Did Karl Marx Say "The Last Capitalist We Hang Will Sell Us the Rope"?

Long before Al Gore invented the internet, the misattribution of quotes was a common phenomenon. After the internet and social media exploded in popularity, it became even more frequent.

Ask anyone who said, “Don’t cry because it’s over…smile because it happened,” and they’ll tell you these words were penned by Theodore Geisel, also known as, Dr. Seuss. Did he really say that? If he did, no one can actually find any record of it. It’s not in any of his books, and there’s no documented instance of him saying these words in public.

That being said, it’s a nice sentiment. It feels like something Dr. Seuss would say, but there’s no evidence he ever did. The problem with beginning a persuasive argument based on a misattributed quote, or worse a fallacy that it was ever uttered by anyone of notoriety in the first place is that you are already on shaky ground.

So, did Karl Marx Say "The Last Capitalist We Hang Will Sell Us the Rope?” If he did, it's not in any of his writings. Different variations of this quote have been attributed to many people: Marx, Lenin and Stalin, or as died-in-the-wool socialists call them, “The Holy Trinity.” 

There’s quite a bit of difficulty in determining when or even if any of these individuals actually uttered these words in print or in public. Keep in mind that Stalin, Marx and Lenin didn’t exactly have Twitter or Instagram accounts. If they did, rest assured that Twitter would happily let them keep Tweeting while you got banned for mentioning the “free market.”

Why do people attribute this quote primarily to Marx? This is really anyone’s guess. It appears that in the mid 20th century, an anti-communist US military officer wrote in the journal of a public affairs journal that Lenin essentially said these words. He had no sources cited.

In the earlier 20th century, a German socialist convention began its proceedings with a quote by Benjamin Franklin. That quote was “Property is the creature of society, and society is entitled to the last farthing whenever society needs it.” In case you weren’t alive during the 18th century, a “farthing” is a thing of little value.

Whether Marx actually said this is now somewhat irrelevant. Socialists have attempted to persuade others through what they view as a humorous, cynical sentiment that the capitalist puts profit before anything, even their own life. According to them, we as capitalists are like heroin addicts, willing to die if we can just get that one last hit.

While they view it as a form of holier-than-thou irony, it really reflects a very sad and morbid worldview. By contrast, many capitalists view solicalists as simply good hearted but naive people, as long as they aren’t nationalizing private property or sending dissidents to the gulags. 

Noam Chomsky, Bernie Sanders, Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Mark “The Hulk” Ruffalo. What do all these people have in common? If they aren’t self-described socialists, then they are ardent critics of free-market capitalism. What else do they have in common? They are not only free individuals, they are enormously successful.

Almost no self respecting libertarian, conservative or other free minded individual would boycott their works and no one would call for their deplatforming, let alone imprisonment or death. Yet these individuals and countless others guided by the ideals of Marxism seem to have such disdain for profit and success and the free market. 

Would the “Last Capitalist” actually sell the rope to the communist who was going to hang him? This is such an offensive, dehumanizing trope. It really says a lot that people continue to use it despite its historical inaccuracy. Not that it would be much better if Marx actually did say it! At the core of its meaning is that you, a capitalist, are so rotten, so consumed with profit and greed that even at your last breath, money is your only God.

If you google the “...sell us the rope” phrase you’ll find a lot of name calling on both sides of the spectrum. Socialists claim that the statement is really used by right wingers as an attack against the left. More conservative minded people take the statement at face value as an indictment of the nature of the socialist line of thought.

Hopefully you don’t find yourself in the actual predicament of standing on a gallows with only a rope to bargain with. Metaphorically speaking though, if someone does say this to you, I suggest you tell them to start reading the Last Capitalist blog!

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