a man I read for his science, not his politics, I’ve come across one. Or probably a group of them.
I intend to engage with them, and this post is in a sense a bit of throat-clearing, an ordering of notes before I start making a few comments over there.
Unlike the spite-filled stupidity of the SWP, the Spanish communist party, many trade unions and others, they sound like people you could get on with, have a drink with, argue deeply about ideas with, and go amicably on your way, agreeing to disagree.
They are still wrong, of course, despite all the above. And for the usual reasons. They speak of the obvious and essential morality of redistributing wealth equally among everyone. But in order to redistribute wealth, someone has first to create it. And no, it doesn’t grow on trees. Apples grow on trees, but to eat them someone has to pick them. The picker will want the bulk of the apples, or at least the option of satisfying himself, before letting others eat. If people have no motive for creating wealth there will be very little indeed to redistribute. And we know this not only because we know what people are like, but because it is observably true.
Who will police this equality? And how will they be equal, when they have power over others? If people had been designed by communists, we would be very different, and it might even work. Mind you, I wouldn’t like to have been designed by communists, and neither, I suspect, would they.
Oh, and primitive tribes do not lead an idyllic life in harmony with nature. There is great variety of form and structure, but they have certain things in common. Their lives are a constant battle to avoid being poisoned or eaten by nature. A battle we have won, to the great advantage of all of us who live in developed societies. They tend to be very unequal indeed. Women have almost no status at all, and so no rights. If they have adult sons they may be accorded a form of respect, but where food and shelter are the difference between life and death the best is taken by the leaders. Young men are a threat to be controlled. They are in constant and imminent danger of starving, being killed by wild animals, or by the neighbouring tribes with whom they will be in a more or less constant state of war (resources are scarce, and people are human), most of them will die young of preventable diseases and easily curable wounds. Their entire life is controlled by the leaders, who are themselves constrained by tradition, ignorance, circumstance and the world about them, which isn’t interested in harmony. It isn’t some hippy summer of love. They are able to be as happy as we are, by using the same mechanisms, but it isn’t, objectively, fun.
Communism cannot work. The idea that it has never been properly imposed, that Stalin, Castro, Mao, Sung, Pol Pot and many, many more got it wrong, and that it can be done properly and everything will be wonderful, is widespread, and wrong.
Decades of bloodstained misery in dozens of places around the world have convinced almost everybody else that it cannot work, but the true believers will continue to construct an impossible logic to justify it, because rational gymnastics, however complicated, are much easier to perform than the apparently simple act of recognising a belief to be false and exchanging it for another. It’s part of being human.