The following food for thought comes courtesy of Phil Magness, economics professor at Berry College. Website here.
A few observations:
1. The Labor Theory of Value is incapable of functionally explaining even basic economic relationships. See Menger 1871.
2. The notion that class identity functionally drives political or any other type of collective action is hopelessly incoherent and undermined by a pervasive free rider problem. See Olson 1965.
3. Even if one were to assume that the initial allocation of all property is by mere theft (and it is not), its effectual consequences are entirely subordinate to the question of whether property rights exist in the first place. See Coase 1960.
4. The predictive ability of historical materialism in the ~150 years since its formulation is practically zero, although the cost of attempting to force its predictions into being is several hundred million bodies.
5. In practice, the concept of alienation is indistinguishable from subjective emoting about things that the individual exhibiting “estrangement” envies, and envy is a difficult concept to defend as the basis of a system of social allocation as it reduces to little more than subjective valuation executed by forcible acquisition.
If the above observations are true, what exactly remains again of the Marxist system of thought that is of any value in explaining anything?
He follows it up with an exhortation not to avoid Marxian writers, but to test them on these grounds–do they really add something to the conversation that can’t be better explained elsewhere?