objectivity and authority of definitions, and grant our interlocutors some leeway in choosing their own terminology, so long as each of us makes clear to each other what we mean and what we don't mean when we use certain words. Be mindful of your audience and if you wish to engage them in fruitful discussion, be willing to speak their language, if only to point out that their language consists of anti-concepts which confuse rather than illuminate communication; don't insist that they adopt your preferred language, especially when they view your language as consisting of anti-concepts of its own.

 

Why I mentioned it

But if we are indeed communicating with subgroups that differ in their use of these terms with the population as a whole (or trying to understand terminology used a century ago), then what is the point of appealing to Webster?

My remark was in essence a parenthetical afterthought to a particular aspect of Roderick Long's piece. Long specifically wrote:

Austrians tend to use the term in the first sense; individualist anarchists in the Tuckerite tradition tend to use it in the second or third.[12] But in ordinary usage, I fear, it actually stands for an amalgamation of incompatible meanings.

I was specifically questioning whether that was indeed the ordinary usage. You ask here, why bother about ordinary usage when we are communicating with subgroups that depart from ordinary usage? Well, maybe there is little reason to bother, but Long made a statement about ordinary usage. Shall I remain silent about it merely because it doesn't matter to us?

If we want to get to the substantive arguments and away from the semantic ones, we have to be willing to place less importance on the immutability, objectivity and authority of definitions, and grant our interlocutors some leeway in choosing their own terminology

No kidding. But this doesn't mean I can't question a factual assertion I found in Long's piece. And that's all I did.

 

Perhaps Long is talking

Perhaps Long is talking about ordinary usage among the people he encounters: academics and other intellectuals who deal with political economy, not the population at large. Or, perhaps Webster is simply incorrect, and the definition given simply isn't what most people mean when they use the term. In my experience, most people I encounter who are not already libertarians consider the current U.S. system capitalist, even though it is far from a truly free market.

And they're right

most people I encounter who are not already libertarians consider the
current U.S. system capitalist, even though it is far from a truly free
market.

And so would I. But we all would also, probably, call the Earth "round" even "spherical", even though it is far from ideally round. When they call the current US system "capitalist", they don't necessarily mean that every aspect of it contributes to its being capitalist - just as, when people call the Earth "spherical", they don't mean that the jagged peaks of the Himalayas contribute to the sphericity of the planet, to say nothing of the equatorial bulge.

I'm a Jacobin except for the beheadings

Everyone promised the moon and songs. Marxists, capitalists, Jacobins, cypherpunks, Federalists, Trotskyites, etc all promised peace, prosperity, and happiness. Their means are how they differed.

"I'm a blablabian because I agreed with their ends, except I'm not really a blablabian because of their methods" - how much does that really say?

To get back

Yeah, that was my original point in writing:

Socialism, as a distinct idea, is not the nice goals, but a particular class of proposals for achieving those goals.

It got lost in a peripheal discussion about Long.

Benjamin Tucker: "Do you

Benjamin Tucker:

"Do you like the word Socialism?" said a lady to me the other day; "I fear I do not; somehow I shrink when I hear it. It is associated with so much that is bad! Ought we to keep it?"

The lady who asked this question is an earnest Anarchist, a firm friend of Liberty, and—it is almost superfluous to add—highly intelligent. Her words voice the feeling of many. But after all it is only a feeling, and will not stand the test of thought. "Yes," I answered, "it is a glorious word, much abused, violently distorted, stupidly misunderstood, but expressing better than any other the purpose of political and economic progress, the aim of the Revolution in this century, the recognition of the great truth that Liberty and Equality, through the law of Solidarity, will cause the welfare of each to contribute to the welfare of all. So good a word cannot be spared, must not be sacrificed, shall not be stolen."

[…]

Why, then, does my lady questioner shrink when she hears the word Socialism? I will tell her. Because a large number of people, who see the evils of usury and are desirous of destroying them, foolishly imagine they can do so by authority, and accordingly are trying to abolish privilege by centring all production and activity in the State to the destruction of competition and its blessings, to the degradation of the individual, and to the putrefaction of Society. They are well-meaning but misguided people, and their efforts are bound to prove abortive. Their influence is mischievous principally in this: that a large number of other people, who have not yet seen the evils of usury and do not know that Liberty will destroy them, but nevertheless earnestly believe in Liberty for Liberty’s sake, are led to mistake this effort to make the State the be-all and end-all of society for the whole of Socialism and the only Socialism, and, rightly horrified at it, to hold it up as such to the deserved scorn of mankind. But the very reasonable and just criticisms of the individualists of this stripe upon State Socialism, when analyzed, are found to be directed, not against the Socialism, but against the State. So far Liberty is with them. But Liberty insists on Socialism, nevertheless,—on true Socialism, Anarchistic Socialism: the prevalence on earth of Liberty, Equality, and Solidarity. From that my lady questioner will never shrink.

Usury?

In my attempt to glean, from this quote, what is distinctive about Benjamin Tucker's "socialism", the only particular that reveals itself is his repeated disapproving mention of "usury". Now, usury, to my mind, is another name for "interest", is in fact a classic pejorative name for it that is associated with some of the darker chapters of economic history. Alternatively, and I think more recently, it is a name for "too much interest", and in that sense is the sibling of "price gouging". My own views on price gouging (and, by extension, on "usury") are so predictable I will refrain from even mentioning them.

I find nothing else here that makes "socialism" a distinct, identifiable philosophy, and therefore nothing that would make me inclined to think well of anyone who called himself a socialist. I might think well of him despite his socialism, but surely not because of it, surely not because he disapproves of "usury".

I applaud our willingness to

I applaud our willingness to argue about anything.

No you don't. You're just

No you don't. You're just saying that cause you're a filthy lawyer.

Somebody pay me, quick!

Somebody pay me, quick!

Jewish Marxists and Libertarians

Both Marxism and Libertarianism are critiques of the state by outsiders. Jews have been chronically treated as outsiders.

The classical liberal view of the state is that a good state is a manifestation of democratic rule. The governed give consent to laws and participate in government that promotes the common good, enforce property rights and settle disputes between persons.

Marx says this is all fake and phony. He divides all persons into members of warring classes who consciously or unconsciously pursue their class interests. Marx says that although capitalism is the source of great wealth and power, the bourgeoisie use government to maintain their dominance of the proletariat. Capitalism by its very nature is based on selfishness that prevents true participatory democracy.

The answer, eliminate both capitalism and government. Other groups such as utopian socialists and anarchists had similar visions which Marx scorned as incoherent. He labeled his historicist theories scientific and thus valid. In fact they were based on secret hidden “historical forces” Belief in Marxism requires faith, like a religion and like a religion it is all explanatory. It isn’t necessary to give a good explanation describing how we will do without markets and government, some force inherent in historical development will take care of all this. Well, so we will speed this up so we will have a temporary state until all the good people are molded into new men and the others shall be liquidated but they deserve it.

Marxism depends upon creating hysterical mobs called mass movements to seize power and establish utopia. It is lead by the Vanguard the disciplined participants in an historical struggle to overcome alienation, scarcity and injustice. Thus it becomes a magnet for idealistic outsiders, replaces now untenable religious beliefs and disappointing life in an unfair, unfriendly country and creates exciting social solidarity, and meaning. Oh, to be a hero fighting for justice for all instead of a ,hated, money grubbing shopkeeper, pawn broker or minor government functionary as most Jews were.

David Horowitz wrote an interesting and in many ways touching book called “Radical Son” that describes life in the highly progressive environment of a New York Jewish family of Communists. According to him Party membership simulated the accustomed dual life lived by the practicing Jew in the old times. “There was the same shared private language, the same hermetically sealed universe, and the same dual posture—the same conviction of being marked for persecution and of being specially ordained, the feeling of moral superiority and the same fear of expulsion from the group for heretical thought.”

Thus membership in a Communist cell must have been like being in a cult. It must be one of God’s cosmic jokes that their leader Stalin was as deeply anti-Semitic as Hitler.

Incidentally, these Communists always described themselves as “progressives.” Not Communists. Some things never change. Today’s Commies still describe them selves this way.
I don’t know about the sociology of libertarians. I think they are pretty individualistic.

Jewish people in their diasporas have been described by Thomas Sowell a middle man culture. Chinese, Indians and Koreans take the same rout to success in America and other countries. They start out poor and by dint of hard work and close family bonds the make money by being merchants that serve markets the local elite won’t serve. Over time they become wealthy. They are clannish. They are hated by the people they sell to. Initially they have little political power. They emphasize education for their children. Their children become successful professionals. Since government is not their friend, perhaps they value the market more and hence become libertarians. That’s the best I can do with that. I don’t know of any Chinese or Korean libertarians. Perhaps their Eastern philosophy is not individualistic enough to be libertarian.

Dave

Interesting comment Dave

Jewish people in their diasporas have been described by Thomas Sowell a middle man culture. Chinese, Indians and Koreans take the same rout to success in America and other countries. They start out poor and by dint of hard work and close family bonds the make money by being merchants that serve markets the local elite won’t serve. Over time they become wealthy. They are clannish. They are hated by the people they sell to. Initially they have little political power. They emphasize education for their children. Their children become successful professionals. Since government is not their friend, perhaps they value the market more and hence become libertarians. That’s the best I can do with that. I don’t know of any Chinese or Korean libertarians. Perhaps their Eastern philosophy is not individualistic enough to be libertarian.

It's ironic that Jews and Asians (the latter, more recently) tend to come down on the left of center. In other places in the world, they're hated as the merchant elite, periodically subject to riots and pogroms. Yet, in the US, they come down on the same side that foments market envy. It's too bad. I think mostly they're just turned off by the cultural baggage of the religious right and choose the alternative. If this country ever gets to the point where the people hate businessmen like has happened in various countries around the world before, Jews and Asians will be in deep trouble from the very hands of those they're finding common cause with right now.

Anecdote

A few month ago I attended a talk by Charles Murray on the topic of Ashkenazi IQ. The talk was hosted by an objectivist/libertarian group organizing monthly conferences with often interesting speakers. I think many people attending were probably jewish. Anyway, Murray talks for about an hour of the possible genetic explanation for high IQ, covering different theories. Around the end he started answering questions; a guy stands up, mentions he is jewish and explain that Murray completely forgot to take an important element into account to explain success among Ashkenazi jews... suspense. He then starts a long diatribe explaining jews take care of each other, how they have a strong sense of the community, how they are their brother's keeper in a society plagued by rough individualism how jews invented socialism thousand of years ago to protect themselves, and so on. I had never seen a live troll, the guys had balls (but nonetheless a deeply stupid and despisable collectivist).
From what I've felt, in NYC, jews, especially in Brooklyn, but also in more upscale neighboorhoods are much more associated with progressism and the left-wing than with capitalism. In Europe, and in France in particular, jews are still mostly associated with capitalism and classical liberalism in general. From my limited experience, Sephardi (the majority) tend to follow the cliché while Ashkenazi tend to be more socialist. I don't really know why, but my guess would be that the Sephardi settled mostly after WWII while Ashkenazi who suffered the war were attracted to communism which was seen as opposition to the nazi and the Vichy regime.
This comment is going nowhere, but to finish with, it's funny how US paranoids associate jews with the global communist conspiracy while Europe paranoids associate them with the global capitalist conspiracy.