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Why the Recent Sale of Karl Marx’s “The Capital” Debunks Most of Its Ideas

By: Marcelo Duclos - Sep 13, 2017, 10:35 am
Karl Marx's "The Capital"
The extraordinary price of the book unquestionably refutes the cornerstones of Marxist ideology put forward within its pages. (Twitter)

EspañolThis week, a copy of Karl Marx‘s “The Capital” sold for US $40,000. It’s not an unprecedented sale. A rare, three-volume edition of the Communist “Bible” also sold at an auction for an extravagant price of nearly $52,000.

Those high prices are a paradox, as the phenomenon behind these events unquestionably refutes the cornerstones of Marxist ideology. PanAm Post spoke with Argentine economist Iván Carrino about his thoughts on the matter:

Behind extravagant prices for a book are certain economic laws related to price values. It seems that what the book causes to happen in the real world refutes what it says on the page, does it not?

Indeed, a book that costs $40,000 is a practical rebuttal of Marx’s labor theory of value. The German economist argued that exchange values (prices) are determined by the amount of labor required to produce a good or service. And so here we have a book that surely required the same amount of work that other similar copies at the time did but that, nevertheless, is sold at prices that, at the time, not even the richest kings could have afforded. What does the price depend on? Clearly, we have to look for another explanation. Valuations and scarcity are what explain this phenomenon.

For Carrino, the flaw in Marx’s ideas doesn’t play out well when applied politically: “The practical results are catastrophic because the theory has feet of clay.”

How do you explain the validity of an erroneous theory that can be refuted by a phenomenon related to its own book?

I think this explains why Marxism has become a capitalist commodity. It’s seen not only in the small fortunes that people pay for a first edition of “The Capital,” but in the phenomenon behind Che Guevara’s stamped t-shirts, of which there are millions around the world. There’s some pleasure to be had in the irony of socialism’s contradictions, but on the other hand it is a wake-up call because it’s clear that there’s no understanding of what these ideas mean. I think it’s worrying that today, in the United States, we are seeing several politicians who are no longer marginally willing to carry out a socialist agenda.

Marcelo Duclos Marcelo Duclos

Marcelo Duclos is a reporter for the PanAm Post from Buenos Aires. He studied journalism at Taller Escuela Agencia (TEA) and went on to pursue a master's degree in Political Science and Economics at Eseade. Follow him on Twitter: @MarceloDuclos