Friday, April 25, 2008

Musings on Communism

There are a number of communists that interact with on a daily basis. For better or worse, they are mostly restricted to online interaction. College just doesn't seem to be that bastion of extreme liberal thought that it has the reputation for (or maybe I just don't see most of them, given that I am a business student).

However, I never really understood the fascination with "communism," IE, the great utopian anarchy.

The biggest flaw I see, first and foremost, is the total utter lack of government. Let's consider defense. National Defense is the best example of a public good. It is non-exclusive, meaning that if someone doesn't pay, we can hardly NOT protect their homes. It also requires massive public investment over many decades. Military bases are not constructed over night, and top generals are developed over decades of training. All that requires a lot of planning and a lot of money, and, historically, it is very tough to get large numbers of people to voluntarily commit to such ventures. Hence, the reason why taxation was invented in the first place. Hell, it's one of the primary reasons that we wrote the Constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation.
So, I don't see a small communist society as ever being capable of defending itself adequately. 

Another issue with government is the very concept of laws. Without an actual legal system enforced by a police service, there is no means to permanently settle disputes. That's not to say that government is perfect or that private law has no place at all in society. Arbitration, after all, plays a large role in the American legal system today.
However, without a means to actually enforce its decision, the law of society is completely up to voluntary enforcement by individuals (or perhaps a private police service). This is theoretically possible. It is, however, not a likely outcome. Laws tend to require enforcement by a very large, very powerful force. A force with guns that is capable of imposing its will on people that will not agree.
It is hardly an ideal system, but it is a system preferable to one with no laws and only abstract "social conventions."

Finally, I have a complete lack of faith in communism's ability to adequately provide even basic goods. The system of trade, as explained here, sounds a lot like a barter system. As any econ major is aware of, barter systems are highly inefficient. Transaction costs are extremely high, preventing a lot of potentially profitable trades. It also requires "double coincidence." Double coincidence means that you have something I want, and I have something you want. Two coincidences at is highly unlikely to occur very frequently, hence the name. Currency, though, ensures that someone ALWAYS has something valuable on hand. 
So, a communist society, as it appears to me, would lack a very strong trade sector. Without it, I don't see much welfare gain at all.

This says nothing about communist complaints about our society (most of which I feel are inaccurate). This is only about a possible communist society.

1 comment:

XW said...

I believe you and I both agree when I say "lol communism".

I can't put any faith in a system that just handwaves away the possibility that humans are going to attempt to get more than they can produce. If Joe Comrade has everything he needs, why the heck is he going to keep making more when he can sit back and enjoy what he's got?