“But it can’t be right, can it?” Kolya felt like someone had just hit him in the stomach. He looked sadly at his friend Hans.
“I don’t know Claus. Professor Bohm-Bawerk makes a good point. Marginalization does kind of supplant Marx’s labor theory of value, and it answers Smith’s capitalist question of why water, which is so fundamental, is so much cheaper than diamonds, which no one needs to live.” Hans spoke happily with his Russian friend, who spoke German so well, but he knew this lecture was weighing heavily on his friend’s mind. “Come on friend, let’s go for a walk next to the palace.”
Kolya nodded but still gave Hans a tepid look. He guffawed “Yeah next to the palace because we can’t go in, that’s for the bourgeoisies.” Hans smiled back and grabbed Kolya gently by the shoulder leading him down the stairs and outside into the crisp autumn wind.
“Cheer up, Claus, we’ll figure it out.”
“But it’s not just about figuring it out; I mean what if they are right? What if the marginal theory is correct and completely defensible? I mean, so far it seems impenetrable. Diamonds are so rare that any change, regardless of whether it’s an increase or a decrease, has a huge effect on their value, which means that their rarity is what makes them more valuable than water, which has nothing to do with usage. You know what it means! It means that labor, being one of the most plentiful goods in the world, is also one of the cheapest and worthless even if it is necessary.” He lifted up his head in despair and saw the blurred sun shining through the tall English Yews that lined the path leading to the palace.
“Ok, so maybe methodologically the theory is right. But Marx wasn’t ever one to just leave his theory to methodology right? His was a theory that combined philosophy and history as well, right?” Kolya looked at his friend and quietly muttered,
“And sociology...” They both looked at the ground and walked in silence. The soft howl of the wind reminded Kolya of his Russian home, now thousands of miles away. Kolya looked up and saw the palace walls coming into view, behind them the sun danced like a golden ferry between the haze of clouds. Kolya stopped and grabbed Hans’ wrist frantically gasping. “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”
“Haha, well out with it then!” Hans said gaily.
“The problem with the bourgeois class, at least socially, is that according to Marx we as humans are fundamentally creative and free beings right? But the bourgeoisies are distancing themselves step by step from labor itself. They are becoming rentiers, people who are mere consumers. People who do not create anything at all, they merely oversee the creation and consume what is created. Smith’s original problem with diamonds and water was that water was so much more useful than diamonds. He was confused why people would pay more for a diamond. The same is true for labor. Even though it is a common good, it is necessary for a man to be a man. Labor lends an escape for our creativity. It gives us freedom and as such is a piece of our human conscience. If we lose it, we lose our chance at expression, we become a machine that doesn’t act but is only acted upon. We become the accursed rentier!” Kolya glanced at his friend. Hans looked positively elated.
“We’re going to need to write that down!” He said excitedly. And indeed Bukharin would write it down. It would become his first book and one of the most popular works in Soviet Russia after the revolution. It became known as “The Economic Theory of the Leisure Class.” And was a stepping stone for one of the Soviets greatest thinkers.