The opportunity cost of reading “Das Kapital”

Source: Acton Institute
by Kristian Niemietz

“A few years ago, I was invited to a panel discussion on Marxism, to debate against some Marxist professor. I chickened out, and I would chicken out again if I received another invitation of that kind today. I know that my opponent would say something like ‘You clearly have never read the key paragraph on page 857 of Das Kapital, otherwise you would know X, Y and Z,’ and they would be right. I haven’t read page 857 of Das Kapital. I haven’t even read page 1. … The burden of proof should be on those who insist that Marx is still relevant, and that we cannot understand capitalism without him. It should not be on those who believe that Marx has been broadly refuted by events, and that reading Das Kapital is a waste of time. The people who urge us to read Das Kapital may well be right – but their case is not nearly as obvious as they think it is, and reading Marx has opportunity costs.” [editor’s note: If his opponent spoke English, presumably that opponent would have referred to the book by its English title, “Capital.” Just sayin’ – TLK] (05/16/17)

https://acton.org/publications/transatlantic/2017/05/15/opportunity-cost-reading-das-kapital

  • dL

    I know that my opponent would say something like ‘You clearly have never read the key paragraph on page 857 of Das Kapital, otherwise you would know X, Y and Z,’ and they would be right. I haven’t read page 857 of Das Kapital. I haven’t even read page 1. …

    The burden of proof should be on those who insist that Marx is still relevant, and that we cannot understand capitalism without him. It should not be on those who believe that Marx has been broadly refuted by events, and that reading Das Kapital is a waste of time. The people who urge us to read Das Kapital may well be right – but their case is not nearly as obvious as they think it is, and reading Marx has opportunity costs.”

    Actually, if the author’s opponent was clever and happened to read the author’s argument here, I imagine the opponent’s rejoinder would be something like:

    Smith’s Wealth of Nations is not any easier to read than Marx’s Capital And given that “the invisible hand” has been broadly refuted by events, why bother w/ the opportunity costs. The people who urge us to read The Wealth of Nations may well be right – but their case is not nearly as obvious as they think it is, and reading Smith consumes time that could best spent elsewhere.

    And what do you say to that!

    Hint: Lame argument for intellectual laziness and epistemic closure.