Karl Marx

It’s hard to like Karl Marx. His ideas have led to the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. Stalin and Mao starved and tortured their people while mouthing phrases from the Manifesto.

Of course, Marx can hardly be held culpable for the sins of his followers. Yet Marx was himself an ass. He kept his family in poverty while he followed dreams of being a journalist. He sponged off his friend Engels—who was rich only because he could stomach the hypocrisy of owning a cotton mill that exploited children and women in the very way that he claimed to deplore. While penurious and keeping his wife and children in a tiny apartment, Marx slept with the housekeeper and knocked her up. He was a scum-bag.

Still, while he is vile, he is important. Hold your nose. If it helps you, remind yourself that before he died, Marx got hemorrhoids; puss-filled abscesses on his butt, neck and torso; and toothaches.

The Communist Manifesto has ingredients of all of Marx’s philosophy—and Marx’s philosophy is huge. Notably, though, Marx never says what you think he does; he never says that we should have a revolution. He’s too clever for that.

In short, Marx says that capitalism is about to end. It must, because it is self-destructive, in a strict and literal sense. Capitalism must destroy itself, because competition and profits (the two essential ingredients of capitalism) cannot co-exist.