09 March 2010

Marx's Argument?

In his early essay "Free Human Production," Marx writes, "Since our exchange is selfish on your side as well as mine and since every self-interest attempts to surpass that of another person, we necessarily attempt to defraud each other" (on p. 279 of this edition). By "exchange" here Marx means market exchange within a regime of private property.

The structure of that sentence, including especially the word "necessarily," seems to suggest that Marx intends here an argument--that is, premises leading to a conclusion. Yet I am finding it difficult to figure out what it is.

Can anyone help?


Anonymous said...

Pr1: Market exchanges involve people trying to maximize their well-being.

Pr2: People trying to maximize their well-being, necessarily try to defraud their competitors

QED: All market transactions involve attempts to defraud competitors.

Of course premise 2 is ridiculous; people do not cheat or try to defraud eachother whenever they compete.If they did, the police wouldn't have any useful deterrence, which is obviously wrong. This is just Hegelian nonesence, which scholars shouldn't take seriously.

James R. Otteson PhD said...

Thanks for the suggestion. There might also be a suppressed premise to the effect that all exchanges must be either zero-sum or with one person winning and another losing.

Troy Camplin said...

Now, if Marx is arguing that he is attempting to defraud the other in any exchange, then isn't Marx admitting that he is attempting to defraud his audience?

Of course, all anti-market people think the market is a zero sum game