From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
- Karl Marx
This most famous statement by Karl Marx tells us of the most fair, just and equitable political and economic system on the earth: Communism.
Yes. I said it. Communism is the best political, economic and social system on the earth - on paper only.
Communism isn't a new idea, or maybe we should say communal Utopian societies aren't a modern idea. Early Christians practiced a form of it when they held "all things [in] common" (Acts 2:34).
Thomas More wrote of a land that didn't exist, but was perfect in its social, political and economic systems. The Pilgrims, when they landed in the New World, practiced a form of communism. Brookfarm, Fruitland, the Shakers, Oneida, the Mormon "United Order," and the Equity Colony are all examples of trying to live socialist, communal lives. All failed.
Not only have those attempts failed to deliver decent lives to their participants, but so has the Soviet model of communism, as has the North Korean, Cuban, Venezuelan and others that continue to limp along in dictatorship and poverty. It doesn't take much to see that socialist and communist states do not last very long and ruin the lives of those unfortunates trapped within. This isn't theory, this is just plain old history.
So why do these types of government and social systems fail? Aren't they supposed to be more fair, more just, more equitable? Isn't everyone supposed to be working towards the common good? If we're all working together, how can we fail?
Because we're human beings. It's where theory conflicts with practice. Combine communist (or socialist) theory with actual human behavior and you have failure. We've written about this in Scragged before in the Confucian Cycle series.
It's so easy to see why the systems fail: Just observe children on a playground. Observe humans in a group.
Some children follow, others lead. Some bully, some will be clowns. Some just sit by themselves. Some want to play, but don't have the ability to play well, so they're ignored. Some are obsessed with winning. Some just want to have fun. A few strange children won't go out to play at all.
That is, each child is different. Each one is motivated by different things. No two are alike. And we don't change when we're adults.
Of course, I'm stating the obvious, but it's this very obvious point that we all miss. Some people want power. Some people are bullies. Some people have desire and drive, others are just plain lazy. Some are content with a little and others are never content. Some like blue and some like green.
As a result, each individual is going to go after his or her own self-interest. This is human nature. Self-interests can sometimes conflict. Sometimes they can be mutually beneficial. But they will always be there.
That's why communist societies fail: human nature. There will always be those who want power. There will always be those who are lazy. There will always be those who want more than others. There will always be those who try to exploit others. There are always those who would rather take than give. Communism and socialism encourage self-centered types of behaviors because there are no natural mechanisms to correct them.
Some people are greedy. Greedy for power, for wealth, for all sorts of things. Greedy people with the authority of government behind them are dangerous.
Again, not theory, but lessons learned from history. The Bolsheviks, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, Kim Jong Ill, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Saddam Hussein populate a short list of modern horrors. Let us remember the stark contrast between partially socialist West Germany and wholly communist East Germany when the Wall fell. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10:
Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.
A democracy cannot permanently be any better than the desires of a majority of its voters, either:
That the desires of the majority of the people are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority, is demonstrated by every page of the history of the whole world.
- John Adams
What about peaceful socialist Europe? Violent communism draws strength from physical power. Peaceful socialism loses strength through moral decay.
Slowly, and over time, people come to expect "government" to provide more and more. As the pool of those who are willing to work grows ever smaller the pool of those who are eager to live off someone else's labor grows ever larger. As the fiscal load increases taxes increase sucking capital out of the system until the economy grinds to a halt.
Europe has had decades of high unemployment because too many would rather take out than put in.
Not only does socialism destroy the fiscal health of a nation, but it destroys its moral health. All things become equal. All cultural aspects must be treated equally - since all things are "held common." This allows, no, requires, that a nation accept Islamic law and traditions of immigrants: the postmodernists of Europe lack moral authority to say that all cultural traditions are not equally valid.
If a man can marry a man, why cannot a man marry a woman and another woman, or a horse? If it's OK to create, publish and celebrate pornography, then why is not equally valid to celebrate the various teachings of the Koran? When you lose the ability to say one thing is wrong for society you lose the ability to say anything is wrong.
Property rights must be destroyed in a socialist society. Your labor is not yours, but properly to be shared with fellow citizens. A noble idea, but what happens when fellow citizens wish to appropriate your labor for that which you disagree?
There's a joke told about democracy being three foxes and a chicken voting about lunch. Socialism institutionalizes the power of the foxes to eat the chickens. Government decides where and what you should do to benefit society.
History teaches us that in these systems resources are the most inefficiently allocated. Some, at the top, live in luxury and have what they want. The rest slowly descend into poverty.
The primary difference between religious attempts at communal societies where all is "held common" is that the religious societies recognize that human nature is the fundamental problem, not the social-political system: people need individual reformation. Individuals needed to change their own hearts and minds to look to others.
These religious systems were voluntary, and they failed, too. It is very difficult to change fundamental human behavior. It is even difficult to change it when you want to change yourself.
That is where our Constitution shines. The Founding Fathers understood human behavior and created a system of government that exploited it.
We have a federal government of three separate but equal branches. The system was designed to check itself. It was designed to limit power, not increase it.
The Constitution was written in such a way as to not grant government more power than absolutely necessary. It was designed to accommodate not only self-interest, but selfishness, ambition and other such traits as a way of limiting government's infringements upon our freedom.
Federalist Paper No. 51 discusses this idea at length, it's worth reading in detail.
Over the course of the last 100 years, with the last 80 years in particular, we've seen the Constitution disregarded. We've seen it changed to allow government to have power it shouldn't (the 16th and 17th amendments are the most egregious examples of this). We've seen the Supreme Court disregard it when ruling from the bench (Wickard v. Filburn, Roe v. Wade, Kelo v. New London to name a few).
We've seen the executive branch create law with neither the courts or Congress objecting. We've seen Congress abdicate their lawmaking responsibility to executive branch departments. We've seen government grow as the various branches have colluded to increase their power and authority.
Worse, we've seen them make promises of largess from the public coffers to the people in order to stay in power. Incrementally, our country has gone from the independent man to the man with his hand out. Not only with his hand out but with the audacity to feel he is owed the fruit of someone else's labor simply because he perceives that he desires it. The poor are attempting to make slaves of the rich.
John Adams said "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Communism and socialism destroy the morality and religiousness of a society. When the morality of a society is destroyed, so is the society.
Adams also said "Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either [aristocracy or monarchy]. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide."
Today we have a choice. To go against our natural tendency to do as little as possible for as much as possible and restore the government to functioning under the Constitution, or we can stand by, even participating in our democracy's suicidal spiral.