Why socialism fails

Socialism is one of the biggest breakout economic ideologies of the 20th century. Although the UK general election was won by capitalists, socialism has more advocates than ever before, as a growing contingent are proposing a redistribution of wealth. You just need to look at the 250,000 people who protested on Saturday against the Conservatives’ cuts; only for them to announce £12 billion of welfare cuts a short time later. It is easy to see from this that socialism is becoming increasingly popular in modern society as more and more people are becoming aware of the perceived inequality that exists between the affluent 1% and the rest. However, I am of the opinion that socialism cannot work in modern society, or any society, for that matter, and my reasons are below.

Firstly, socialism does not reward hard work. Say, for example, that Raj works twice as hard as Mark. Surely Raj should be entitled to twice the pay that Mark gets. However, they both get the same. Over time, Raj will grow wise to the unfairness which is blighting his life, and he will work the same amount as Mark, as, after all, they do not get proportional rewards for their labour. This creates a culture of entitlement where everyone feels as though they need rewards for minimal, or no, work. This undermines the basic human principle of “work hard, reap rewards”, and means that laziness is promoted, which can only start a chain reaction towards a gradually more irresponsible society. This means that even the young children, growing up, know that whatever they do, they will just earn the same as someone else and so do not need to work hard, as there is no hope of a large reward, so work ethics stagnate.

Moreover, socialism will also undermine innovation. The great innovators of society, such as Bill Gates, are, mostly, the ones who become members of the 1%. This shows that innovation and producing products which people actually want to buy reap gigantic financial rewards, which is part of the reason that innovation is at an all time high these days. If innovation is not so heavily rewarded through the Socialist “redistribution of wealth”, people will not want to innovate anymore, as they are getting the exact same rewards as the non-innovators, the people who, frankly, add nothing to society. This kills innovation as the rewards are going equally to everyone, in effect, rewarding the non-producers and punishing the producers. It is like, as I read on another website, taking the average of a class and giving everyone in the class the class average. Of course, the worse students in the class would jump at this proposition, however the top students would not be so joyful. This is exactly what socialism stands for, except on a larger scale.

Finally, socialism, contrary to popular belief, undermines the basic moral values of a person and promotes instant gratification. As people, after some years in a socialist society, will be predisposed to getting something for nothing almost instantaneously, they will not want to slog to get what they want and instead will become almost like a small child to his parents, in that they want everything very quickly, having done almost no work to actually achieve it. Now take the example of the small child, and just think that even adults are subscribing to this ideology! This behaviour is toxic in a modern society and will slowly kill the hard working, positive nature that characterised the American Dream. To an extent, we are already seeing this with the Obama administration, with the American public slowly becoming disaffected a-la Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. Why should they work if they can get everything from the state? Herein lies the problem with socialism, in that the bad eggs are rewarded and the good eggs are punished. Is this the kind of society we would like to promote? I think not.

37 Comments Add yours

  1. epicflyingcat says:

    No one’s calling for a completely socialist society, obviously that would be massively flawed. But, it’s no coincidence that some of the most successful countries in the world (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) are also some of the most socialist and yet incorporate and encourage the capitalist system. If we publicised the housing market, for example, we could prevent millions of landlords sitting on their wealth and not contributing to society in any way, we could prevent huge bubbles in the housing market which was a big factor in the 2008 crash, we could end homelessness by providing a house to every worker that needs one (unlike now where in the UK they are totally, utterly unaffordable) and we could end the massive debts that are put on households in the form of mortgages that damage economic growth massively. Same goes for healthcare, education, transport, energy and water. While incorporating and encourage capitalism in every other industry and market.

    That wouldn’t damage innovation or make the whole country lazy. It would instead give everyone a decent quality of life while reducing income inequality and therefore promoting economic growth which is needed more than ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jingalala says:

      Questions for epicflying cat

      1. On what basis are you saying Denmark Sweden and Norway are the most successful countries. Facts and data please, not opinions

      2. On what basis do you say that the above countries are the most socialist and yet encourage the capitalist system. Please give me data

      3. On what basis do you make the claim regarding publicising the housing market?

      4. Will you build the houses that are to be given to the homeless? Will you work on the construction gang?

      5. Will you study medicine to give free healthcare to all poor people? Are you doctor? Why not? Go study medicine or we will put you in jail for not doing your bit for the poor and sick

      6. Same goes for education, water, transport etc?

      We have no idea how you concluded what you have. Is this some sort or religion you follow?

      Like

      1. I’ll answer one of these questions. The World Happiness Report surveys well-being globally. The rankings and methodology are available here:

        http://worldhappiness.report/download/

        The report is put together by some of the world’s leading economists including Richard Layard of the London School of Economics and Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, NYC.

        Scandinavian countries dominate the top of the table in terms of the self-reported happiness of their citizens, with Denmark as number one. See a report by the right-of-centre Daily Telegraph on the 2015 World Happiness Report here:

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/10302485/The-worlds-happiest-countries.html

        Socialism is not a binary option: countries are not 100% socialist or 100% free market capitalist. However, Denmark exhibits more socialist traits than the US; for example, it has a more progressive tax system and more redistribution from rich to poor. Denmark scores a lot higher than the US with respect to the reported happiness of its citizens. Therefore, the data do support the original comment on this thread.

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      2. epicflyingcat says:

        1. Multiple data sources. Look at HDI, Happiness Index, educational scores, income inequality, healthcare systems and more all favour Scandinavian countries

        2. The scandanavian countries are often referred to as ‘social democracies’. They have all public healthcare, education, welfare systems in place (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_in_Sweden), over half the population live in public housing (http://www.sabo.se/om_sabo/english/Sidor/Publichousing.aspx) and the rail, road building, water and energy industries are all government owned. Despite this, Sweden encourages but REGULATES the free market system with large companies yet large unions and labour laws. You can find out so much more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Sweden and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Denmark and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Norway

        3. Because housing policy is a total and utter failure in capitalist economies like ours. The numbers in rental accomodation has risen 50% in London since the crash, the housing benefit bill in the UK is skyrocketing which goes to private landlords all while the number of homeless is rising as prices never stop rising.

        4. That isn’t my job but why not? Housing benefit in the UK works the same way, we basically pay poor people’s rent if you don’t know. If we instead invested in new public housing it would save a lot of money that would otherwise go to private landlords.

        5. Well we would pay health workers just like any other worker in society. Public healthcare works in most developed countries in the world brilliantly, there’s no reason why it won’t work in yours (I’m presuming you live in the US).

        6. Again, the government is capable of paying public sector workers yet there isn’t the interests of private shareholders in essential industries. Rich kids aren’t given superior education so social mobility can actually happen, private water companies needlessly make profits off the most basic resource when it could save everyone money if it was publicised and transport has been shown to be much more effective in countries such as France and Germany that have large public transport systems instead of the overpriced disaster in the USA and UK.

        I concluded it out of common sense and what would be best for society based on what has been proven in other countries.

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    2. computeruser6 says:

      The Nordic countries are not really that successful. They most certainly don’t have free markets. Progressives never seem to understand the meaning of the word free. If you have to give up forty percent or more of your paycheck to governments at various levels you don’t have really have capitalism. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_in_Denmark http://www.tradingeconomics.com/denmark/sales-tax-rate) It’s funny that you mention massive debts owned by households in the UK when Denmark has you beat by an extremely large margin and has the highest household debt levels on Earth. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-01-06/world-s-highest-household-debt-burden-probed-by-danish-council)
      In Norway, the government has admitted that the welfare model is unsustainable, that their economy has systemic problems, and that they must become more competitive. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/08/us-norway-economy-insight-idUSBREA4703Z20140508)
      It’s funny that even though the Nordic countries get high marks for quality of life that Denmark has extremely high suicide rates. I wonder why people in the world’s happiest country would off themselves and take anti-depressants at record rates? (http://manipulism.com/ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/27/scandinavian-miracle-brutal-truth-denmark-norway-sweden)
      The 2007 housing bubble burst was due in large part to the Federal Government forcing banks to reduce their lending restrictions (http://www.nber.org/digest/may13/w18609.html) and the Federal Reserve maintaining interest rates extremely low during the early 2000’s in an attempt to revitalize the economy after the NASDAQ bubble blew in 2001. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Federal_Funds_Rate_1954_thru_2009_effective.svg https://mises.org/library/krugmans-call-housing-bubble) There were economic depressions in the U.S. in 1873, 1893, and 1907 with little Federal Government intervention except in the case of the 1893 Panic where bad silver legislation was rescinded (which in large part, was a U.S. government policy that caused that depression https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman_Silver_Purchase_Act). The free market was able to restore the economy far faster than more collectivization and regulation. The low interest rates maintained by the Federal Reserve in the 1920’s generated a bubble that blew in 1929. FDR’s policies did not end the Great Depression and unemployment never went below about 14% between 1933-1941. With significant government regulations and legislation, the economy was not able to restore itself to a normal condition until after WWII. Liberty is a far better medicine than government intervention and forced collectivism. Bad businesses should be allowed to fail just as they should be allowed to succeed/prosper, not be subsidized or monopolized by governments.
      Plenty of people have/are calling for a socialist society. The Pan Hellenic Socialist Party ruled Greece for almost thirty years until 2011 and has once again elected socialists. Socialists have won plenty of elections in Spain. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Socialist_Workers%27_Party) Socialists and Communists have held plenty of influence in Italian politics. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Socialist_Party)
      Jose Manuel Barroso is an avowed Communist. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAHv3UnXvmM)
      In the U.S. a man like Bernie Sanders is a socialist and considered by many to be a viable Presidential candidate. (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/05/american-socialist-proud-bernie-sanders-supporters)
      Numerous people believe in forced collectivism and socialism. With all of the industries you listed epicflyingcat the government would control the majority of the economy and you essentially have socialism even if you don’t feel like calling it that. Citizens would be forced to go to the government to live with almost no free choice under the society that you’re calling for. That’s not liberty and freedom your demanding, but rather forced collectivization. It’s a jackboot on a human skull.

      Like

  2. Charles Como says:

    The fact that you can write this article and spell the words correctly means that you are a product of “socialism”. Socialism means simply, what’s good for society, and having a bunch of people run around uneducated and stealing things, murdering, etc.. is not good for society, so we provide “socialized” education (up to 12th grade, not further, unfortunately.) If you get sick and cannot afford medical care, you are left to die in the United States, unfortunately. The rest of the world takes care of you.

    The roads you drive on also are “socialism.” You are young and your mind is still malleable, don’t fall for the BS being fed to you that people are lazy and take advantage of socialism. It’s completely not true and as the commenter above me has pointed out, countries where people are the happiest, where poverty is low, where they are extremely productive, are rich, also have the most socialism.

    Like

    1. In my opinion, it’s a gross oversimplification to say that socialism is the cause of happiness, and to say that socialism simply means “what’s good for society”. If we went with that view in mind, that means that every ideology and theory is good because it simply means “what’s good for society”. Capitalism was formulated with this idea in mind, so simply to say that socialism means what is good for society is plain wrong, in my opinion. Would it be fair for the top earners to have their tax rate raised to 60% by the Greens, for example?

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    2. Dave says:

      Mmmmmmmm……….should I work 80 hours a week so I can live in poverty? USA USA USA USA #1

      Like

  3. SRV says:

    The most serious issue with “socialism,” or even simply socialist policy within capitalist system, is that the “masters of the universe” can’t get their cut of the transaction(s).

    So unless you’re one of the masters of the universe, you are but a brainwashed puppet parroting the message from on high… right down to the tried and true “divide and conquer” approach of demonizing any recipients of a social service as a “taker” to by maligned and vilified at every opportunity.

    Well done my child… the billionaire club appreciates your tireless effort.

    Like

  4. fromawaysite says:

    Reblogged this on Today,s Thought and commented:
    Yes! That is correct.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anto says:

    You should definitely check out Ludwig von Mises’ “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth” from about 1921. https://mises.org/library/economic-calculation-socialist-commonwealth-1

    Mises explains what many believe to be the most persuasive argument against socialism, which is that economic calculation is literally impossible. You can check out Joe Salerno of the Mises Institute giving an excellent lecture on the book as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KseRuyAjlHY

    Enojy!

    Like

    1. Thanks – reading it now! 🙂

      Like

  6. Firtname Lastname says:

    Dear epicflyingcat,
    You’re a moron. Trying to turn farts into rainbows via social idealism is the signature of your ilk…both happen, but you can’t suppress or change one into the other.

    It’s also no coincidence that those Scandinavian countries are some of the most culturally pure, in that there are few immigrants and a long-standing culture. You’ve confused correlation with causation, and thus by your logic you might conclude Hitler had a point. Confusing correlation with causation is a very slippery slope, and so is socialism…you can’t be a little bit anti-semitic/racist, nor can you be just a little bit socialist.

    As with everything that gets “publicized”, socialized housing would mean we’d all have shitty houses…go ask anyone that lived in the USSR, other than the oligarchs and their friends. The oligarchs prove another point, animal instincts ALWAYS prevent the fantasy of idyllic socialism…no matter how hard you try there are still 1%-ers, but they get there through fraud, force, collusion, etc. instead of innovation and work ethic. As for the other items you’d like to socialize, go ask the UK and Canada about their wonderfully socialized healthcare, and ask the US postal service about their success in transporting letters/packages. The world’s energy grid is a fucking joke as a result socialization, and I don’t even want to know what’s actually in some of our drinking water.

    Did you say end homelessness? Again, you’re a moron. Norway is the richest (per capita) of the most socialized nations on the planet, and it still has homelessness. You know how they were going to attempt to deal with it…by banning it, not by helping them more, because some people just can’t be helped. You will NEVER end homelessness.

    Keep it up Shrey.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much 🙂

      Like

    2. zaar says:

      ‘ As for the other items you’d like to socialize, go ask the UK and Canada about their wonderfully socialized healthcare, and ask the US postal service about their success in transporting letters/packages. The world’s energy grid is a fucking joke as a result socialization, and I don’t even want to know what’s actually in some of our drinking water.’

      a) I like in the UK, the healthcare system is pretty good. My pensioner mother had a nurse visit yesterday from the local health center. The nurse found a small issue of concern, snapped a pic on her phone and showed it to the doctor. The doctor came to visit her at home three hours later. Yes there are issues and problems but most of what you read in the British newspapers is political propaganda from the Daily Mail and its cohorts who want to see healthcare sold off to American corporations.

      b) Postal services managed to work well for the past couple of centuries so if you believe them to be a ‘failure of socialism’ please explain how they lasted so long.

      c) The UK sold off its energy companies several decades ago. American energy is mainly supplied by big corporations too. How is that a failure of socialism if the corporations won’t invest?

      d) The UK sold off its water companies. Costs have risen greatly and the water is only better quality due to those European leftists everyone hates in the EU forcing them to adhere to modern standards.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. zaar says:

    ‘Moreover, socialism will also undermine innovation. ‘ – looking back at the history of the 20th Century almost all large-scale innovation was either part or wholly funded by the state, usually through military spending. Nuclear power, jet engines, satellites, integrated circuits, drugs research, drones, AI, cryptography, the list goes on. Even today’s innovators such as Elon Musk have Uncle Sam throwing taxpayer’s money at them and characters like Bill Gates knew that the best way of creating ubiquitous PC ownership was to get the taxpayer to fund the teaching of computing in schools. Look at how in the past few years the IT industry has decided everybody should write code – so governments around the world are yet again subsidising the biggest corporations on the planet.

    Secondly a lot of initial innovation comes from people working away for little or no profit – the university researchers, electronics hobbyists and the like. Sure some of these people will eventually become rich, but most won’t. If being an innovator was a guarantee of fortune and proportionate reward then the richest names of the past century or so would have included Tesla, Nick Holonyak, Alexander Fleming and Norman Borlaug.

    Second point: ‘Finally, socialism, contrary to popular belief, undermines the basic moral values of a person and promotes instant gratification’ – the capitalist model promotes instant gratification if you can pay. This results in far more obnoxious, obsessive and downright odd behaviour than in a moderate socialist society. Capitalist America leads the world on obesity, drug addiction, mental illness and poor education. Socialists know they don’t get things ‘for nothing’ but via the collective pool of taxes we all pay which encourages everyone to contribute. Read the comments in a typical Daily Mail or Telegraph story and those who whine the most are the middle-classes who do well out of the current system. The working-class get mocked, the middle-class eat up resources, insist their ‘hard work’ in an office beats the hard work of someone doing eight hours of physical labour, and then they still feel the need to act like children over every issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To say that the capitalist model “promotes instant gratification if you pay” is in itself a contradictory statement. To have the means to pay, one must need to have worked hard to have earned the money. As a result, it is not promoting instant gratification and is actually promoting working hard to earn profits. Of course anyone will get instant gratification if they pay – that’s the whole point, that will happen in a socialist or capitalist model!

      Like

      1. zaar says:

        You can inherit the money. You can steal it in a financial fraud, win the lottery or sponge off a rich partner/parent. Working hard isn’t a surefire way to earn a decent living in much of the world, especially these days. The whole structure of modern economies is based around incentivising the wealthy by paying them more while incentivising the masses by paying them less. This in itself is causing our current form of capitalism to break down – less people can afford the goods created & trying to cover that discrepancy via credit is responsible for our regular financial crises.

        It is also fascinating how those who rant against socialism absolutely love it when its protecting the ruling class rather than the plebs. Consider the current British ‘capitalist’ (as the esteemed blog writer describes them) Conservative party. They got elected because a) They promised to increase pensions (which come from the welfare budget) and b) They’ve promised to sell off more public housing and use every means necessary to keep house prices high. If a ‘socialist’ government did that the screaming about market rigging/welfare dependency would ring around the world.

        Similarly the success of Mrs ‘socialists run out of other people’s money’ Thatcher’s government was based around selling off state assets, selling off businesses for cheap and bribing people with dirt-cheap public housing sales. All the while funding things via the profits from North Sea Oil money (One reason why the Scots loath the Tory party) & by increasing taxes on average wage earners. Mrs T knew a thing or two about other people’s money, yet oddly her defenders tend to be silent on the matter.

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  8. debneill says:

    Your argument rests on several dubious premises that have become gospel in libertarian circles. I just want to make a few points now, and if I have time I’ll respond more extensively.

    1) You need to define your terms! Your vague malleable use of the term “socialism” may be convenient in constructing your argument to suit your ideological ends, but it is a deceptive and unsound way to construct an argument. Based on your analysis, you mean “communism” as it was implemented in the Soviet Union. While communism is a type of socialism, it is not synonymous with socialism. (see my blog post: http://historychickinaz.com/2014/08/13/is-thomas-pikettys-capital-in-the-twenty-first-century-just-a-rehash-of-marxs-das-kapital-2/)
    2) No one is advocating a complete “socialist” society where everyone is paid the same. There are some things that should be public like health care and education, but it doesn’t follow from that, that everyone should be paid the same. The “redistribution of wealth” is also not the same as paying everyone the same. Redistribution of wealth is necessary because the wealthy have the power to redirect more money in their direction at the expense of everyone else. If everyone was paid a fair wage for their work there would be no need to tax the wealthy to pay for public programs that help the poor.
    3) Socialism is compatible with innovation. Again you are equating socialism with communism. No one is calling for a communist society where everyone is given the same pay.
    4) Your final point about instant gratification is absurd!

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, lengthy ones like this make my day 🙂

      1) Sorry for not defining this; I mean libertarian socialism.

      2) I never said that anyone advocated a completely socialist society; I just explained why one would fail.

      3) Even is everyone is not given the same pay, it is certain that people are not rewarded in proportion to their labour, which decreases the incentive to produce innovative ideas, does it not?

      4) If it is so “absurd”, please do explain why.

      Like

  9. debneill says:

    I see that you didn’t read the post that I included a link for.

    I’m a historian and study the history of ideas and I’ve never heard of “libertarian socialism”! And you still haven’t defined what you’re talking about.

    Your arguments rest on the assumptions of a complete socialist society or at least the one thing that no one is advocating: that everyone receives the same pay. Today the problem is that most workers are not receiving anywhere near the pay they deserve. The money has been redistributed upwards as corporations have been slashing wages for a long time now and at the same time (at least here in the US) successfully lobbying to get reduced taxes and other perks.

    Your young and bright so I hope that you will read broadly (not just things that confirm your beliefs) and keep an open mind as try and understand the world.

    Like

    1. Firstly, I can’t believe someone so high profile commented on my post – thank you so much again! 🙂

      Please see this Wikipedia article for what libertarian socialism is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_socialism

      Like

  10. debneill says:

    Shrey,

    Thanks for clarifying what you mean by “socialism.” This explains why your argument is confused, but it also exposes it as deceptive. If your purpose was to propagate your ideological predilections then you’re on the right track. But if you care about truth, reality, and honesty please consider the following critique.

    Your argument rests on an informal logical fallacy called the “Fallacy of Equivocation.” In other words, you used the word “socialism” ambiguously to come to a desired conclusion. This kind of fallacy is commonly used by conservatives to object to all social programs (as pointed out in the blog post that I pointed to earlier).

    To be clear you should have explained to your readers what kind of socialism you were discussing, but instead of using the term “libertarian socialism” I would recommend using the term “Marxism” when speaking to a general audience. Marx believed that the state would wither away thus creating an anarchical society, which would happen in the final stage of history (communism). And you focus only on one aspect of this type of socialism: wage equality.

    It is clear based on your article that what you actually wanted to discredit was socialism as advocated by many today (i.e. socialized medicine, public education, social security, etc.). These programs have nothing to do with your attack on wage equality. Many are advocating for less disparity in income, but no one is arguing for wage equality for everyone. This is where the logical fallacy comes in. Here is the basic outline of your argument:

    Premise: “socialism” (definition # 1) is absurd.
    Conclusion: Therefore, “socialism” (definition # 2) should be rejected.

    It should be obvious why this is a fallacy, and why it is also deceptive.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. investcafe says:

    Very interesting conversation! Subscribed!

    Shrey, I applaud you for digging into this and being open to criticism from both sides. Some comments here are clearly more intent on bashing while some are intelligent, thoughtful and illuminating on discussing this topic. Focus on those that help and ignore those that detract; especially those that do not have the courage to use their real name.

    In reading your piece, I have some comments:

    1. You began with describing the growth of “socialism” over the last several years. However, you did not, as debneil has point out, adequately define what “socialism” meant. This is important and you should consider delving into this some more.

    2. Whether you are studying the markets, history, or in this case socialism, context is crucial. Nowhere do you consider or discuss WHY there has been a growth in this “socialism”. Why are people leaning in that direction? There is something going on that is incentivizing folks to adopt this ideology. I think you should spend some time studying this.

    3. Capitalism has no doubt earned its place as the superior economic model, however, as any competent economist will agree, capitalism will not provide everything that society needs to function optimally. Capitalism relies on a balance of government intervention to provide those services and goods that will otherwise not exist.

    For example:
    * Capitalism will not provide for national defense
    * Capitalism will not provide infrastructure for roads and bridges
    * Capitalism will not provide a system of courts to uphold the rule of law and contracts, which is essential for capitalism to survive
    * Capitalism will not protect the environment from unscrupulous actors

    There are many more examples, but these make the point. So as one commenter pointed out, the choice is not a binary option between “socialism” and capitalism. There must be some kind of balance in between both, because each has desired outcomes that can sometimes conflict – maximizing utility or profit vs maximizing equality.

    This is indeed a tough subject and one that can really energize folks, party from their experiences and partly from their exposure to certain ideologies. I think engaging folks who have intelligent things to say about this will be a rewarding experience!

    Keep talking about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Commissaress says:

    Hey 🙂 I found this post and your blog completely by accident, but my mum actually works at your school (and I go to the sister school) and I remember her mentioning it, so that’s a funny coincidence! Were you at the interdisciplinary seminar on socialism last Wednesday? I think you would’ve enjoyed it.

    Anyway, I know this article is a bit old now, but I want to point out a few things which people seem to have forgotten in the comments. Firstly, a lot of people seem to think that socialism = equal wages. I don’t think any political/economic theorist has ever been naïve enough to advocate totally equal wages, except – vaguely – Lassalle, who everyone has now forgotten about (and for good reason, too). And when Lassalle did this, Marx – whose form of revolutionary social-democracy is the basis for that of most socialists today – polemicised against it and called it utopian. A society with socialised means of production (i.e. socialism, hence “socialised”) does not have exploitation of labour and therefore does not have markets or the commodities and money which are entailed by markets. Correspondingly, there is no money and no wages. People just take what they want, as Marx famously said, “according to need” (which is pretty much synonymous with “according to wants” here) and the overabundance of goods which results from the continued development of productive forces and the increased efficacy of a non-market economy facilitates this. So socialism has nothing whatsoever to do with equal wages or redistribution. This part of State and Revolution by Lenin criticises the idea of equal wages and lays out the socialist alternative: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/ch05.htm#s2

    As for innovation and instant gratification, why should we assume that work is going to be as tiresome, uninspiring and boring in socialism as in capitalism, or that people are going to view it the same way? People’s attitudes and behaviour change with every social epoch: you don’t see many people in the Western world today talking about the divine right of monarchs or accusing the single middle-aged women they know of being witches, for instance. Yet in the era of feudalism, these ideas were widespread because they were the ideas of the then-ruling class and the ideas which corresponded with the material conditions of feudal society. Similarly, current “liberal values”, belief in “getting what one ‘deserves'” for labour and so on only correspond with the material conditions of current society: a society with markets, private ownership of means of production and profit. Thus there is no reason to presuppose that people will expect rewards for work in socialism just as they do in capitalism, because the way they think will be completely different. In socialism, work and leisure will essentially be merged; people won’t have specific careers as such unless they choose to, and if they want to, they can, as Marx said, “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.” So work won’t just be a means to an end as it is today: it’ll be more like a hobby, and something that people actually want to do regardless of the financial benefit.

    I think I’ve rambled on enough now! Hopefully we can continue the discussion

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    1. Hey. Thanks again for the lengthy comment, I really appreciate people taking the time to write comments like this. It’s a small world, isn’t it? 🙂

      Firstly, I would counter the first point (“overabundance of goods which results from the continued development of productive forces”) by saying that productive forces would not continually develop in a socialist economy. If “people just take what they want”, with no incentive to rise on the social hierarchy, they won’t be incentivised to work. This is because it is relative wealth which people take pride in over absolute wealth, as shown by this article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/3315638/Relative-wealth-makes-you-happier.html. When everyone takes what they want with no incentive to grow bigger than their peers, innovation begins to stall in an economy, and the ultra-rich and wealthy leave the country. This is what has happened during the socialist Hollande administration in France, with economic growth even turning negative some quarters, which is again evidential of the damage that a socialist system can do to an economy.

      To the second and final point that you made, I agree that in socialism, it will get to the point where people will not expect rewards in return for their labour. However, is the reward system not the basic presupposition upon which America has thrived in recent years? Regardless of the financial argument, if people continually “work” expecting no rewards, there is no incentive upon which to innovate. Without the reward system, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as we know them today wouldn’t exist, as there would be simply no incentive for them to continue innovating. Everything would just carry on in the same mundane way, with barely anyone trying to make the world they live in better. Therefore, I would argue that capitalism is needed for an economy to grow substantially, and for a society to thrive.

      Thank you so much again for the lengthy comment, I hope to see many more 🙂

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      1. Commissaress says:

        Sorry for the lateness, I hadn’t checked my notifs in a while.

        First of all, I’d say that reaching the point of overabundance does not require much development of productive forces at this point; rather, it requires more efficient allocation than we have at the moment. I mean, there is already 3000kcal worth of food being produced per person per day, which is more than enough to feed the entire planet well. Yet because the market system fundamentally causes wastage, purchasing power disparities and ignorance of externalities, we have crises of both starvation and obesity. So even if we kept productive forces at current levels but implemented a central planning system (which would possibly look like a larger-scale, more advanced version of Synco in Chile) the point of overabundance could be reached pretty fast.

        Regardless, though, I think it goes without saying that socialists (except maybe some anarcho-communists) do not propose abolishing the wage system in every form straight away. We’ll abolish the market – and therefore capital accumulation – straight away, but as Lenin said in ‘State and Revolution’, in the first phase of communism, “every member of society, performing a certain part of the socially-necessary work, receives a certificate from society to the effect that he has done a certain amount of work. And with this certificate he receives from the public store of consumer goods a corresponding quantity of products. After a deduction is made of the amount of labor which goes to the public fund, every worker, therefore, receives from society as much as he has given to it.” We acknowledge that people will not immediately completely change the way they think about work, and therefore there will be a bit of “wage” motivation (but no exploitation) in the first phase of socialist society. However, this still won’t be the main motivation for work, because with workplaces controlled by the workers and run in a more democratic, horizontal way, although the division between work and leisure will not have entirely disappeared as it will have in the higher phase of communist society, work will not be as oppressive, alienating and stressful as it is under capitalism. So already, people will be getting used to working out of pleasure.

        Finally, in socialism – if socialism entails any sort of economy at all – very different economic rules apply from those under capitalism, because there are no commodities, no money and no market exchange. Production in socialism is for a much simpler reason than production under capitalism: instead of things being produced to satisfy “effective demand”, they are produced simply according to need, with no market to skew the measurement of need. So this is another incentive for innovation in socialism: people will innovate to satisfy their needs and the needs of those around them and to make everyone’s lives, including their own, easier.

        (Socialism is a theoretical possibility, by the way; it hasn’t existed.)

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  13. Sean Hurley says:

    The underlying root cause to the many prevalent symptoms in our world is money. The use of money as a way to exchange labour for purchasing power is structurally violent.

    Structural violence is one way of describing social arrangements that put individuals and populations in harm’s way… The arrangements are structural because they are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world; they are violent because they cause injury to people … neither culture nor pure individual will is at fault; rather, historically given (and often economically driven) processes and forces conspire to constrain individual agency. Structural violence is visited upon all those whose social status denies them access to the fruits of scientific and social progress.”
    Dr. Paul Farmer

    We can alter our form of economics to be both sustainable and humane, which we right about extensively.

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  14. I think the article is very helpful for people,it has solved our problem,thanks!

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