Karl Marx may have been prescient, but not that prescient

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If only he had actually said it, Americans might have a healthy new respect for -- or maybe fear of -- Karl Marx.

This hoax quote has been going around the Internet for at least a month now, attributed to the man most associated with the rise of communism:

‘Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalized, and the State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism.’ -- Karl Marx, Das Kapital, 1867


In the blogosphere, no one who has looked into it has found any such actual quote from Marx. Can’t find it, or anything remotely similar-sounding, on, either.

As Megan McArdle at the Atlantic magazine wrote, the wording immediately sounded ‘a little too apropos, as if Marx were writing from the CNN green room.’

Still, Marx did predict that communism would be the last stage in the evolution of human society, once the working class finally revolted against exploitation by the capitalist class. His vision, however, was one of utopian communism, not the authoritarian communism of the old Soviet Union.

As for genuine Marx quotes apropos of the current economic and financial-system mess, here’s one:

‘In every stockjobbing swindle every one knows that some time or other the crash must come, but every one hopes that it may fall on the head of his neighbour, after he himself has caught the shower of gold and placed it in safety. Après moi le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Hence Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society.’

-- Tom Petruno