Consummate dilettantism!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"What's Wrong with Communism Anyway?"

This refrain is disturbingly common. I hear it quite often from people who haven't given the matter much thought. But herein I hope to dispel the common notions that nothing is really wrong with communism, that it is a fairly benign form of government, and that if indeed it has its flaws these are no greater than those of any other form of government. Young people especially tend to suppose that the "hysteria" over communism in the 1950s in this country was at best an exaggerated reaction, stirred up by McCarthyism and bottled and sold as fear, to the rise of the Soviet Union. It's not their fault, really; public school teachers have left them with this assumption and haven't bothered to examine it at all. So what's wrong with communism, anyway?

I. The individual has no power.
Communism as defined by is
a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.
Essentially, then, individuals are not individuals - as they have no private property, they are forced to settle with whatever is provided to them by the "community." They may individually have "votes" as to what is allocated, but their resources are ultimately determined by the majority. Thus is very easy to see the fundamental flaw inherent in communism - it does not guarantee minority rights. If the majority wishes to allocate property only to itself, there is little barring it from doing so. In other words, with the communal ownership of property comes the utter evisceration of individual rights. As we shall see, however, often property is owned not by the "community" but by the state, and thus revealed is the second fundamental flaw of communism.

II. There is no effective check on the power of government.
It becomes difficult under any communist system for the community to decide the allocation of property. A community of all persons in a state cannot create the far-sighted plans necessary to power the vast apparatus of the communist government (the sole employer). As such a task is nearly impossible, then, it is inevitable that there will arise a group of people whose task it is to administer the functions of the state. But the powers of such a group must be unlimited, for this group owns (or allocates) all property. The ownership and allocation of property necessitate economic control of the nation; and as F.A. Hayek has convincingly demonstrated absolute economic control leads to control over individuals (if you cannot choose what to own or how to spend your resources you cannot truly control your life in any real sense). And regardless of whether there is democratic control of leader selection or not, the leaders certainly will not relinquish their unlimited power voluntarily (and they indeed have the power not to do so).

These two flaws together create a hideous concoction, a viciously monstrous state apparatus whose powers are unlimited and which cares nothing for the rights of the individual. It is little wonder, then, that the horrific slaughter perpetrated by communist regimes around the globe has resulted in at least 85 million direct deaths, likely many more. Our human rights record certainly isn't flawless, but this stuff...

Murder is naturally endemic to communism. That number is staggering. (For comparison, the Nazis gassed, shot, or otherwise executed about 10-12 million civilians directly.) The basic point is that whenever a state has unlimited power and does not respect the rights of individuals, it is free to slaughter at will to execute its plans by any means necessary.

(I should also note that this attack on communism is absolutely my own. I haven't read much on this, but I can tell you that there are many, many more reasons why communism is very bad - this is just a brief criticism, and one that is far from exhaustive.)

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