Gongol.com Archives: January 2024

Brian Gongol

January 21, 2024

News The land theory of value

The headline is perfect in its compact hilarity: "Highgate Cemetery to charge £25,000 for burial spots close to grave of Karl Marx". It is too perfect even for the story, which isn't exactly about a case of rents going up specifically near Marx's grave; instead, it's simply a report that the cemetery where Marx is buried has received a windfall of funding for projects which will open up room for some additional gravesites. Marx happens to be one of several recognizable historical figures buried there. ■ The alternate version would have been much funnier, of course: Seeing market-driven land prices in a cemetery rise according to demand to be interred next to the philosopher who brought Communism to the world. Alas, it's funnier in the abstract than in the particular. ■ Still, though, the news does confirm that people do, in fact, pay to have their remains laid to rest in places where they will be remembered. Tourists must pay to visit Highgate Cemetery, and group tours must be arranged in advance. (Barbecues are prohibited.) ■ And the dual facts that people willingly pay to visit "destination" gravesites and that some will surrender a premium fee to be located in a "good neighborhood" after they have died should be quite enough to demonstrate just how empty Marx's philosophy really was. ■ Political ideas are invariably about the allocation of power. The liberal understanding of the world (in the classical sense of "liberal") holds that individuals are the moral source of power, and their choices should generally prevail. When those choices need to be constrained for the good of society, then the constraining ought to be done by a government which itself has limited powers. Government may be very large, if the people choose it, so long as that government is limited by laws, rules, norms, and conventions. ■ Marx's basic belief was that the moral source of power was with "the people" in the aggregate. Lots of people have willingly fallen for his arguments over time, but the arguments themselves are nonsense. They act only as an excuse to cloak the will of power-seeking individuals in the costume of "the people's will". Invariably, that has ended up in abuse -- which is what happens when power is not intentionally limited. ■ Marx was fortunate to have been buried in a nice place like England. Considering the direct lines that can be drawn from his despicable philosophy to the deaths of tens of millions of people, he probably deserved no better than to have been dumped in the sea. But then, nobody could have paid £10 for the privilege of making his grave a tourist attraction.

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