Thursday, July 19, 2012

On Communism vs Capitalism

Over at the AoSHQ (linked in my side bar, as always) we got to having a discussion about how Communism has always failed everywhere, and everywhen, it has been tried.  I thought I'd share my thoughts here for any readers who don't go there.

First off, I should point out that I know of two instances where a group of people tried to practice "True" Communism- what previously was called "Utopian Communism."  That is, I know, from my own research and education, about two instances where everyone in a relatively small group really submitted themselves for the benefit of the group and where the group punished or exiled the small number of people who did not.  There may be others, but the two I know of are 1st Century AD Christians in Jerusalem, and the Reunion Colony in Texas where a portion of Dallas now sits.

This is important, because these two instance provide anecdotal evidence that, even if communists were right about human nature (they're not, but we'll get to that later), the world itself works in such a way that communism will fail.  See, in both cases, because of their communist societies, no one had any extra.  Those who had extra had already shared with those who did not.  That's a good and noble thing, but it's short sighted (as both groups found out).  First Century Jewish Christians had to give up their communist model when a drought and famine devastated the Middle East just a couple of years after Christ's ascension.  Because they had all shared everything equally, no one had any reserves to see them through the hard times.  They were reduced to surviving based on gifts from other Christians around the world.  The Reunion Colony did not have that support structure, so when they suffered a massive crop failure, the colony failed.

In neither case was human action to "blame," for the failure of communism.  The nature of communism itself makes it unlikely that there will ever be reserves of anything, so when acts of nature cause shortages, there's no way to make it up.  Weather and natural occurrences make communism unworkable.

What is also important in both of these models is that neither lasted very long, but they had problems from the get-go.  The Christians, quite famously, had Ananias and Sapphira.  The Reunion Colony had other bad actors.  Had they continued as communist communities, these would have become more frequent and more magnified.

But, you see, we don't need these examples.  Virtually every school day, somewhere in America, we have another perfect microcosm of the inherent problems with Communism.  Group Projects.  You remember group projects, right?  You teacher probably assigned the group, though if you were lucky you got to pick the group so you could be with your friends.  Then you were given an assignment on which everyone was supposed to work.  How many times did it work out that way?  In my entire school career, I recall twice- and both times I was grouped with my friends, and both times we were purposely subversive.  Yes, I was that way in High School, too.

In most cases, one or two people actually do all the work while the others, either out of incompetence or laziness, simply enjoy the fruits of the others' labor.  This happened far more often than actual group work, and the reasons are simple.  In most groups, you have one or two kids who care about their grades enough that the other kids know they'll drag the project over the finish line.  With only one or two of them working on it, it may only get a B or C, but that's passing, and that's enough for the others.  For their part, the hard-working kids know that if they don't do it, the best grade they can hope for is a C as everyone else phones it in, so they pick up that work because they do care about their own grades.

Both of these explain why communism will not, cannot, work.  First, because human nature is such that we are not communal by nature.  Every person thinks of themselves first.  Second, because nature itself requires that humans not be communal- communal living has less ability to forecast and plan for future conditions than the "greedy" or "selfish" capitalistic system.

In a capitalistic system, hundreds, thousands, millions, or even billions of people each work for their own direct good.  They each try to plan for the future- so when one gets it wrong, there are others who got it right and then have the resources to support the one who got it wrong.  But this system, to operate effectively, requires that everyone work.  It requires that society itself not assist anyone, but rather that it encourage individuals to assist each other.

In pure theory (it would never happen in the real world) a pure capitalist society, with each person working for his or her own direct good; where government ensured the rules were easy to understand and applied equally to all; where each person reaped the rewards of hard work, and dealt with the consequences of failure: in that purely theoretical world, a capitalist society would be every bit as "Utopian" as any communist society could ever dream.

In the real world, Capitalism leads to more freedom, more wealth- even at the "poverty" level- and more access to opportunity and even to justice than Communism ever will.  As flawed as it is, Capitalism is more grounded in the real world, and therefore a much better system than communism or socialism.

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