I’m sure Karl Marx didn’t get all his ideas from Will Shakespeare but he lifted one from King Lear – and distorted it – with catastrophic effect. ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’. Make that happen and you’ve solved everything; all your social problems. Fairness; that elusive precious thing, accomplished. Across the planet. End of history. Let’s go for that. But Shakespeare says, ‘Reason not the need…’ And I think he’s right. Why? Because I know C.E.O.s who ‘need’ a country house with sixty rooms. ‘Need’ a flat in Tokyo and New York and London… because you never know where your work will take you. ‘Need’ a fistful of sharp cars and a smart Learjet, and perhaps a hospitality sea cruiser… and ‘need’ the cash flow to lure the right trophy wife or mistress or toy-boy between silk sheets. How do we satisfy their needs? Because they are real and won’t go away.
Shakespeare got human nature right astonishingly early in our history.
Marx fell on his face because he wanted to sell us the idea that good people know when they’ve got enough… food and stuff. Did he believe it? Was he just very angry, very noisy and very full of himself – a passing discontented philosopher?
He set off half the world with the wrong idea of how to solve living together and that climaxed with two giant mass murderers.
As Shakespeare says… girls want a party dress as well as one for every day.
THAT’s what we’ve got to solve.
And on ability… some people’s abilities are… O.K. No more, no less. Does it mean we should smash them up – or give them sheets of cardboard to sellotape the houses they live in?
I never thought Robert’s Lear would take me on to questioning Marx’s recipe for the good life. But it has.
And that’s it on Lear… next, back to war; my second favourite subject.