Today, May 1, is May Day. It is celebrated by communists in many countries.

So I thought it would be a good idea to take stock and see where we are on the road to the communist ideal. In The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels laid out 10 interim measures on the way to communism.

They wrote:

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.
Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.

Where are we on these measures in the United States?

  1. Although we are not close to abolition of property in land, governments at various levels prevent people from using their land for many peaceful purposes, e.g., housing, often prevent owners from evicting tenants, and sometimes use eminent domain to take people’s land forcibly.
  2. At the federal level and in many states such as New York and California, we do have a very heavy progressive, or graduated, tax. As a result, tax rates on income from work range from 0 percent to over 50 percent.
  3. We still have strong rights on inheritance although the federal government does take a big chunk of inheritances that exceed $12.92 million. The tax rate for amounts above that threshold start at 18% and rise to 40%.
  4. We seem to have mainly dodged a bullet on this one.
  5. Although there is still lots of private credit, much of it is in the hands of the state and much of private credit is regulated heavily by the state.
  6. Much of communication and much of transportation is decentralized, but much of it is centrally regulated. Think FCC for communication and FAA, TSA, Amtrak, and government roads for transportation.
  7. We have avoided most of this.
  8. Fortunately there are no industrial armies and there is no conscription, except for juries. Indeed, people often get financially penalized with lower welfare payments and zero unemployment benefits when they do work.
  9. We have pretty much avoided this.
  10. Marx and Engels would be pretty happy about this one because there are universal government schools for which people pay zero in tuition but heavily in taxes, the size of which has nothing to do with whether one has kids in these government schools.