Monday, August 20, 2012

The Republican Defense of Communism (a rewrite)

This is a test.

This is a reposting of something I wrote a couple of months ago. I have rewritten it to be read by somebody with a Republican/Libertarian mind set. It was inspired by an article on climate change that spoke about communicating to people in their own language. As an experiment, I thought I would give the suggestion a try.

I suspect most of my readers are of a liberal persuasion. If you are such a reader, then I would like you to consider passing this argument on to your conservative friends and family members. In doing so, I would recommend NOT linking to this post or mentioning this blog. Here, the term "atheist" will slam a lot of minds shut before the reader gets to the first word.

Instead, it may be better to copy and paste the main body of this posting to send.

The Republican Defense of Communism

I am going to demonstrate that the policies many Republicans have been convinced to defend by corporate propagandists represent the purist form of communism.

To demonstrate this, I will first explain what communism is. Republican rank-and-file will not have any difficulty recognizing this definition. It concerns the "open warehouse" where people give according to their means, and take according to their (perceived) needs. It is the type of communism that clearly does not work because we can expect people to do a lot more taking than giving.

After defining communism, I will show how certain policies advocated by rank-and-file Republicans actually aim to maintain certain essential goods in a communal warehouse, governed by the principle "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need." I will demonstrate how these policies shun price, markets, and private property rights.

Furthermore, I will demonstrate exactly how and why coporate propaganda convinces rank-and-file Republicans to support this communal (communist) way of handling those resources.

What Is Communism?

Pure communism is understood as a system where property is communal - is owned by the community - rather than private or owned by individuals. Your home, your farmland, the food you grow, are all owned by the community, not by you. This is where the term "communism" comes from - from the view that property is held in common or by the community.

This is the ideal form of communism. In practice, this property tends to end up being owned by the state, which claims to be acting in the name of the people. In this system, in practice, people with political power effectively begin to treat everything and everybody in the community as their own private property.

However, we are looking at theoretical communism for the moment.

We can imagine a community with a community warehouse. People are expected to contribute what they produce according to their ability, and to take what they need free of charge. For example, we can imagine a communal warehouse where people freely donate all of the food they grow and can take any food they need to feed their family. Or we can also imagine a community toolshed where people freely donate any tools they create and remove any tools they wish to use. Or, we can imagine a community discount store where people are free to walk in and put the goods they produce on the shelves, and take whatever they want off of the shelves.

In all of these cases, it is easy to see that the warehouse will soon be empty - or nearly so.

The failure of communism rests in the fact that people will inevitably take much more than they give. There is no incentive to produce. At the same time, people face an incentive to take more than they need. After all, it is "free". If people could walk into any store they wanted and walk out with whatever merchandise they wanted, people will then end up with a whole lot of merchandise they could not have otherwise afforded - as long as the stores had something worth taking.

When we combine the lack of an incentive to produce with the disposition people have to waste what people do not pay for, we end up with an empty warehouse. More to the point, we end up with a community where everybody is equally poor - poor to the point where people are likely to die of malnutrition and disease in great numbers. It will be a community in which squalor in the norm.

The Benefits of Capitalism

To avoid the problems of the communal warehouse, we need to regulate the warehouse.

This is where communism becomes totalitarianism. Political leaders begin to demand that people produce and contribute to the warehouse, while punishing those who take what the political leaders do not want them to take. Meanwhile, those same political leaders go through the warehouse taking the best and the most for themselves.

Capitalism provides a non-totalitarian alternative to the communal warehouse. It recognizes that we need to do something that gives people an incentive to produce and contribute to the warehouse. Rather than totalitarian threats, it argues for paying those who produce and contribute. It also recognizes a need to restrict who takes items from the warehouse. The method it proposes is price, where the stuff in the warehouse goes to those willing to pay the highest price.

The more we pay people to contribute to the warehouse the more they produce. The more we charge people to take things from the warehouse the less they are willing to take.

At some point it is expected that we can find a price where the quantity that people are contributing to the warehouse at that price matches the quantity that people are taking out. In economics, this is known as the market clearing price.

We can find out what this price is by giving people rights to own what they produce and the freedom to trade with others. Through voluntary trade, the market system will find this price.

If people want more than what is being produced, then there is a shortage. Prices go up. At the higher price, people will have an incentive to produce more, and some consumers drop out.

If people are producing more of a product than people want then there is a shortage and the price drops. Production drops with the price and demand goes up. Markets tend towards an equalibrium where supply matches demand.

Of course, this is a highly simplified. I am mostly offering these points as context for what follows.

Republican Communism

So, how is it that the Republican rank and file is supporting a communist system?

We are looking for a set of policies that Republicans are embracing where an important good is being held in a communal warehouse. People are expected to contribute voluntarily according to their ability, and are permitted to remove this good from the communal warehouse according to their (perceived) need.

We find these elements in environmental issues - specifically, in using the oceans and the atmosphere as a dumping ground for pollution. This includes the practice of dumping CO2 and other greenhouse gasses.

We can think of the resource that is being stored in the communal warehouse as "dumping space". Nobody is expected to pay for their use of "dumping space" - they can dump what they please without charge. At the same time, the Republican plan is to make any contribution to having more dumping space completely voluntary.

According to the accounts given above, we can expect this type of system to fail. We are going to end up with too many people taking too much "dumping space" out of the warehouse, with no incentive being provided to add new "dumping space". It will fail precisely for the reasons that communist systems generally tend to fail.

The solution to the communal warehouse is to set up a market.

With the market, we are going to pay people to contribute - pay them to produce "dumping space'. Effectively, creating dumping space means engaging in activities that remove past pollution. Paying people to produce dumping space will mean that a lot more dumping space gets produced. It is the same method we use to keep the grocery store shelves stocked.

Plus, in this new, capitalist system we are going to charge people for taking things out of the warehouse. People who emit a pollution are going to have to pay a price - a big enough price to compensate those who are creating "dumping space". There is no such thing as a free lunch.

How Corporate Interests Defend Communish and Fight Capitalism

At this point we have to look at vested political interests. There is a group within the community who are profiting from the current communist system. These are people who are driving their trucks up to the common warehouse and hauling off everything inside - for free (without paying a price).

Shutting down the communist system and switching to capitalism means that they will have to pay for what they are now hauling out of the communal warehouse for free.

They do not want to do this, so they get their marketing PR firms onto the task of sending out a message that will keep the communal warehouse open - at least until they have emptied it. That is to say, at least until they have used up all of the "dumping space".

To prevent us from closing the communal (communist) warehouse and setting up a price system they use two messages.

The first message threatens our jobs. They argue that if they are going to be required to pay for what the current (communist) system is allowing them to take for free, that this will be bad for business. They will have to close down shops and factories and throw people out of work. In order to prevent widespread unemployment, we must keep the communal warehouse open and allow them to continue to haul out its contents without paying.

The second message (ironically) is that capitalism is their opponents are anti-freedom. There is a sense in which the communal warehouse has the greatest freedom. People can walk into the communal warehouse whenever they want and walk out with whatever they like. On the other hand, capitalism is a form of regulation. Price regulates and restricts the flow of goods to those people who are willing to pay the most. A price system requires prohibitions on fraud, force, and other forms of violence as alternative ways of transferring property.

Consequently, the corporate PR firms brand pro-capitalist/anti-communist advocates of closing the communal warehouse as "anti-freedom".

After swallowing these two claims of "bad for the economy" and "anti-freedom", Republican conservatives are eager to go to the wall defending what, in this case, is a communist system - even as that system experiences the failures that plague all communist systems.

However, the day will come when the communal warehouse is empty - when all of the dumping ground has been used up. Then those who have profited from emptying the communal warehouse for decades will have no more incentive to pay their marketing PR firms to promote the "bad for the economy" and "anti-freedom" arguments. Then, we might establish a capitalist system, but only after the warehouse has been emptied.

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