I was having a discussion with a utopian communist, one of those fellows who insists real communism has never been tried. (As if Stalin were somehow different from what Engels angry rhetoric did not amply and clearly imply all along).
“The trouble is, market forces encourage mainly looking out for number one.”
I pointed out that my employers give to charity, and this is done out of the very community spirit he supposes will animate all human interaction in the Utopia, once the state withers away of its own accord. My comment:
Do you know how much money the huge, faceless, corporation for which I work gives out to charity? Do you have any idea to what lengths huge, faceless corporations will go to secure the good will of the community?
It is exactly that good will that is absent from the dull, sterile faces of every bored bureaucrat at the DMV you meet, who has lost your file and won’t look it up. The state does not need your good will.
The conversation had been polite up until that point. Then, of course, he has to sneer at my company. His comment again:
“How much money does your corporation give out to charity? And why exactly would they want to secure the good will of the community? I doubt it’s due to their love of humanity. Rather, I suspect it is to encourage the community to keep spending its money buying things from said corporation.
and I do not equate communism with a bigger state. In my view, the state would get shrunk as much as possible, and the bureaucrats disbanded. More citizen participation, less remote government bureaucracy.” (italics mine).
My comment here:
Ahh…. I see.
Son, I would wager that you have never even talked to these people, much less discovered how to read their minds.
The motivation, for a number of them, is both simpler and less mercenary than you suspect: it is bad publicity to lack community spirit. These men, at least a sizable number of them, are grateful for the wealth bestowed on them, and they want to share their largess in worthy causes.
If they are doing it merely as advertising, a simple cost-benefit analysis would show the same amount of money would yield more customers if spent on advertising.Marxism is simplistic. It reduces all the complexities of life into simple cartoony black-and-white issues. Capitalists look like Rich Uncle Pennybags from the Monopoly Game, and they are always badguys, but badguys with less personality than the average comic book villain. You do not even attribute to Uncle Pennybags the complex motivations of Magneto the Mutant. Goodguy are always poor, helpless, exploited victims, and never poor but honest laborers who understand the value of an honest day’s work, and are grateful for their wages.
Marxism is a world composed of two groups: Scrooge in a silk top hat and Tiny Tim in rags. There is no such thing as an honest hand, a good foreman, an honest boss, a self-made man, a guy who working in his basement invented something (like a computer operating system) that everyone wants, and which did not exist on the planet before him. Because the two groups that exist in Marxism do not exist in America, because we never see them or meet them, Marxism has never caught on here.
A Utopian Marxist think society can endure without specialization of labor, or the price system; unlike a Statist Marxist, (someone who has read and understood what Marx and Engels were really after) the Utopian believes the ballyhoo and hooey, and thinks one can run a nation without private ownership of property, private responsibilities, but also without coercion and without government. In real life, one cannot even run a factory on those terms; one might be able to run a lemonade stand, but only if a kindly mother provided the lemons and the stand.
Imagine two hundred men being dropped into the middle of Robinson Crusoe’s island. There are immediate tasks to be done and resourceson which human labor must be expended if any are to survive. Even if the men at first are tableau rasa, they will develop different useful skills in a short time: one man will angle for fish in the lagoon while another climbs trees for coconuts, and learn tricks of their trade that it simply takes too long to tell or teach another man. One man will discover a simpler way of doing tasks than another. One man will work harder than another. So each man’s skills will develop an area where, quite possibly, he will have something his neighbors want, and they will each have things he wants. In a rational and moral universe (under conditions of liberty) they trade, each swap being voluntary on both sides, and each gaining what that man in his own estimation, considers the best option given the circumstances.
Now imagine this band of two hundred trying to organize even a simple effort without government, without a tribal hetman, without private property, without laws, without even the unwritten laws or ‘taboos’ of hunter-gatherers. Who would clean up and bury the dung? Who digs the latrine?
Let us suppose they gather from all over the island (at great pains, the remote fishermen making the journey inland) an sit in a huge circle, all talking at once. Do they have a chairman? Do they vote? No, for these things would be freedom; instead, in Utopia, they come to a magical unity of priorities by magical means. Maybe the dialectic of history descends from heaven on a cloud in the shape of a dove or something. Let us suppose that ten of the two hundred men are members of some despised minority, cannibals or pederasts or Christian Evangelists or Jews. You cannot tell me the one hundred ninety will for some reason spare the Jews from hatred and contempt: if there is one constant in human history, it is that the goyim will always turn on the Chosen People whenever things are bad. How are our Two Hundred going to share everything in prelapsarian peace and love when they hate each other? You can work for a man you hate (people do that more often than not) because he pays a wage. You may not like the boss but you like the wage. But why would you share everything with a man you hate?
Let us make the hypothetical more interesting. There is lame man among them who knows how to nap flint into spearheads. In conditions of liberty, he can swap his flints, which are useful to the others, for food, which his lameness prevents him from getting without great pain and discomfort. Suppose the lame man makes an agreement with the fisherman to swap, and one cheats the other, what then? Do you have no way to enforce the exchanges? I would say without an elder or leader or chief to enforce a simple rule of keeping one’s word, even a tribe a tribe of honest men would soon disintegrate.
But in Utopia, what happens? Do you have officers called “sharers” who gather both flints and food and pass out each according to the (limited) information of the sharers? Even if they are not deliberately corrupt, how would they know who needs flints of various qualities and quantities and why? (I assume the paramours and children of the sharers get nicer things than the others.) Any one the sharer thinks unworthy of a fish or a yam that day, he goes hungry, even if he caught the fish. In that case, the state is the de facto owner of the man’s work: he is slave in all but name.
If two hundred is too small a number, if you think that the families involved could, by some effort of saintliness, cooperate without barter, and without laws or customs, without leaders, let us imagine scaling the operation up: imagine now a large island of two thousand men, or two hundred thousand, or two million. How do you gather for meetings then? How do you distribute the flints? How do you stop the cheaters and shirkers then?
Which man on the island would take the trouble to plant yams all spring, just to see his lazier neighbors descend on his fields like locusts that fall?
What if one man wants the whole community to build a fishing fleet of canoes and another wants the whole community to spend that same number of man-hours catching and domesticating wild sheep? In the communist paradise, where there is no leader, and no money and no market, how do the two men with two different (and mutually exclusive) ideas of what to do with the island’s resources decide the issue?
My reading of Marx does not answer this question. Marx says that the ideas and opinions of the islanders are molded by their means of production. If they live in primitive times, without tools, they have no means of production. How, then, are they conditioned?
Marx goes on to say that primitive tribal life creates and gives way to feudalism. So, if all these men are Marxists, the quickest way to go from primitive castaways to Socialism Paradise, would be to enter the feudal state as quickly as possible, isn’t it? The first thing real Marxists would do if stranded on an island is anoint a divine king, right? Or did I misunderstand the Marxist theory of how each historical stage evolves?
Indeed, the only societies in history that practiced anything like a community of goods were monks or religious zealots in the new world. The Utopian experimental communities always failed in a generation. The monkish orders, I note, are still around, but this is precisely because their motivation is to live in holy poverty, and to neglect and eschew the lovely traps and baited snares of the material world. I note that a materialist socialist, someone who says (as Marx does) that socialism is more productive and more efficient in industry than capitalism, would never join a society of monks. His motives are the opposite: he thinks dismantling the price system will make all goods free. This is no more realistic than the daydream that in the land of Cockaigne the fountains run with wine and apple pies will fall from the sky. We might as well admit that Marxism is a violent millennial religion: it promises that, once all the exploiters are sacrificed in blood on the altar of Envy, the clouds will part, the historical dialectic will descend, and the streets of New Jerusalem will be paved with gold. All our tears will be wiped away, and men bend their swords into ploughshares. There will be no night and no day, and the Glory of Marx will cover the earth as waters cover the sea.
No, Marxism is a daydream meant only for industrialized societies, where the products of the labor of hard-working men is already at hand to loot and to share. There is no provision in Marxism for investment, even so much as the investment of a farmer in his next year’s crop. You will not believe that anyone who calls himself an economist can make such a glaring, bone-headed, elephantine mistake: but there it is. In the communist system, there is no such thing as seedcorn; no investment; no capital; no division of goods according to their time value, such that we do not consume something now that we might get more of something later. There are no trade-offs. There is no talk of economizing. In the communist Utopia, there is no dis utility of labor and no price system and no barter. There is nothing but a wishful hope that everything will simply spontaneously be abundant. In short, there is no economics at all in DAS KAPITAL. It is not a book that deals with the topic of economics. It is religious tract of a failed and deadly heresy, the most murderous in history.
It has had its chance: tens of millions and thousands of millions of corpses piled up in stinking pyramids across the black pages of history attest to its chance. It has been tried. Utopia is not an option.
When real community spirit is present, such as in the minds of industrialists (like Carnegy) who give unstintingly to charity, a Marxism must scoff and slander their motives. But why assume this community spirit will somehow allow a society so large thatnot every members knows each other member by sight — something over 200 men — to cooperate in perfect unity of goals, means, and priorities?
To answer your question, the Northrop Grumman Foundation, which is the charitable arm of Northrop Grumman announced a grant of $100,000 to the 57th annual California State Science Fair; donated $300,000 to the Jamestown-Yorktown foundation; $125,000 to the San Diego Futures foundation, and on and on. This foundation donates annually $35,841,600 to various charitable causes.
How much of your income do you give to charity? If it is less than a tenth, you are not even as charitable and community spirited as your average Christian who tithes in secret.
My company just send around a notice telling us of blooddrives and children’s charities the employees can help out with. That was today, 7/29/08. Someone explain this to me in terms of the “Corporations are Heartless Dragons” theory. The theory does not fit the facts in evidence.