I’m wring another article which covers some of the same ground, but this came up today via some online discussion questions where I was asked the following (paraphrased):
You state that Communism is not when a bureaucracy controls the means of production, but when the workers control it. If that is the case, then how does a Communist society adjudicate a situation where two workers want to use the same resource for different purposes? The “capitalist” answer would be to determine which worker has the first claim to the resource. Today that means determining who paid for it or […] who grew or mined the product in question.
This seems to be the answer you associate with communism, but this is the very thing Marx believed […] would be replaced by social ownership of the means of production. This is why socialism […] inevitably leads to bureaucracy. If you are going to say that humanity’s natural propensity towards private property is unjust and must be replaced with something else, then you need some way to adjudicate such disputes according to whatever standards are set to replace the private ownership of the means of production.
Ok … So the first thing you might notice (which is actually quite common), is that this guy has absolutely no idea whatsoever what he’s talking about. He has no idea what capitalism communism & socialism are, nor indeed does it seem that he’s even paid any attention to the world he lives in … worse still: if you’d seen the comment he was responding to, you’d realise that he hadn’t bothered to read it properly, because – as those of you who read my blog will know – yes I do have such a system that does something similar to “adjudicating where resources should go”, and I’d actually posted a link to this blog with a nice big icon next to it that he couldn’t possibly miss (yet somehow did).
So let’s begin by first properly defining capitalism, communism & socialism.
Please note: these likely won’t be the definitions you’re used to, because those definitions are most likely bullshit; as with the principle of anarchy, many people mistakenly believe the meaning of anarchy to be synonymous with chaos, but this is not the case at all … anarchy merely means “without rulers”, but it does not necessarily mean “without rules” – so too, the terms capitalism communism & socialism are usually misinterpreted.
Capitalism is an economic paradigm. The word itself is a derivation of the word capital, which in economic terms can be loosely translated as “a productive asset”, which means capitalism is an economic paradigm in which productive assets are exploited for “profit” … and I put the term profit in quotation marks, because I find the capitalist economic usage of the term to be an oxymoron, ie – actions within this paradigm & their consequences are often anything but profitable.
Therefore: no matter who owns things, if you’re exploiting resources for a profit, you system is capitalist.
Communism IS NOT an economic paradigm. Communism is a sociopolitical paradigm with economic elements, and thus you could hypothetically have a hybrid communist-capitalist economic paradigm, which would simply be one in which the workers owned the means of production, and shared the wealth amongst themselves without having to share it with an “owner” of the business.
Therefore: no nation that you have ever known which was labelled “communist” was ever anything but communist in name … not the USSR, not China, not East Germany, nor North Korea … nor indeed are or were any of these strictly speaking socialist nations either.
If you have bureaucratic/political or military leaders who are telling you what to do, and who determine what you get from doing it … if these people get to take what they want from that production … then you live in some form of totalitarian dictatorship NOT communism, which is the antithesis of such.
Hence: no truly communist nation has ever existed outside of tribal nations.
Socialism is again NOT an economic paradigm, but a political one with some economic elements. Where communism is the principle of the workers owning the means of production, socialism is a community pooling resources and allocating them to the collective good … so again, if you’ve got one group of people dictating to everyone else where things should be allocated, this is only socialism from their perspective, and if the majority of people disagree or have to be brainwashed into agreeing, then it hardly counts as socialism, and is again more aptly described as some kind of totalitarian dictatorship. Also: if you’re in a capitalist economy where you pool collective resources for the common good, then you may be in a hybrid socialist-capitalist economy.
Social ownership of ALL resources IS NOT a defining characteristic of socialism. Socialism is ANY system in which ANY communal resources are pooled for collective benefit, but this does not necessarily equate to ALL resources being collectively owned (that is merely one of an infinite number of possible interpretations), nor does it necessarily imply some kind of bureaucratic hierarchy deciding what to do with them.
Does all this mean true communism & socialism are only possible in a hunter gatherer society? No, of course not … I’m just saying that since they don’t use money, and since no one is the boss enslaving anyone else for profit, therefore they’re arguably pretty close to an example of pure communism and socialism … but only one of possibly infinite such examples.
Now on to his questions …
How does a communist economy adjudicate a dispute over resource allocation?
I could propose an answer to this question, and which may or may not work … then I could propose another possible solution, and another, and another, ad infinitum … and then an infinite number of other people could also propose whatever solutions they could think of, and which may or may not work in each case – and to whatever degree – based on the specific variables of the precise implementation of communism to which they’re being applied.
So arguably there’s no point doing so. Communism doesn’t dictate how you implement it, as it’s just a general sociopolitical philosophy not a specific economic system.
Communism has foundational principles which you cannot break or contradict, if you wish to call your system “communist” – in anything but name – and those principles are the ones Karl Marx wrote about (but not necessarily including his entire proposed implementation, which was specific to his circumstances, and I would argue also flawed according to his very own principles) … so calling something communist by name or label, is in no regard a defining characteristic of what it means to be communist. To be communist, the workers must own the means of production without some kind of boss/owner having power over them.
However the questioner’s subsequent characterisation of capitalism that states:
“The capitalist answer would be to determine which worker has the first claim to the resource. Today that means determining who paid for it or […] who grew or mined the product in question”
… is completely fallacious in every regard.
First of all capitalism does no such thing. Capitalism does not work on the basis of who has first claim, nor does it necessarily give anything on the basis of who did the work. This is the liberal romanticised view of capitalism, not what actually happens. In fact capitalism is perfectly ok with modern day slavery, there is not a single thing about slavery which prevents it being quite correctly called capitalist economics; the fact that slavery is an injustice doesn’t enter the equation.
Under capitalism, the strongest claim relative to any opposition gets the resource, as it is a wholly adversarial & competitive system. It is a system where the economically, militarily and politically strong may dominate, exploit and steal from the weak; unless there’s enough resources to fund a successful opposition to that theft (via diplomatic, legal, military or economic conflict/negotiations), the strong will get away with it … and they will get away with it REGARDLESS of the ecological economic technical and social consequences of doing so.
At no stage during any such injustices does this system cease being capitalist in nature, it has merely gravitated to the totalitarian dictatorship end of the sociopolitical spectrum aligned with the capitalist economic paradigm.
Final debunking of his closing statements:
So the thing that capitalism doesn’t do, that is central to what communism is about, is then claimed to need replacement, because he has falsely asserted that something fundamentally communist in nature – and diametrically opposed to how capitalism works – is somehow more so the province of capitalism. To which I say “bullshit”.
So we don’t need to answer this, as it is nonsense.
Then he uses this nonsense to suggest that communism / socialism become inherently bureaucratic … but as I pointed out, not only is he beginning with false assumptions, but he’s also assuming that communism and socialism can only be implemented in ways that his limited imagination can muster, all of which are based upon his mistaken understanding of what these things are, and from historical examples that were not actually examples of them anyway.
So again this is nonsense that we do not need to answer.
Flaws of the Capitalist Paradigm:
So why is the property/trade/currency-based economic paradigm of capitalism so flawed?
Well … there’s a few reasons, two of the main ones being:
- Resources have rights;
- Currency & trade are information-dumb.
Resources Have Rights:
What this economic paradigm does, is to motivate you to go and exploit “resources”.
So what are resources?
- The ideas & skills of another person;
- The labour of another person;
- The labour of another sentient creature;
- The life &/or flesh of another sentient creature;
- The non-living components of ecosystems which provide ecological services to species of that ecosystem;
- The diversion of the aforementioned ecological services from the non-living aspects of ecosystems;
… and nothing about this system requires you to exploit them in any way ethically, fairly or sustainably.
Apologists will claim this occurs via “invisible market forces”; but history, pollution, slavery, poverty, homelessness and the species extinction rate (amongst a great many other things), tells us this is more bullshit.
So when you exploit another creature it experiences that exploitation directly, and when you exploit a resource from its ecosystem, it experiences the consequences of that exploitation indirectly, even if you otherwise leave it alone.
Now, this economic system also basically motivates you via the principle that:
- It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as there is demand for your output, the more resources you can exploit in the shortest time, at the greatest price and while taking the least possible responsibility for the costs of any ecological and social consequences of your actions, will result in the highest “profit”.
So if you don’t now see why I call this usage of the term “profit” an oxymoron, well there’s not much hope for you.
You’re out there either exploiting or being exploited, with complete disregard to consequences … or you’ve gotta opt out of society to avoid it, unless you were born to wealth or by pure luck can buy your way out.
THUS: Resources have rights, but you’re economically motivated to ignore those rights.
Currency & Trade are Information-dumb:
Currency and trade are devoid of any information which can ever help to prevent and discourage ecological and social harm. Currency knows only its serial number (for notes), year of minting (coins), and face artwork (I don’t use the term “face value” as this is another laughable oxymoron). Therefore: they are information-dumb.
Without any information built into the currency … which is solved to some degree by the programmability of cryptocurrency, but not enough to create a truly Ecologically & Socially Friendly & Sustainable civilisation, because it doesn’t actually remove the flaws of behavioural motivation … ie – a cryptocurrency is still a currency, so unless the person you’re trading with has an expectation that you declare & take responsibility for all ecological & social consequences of your actions in delivering your part of the bargain (and a system to do so) … there’s nothing at all motivating any change … if you can pretend to take responsibility in that cryptocurrency scenario (but don’t actually do it), the cryptocurrency will still reward you, just like any other dumb currency.
- Currency has no way of knowing what you did;
- It motivates you to be dishonest about what you did;
- It doesn’t motivate or support others enough to catch you in that dishonesty;
- It can be stolen or lost or defrauded (scammed) from you;
- The currency “value” of a trade can be completely unfair, and utterly fail to represent the efforts made.
Basically, there aren’t many ways in which currency isn’t wholly and fundamentally flawed.
Even if you remove the corruption of the monetary system, a great many flaws still remain, and those flaws motivate the rebirth of the very corruption you just got rid of.
Open Empire is more than a sociopolitical philosophy and more than just an economic paradigm … it is:
- An Organisation: representation of the interests of the living & non-living elements of the ecosystems of Earth, in systems of non-species-biased, non-property/trade/currency-based & non-hierarchical (aka anarchic) law economics & politics;
- A Platform/Framework: a Project Collaboration Development & Resource Allocation Framework;
- A Set of Principles: for the quantification of consequences in terms of Ecological & Social Justice & Sustainability, based on Ecological Systems Modelling & Thermodynamics;
There’s no property, so it’s nothing like capitalism. All “resources” (including humans, rocks, wind and ideas) are also beneficiaries of the Open Empire Trust. You don’t own things, even though you might create them, nor does the Trust own them. You “own” yourself, the rock “owns” itself, as does the tree, squid, idea, wind, or pubic hair on your bottom … ie – the concept of property is redundant. Anything you’re using is simply entrusted to you … and you’re responsible for it – responsible for the thermodynamically quantifiable changes in its state, and responsible for the consequences (both good and bad) of what it is used for while it is entrusted to you.
If you’re using something, and that item is in scarce supply, and someone else wants to use it, but you don’t want to relinquish it, here’s how things play out:
- If the person who wants it has any sense, they’ll put together a detailed explanation of what they want it for, what the benefits of that usage are, and try to talk you into allowing them to use it for that purpose;
- If there’s any interest on your part, you’ll probably check out how relinquishing your own usage constitutes a sacrifice-investment – in terms of what you’re losing the ability to do with that thing, and what consequences that entails including perhaps trying to replace it – towards allowing that alternative activity to take place;
- If the benefits of the new activity are great, and if your sacrifice is also great but not so painful as to prevent consideration of such a sacrifice, and if you have a need of access to some scarce resources yourself, for which this sacrifice would constitute significant merit towards that future allocation of scarce resources … then you might well consider it and say yes;
- If however you say no, and that person tried to forcibly take it from you, they would be responsible for not only the loss you experience, but also for any damages and upset resulting from this … not only from you, but from everyone else who ends up engaged in the dispute even indirectly.
So without any authoritarian control at all, this person who tries to “steal” an entrusted resource, is basically destroying their own statistics, and thus not motivated to do so – except in perhaps some very extreme cases – as whatever purpose they put this resource towards, it’s unlikely to be of such great benefit as to make up for the damage done, so they’re reducing rather than improving their probability of future access to scarce resources. It would have made far more sense to find the person who produces that resource, and ask them to make another, show that person the case for why such production is going to be beneficial (which they share in credit for by producing said resource), and perhaps to ask them to teach how to make the same resource, so that in future there’s less scarcity of it – which is an immensely valuable action because every time you produce one, you become partially responsible for everything anyone else ever does with it … plus, if you can learn how to make something that is scarce, you take pressure off the person who already knows, whom instead of working himself to the bone for decades producing such items for profit in order to retire, now only wants to do as much of it as is actually pleasurable & interesting, so they’d likely be delighted to show you how.
THEREFORE ALSO: as I hope you can see, this system does the opposite of capitalism and promotes sharing and usage of information rather than hoarding … because all you have to do is acknowledge that someone shared information with you, and you both benefit without cost other than time & resources required to impart such knowledge.
The property/trade/currency-based economic paradigm of capitalism has had several millennia in various forms, and has constantly gotten things horribly wrong. It is a set of principles that do not work once a species reaches technological evolution, and which arguably isn’t that great beforehand either. Once technology is reached, the population explodes due to industrialised agriculture, and the system begins its ever accelerating collapse, which we are now in the final phases of. A single planet can never handle this, even if you ignore all the social injustice and species exploitation it produces.
I’d say that Open Empire was almost synonymous with communism, except that the workers only own themselves as part of the means of production, because no one owns anything & property is now redundant … but in terms of consequences, the outcome is congruent if not the same.
In Open Empire, anyone or anything that is involved in a production process … including your parents for raiding feeding & educating you, the people who worked to supply the power, the teachers who educated you as a child, the machine that did the work, the human that designed and built the machine, the human that transported the machine to where it is used, and the humans that maintain & operate the machine … all of these are proportionally responsible for some part of the input, however tiny .. so in that sense, yes the workers own & share the means and output of their productive efforts.
In the respect that all resources are accounted for, and that the system provides an advisory of which resource allocations have the best ecological & social consequences, then it motivates people to choose the best allocation (by making them take responsibility for their actions and decisions) … yes Open Empire is in that regard a socialist system.
The Open Empire Foundation itself is a unique form of hybrid Non For Profit (NFP) Trust, similar to but fundamentally different from the existing NFPs and legal Trusts you’ll be familiar with. It is in its own jurisdiction a legal entity and a beneficiary of itself, and it holds in Trust for the benefit of its beneficiaries, the resources of Earth WHICH ARE its beneficiaries … so in which respect, it is entrusted with motivating us to do our best for ourselves and each other, by way of quantification of the consequences of resource allocation and other interactions.
So here’s what we’ve learned (if you’re new to all this):
- You probably didn’t know what anarchy really was;
- You’ve never seen communism and didn’t really know what it was;
- You’ve only seen little bits of corrupted socialism & thought it was something else;
- Your precious capitalism is an absolutely stupid psychotic fundamentally flawed and dysfunctional monster;
- Anarchy just means BEING FREE;
- Communism means contributing & sharing;
- Socialism means collaborating & caring;
- Neither communism nor socialism has anything to do with dictatorship;
- Capitalism IS a form of dictatorship;
- Capitalism causes social injustice and ecological damage;
- Open Empire creates, combines and encourages the best aspects of everything;
- Open Empire reduces, removes and discourages the worst aspects of everything;
- Open Empire is non-hierarchical (aka anarchic), communistic, socialistic, humanistic, and non-species-biased;
- Open Empire is a Framework of systems, strategies and structures.