Can’t we all just get along?

This post – “Why libertarians should read Marx” – by Chris Dillow (h/t to Mark Thoma) is a good read. Every “tribe” has its totems, and supposedly the left has Marx, which automatically means that the right must dismiss him out of hand. But that’s ridiculous, as Dillow points out.

I’ve encountered this on the left, too. If you don’t condemn Adam Smith, then you’re not a real leftist. But when you actually learn about Smith and his writing, you find that he worried just as much as Marx about the impact of markets and capitalism. He advocated for universal education to counteract the dehumanizing effects of working on a mass production line. He advocated for public infrastructure projects. And he warned that you can always count on businesspeople to collude together to maximize their profits and screw consumers.

In my view, there is no ideological spectrum between Marx and Smith. Instead, it’s an ongoing discussion on how best to organize modern economic life. But the instant you say “best”, you are choosing goals, and people’s goals vary widely.

If there is a spectrum, it’s between people who want to find ways to maximize everyone’s freedom so that we meet together as close to equals as possible (both economically and politically) and those who advocate for hierarchy, deference, and power over others. Autocrats vs. democrats, is a way to put it.

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