Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.”     Alexander Hamilton

May 18, 2009

Why Collectivism “works”, but doesn’t work.

by Chris

Generally speaking, when talking with a relatively reasonable and intelligent leftists about politics, economics (which are the same thing to them), econometrics, and social philosophy (again, they can’t be separated in leftist theology); the “question” will arise “If socialism is so bad, why does it work in families, and villages? It works there, so it should work everywhere.”

That isn’t so much a question, as argumentum inquisitum (aka “begs the question”), but let’s take up the challenge anyway; as the answer is simple, fundamental, and absolutely vital to understanding microeconomics, and how it interacts with societal level macroeconomics.

Collectivism (of any variety) does not work on scales larger than a village, because people will ALWAYS respond to their perceived interests and incentives.

ALWAYS

Let me repeat that one more time:

People will always, over time and absent interference, respond to their perceived interest and incentive.

People may (in fact, very frequently do) mispercieve their interest, or may choose a poor course of action in their properly (or improperly) perceived interests, but they will ALWAYS respond to them.

In a family, the incentive and interest are VERY strong, genetically, socially, societally, emotionally, and spiritually; to ensure the prosperity and well being of the family unit equal to or ahead of ones self.

We can see what happens to families where this is not so among the majority of members; or is not so among the “strongest” members (the “leaders” of the family). These families rapidly degenerate into an unhealthy mess of force, fraud, manipulation, pain, and dysfunction.

This is also what happens in society as a whole when collectivist ideology is enforced on it.

One should note, there is no such thing as a naturally occurring voluntary collectivist order above the small tribal group. At larger scales, collectivism must always be enforced on the whole, because it is against the interest of many individuals; until such time as a dependent class is formed which will create an artificial interest, causing that class to act in that interest to enforce collectivism on the independent individuals.

As I said, people will ALWAYS act in their perceived interest. Even in collectivism; which is supposedly communitarian in nature.

In society as a whole, and specifically in societies larger than familial, clan, village, or small tribal level; self interest is a considerably stronger incentive and interest than the interest of society.

Communitarian ideals can generally work scaled up to village size, or even small tribes; but the bigger the unit gets, in general, the weaker the cohesion; unless there is another binding force (such as tribalism, or at least ethnic solidarity).

Also, the free rider problem, which may be one or two individuals within a family, becomes a serious drag on resources even at the village size. It becomes insupportable above the scale of a large tribe or small state.

These village size units work best when the village is itself a competing interest against other villages, or groups of villages united by a common characteristic which creates a cohesive identity.

We call this tribalism; and it allows for progress to a certain point, but is also a natural restraint on it; in that tribalism encourages the violent breakdown of civil culture in conflict with other tribes.

In fact, almost all of the greatest evils perpetrated within the confines of society (as opposed to evils outside of a society such as serial killers, etc…) are the result of violent tribal conflict; including the wars in the middle east and Africa (all of them).

All forms of collectivism fail to recognize or account for the inherent competitive, and striving nature of man; and generally fail to account for his inherent xenophobia as well (yes, certain individuals or small groups may suppress those characteristics, but man as a whole is man; unchanging and vicious from prehistory to this minute. We just have better tools to kill each other with, faster, and on a larger scale now).

Thus, aside from its structural deficiencies, inefficiency, and moral evil; socialism is antithetical to the natural social nature and structure of man (contrary to the assertions of socialists that it is in fact derived from the nature of man, or is scientifically and historically inevitable. Both logic and history show this construction to be elegant, but falacious).

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9 Comments

  1. Put more simply, “Love doesn’t scale”.

    Comment by silvermine — May 18, 2009 @ 5:45 pm
  2. silvermine,

    Well said…

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — May 18, 2009 @ 8:46 pm
  3. The present power structure in Washington respectfully disagrees. Centralized control of the economy can achieve social justice and fairness for all. Redistribution of wealth is necessary to correct the evils of capitalistic imperialism and corporate greed, which have caused injustice and inequity over the decades and centuries.

    America must atone for its sins, too.

    At least, that’s what the really really smart professors at my local college say. And they have Phds.

    Comment by southernjames — May 19, 2009 @ 4:29 am
  4. Dear ‘southernjames’:

    Your delusions of “common sense” wisdom stem from an unwillingness to seek information and an inability to critically analyze it. You never hesitate to offer strong opinions on subjects you don’t know a damn thing about. You think lowering taxes raises revenue. You are an idiot. You are why democracy doesn’t work.

    Love,
    Alec

    Comment by alec — May 21, 2009 @ 6:48 am
  5. [...] Social Welfare, Socialism and Healthcare, Why collectivism “works,” but doesn’t work, Why Collectivism “works”, but doesn’t work, Do current incentive structures make sense?, and Economic [...]

    Pingback by The Path to Human Development: Capitalism or Socialism? | Prose Before Hos — May 21, 2009 @ 6:54 am
  6. Thanks for the kind words Alec! Is your last name Baldwin?

    I’ll search out your posts from this point forward in order to become enlightened!

    Love – right back at ya.

    Comment by southernjames — May 21, 2009 @ 7:20 am
  7. See, every time I talk about how bad collectivism is, they all rush in and try and call me ignorant or stupid, or evil.

    It just amuses the hell out of me.

    Comment by Chris — May 21, 2009 @ 2:03 pm
  8. @Chris: I did not call you stupid or evil.

    My main problem with your argument is “As I said, people will ALWAYS act in their perceived interest.” Do you have scientific proof of this? Sincerely, I mean it.

    I don’t disagree that a large part of the human condition is manifested by elements of selfishness or greed. But I don’t think that in the long-run, self-interest is every humans defining factor.

    Comment by alec — May 22, 2009 @ 8:13 am
  9. Alec, I never said “self interest”, I said their perceived interest and incentive.

    Whatever you percieve your interest to be, whatever you value most, that is what you will act towards. If you value your family above all else, that is your interest. If you value earning money above all else, THAT is your interest.

    Even the mentally ill do so; it is simply their perception of interest that is skewed.

    Often people act in ways that seem counter to their goals; even by their own logic and reasoning. When they do so, you can bet that what they say they want, isn’t what they really want; either consciously or unconsciously.

    Comment by Chris — May 22, 2009 @ 10:21 am

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