Socialism’s needy and lasting appeal
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We live perfectly socialistically. It’s simply not true that it can’t be done. Or that it doesn’t work. It actually works rather well.
No one is complaining. Well, not much. And everyone gets fed.
We have no property rights, no prices, no market, no profit and no loss. No one is getting rich but no one is missing out.
It’s “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”
Baby Grace is the neediest. Mum’s got the ability to feed her. Little Liberty is demanding … I give her just about everything she wants.
We understand socialism in our household. We are driven by needs and fairness. Willingness to pay has nothing to do with it.
That it works shouldn’t be a surprise. Socialism has been the way of life for most human history. The hunter-gatherer band was an extended family of 30-40. That’s how we evolved.
We walked an evolutionary tightrope balancing selfishness and selflessness. We are here today because our hunter-gatherer ancestors successfully mated and their offspring survived because our ancestors belonged to a successful band.
Successful group living meant evolving rules for communal living. Not everyone hunted. Some stayed behind to look after the children and guard the women. There was a primitive division of labour.
But how to decide who got what? The hunter-gatherer rule is to “share and share alike”. Humans have lived socialistically for 99.5% of our evolutionary history.
Language developed. The ability to think and converse symbolically.
Property was recognised and bands began to trade. The division of labour no longer occurred just within the group. It extended to people we didn’t know.
Trade exploded and the division of labour it enabled allowed us to prosper beyond anyone’s imagination. We now work with and depend on millions of people we have never meet and could never, ever know.
Our interaction is anonymous and distant. We don’t agree on means or ends. We don’t even discuss it. We can’t. We have no overall plan.
Agree on basic rules
But we agree on basic rules. We recognise property rights, contracts and we trade. That’s enough. The price mechanism invisibly mobilises and organises the world.
And that’s the problem, really. We don’t see it. It’s faceless and lacks humanness.
Deep within us is the call of the family and the group. We want to plan, co-ordinate, discuss and agree. The market doesn’t allow us to. Our desires and wants are signalled by the price mechanism that then invisibly motivates and organises.
The result is a tension between living now in our families, and historically in the group, and living, today, in the big wide, faceless and soulless world.
That primitive yearning is the one politicians feed. It’s why we love government. It’s Dad, Big Chief and Momma, all rolled into one.
The impulse for government action is atavistic. It’s a need deep within us harking back to when we lived primitively in a small family group, able to plan and to agree on what we were to do.
To live free, and to prosper, we must live anonymously in the larger group bound together by abstract rules, not agreed plans or plans handed down from on high.
The appeal of socialism, fascism and communism is the appeal from our evolutionary past. There’s nothing progressive about them.
The opposition to capitalism is the primitive’s fear of what he doesn’t understand.
We can live socialistically but only in the small group where everyone is known and division of labour and sharing of resources can be agreed. And where there is dispute, Mum and Dad rule despotically.