Bill Cutshall’s Weblog

May 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Karl Marx

May 5th, 1818, saw the birth of Karl Heinrich Marx, a revolutionary thinker (literally).  Marx was a philosopher, political economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, humanist and revolutionary and is credited as the founder of communism.  In his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program he states that once society reaches its Communistic ideal, it can proudly hang a banner proclaiming “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”  Happy Birthday you brilliant crazy dead Communist.

From Those I Deem Can Afford It, More Taxes, To Those I Deem In Need, More Benefits

That’s basically the justification for the tax plan Barak Obama has placed in front of the United States for the upcoming future.  In every speech on the subject he points out that most people will be getting a rebate and only a few people, those that can afford it, will be asked to pay higher taxes.  By promising a small benefit to a large percentage of the population, Obama has silenced much of the debate that should be occurring over this topic.  In Marx’s theory, religion was the opiate of the masses.  In our reality, tax rebate checks seem to be.

The Ends Justify the Means

In a seemingly unrelated vein, I have been a little surprised by the amount of discourse on the topic of torture and specifically its effectiveness as a justification for its use.  In 409 B.C. the Greek playwright Sophocles wrote in Electra “The end excuses any evil”.  That sentiment has been paraphrased and extended throughout history and literature since and is now popularly referenced as “The end justifies the means.”  I believe that people may have mistakenly attributed truth and wisdom to the phrase based largely on its quotability and fame.  The truth of the matter is that the ends most certainly do not justify the means, at least for civilized human beings.  Successfully stealing an ice cream sandwich from a corner store will certainly lead to an end of cool satisfaction but by no means justifies the theft.  Proponents of the concept point to hypothetical scenarios where lying to a stranger protects friends or family as proof that the statement is true but in reality the “truth” is merely situational.  At best the “truth” of such situations can be stated as “under those circumstances, the ends forgive the means”.  Holding out the effectiveness of torture as justification for it (as Dick Cheney seemed to recently do) is a gross misapplication of a popular saying in an attempt to lend legitimacy to a practice which is impossible to morally defend.

Torture and Communism are Un-American

Clearly we should not throw aside our deeply-held principles by using means which do not match our ideals in pursuit of a potential end.  As a nation we shouldn’t embrace morally repugnant practices like torture no matter what we hope the ends may be nor what we estimate our odds of getting there are.  We should view our economic policies with the same awareness of the implications of the means regardless of our hopes for the ends.

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