A recent NYTimes article (March 30) debated the virtues of Marxism. A powerful utopian philosophy Marxism/Communism has been rarely seen in practice. Based on philosophical, political and economic theory Marx predicted the eventually destruction of capitalism by virtue of the uprising of the working class. Socialism would be government organized and supported, eventually to morph into a stateless, classless, humane society based on the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
Of course it is unfair to reduce its complexity to a few paragraphs but in truth Marxism has never truly worked as a political/economic system. The main reason–it fails to take into account human nature.
I have little doubt that we possess an empathic, compassionate side to our nature. We feel the pain of others, try to reach out to the less fortunate, offer charity. But when there is a perception among the average citizen that hard work is no longer recognized, that benefits accrue to those who know how to work the system, when remuneration can be obtained without hard work, resentment ensues. In effect when rewards are not proportionate to labor, there is trouble.
On a personal note I witnessed this phenomenon within my own practice. We all work at our own speed. No one dictates who should work what hours, take how much vacation, accrue expenses. No one is concerned about what the other partners do or don’t do because our income is essentially based on our individual productivity minus our expenses. It is fair so no one complains. There is NO resentment among the partners.
The utopian concept that everyone will benefit from the labor of others presumes that everyone will produce nearly equal work. This is not reality. It does not recognize the differences among us. Some of us are ambitious, driven, obsessed with obtaining material possessions and the vehicle by which they are acquired–money. Some of us are extremely creative, talented, skilled. Those are attributes which can often produce enormous wealth. Others among us lack skills, motivation, ambition or just don’t desire money and material goods. All of this reflects the world we actually live in.
Recognition of these differences results in fair distribution of the products of such efforts. Failure to maintain a system which rewards effort is…..lack of effort, or resentment. Communism is a utopian dream which can work in small groups of like-minded individuals. It can offer its offshoot socialism to balance raw, unrestrained capitalism (which can be devastating and damaging to society). But only a mixed picture can balance concern for those who cannot produce, with recognition of those who do.
With all its imperfections, the American economic system comes closest to balancing all these factors. Communism never did and never will succeed.