Marxism vs Welfarism

Brandon Turner,

Release Date
April 12, 2017


Basic Economics

The new idea on the Left today isn’t so much Marxism as Welfarism. That’s how Prof. Brandon Turner explains today’s politics. Full video on Facebook

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Brandon Turner:
I would say that most of what we’re seeing is … What we’re worried about is kind of the return of Marxism on the left. I think is really just various versions of the return of welfarism.
Welfarism, just the view that the state, that the nation state, as an entity has as one of its primary features, one of its primary obligations … Has the obligation to take care of it’s citizens materially. In other words, the attitude that underwrites social security, that underwrites medicare, that underwrites all this sort of stuff, that doesn’t even strike me as a particularly Marxist idea for a number of different reasons. In fact, in the manifesto, for example, Marx derides welfarist communists because he says, “Listen, for the revolution to take place, consciousness has to be raised. This has to be bottom up. The working classes have to be immiserated to the point where they rise up.” If you give them healthcare and flat screen TVs and all this kind of stuff, then they’re not gonna do this.
I think it’s important to distinguish between something like nationalism, which I think we have seen a great rise of nationalism, particularly on the right today, and Marxism. Which one of these is more dangerous? Individual liberty, I don’t want to say either way.
When it comes to contemporary politics, I would say that most of what we’re seeing is … what we’re worried about is the kind of the return of Marxism on the left. I think is really just various versions of the return of welfarism. If you look at somebody like Bernie Sanders, Bernie Sanders is a socialist the way that that one guy in every philosophy class claims to be a socialist or an anarchist or whatever. By very few measures is Bernie Sanders a socialist. He may even has … a long time ago talked about nationalizing banks and all this kind of stuff.
But for the most part I think Sanders supporters, they just want more of what we think of as welfare programs. They want reductions in student loans. They want better access to healthcare, all this kind of stuff. They want it provided by the nation state. In other words, they’re re-distributionists. But very few of them are really advocating for worker ownership of the means of production. You just don’t see much of the zeal for revolution with Bernie that you do when you read somebody like Marx.
Ultimately the cornerstone of communism, of what Marx thought had to happen for Marxism, to be seen that’s an ism to be realized, is the eradication of private property. The complete and utter abolishment of private property, which is the kind of physical and institutional manifestation of alienation. You hear no one talking about getting rid of private property all together. Again, you hear them talking about re-distributing property, but that’s a different sort of question.