Sunday, June 05, 2005
Thoughts on socialism
For any country to function people must work. To manufacture anything, to grow anything work is an absolute necessity. There are really only 3 ways that people will work:
1. Voluntarily because of their personal beliefs.
2. By being paid.
3. By coercion.
Socialism in theory tries to get people to do the necessary work to run the country voluntarily out of the goodness of their hearts. In the real world very few people work like this, they prefer to do nothing and hope that others will take up the slack. In a socialist economy the profit motive is utterly disparaged, so this tends to leave coercion as being the only means of operating the country. The more systematically socialist a country becomes the more coercive it needs to be to merely survive. When the coercion is eased the country collapses. The Stasi, the Securitate, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, show trials and the like are not just examples of the bad outworking of a good idea, they are inherent in the idea itself.
Capitalism permits the profit motive, so it does not need the same level of state coercion to function. Capitalism's main problem is that its economic system provides no check on individual greed and selfishness.
This is not, however, as big a flaw as it first appears. Why, after all, should we be looking to economics to provide us with morality at all? Starting from a utopian vision of the economy and then working back to derive rules for our behaviour from that is bound to fail because the economy is just too big and difficult for us to comprehend.
To use a different analogy, everyone wants a theft free society. If we imagine how such a society would operate we would realise that it would have no need for locks. If we derived our societal rules from this utopian vision we could easily conclude that locks and anti-theft devices should be banned, after all they would be unnecessary in our theft free utopia. In our efforts to create a theft free society we would create a theives' paradise.
The true corrective to the forces of unrestrained capitalism is not to be found in any economic doctrine. Instead it is to be found in our Judaeo-Christian moral tradition. The restrictions that our moral senses have placed on individual behaviour are of considerably greater worth and value that the ever changing prescriptions of economists.
Two very interesting pieces, although I'm not sure I agree with all your contentions, particularly about Mrs T!
BTW the rash of illegal dumping in Zuglo at the end of last month that I noted on your blog was, as you correctly suggested, a spring cleaning session.
I had brought my parents to Hungary for the first time, so I had to repeatedly reassure them that the amounts of rubbish on the streets were abmormally high. They did have the treat of witnessing a couple of rather intoxicated men arguing over ownership of a bath that had been dumped, much more entertaining than the Vaci utca tourist zone I think....
Funny thing is that within a couple of days the streets are all sparkling again, well as sparkiling as they ever get here!