A sculpture of Karl Marx, the father of communism.
Economics,  Politics

Communism vs. Human Nature

 

Karl Marx desired only to share his ideas – his “product” – with the world. It is said that he spent so much of his time pacing, lost in thought, that he wore a noticeable path into the floor between the door and window of his study. He assumed that the desire to reap what one sews to be as illusory and diminishing for everyone as it was for him. True joy was not in the creation, but in the creating. For this reason, he also thought the average person – not yet corrupted by capital or the ownership of private property – would be less competitive, less possessive, and less interested in power than the elite of his day. This was the backbone of his communism.

This assumed, however, that the proliferation of wealth and property was the source of human corruption. But capital is not an external force driving good men to corruption. It is a creation of man. The source of the corruption is man itself, and the proliferation of wealth is only a manifestation of that corruption.

It is human nature to assume the work of our own hands. Naturally, some hands produce more than others, and these higher producers tend to keep what they produce and accumulate more wealth. Unchecked capitalism can lead them to accumulate to the point of absurdity.

The communist’s answer to this problem is the redistribution of wealth. But this introduces a new set of problems.

The Redistribution of Wealth

Many think of communism as akin to Robin Hood “taking from the rich and giving to the poor.” This is a misunderstanding of the fundamental concept.

Communism is the abolishment of all private property. One cannot take something from another, nor can they give it. It was never his or hers to give. The former rich – the highest producers – are not the only ones denied their own works. Everyone is. Communism prevents the corrupt from accumulating wealth, but to do so, it must eliminate all sense of reward for the working person.

This is not a design flaw. This is the design. Marx believed that the process was its own reward. This self-satisfaction is all that communism allows.

The Need for Incentive

Karl Marx was a genius, but he was an optimist to a fault. He believed that all people have a natural drive to work and create, and removing the ulterior motive of capital would allow them to do so only for the sake of working and creating. He felt that this was the greatest joy a person could experience.

But there are many jobs that are as integral to our society’s functioning as they are undesirable to work. So, many are forced to choose between working a horrible job and dismissing themselves from society. Communism does not change this. It cannot remove the necessity of these positions. It can only prevent their reward. Therefore, it can only remove the incentive to work them.

He didn’t realize how easily a satiated people can fall into sloth, as does almost every living thing when its needs are satisfied. Because of this, humans tend not to contribute to society unless we are given an incentive to do so. Those incentives define their respective economies. Capitalism uses capital and the promise of what it buys as an incentive. Communism, by removing both capital and ownership, can rely only on force and the threat of punishment as an incentive to contribute.

Capitalism: A Necessary Evil

Any set of rules and regulations set forth by a government could be interpreted as a necessary evil. Each is, in effect, a restriction of natural freedoms. They restrict a person’s “freedom” to steal because there are those that would otherwise happily do so. Just the same, capital is a required method of ensuring fair contribution to society, as there are those who would gladly take without giving.

Communism is the most freeing economic system because it is a freedom from economy. But it is no more viable than the most freeing form of government, which is the freedom from being governed: anarchy.

In fact, the final stage of Marx’s communism requires that there be no government to enforce it, because just as it is paradoxical to enforce anarchy, it is equally impossible to justly enforce communism. This only leads to replacing the power of hated “1%” with a more powerful government, (a situation even more dangerous in Marxism’s intermediate state of socialism, as the government controls every aspect of the capital from its production, to its distribution, and finally to its transaction).

Communism vs. Human Nature

Communism is a self-defeating concept. The arguments for it and against it are the same: Its proponents argue that capitalism fails because those with everything tend not to give back. Communism attempts to solve this problem by…giving people everything and assuming that they’ll give back.

A perfect economy and government would require a perfect humanity. Maybe, hundreds or thousands of years from now, we will fit this description. Until then, our laws must remain as imperfect as we are. It is not ideal, but neither are we.

 

(Cover photo by Frank Schmidtke exists under creative commons license.)

 

Tyler Watkins received his BA in psychology from the University of Iowa and has since worked in the fields of medical and psychological research at Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the University of Iowa. He is currently pursuing a career as an independent writer and journalist and has been featured in Areo Magazine and Quillette. You can follow him on Twitter @WatkinsDoOp.

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