The Greatest Karl Marx Quote Ever

by | Sep 25, 2022


The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground—what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

– Karl Marx & Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto

Notice the sleight of hand – after appreciating the contributions of a system of voluntary contracts and private property he credits “social labour” a necessary but not sufficient means to achieving wealth. “Social labor” has existed everywhere since Ancient Sumer, yet somehow in the late 1700s began to flourish; like crediting oxygen with wealth creation.

Also an example fo the Static Thinking Fallacy, assuming a trend will continue after fundamental changes occur – the Communist sees all the wealth created by the voluntary sector then says “if our dictatorship of the proletariat takes power and begins to coercively dominate everyone the pattern of growth will continue and there will be even more wealth to expropriate.”

About Keith Knight

Keith Knight is Managing Editor at the Libertarian Institute, host of the Don't Tread on Anyone podcast and editor of The Voluntaryist Handbook: A Collection of Essays, Excerpts, and Quotes.

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