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The Return of the Marx Brothers

March 5, 2009
Groucho Marx
Karl Marx

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. (Groucho Marx)

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” (Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto


No, they haven’t come back to life. But the words of Groucho and Karl are starting to ring a little truer every day. Karl wasn’t one of the Hollywood Marx Brothers but he certainly was more philosophical than Harpo, Chico, or Zeppo. If he and Groucho could see us from beyond, they might be very entertained by our present circumstances.

            Karl predicted the demise of capitalism because of its “class struggles” in which the lower classes become jealous of the upper class and the battles between them. Obama may not be a Marxist but he has declared a war or at least a mild attack on the upper class, announcing a tax increase and reduced dividends and reduced deductions for charities and housing for the top tier earners. As Groucho said, politicians look for trouble, find it everywhere, diagnose it wrong, and apply the wrong remedies. This was true for Bush and Congress and it’s true for Obama and Congress.

            Groucho, the wonderfully satirical cynic, once said, “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.” Boy, how right he was. Look at Bernie Madoff and the mortgage salesmen from the last decade. How about the CEOs of Fannie, Freddie, AIG and the investment houses that helped bring the market down by buying every fraudulent mortgage, packaging it up, selling it to all the financial firms in the world, and then insuring it all with credit default swaps and then reselling the insurance? Honesty and fair dealing were faked and all of the perpetrators had it made.

            Until it all broke, just like Karl Marx warned. But why should we throw away capitalism, unless you really believe that Communism is the real answer? Instead, let’s do it right or at least semi-correctly. We need to save our companies and our economy, not by government intervention but by feeling confident again that we are going to come back from the economic grave.

            We have lost great voices in the last year who could have helped us cope with all of this madness: Tim Russert, George Carlin, and Paul Harvey. But who was better than Groucho? His most popular comedies were filmed and produced during the Great Depression and helped millions of depressed Americans laugh. “I worked my way up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty,” he once said. If Groucho could laugh about extreme poverty, so can we.  

            Hey, if we don’t laugh about being poor in this “great recession,” what are we going to laugh about? Death? Well, I guess we could laugh after hearing these immortal words of Groucho, “I intend to live forever, or die trying.”

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