Tuesday, August 4, 2009

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need

According the author of this blog title, Karl Marx, every person should contribute to the society they live in to the best of his ability. Everyone should consume FROM that society only what he needs (not in proportion to his contribution.)

That doesn't sound bad. Communism is deceptively attractive to the people in any society who feel "left out"; who feel they never seem to be getting a piece of the pie. It is easy to look for quick fixes. It is easy to blame others for your own failures or for where you are in your life.

The French communist Morelly wrote 'way back in 1755:

"I. Nothing in society will belong to anyone, either as a personal possession or as capital goods, except the things for which the person has immediate use, for either his needs, his pleasures, or his daily work.
II. Every citizen will be a public man, sustained by, supported by, and occupied at the public expense.
III. Every citizen will make his particular contribution to the activities of the community according to his capacity, his talent and his age; it is on this basis that his duties will be determined, in conformity with the distributive laws."

Even the New Testament seems to teach the validity of the above concept.

"32. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
33. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
34. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35. And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."

The above is, of course, at the heart and soul of socialism, or, more specifically, Communism. The title to this post, in fact, is probably the most famous quote that ever came out of Karl Marx' mouth.

And yet, through the years, we have seen there is something lacking in this seemingly utopian prospect of how people should live and interact with one another.

If you understand what that ingredient is that is missing from the communist credo, then you at the same time will understand why the United States of America, until recent history, has been a consistent producer of excellence rather than mediocrity throughout its relatively short history. Western Europe, Notably England and Germany, too.

Have you ever noticed how some theories look very good and reasonable on paper and sound very good in speeches, but when they are tried out in real life they just don't produce the expected end result? This is because something has been overlooked in the formula.

I ask you to take a look at two neighbors: North Korea and China. The one has a history of determined text book communism and the other has had a recent epiphany and no longer follows the road of intransigent subjugation of the personal spirit. I never thought I would say that of "Communist Red China" but it is true today.

China has discovered what the USA discovered in its early beginnings. But China has the advantage of knowing the mistakes the USA made along the way.

At the same time China is going through the birth pangs of a vibrant new future - surely within just a few generations from being the new leader of the world - at the same time we see the USA forgetting the thing that caused its own greatness.

Also ironically, the fall of the USA is due to its abandonment of what it once knew and practiced so well, and its not-so-slow conversion to the silly, always-failed, past forays into socialism. The USA is a little behind its European counterparts in this foolish slide into socialism, but catching up fast.


  1. The oversight in the formula must be motivation, wouldn't you say? Where is the motivation to excel? On the other hand you do have to provide for those who have no hope of providing for themselves. No system is going to be perfect so it has to be a case of balance.

  2. I think A is right. I'm glad she said it, because I sort of knew but couldn't call up the word. It's early.

  3. There is more than one problem with communism in practice. One is that it is too idealistic. It offers people what they "need" but people don't just want what they need. In fact, they often want all they can get. The ones willing to settle for just what they need will often find that what they need gets squeezed to fill the coffers of those that demand (and get) more. This hardly leads to reasonable distribution of wealth.

    It also falls apart because the mechanism to ensure proper distribution is people and people are greedy. Not only is the temptation to work for one's own benefit almost irresistable for many (if not all), but the power over others that follows with it is equally heady. Few (if any people) have the selflessness, wisdom and acumen to judge the needs of others. And those that do are least likely to rise to the top (where decisions on resources are frequently made) because to do so requires some interest in obtaining power. The conundrum: the only ones who want the job are those least qualified to take it.

    There are, of course, other problems as well.

    Unfortunately, capitalism isn't not immune from these same problems either. Only here, we call rampant greed "brilliance" and confuse it with merit.

    I don't think any system is perfect, is effective as a pure system (assuming one could find one in reality to use as an example). Nothing has to be all or nothing and, in reality, nothing is. It's not binary on/off.

    Most of the regimes that call themselves "communist" are really totalitarian regimes using the illusion of "power of the people" (and often vicious brute force) to control. The are no more communist governments than Kansas is.

    There were elements of socialism in our very first governments (designed to "provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty") in this country.

    I think I see where you're going, but I don't think I'm with you in getting there.

  4. My honest feeling? I suspect that your countries' "forays into socialism" are the only things that may possibly save it from itself. Just a hunch though.

    ps - also agree with A. re: motivation.

  5. I can't believe I am saying this, but I actually tend to agree with canucklehead... I just can't deny it, sorry.

  6. Well, I am a believer in the right amount of socialism, as I have said before. I don't believe we should just let the poor roll over and die, for goodness sake. But I think the danger of too much socialism is that you end up like a little worker bee with no soul or hopes or dreams.

    I believe rewarding excellence produces more excellence. So I am against communism. I believe in equal opportunity, but reward in proportion to ones actual value. Maybe values is the wrong word. So we will differ there, I'm sure. More on that in future posts.

  7. @A. - Motivation. Incentive. Yes. It is hard to give your all and work your best when your only reward is knowing someone who is not really working is being fed by your labor. That gets old quickly. But if everyone does just a LITTlE bit of that free labor, then the poor get taken care of.

    @Janet - It's not early. :)

    @Stephanie B - Wow. That was pretty thoughtful.

    Of course I disagree with you that distribution of wealth needs to be "reasonable" or "fair" by your definition. Or by the government's definition. (Unless you live in communist state. Then of course you are right.) To me, "fair" means what you've earned. Sorry. And I DAMN sure don't believe in REdistribution of wealth. But you knew that about me, I'll bet. :)

    I hasten to add that everyone deserves the necessities of life, and we should all contribute to making that come about. Government, I suppose, is useful in MAKING us do that. It probably wouldn't get done voluntarily.

    Of course pure capitalism isn't the answer. What a thought! ::shudder:: I will admit a teaspoon of socialism is needed. Not 10 gallons, though

    I also think totalitarianism is necessary for communism to work even a little bit. That's why there is always a dictator. People won't live under that system very long unless forced to do so. That's my point. Take away the dictator and the people run for freedom. I mean, if the old system was communism. I've never seen communism tried without a totalitarian government, and I don't believe it will ever happen.

    That sort of is my whole point here, Stephanie B, that it is simply not the "nature" of our species to be constantly under the yoke of government and always suppress our individualism. Of course, having a national health care program is hardly the same as "being under the yoke of government".

    What is it you REALLY believe? That big government is the ultimate answer? Do you know? You are arguing both sides of the question here, in case you haven't noticed. That is shockingly close to MY belief that a little of both is needed, so watch out. :) :)

  8. And I'm not sure where this is going, actually. I just have an uneasy feeling we may not be on the right road anymore. Or maybe we have just changed our destination. That happens, as generations pass.

  9. @Canucklehead - "Save it from itself"?????

    Maybe. But I can't see how lumbering drunkenly down a path littered with socialistic bear traps is going to "save" us. But I'm always aware I may be wrong. I respect your thoughts. (Another example of what an idiot I am.) :) :)

    @Caroline. Sigh. CarolineCarolineCaroline.



    You, I will listen to. So you better be right.

  10. @Stephanie B - Why am I not surprised?

    People, people, people. Can't we just all get along?

    (Is that copyrighted by Rodney King?)

  11. I guess some of the hippies of the late 1960s tried communism. But when they got fed up they just wandered off the commune. They needed a dictator.

    Israel tried it without a dictator. But it sort of fizzled when the wide-eyed jewish American love children stopped thinking it was cool to work in the dirt. So. Kibbitz? Is that what they called the communes in Israel? No, "Kibbutz". Heh.

  12. It was 8 am when I read it. For me that's early. I'm not intelligent until after 10.

  13. Janet, I think everything you write is intelligent, regardless of what time it is.

  14. Teahouse of The August Moon is one of my favorite films, despite the fact that Marlon Brando didn't quite make the cut as a Japanese peasant. It's the story of how Communism saves the day-one for all and all for everyone.

    I tend to think that the trouble with the world is that we have a few billion too many people running around. But then, I have no interest in standing at the head of the line to correct the problem.

    I have never liked the idea that The Government should take of those that can't take care of themselves. I tend to view the Decline of America as starting during the FDR years and really getting a boost during the LBJ years.

  15. There are entirely too many ism's for anyone. How about lazyism, greedism, povertyism, I know I don't make much sense but then what does? What country is run the best way for the people? Is there one? I don't think there is. China in my mind has a long way to go to make a perfect country, especially to the female's and anyone else who disagrees. Why don't I just end this by saying, Hi Tom!

  16. Relax Max, did you assume I was a communist? I'm not. Communistic concepts can work on a very small scale - see a number of primitive cultures that have pulled off effective communism, but generally not in a group larger than fifty or so - communes as it were.

    But I think the system is worthless on a large scale because they are completely dependent on a total benevolent government without providing the means to make it. No balance=failure.

    No system that must sacrifice the truth to "succeed" gets points from me.

    I don't want total socialism; I agree a mix is best. I suspect the difference isn't that we don't think a mix is best; it's that we won't agree on the proportions.

    I think, in this world of communication and international commerce, that state governments having as much power as they used to have (and the agrarian model that is almost entirely invalid today, was a big part of that - as valid as apply communism on a large scale in my opinion) has outlived its usefulness.

    I want people to be treated reasonably and humanely, that the government should be part of the process to make sure that happens - but, if I think that, that process should not vary from state to state, from location to location. I should get as good an education in rural Michigan as I do in Portland Oregon, and vice versa, for example. That is why I tend to favor federal control over local control. And, yeah, I include health care in that.

    In my opinion.

  17. @Descartes - I remember one time we were discussing alternative history. What might have happened if so and so had happened differently. How might our lives be different.

    When I think of that, one of the things I immediately think of is "What if JFK hadn't been assassinated?" And the reason I think that is not so much what he may have been able to accomplish, but that if he had lived JBJ would never have become president. We owe that to Lee Harvey Oswald too.

    When you ask the question of who was the worst president in history, many people automatically assume Jimmy Carter. Those people don't remember LBJ.

    I can't wait to hear about the greatness of the voting rights act. Let 'er rip.

  18. @Ettarose - Hi, Ettarose. :)

    @Stephanie B - It never occurred to me that you might be a communist. None of my business anyway. You just believe that everyone should get what they need and not have more than they need. And the government is the one to enforce it.

    I even respect your opinion that the 10th amendment is a bad idea, although I don't agree with you.

    You SHOULD be made aware that rural Michigan students get a HELL of a lot better education than students in Portland city schools. At least they are given all sides of an issue to think about and not brainwashed into one philosophy. So that much is coming to pass. We still have the rest to work on though.

    Big government is not the answer. And uniformity doesn't guarantee much but mediocrity - everyone is the same and get the same. That is always our main point of disagreement. But we have one thing in common, and that is I also want to have a safety net for those who are not making it.

  19. "You just believe that everyone should get what they need and not have more than they need." Do I? Where did I say so? Interesting notion because I don't think I think or said that.

    It isn't just the liberal parts of the country that get a limited education. I went to ten different schools in eight states growing up.

    And I think you're wrong on your points. I will concede that big government may not be the way to do it. But state government hasn't impressed me either.

  20. @Stephanie B - Well, you did say it. But it was in a comment on another post, so I suppose it shouldn't be allowed as evidence. As I recall, what you said was that if a person made $17K a year, that was ok, but if he took in $370M a year that would be outrageous (by your personal standards) and therefore the extra part should be fair game for the rest of us to feed upon. Or something like that.

    As for education, I realize my remark was influenced by my (probably arrogant) attitude that the NW Seaboard from Seattle down to below San Francisco is inhabited by a special breed of unusual people, and I shouldn't have inferred that because although I do think that colors the type of education their children get, my main intent was to defend rural Michigan (or Ohio or Iowa or you name it) schools, because those schools are and have always been the very best our nation has to offer, both in beautiful campuses and up-to-date facilities, and in the very best and brightest teachers who just don't want to live or teach in cities. So I DO apologize for the Portland inference. Sometimes I can't stop myself and I look foolish. Not often.

    And I will hear about it from other quarters, so no need to pile on just yet. :)

  21. Max... are you making up for your short(er) blogs with long(er) comments?

    Just wondering :)

  22. To be honest, I've never been to school in Portland, Michigan, or the Hamptons. However, I have been to school in rural OK, rural and urban MD, in urban and rural WA (desert side), rural and urban UT, and urban NV. The caliber and quality of the different educational opportunities between those different locale were so significant, well, it boggles the mind.

    I might also add that I never learned any political dogma at any of those schools, at least not that I can recall. I do feel that a school system that eschews evolution for creative creationism (or whatever they call it these days) gets a black mark and that was (and perhaps still is true) of many schools in the midwest.

    My sister used to teach in Kansas.

  23. Caroline, I think you are right. I had intentions to be briefer in both posts and comments. I am having trouble living up to that. I guess I will just have to learn to let things go. I'm glad you are being patient. More or less. I will try harder to put my book writing in books. :)

  24. I love your long comments by the way, but as you know, I also love to tease puppies.

  25. Stephanie B, I don't know about the rural schools in western mountain states. If they are like the state I live in, then the resources are stretched pretty thin with the low populations and the distances between towns. I don't know about Oklahoma either, although it seems it should be better. I was defending the Midwest, where population is sufficient and towns are close together. VERY good schools. I'm guessing MD was too. You were an Army brat? That's a lot of schools. Or maybe another reason. Like nobody wanted you. Kidding. :) Kansas, I don't know. My older sister and family lived there once, though she was no longer teaching. I got the impression of flat land, endless cornfields, and quiet desperation from the schoolkids. Can't prove that. No political dogma? Of course you did. Kids absorb without really thinking about it. But I doubt if it sticks - kids don't really care about politics. I think you are xxxx xx xxxx quite mistaken about creationism being taught in the Midwest. If you don't mind my opinion. They are not backward at all. Your stereotyping is resented. Please write that down. :) I have never seen the reason to teach anything that nobody really can prove one way or the other. The biology books are just fine without throwing in theory. Any theory. I don't know how we got here and you don't either. Or perhaps you do. :)

    I choose to eschew both. As well as big government.

  26. No, this is not just a ploy to get out of answering your comments.

  27. That would be Shakespeare? In Kansas?

    Stephanie B, I have come to a decision not to be arrogant with you any more. Sorry. I will accept that our thinking is simply incompatible on many points, and try to find common ground.


  28. @Caroline - So true. But thank you anyway. I think.

  29. Well, poo, my long comment was eaten.

    Yes, Shakespeare, who was teaching only at the college level (she was getting her Ph.D.).

    See, I think of Kansas and surrounds as "midwest" but midwest includes the Great Lakes as well. I'd have been better to specify "Bible Belt" which means it includes the backward states of OK and Texas, too.

    And evolution is part of biology since it's in action right now (not just our origins but how species change over time - just as they are now). It's scientifically demonstrable and belongs in a science class.

  30. I never said that people shouldn't have more than they need - just that everyone should have what they need first. You extrapolated.

    I don't expect you to agree with me.



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