The Market

The flag of the former Soviet Union. Source: Wikipedia, not subject to copyright.

Why do marxists think that humans in their natural, tribal state were communists? Granted, historiography wasn't as advanced in the 19th century as what we have now, and Marx died in the 1800s, but it still defies all belief, considering the context. During Marx's lifetime, there must have been millions of people still living Stone Age or similar lifestyles. Here in North America, the native Americans were still living traditional lives on much of the continent. They obviously engaged in market behaviors. Trade routes spanned the continent, even before the arrival of white Europeans. Native tribes traded even with other tribes that might occasionally have been enemies. Marx lived in the same era. Don't modern (contemporary) marxists study the context?

It's a reminder though, that Marx was a child of wealth and privilege. He was every bit as out of touch with the average person as Ivanka Trump or Prince Harry. This has influenced the way modern marxists view history. The problem is compounded by the tendency of marxists to expunge history that is contradictory to their values.

It's clear that humans automatically engage in market behaviors. This must be driven by genetics and the evolution of group behaviors. The usual counter-argument is that human behavior is governed by received knowledge, but if you understand genetics, it becomes clear that even if this is true over a short time period, it must still have its origins in genetics. There is no getting around the influence of genetics on human behavior, and the historiography indicates that market transactions have always occurred.

Communists and socialists are top-down thinkers about economics. They pursue carefully contrived systems that are imposed by governments. You must have planning to have a socialist or communist system. As a consequence, they have difficult comprehending that the fundamental nature of human society is bottom-up. Markets can be planned, but they seem to emerge whether or not any planning occurs.

A perfect example of unplanned markets is a black market. Black markets seem to exist everywhere in the present day, and seem always to have existed since civilization and recorded history began. Market economics and capitalism are emergent properties of human evolutionary history. They aren't top-down systems that have been imposed.

The Soviet Union was probably the most stringently planned economy in history, and it is thought that by the time it collapsed, most of the economy was actually in the unplanned black market. Communists usually try to blame this on a capitalist conspiracy, but it's apparent that soviet citizens readily built most of it in an unplanned way, and that most everybody participated in it.

This is a photo of Vladimir Putin wearing blue jeans, probably in the late 1970s. Putin was a KGB agent. Blue jeans were illegal in the Soviet Union and obtainable only through the black market. Photographer: unknown.

Certainly "capitalism" benefits from laws designed to protect investors, but even in the absence of such laws, human history still shows the existence of markets and trade. It doesn't have to be imposed. It's there, wherever you have people.

When you think about this, you can see the problem with the expectations of socialists and communists. Marxists typically think that humans began with communism and will go back to it (e.g. Noam Chomsky). They are wrong about both things. It seems we have some elements of socialism in our modern economies, socialism being defined as the redistribution of wealth for social benefit, but things are not migrating towards communism (defined as a society with no individual property). What we will have in the future, will be exactly what we have now, with only details changed. Markets aren't going away.

I do not mean to sound like I fully endorse laissez-faire economics, but it's clear to me that we are not in "late stage capitalism," and we aren't headed for communism. Considering the failures of communist experimentation during the 20th century, I'm surprised people keep bringing it up. It seems disproven to me. It's a team with no wins. 

But young people are easily influenced, and academics who have never had to work in the private sector, who are irritated by a lack of equity, and read dusty old books written in the twentieth century, continue to promote the ideas of Marx. They recruited the next generation. Such people are invariably comfortable and well fed, just like Marx. Having little reason for grievance of their own, they borrow from others whom they perceive to be suffering from unfairness (despite lacking the lived experience to actually know what's going on off campus).

Yet people who work in the private sector delivering goods and services usually do not engage with marxist ideas, at least not in the United States. That's because marxism would take from those who do things to give to those who don't. That offends people who possess a work ethic. Industriousness offends marxists. The unproductive focus of marxism offends actual workers. A marxist's idea of "doing the work" is something like skipping class to go to a public demonstration. I find marxists universally contemptible, and so do most other people who work real jobs. Marxists don't build things. They "deconstruct" things.

Belief that the future will bring total equity to society is a religion, and it's a religion that can only be practiced by those who are conveniently not living in a society of literal equity, otherwise they would not have their positions in academia. The idea that we could ever completely suppress human market behavior to achieve equity has no basis in reality, neither in contemporary society, nor in history, nor in human evolution. Nothing points to a future in which market behaviors can be eliminated, or that we would ever be able to achieve "equity."

Stop aiming for goals that aren't achievable.


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