The Misconceptions of Monopolies

Monopolies can exist in several situations but as you will come to understand, the detrimental effects are usually minimal when they do exist, except under very specific situations. Sadly, the political system and mainstream media have misled the American people into believing the government can and must be there to break these monopolies up when they do happen. We will review some very costly mistake initiated under corrupt motivations, of course, hidden by the passing of time.

Even though what I am writing here is well documented, I’m going to use simple economic principles and good old common sense to help prove these contentions. Just remember though, the studies have been done by academics supporting everything I write here. Two examples: https://goo.gl/5ASD6Q https://www.cobdencentre.org/2018/08/the-case-against-antitrust/

The most common “true” monopolies occur under two potential scenarios.

  1. The small-town monopoly. This is when you have such a small number of consumers in an area that having two stores supplying similar products or services would just not be able to be financially supported enough for both to be profitable. The small mining town hardware store is an example. The store may have to even charge higher prices to account for the extra costs in getting the goods transported to the remote location. The more remote the higher the transportation costs.  You can go to many small towns in America and see this with even my small town as an example. We have one hardware store (a monopoly) but because we are not that remote, the prices have remained very competitive. Common sense tells us if you only have a small number of miners that can and will buy pickaxes and shovels from a supplier, why would somebody go through the expense of opening up another store to also sell the same things.  Plus, some of the miners are going to bring tools with them, knowing that they would have to pay higher prices from the monopoly hardware store if they don’t, so these remote monopolies are not total monopolies, because they still have competition from the miners bringing in their own supplies. 
  • The New-Product/New Company Monopoly. The most famous case of a New Product Monopoly is the history of Alcoa Aluminum but there are many others. AIcoa was the company that invented the process for making aluminum, so initially, there wasn’t anybody competing with them, because nobody knew how to make aluminum before Alcoa started making it. It was by technological innovation, a monopoly. 

Not surprisingly, Alcoa was able to make huge profits prior to other competitors entering the market. We saw this same thing with cell phones and calculators in their infancy as new products. They were very expensive when they first came out and today some companies are given them away for free, as marketing incentives.      

Of course, the government jumped into the picture telling the public they needed to do something. What do you do with a new product monopoly, however, was the question? If you break up a company and nobody else can make the product, who is going to make the product or how do you break it up? Now, here is the really interesting part of this story and why Free Market monopolies, discussed below, don’t last very long. Whenever you have excess money being created by a business, i.e. profit, somebody is going to figure out how to compete against that company to get a part of it. In the case of Alcoa, a group of employees from within the company itself, broke off and formed a new company, obviously quitting Alcoa to compete for the excess profits. Soon others also entered the market as the uses for this very light metal increased. Today, much of an airplane and many products are made out of aluminum, so many companies around the world, now compete in this market. This story shows that true monopolies will disappear on their own accord as profits rise in any industry and others come in to compete. How much market share a company has, can get or may lose in the future is one major issue that every company must constantly evaluate for their specific market.  

The most important elements or factor(s) involving monopolies; is if and when they harm consumers, workers or when they try to stifle competition, neither of which New-Product or Small-Town monopolies, can really accomplish. There are just not enough people affected to be of any significance, as we have already learned, someone will usually enter into the marketplace, if large enough, when there are price gouging and excess profits. This is common sense, right? 

With New Products monopolies, the government also provides patent or copy write protections as an incentive to spend the time, energy and money to invent and create new products. This can create a problem as we are seeing in the pharmaceutical drug industry. Because of the tremendous amounts of money involved, the industry is pushing politicians and even Judges to extend the patent protection periods beyond the original guidelines established by law.  Then we wonder why drug costs are so high. Obviously, those in government are allowing big business and money to manipulate and influence society to the detriment of the majority. This happened with anti-trust legislation as well.

  • Government Granted Monopolies

This brings up and allows me to segue into another form of monopoly, those granted by legislative Acts at the various levels of government.  It can be as simple as a garbage company getting from a local municipality exclusive territory for garbage collections or a central bank like the Federal Reserve Bank enacted into law in 1913 by an Act of Congress. These are potentially the most dangerous type of monopoly because the competition is prohibited and exclusive operating power is granted. Common sense tells us that granting a monopoly to one group or company is exacted what the Sherman Anti-trust Act was supposed to do, protect the public from Robber Barron’s overcharging. How does the government justify granting a true monopoly to a very financially powerful group of bankers and investors?  

Why those in government think it’s good to have a monopoly in a public setting and a bad idea for a privately-owned company is interesting. Or are the wealthy special interests just able to manipulate the political system to gain special benefits and privileges? It is hard to know since no competition is legally allowed to see if one entity would do a better job at a cheaper price than the ones granted the monopoly.

Once again, history tells us different stories as to how monopolies have affected our lives. The government and mainstream media tell us one thing and academics and common sense often tell us another.

As an example, within just 16 years of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 (FRA), our society was in the deepest and longer Depression in U.S. history, exactly what the FRA was supposed to stop from happening.  Bank runs, another situation the Federal Reserve Bank was supposed to stop, put many banks out of business with vast numbers of depositors losing their money under bankruptcy protection and the allowance by the Federal Reserve Bank (FRB), to fractional lend;  lending out more money by using existing deposits as collateral to borrow money from the FRB.  We’re not really told that it was the FRB’s own policies of allowing fractional lending is what caused millions of Americans to lose all of their money held by the FRB’s member banks.

Is it just coincident that this happened? I always ask myself, why would a society grant a monopoly to some of the wealthiest banking families in the U.S. and world? The Warburg family as an example, with one of the three sons Paul, who helped plan the Federal Reserve Bank is from Germany and the family still operates their today. He had worked with bankers in England France and Germany before coming to the U.S. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Warburg

One of the more recent best-selling books on the subject is The Creature From Jekyll Island, the non-fiction story about how Paul Warburg, other banking interests and U.S. Government officials met at Jekyll Island, GA, the hunting estate then owned by J.P. Morgan, to plan for the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act.  Why was it secretly orchestrated and thus kept from most of the public eyes is a huge question?  Some employees involved did leak it, but conspiratorial news back then travels at much slower speeds. Is it coincidental that the XVI Amendment allowing direct taxation on income without apportionment as well as the Revenue Tax Act of 1913 also passed that every year? That an income tax is the 2nd platform, and a central bank the 5th platform of communism and that the Zionist movement supporting these social policies was being financed by major world banking and corporate interests?

Then ask yourself, why would bankers and other corporate interests want a banking monopoly under their control and an income tax? 

It is both more devious and brilliant than you can imagine.  Corporate welfare long a favored social policy for wealthy special interest, started in the early 1800s with the western railroad expansion, expanded under the guise of the general welfare, for both more infrastructure and defense spending.  The bankers were, of course, guaranteed their interest payment on the loans they gave these companies by the U.S. taxpayers who paid for all the government spending.  The central banking monopoly guaranteed their participation in the creating of money, lending guidelines and the determination of interest rates. Now, this is where it’s good to know a little about finance and economics.  A central bank can slow down economic activity by simply raising interest rates and requiring more reserves from the member banks as they have done multiple times through history. Individual and businesses are less likely to borrow money when interest rates are high and more likely to borrow when interest rates are lower. Common sense, right?  Additionally, the member banks cannot borrow as much themselves when they must put up more reserves as collateral, thus they have less money to lend. 

These two abilities give the Federal Reserve Bank the ability to literally slow down the entire economy or speed it up by lowering or increasing interest rates and reserve requirements.

Another huge question is, do they do it for themselves and other wealthy special interests or for what is in the best interests of the majority.

Free Market Monopolies

So far, we have only reviewed those monopolies that do exist most often in society but have minimal effects as do Small Town or New Product monopolies or can have profound effects if they are Government Granted ones.

As was previously briefly noted, true free market monopolies are very rare and if and when they exist, they are short-lived but here’s the problem. A true free market hasn’t really existed for very long, giving way to greater and greater government interventions after the overthrow of the European Monarchs in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Many smaller countries were still gaining their independence, well into the 20th century. Governments do not give up their powers and interventions easily.

The U.S. Federal Government started out with very few interventionists social policies with the entire Federal Government being paid for by only luxury import taxes.  Not one single penny was paid by a Citizen of the United States to the Federal Government and what minimal taxes there was were assessed and collected by the State Governments. Consider that the best way of telling how capitalistic a nation is, by determining the total taxes and redistribution of wealth social policies. The less the size and scope of government through redistributive taxes, the more capitalistic and vice versa, they more taxes and redistribution of wealth programs the more “socialistic” your society is considered. In the generalized context, this is my favored method of looking at the effects socio-economics has on society and how we define them. 

One could surely argue, that there are always various interests trying to manipulate the market for greater profits. how people do it is the key. If a company gets a local municipality to give it a garbage collection contract, they have just gotten a government granted a monopoly to pick up the trash from all the Citizens in that community. That’s obviously not a free market monopoly nor is generally the local sewer plant, unless it is a private sector company with no government restriction on who they can do business with and consumers are free to contract with others or have their own sewer system, both of which occur in our society. There are many smaller privately owned communities that own their own sewer treatment plants and people agree when they buy into the community to utilize the utility or provide their own. These are usually enforced with property covenants and restrictions as part of the deed when you purchase a property and the homeowners exercise management and financial control over the operations of the sewer plant. The point I’m trying to make is there is often two way to skin a cat and it doesn’t have to be by the government. However, government and special interest will often try to intervene, such as the local garbage company noted above despite constitutional prohibitions legally prohibited Municipalities from granting monopolies to private companies.                                 

Paul Krugman is Wrong, Again

As first a Democrat and then a Republican, it wasn’t until the late 1980s that I ran into libertarians. I kept debating them and finally succumbed to the logical economics they knew and understood. Yes, it’s both complicated and takes some time to learn but boy, it then becomes an eye opener and everything you thought you knew is then easy to recognize as truth or fallacy.

I have found the lack of economic education to be a fundamental problem facing our world. However, the really hard part is to overcome the false narratives of the ruling oligarchy and their lackeys like Krugman. We have long known Krugman to be an economist who supports the faux Marxist agenda and despite our showing his erroneous arguments time and time again, he still gets the headline attention in the New York Times and other major mainstream media outfits. You don’t think this by coincidence, do you? It’s all about redistributing the majorities money through taxation to the wealthy special interests

Seattle’s Minimum Wage

As many economists expected, the minimun wage in Seattle of $15.00 resulted in less hours worked per week and fewer jobs in addition to some people earning more money per week. In others words, it only helped some people at the expense of others, neutralizing or negating the expected benefits. This is what I like to call the “Contraindications” of social policies, just like pharmaceutical drugs all have negative side effects, so do all social polices. That’s right, “all” social policies have contraindications.

Adam Smith argued this in the 1750s, Frederic Bastiat in the 1850s and many more since then. Low and behold, we keep getting more a more evidence of this same conclusion. Jacob Vigor in this talk with Russ Roberts, summarizes the results of a study he and his group are conducting, arguing that while some workers earned higher wages, some or all of the gains were offset by reductions in hours worked and a reduction in the rate of job creation especially for low-skilled workers; obviously not what was entended.

http://www.econtalk.org/jacob-vigdor-on-the-seattle-minimum-wage/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+econtalk%2FxmOW+%28Econ+Talk%29

No Glass Ceiling After All

Economists have long known this yet the narrative among the democratic socialist movement and mainstream media is that white men are causing it. As if we all sit in our cushy glass offices looking for ways to keep women from coming up through the glass ceiling. The facts are women don’t grow up wanting to be auto mechanics, plumbers, welders or any job that gets their hands dirty or could break a nail. On top of that, they usually end up having children that distract them from their careers an almost never go into the same line of work they went to college for. Many little girls grow up wanting to be sexy vocalists, actresses or dancers and of course Hollywood and the music industry are there to take advantage of them with promises of wealth a grandeur. Most of us white guys have wives and daughters.

https://mises.org/power-market/new-study-confirms-gender-pay-gap-results-women-making-different-choices?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=4aec28d9db-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_9_21_2018_9_59_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-4aec28d9db-228635529

Stagging War

Very evil people in government positions of power have been staging events to precipitate wars for perhaps longer then we know and they are never punished. Even some of the Presidents of the United States have been involved. War is perhaps the single biggest business in our world and they have all been stagged, since at least the U. S. Civil War for primarily one purpose. The manufacturing and sale of products and supplies of war to the governments and they are using your tax dollars to do it. As an example, if you don’t think the oil companies and refineries have a vested interest in selling jet fuel to the governments of the world, you must be one of their shareholders.

https://www.globalresearch.ca/bbc-producers-syria-bombshell-douma-gas-attack-footage-was-staged/5668724

War Is A Racket

If you have not seen the video, it shows that every war since the 1898 Spanish America War including WWI and WWII were started by either false stories and/or criminal activities and events done by those in our own government to make it look as if we have been aggressed upon. Even the Civil War was precipitated by wealthy special interest and with the Union military antagonizing the south into defending itself. The first shots fired by the south were in self- defense.

Why? War is very profitable for those who make weapons and the supplies even things like food for the soldiers. Over 139 million military combatants have lost their lives in just the 20th century, of course, most of them certainly not the children of those profiting from the wars. They are of course at Harward or Yale with college deferments.

Tennesee To Allow Gold and Silver Coin?

I have read reports like the one in the below link and then I never see or hear anything again. If true, it is good to see a State standing up for both sound money policy and States rights.

The Constitution is very clear in the mandate that no state shall make “any Thing” but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of Debts. Of course, the States are also prohibited from coining their own money in the same clause, under Article I, section 10, so the States have been Constitutionally remiss in allowing and use of printed or digitized paper money since 1933 when FDR unlawfully confiscated gold from the Citizens via Presidential Executive Order 6102 when signed it on April 5, 1933.

Those who allowed FDR to unlawfully abrogated the Constitution also enacted a law that “any entity that made a profit on the transfer of silver bullion, had to pay a full 50% of that profit as a tax. The Silver Tax Act was imposed in 1934 and lasted until 1963, also stifling the use of silver.

This is a little of the history: http://www.moonlightmint.com/bailout.htm

In reality, our nations monetary system had been unlawfully overthrown and the central bankers, with their privately owned and administered Federal Reserve Bank of the United States was now firmly in control of the monopoly powers granted to them in the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, when the bank was granted its Charter.

This is perhaps the greatest of the unlawful abrogations of our Consitution but there have been many others. Sadly, the Judiciary as they are bound to do by Oath, have been also illegally remiss in upholding the Constitution of the United States. Go figure, Attorneys willing to sell their souls for power and privilege.

FYI: In order to satisfy the legitimacy of his actions, FDR had declared the State of Emergency predicated on the Great Depression, the one that we now can prove was exacerbated by the very same Central banking interests that were behind FDR’s actions. In 1911 these same interests met at Jekyll Island, GA at the then owned hunting estate of J.P. Morgan, to plan and implement the Federal Reserve Act, the 16 Amendment, and the Revenue Tax Act of 1913 all giving greater power to our ever-expanding centralized Federal government. The non-fiction book The Creature from Jekyll Island by Ed Griffin details the meeting and FDRs other traitorous actions.

If you think these actions were done to protect the interests of the American people, you should keep voting Democrat and Republican because you deserve their continuous lies. If Donald Trump was really interested in Making America Great Again, he would be calling for the abolition of the Federal Reserve Bank and Income tax es on labor as those like former Congressman Dr. Ron Paul and others have done.

Just one example: Eugene Meyer, the then Chairman of the Federal Reserve bought the Washington Post out of Bankruptcy in 1933 for pennies on the dollar, after Wapo had defaulted on their loans which the very bankers had given them.

Does the recent home and commercial property foreclosure epidemic now make more sense? They lent $Billion to people who could afford the loans as long as the economy was strong, then they stopped lending money to slow down the economy and millions defaulted on their loans. These banking interests have been exacerbating the naturally occurring recession/recovery cycles using their monopoly powers through the controls of interest rates, bank reserved requirement, and the money supply. They can then buy up the assets for pennies on the dollar and it’s now paper or digitally created money that they can literally print on demand so if they do take a loss, it’s simply digits on their computers.

Now banks like J.P. Morgan are buying up millions in silver and gold contracts, using the same digital money the bankers create out of thin air.

The Hidden Secrets of Money

With over 3 million YouTube views, The Hidden Secrets of Money by economist Mike Maloney is a video series that I highly recommend to you, your family and friends. Debi and I just finished Episode 9 and she said, everyone needs to watch this. So please watch it and spread it all over the world because even though it focuses on the U.S. and our monetary system, it is applicable to every country in the world.

KARL MARX: THE GREATEST INTELLECTUAL FRAUD OF THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES

Like many people, this author is full of himself, surely thinkings he is an intellectual with great skills in logic. He is a good author but left me asking numerous unanswered questions. His name is David Mikics and is also a prolific author on mainly the topic of Jews and Judaism. This is why it is worth reading. As you will understand from their own words, they are and have been highly involved in “revolutionizing” the world for their perceived well being under the guise of God’s will. By reading the comments, as amusing as the article, you will find they are “know it alls” that agree on little, relying on religion to give them the truth, rather than logic and wisdom and even disagreeing on much of that.

Religion surely plays an essential role in our world and it provides us great things and achievements but thinking it is impervious to imperfections or even downright evil at times, as the Roman Catholic Priests and other religious groups have shown us, is a fool’s errand.

https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/135073/marx-sperber-mikics

At 15, sitting in the public library in suburban Atlanta, I eagerly drank in every word of Isaac Deutscher’s monumental three-volume biography of Leon Trotsky. Glossing over Trotsky’s ruthlessness, Deutscher extolled instead his unmatched courage and humane feeling for the masses. A few years later, back in the Northeast for college at NYU, I kibitzed with the Sparticists who hawked their crude newspaper outside Bobst Library. It was 1979, close to the tail end of the old Radical Left, when the Rosenbergs were still innocent. My college girlfriend was a red-diaper baby, the daughter of communists. Soon I learned all there was to know about the battles between Alcove One (Trotskyist) and Alcove Two (Stalinist) at the CCNY cafeteria in the 1930s. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were my favorite power couple. I got a work-study job at the People’s Coffee Counter at NYU Law School and even invented its motto: “You have nothing to lose but your change.”

In short, I was a teenage Red. I was no idiot: I didn’t believe a revolution was coming to the shores of America. But I basked nostalgically in what I foolishly thought was the glorious past of Trotskyite Bolshevism.

It took only a few more years before I became disillusioned with the radical slogans. Maybe it was Jesse Jackson announcing at a rally in the early 1980s that he had been to Cuba and knew that it was a true democracy. Or Edward Said, whose hostility to Israel troubled me, writing that the Marxist state of South Yemen was a model for the Middle East. But I also learned something else about Trotsky: During the Bolsheviks’ war on the peasantry, he was responsible for the deaths of millions of human beings. In the end, that was all that mattered.

Thoughts of my youthful enthusiasm for Marxism came back to me recently after seeing the U.K. Telegraph headline “I Want to Save the Capitalism my Father Hated.” The story concerned the clean-cut, rapidly rising Ed Miliband, who won the struggle with his brother David to become the head of Britain’s Labour Party and who might well become the country’s first Jewish Prime Minister since Disraeli. The brothers’ father, Ralph Miliband, was a renowned Marxist and Jewish refugee from the Nazis; he is buried a stone’s throw from Karl Marx in London’s Highgate Cemetery. Ed Miliband practices a mellower approach to capitalism. “The free market working properly” was Miliband’s version of what is to be done in his interview with the Telegraph. But, Miliband added, socialism will never die: It is “a tale that never ends.”

Miliband’s wish to cling to the vestiges of Marxism even as he extolls the free market is not unusual in our recession-plagued moment. Nicolas Sarkozy had himself been photographed reading Capital in the aftermath of the crash, and countless professors in the humanities and social sciences (though not, of course, countless economists) fly their Marxist colors proudly, even if they would never dream of abolishing private ownership or markets. In the rarified world of academic jargon, Marxism plays its role in an intellectual picnic that includes poststructuralist thinkers of every stripe. Being a classroom Marxist means talking about the uncanny character of the commodity form or the phantomlike digital age, tossing in a few scattered lines from Badiou and Žižek, and suggesting that our recent, world-shaking financial crisis proves the “relevance” of Marx—without explaining what makes Marx’s outdated economic theories and their accompanying intellectual apparatus relevant to the tremors of 21st-century capitalism. We might do better, instead, to begin at the beginning.

***

While anti-communist socialists far outnumbered communists among American Jews in the first half of the 20th century, it is also true that Jews embraced communism like no other ethnic or religious group in the country. The CUNY political scientist Jack Jacobs, who is editing a volume for Cambridge University Press based on last year’s YIVO conference on Jews and the Left, told me, “After the war, in 1949, the American Communist Party”—which probably numbered less than 50,000 members—“may have been as much as 50 percent Jewish.” What better way is there to understand the appeal of radical politics for Jews than to go back to the original Jewish leftist, Karl Marx? In an impressive new biography, the historian Jonathan Sperber focuses on Marx as a 19th-century thinker, a man of his time and place; and one of Sperber’s concerns is necessarily Marx’s Jewishness.

Strictly speaking, of course, Marx was not a Jew: His parents were converts to Protestantism, and he declared his atheism from an early age. In the infamous essay he wrote when he was 25, “On the Jewish Question,” Marx declared that society must be freed from Judaism, which he identified with capitalism: a huckstering entrepreneurial worship of the false god, money. At the same time, Marx advocated that Jews be granted civil rights—so that they could then be divested of their Jewishness and become fully assimilated. Marx’s letters are strewn with derogatory references to Jews; though Sperber tries to make the case that Marx “took a certain perverse pride” in his Jewish ancestry, he can’t muster much supporting evidence. What we see instead are a series of slurs that today would certainly be called anti-Semitic.

Sperber provides an affecting portrait of Marx the man, who was a devoted and enthusiastic father: With one of his daughters on his shoulders, he would play “cavalry” on Hampstead Heath, running to and fro. He was devastated for years by the death of his son Edgar at age 8. But Marx’s habits as polemicist and political organizer have decidedly less appeal. His writing style was a calamity: full of sometimes puerile vehemence, he heaped scorn on his opponents, inaugurating the long Marxist tradition of mercilessly deriding anyone with incorrect opinions. Marx displayed particular contempt for the high-living, dandyish Ferdinand Lassalle, a fellow socialist also of Jewish origin. In a letter to Engels, Marx mocked Lassalle, who supposedly had African ancestry, as a repulsive “combination of Jewry and Germanism with the negroid basic substance”; “the pushiness of this lad is also nigger-like,” he added. In Marx’s pamphlets, mudslinging abounds: His opponents are generally idiots, traitors, and scoundrels, but these heavy-handed insults tend to make us doubt Marx himself, since he relies so much on vituperation instead of reasoned argument.

Marx failed as a theorist too. As Sperber argues, Marx’s effort to derive the market price of goods from their value, the labor that went into them, was a vestige of the 19th-century economic theories of David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill (both of them arch-capitalists). By the time Marx died, economists had already given up trying to relate price to value and were beginning to understand that value was a chimera. With the growing dominance of technology, it had become impossible to locate value in the time required to produce goods, as Marx, following Ricardo and Mill, had tried to do. Machines can make products incredibly fast; but these products aren’t worth any less than if workers had spent days toiling at them, as Marx’s theory suggests.

Finally, Marx was a failure as a prophet, in spite of the fact that he inspired revolutions that changed the course of history. His essential idea, influenced by Ricardo, was that capitalism would become less and less profitable and that its downward spiral toward the abyss of deflation—lower prices, lower profits—would be followed by worldwide revolution. Instead, capitalism has become vastly more profitable.

It’s important to remember that American communism was hardly a classroom sport. Like today’s al-Qaida agents, communists were sworn to overthrow the government on behalf of a foreign enemy in order to usher in a millennial moment of radical social transformation. Yet memories of Jewish communism in America usually come wrapped in the warm, rosy glow of the good old days, when passionate solidarity reigned. In The Romance of American Communism, Vivian Gornick interviewed a hundred veterans of the party, many of them Jews. She quotes Sarah Gordon, who describes communist politics as “rich, warm, energetic, an exciting thickness in which our lives were wrapped. … in us and in all like us lay the exciting, changing world.” “The Party was everything,” garment worker Ben Saltzman told Gornick. “If I died I would have willed everything I had to the Party. I would have left my wife if necessary.” One hears the hard edge of fanaticism in such statements, combined with the softness of a towering naïveté, the sentimental and dangerous belief that if one wills something like the greatness of the Soviet Union to be true, then it must be true. Gornick discounts the insidiousness of all of this, intent on seeing only good will and suffering in the impoverished, aging men and women she interviewed. Suffer they did, but they were nevertheless blind.

American communists did some good, particularly when they fought for racial justice. But they did much more bad: David Greenglass and the Rosenbergs helped bring the world close to atomic Armageddon and gave the Soviet Union, as a nuclear-armed power, the might to subject millions to its tyranny. It’s hard to reconcile the Rosenbergs’ treacherous deeds with the tributes to comradeship and humanity that Gornick gleaned from her interviews. A large majority of Jews chose socialism or liberalism over communism, and they ought to be praised for the suspicion that is a necessary part of democratic responsibility, their refusal to give in to Soviet propaganda. Sperber, for his part, is unable to explain why Marx was so appealing to Lenin and Trotsky, Stalin and Mao—and why his ideas became the basis for a terrifying new social order.

***

In his biography of Marx, Isaiah Berlin singled out one of this radical thinker’s central ideas: that the inner convictions we take to be the ground of moral and religious truth are in fact illusions, myths that need to be demolished so that humanity can be freed from its chains. Our beliefs about right and wrong cannot be taken at face value, Marx argued, because we have been duped into them by our historical circumstances. So, Marx in his March 1850 Address to the Communist League exhorted his followers to “force the democrats to carry out their current terrorist phrases.” Speaking of “so-called excesses” like “the people’s revenge on hated individuals,” he proclaimed that the workers “must not just tolerate such excesses but take over the leadership of them.”

Berlin emphasized an aspect of Marx that Sperber largely overlooks: his endorsement of revolutionary violence as a way to push history forward. In Marx’s view, history is an inexorable process that cannot be resisted or denied; but it also must be helped along. In its full-fledged version, the Marxist dialectic is a powerful intellectual toolkit for justifying oppression, since whatever the party leaders decide to do expresses the will of history itself.For communist Jews, being Red was a way of asserting their radical difference, rather than their right to belong in American society.

It is striking that popular culture and the universities alike are fixated on Jewish communism instead of Jewish socialism, reversing the actual historical record, in which socialists early on triumphed over their communist rivals. New York’s most influential Yiddish daily, the Forward, was at the heart of the storm. “At the very beginning the Forward was reluctant to criticize the Soviet government, even though they were at war with the local Communists in New York,” commented historian Daniel Soyer, co-author of The Emerging Metropolis: New York Jews in the Age of Immigration, in an interview. “They saw the Red Army and the Soviets as a bulwark against anti-Semitism.” But by 1922 the split between the socialist Forward and the Communist Party was complete. Jewish communists even tried, without success, to prevent Abraham Cahan, the Forward’s anti-Bolshevist editor, from being allowed to visit the Soviet Union in 1927. A Russian Yiddish paper, Emes, lambasted the Forward as a “strikebreaking daily”: They called Cahan’s paper a brothel with a mezuzah on its door, the mezuzah being its hollow professions of leftist faith. “One thing Cahan said was that the Soviets had gotten it backwards,” Soyer remarked to me. “Socialism was supposed to abolish poverty, but the Russians had abolished wealth instead.”

As the ’20s went on, the prestige of the communist movement declined drastically among American Jews. “In 1929 the Communists just looked ridiculous,” Tony Michels, author of A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York, told me in an interview, “when they first condemned the Arab riots in Palestine, and then basically supported them, all on orders from Moscow. They were thoroughly discredited, and there was so much hostility to the Communists, it almost put the Communist paper, the Frayhayt, out of business.”

During the Popular Front period of the 1930s, the Communist Party USA famously adopted as its slogan “Communism is twentieth-century Americanism.” But for communist Jews, being Red was a way of asserting their radical difference, rather than their right to belong in American society. The party card they carried signaled their disagreement with American racism and American conformity, with the white picket fences that excluded the downtrodden, the ethnic others. Tragically, such a statement of protest meant loyalty to a totalitarian foreign power and to a leadership that manipulated and abused them as a matter of course.

In the 21st century, with communism long dead, Jews still want to express their difference from mainstream America. But they rarely choose revolutionary politics as their means of expression. Instead, religious observance, commitment to Israel, and work for social justice are the main ways that Jews proclaim their identity. Rather than looking backward with yearning toward a true Red past, Jews should rejoice that most of us were free from the illusion that warped so many minds and lives and that America was spared what so many other countries had to endure: the coming to pass of Marx’s vision.