Monday, May 09, 2005

A 'Mix of Karl Marx and Tyranny'


Robert Scheer, an American columnist, reflecting that April 30 marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, claimed America has profited from normalized trade with Vietnam, benefiting from that nation’s cheap labor as we became Vietnam’s chief export market. He claims the modern Vietnamese economy, which he describes as “a mix of Karl Marx and Adam Smith,” provides “renewed proof of the viability of Marx's labor theory of value.”

For a leftwing ideologue, Scheer’s analysis is a complete muddle. How the ‘modern’ (by which he means ‘current’) Vietnamese economy ‘provides “renewed proof of the viability of Marx's labor theory of value” is a complete mystery. Every other countryb where it has been applied has experienced low living standards, economic decline and tyranny.

Vietnam is a state dominated old style Stalinist economy with some sectors and industries open to some carefully controlled western capitalist corporations and many small Vietnamese private entrepreneurs, with the bulk of the economy under the direct political control of the State and subject to its thoroughly discredited failed economic model.

The relevance of ‘Marx’s labor theory of value’ – now an embarrassment even to Marxists – is obscured by the rhetorical excesses of snappy sound bites like a ‘mix of Karl Marx and Adam Smith’. Wages are low in Vietnam because the country is impoverished, a result of a civil war that created a communist state, after a long struggle against French and US interventions, that continued to hold back economic growth through rejecting market solutions

Once the Soviet Union collapsed and left Vietnam to its own subsidyless devices, it only averted its own collapse by relaxing some, but by no means all, of the regulations and policies of a Marxist inspired dominant State.

Vietnam is not ‘viable’ because of ‘the labour theory of value’; it is propped up by low wages combined with imported technology. One hopes that the market sector will continue to grow, which will raise living standards and the real wages the people could earn from expanding employment in it.

If the ideologues of Marx’s ‘labour theory of value’ continue to manage the inefficient and dominant State sector there will be not much scope for the spread of opulence.

The original articles are at:,0,2555153.column?coll=la-news-comment-opinions


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