Arnold Kling  

Socialism as Primitivism

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Madsen Pirie writes,


Hayek told his rapt audience that the old values of the hunting band still had their allure, including the urge to share everything when value could not be stored...

Members of the audience actually gasped when Hayek referred to Socialism as 'atavistic' - the reversion to an older, more primitive form. Many of the students had thought that Socialism was modern and scientific, and could perhaps bring rational order to a chaotic and unjust world. Now here was Hayek equating it with a primitive instinct, inferior to the learned rules which had enabled human society to develop.


"From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" is actually a slogan for a primitive tribe. "From each according to his comparative advantage, to each according to his tastes" would be a better description of the vast, decentralized market economy.

For Discussion. In what ways do political beliefs reflect behavior in a family or tribal setting?


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CATEGORIES: Economic Philosophy



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TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/132
The author at The Club for Growth Blog in a related article titled Friday's Daily News writes:
    Relevant News and Commentary Flake, Shadegg Fight Drought Relief Add-On - M. Sunnuck, PBJ Middle Class Mania - Alan Reynolds, Townhall.com The Oil Bubble: Set to Burst? - F. Leuffer, NRO Russian Cabinet Approves Kyoto Protocol - USAToday.com Joe Barton... [Tracked on October 1, 2004 8:49 AM]
COMMENTS (6 to date)
Andrew writes:

The late economist Paul Heyne used to offer the following distributional maxim for what Smith properly called a "commercial society":

"From each according to his constrained choice; to each according to the perceived value by others of his contribution."

I can't improve much on that.

Lawrance George Lux writes:

The concept of 'inclusiveness' is definitely a family/tribal value to which Liberals devote their lives, and Conservatives pay lip-service while trying to enhance their own gain.

The differentiation between communal goods and personal possessions owe much to tribal values. There is still much great store for equality under the law, and preservation of certain inalienable rights--as Our Forefathers proclaimed--strictly tribal values. The opposite spectrum is the demand for Inheritance protection--so previous gains of the Individual are protected from the common herd or tribe. lgl

Rob Sperry writes:

"From each according to his comparative advantage, to each according to his tastes"

I like that. I'd make a small edit ..

"From each according to his comparative advantage, to each according to his values"

Adding the word precieved just muddles the issue.

Is this your original or a comon econ phrase or?

Arnold Kling writes:

"Is this your original or a comon econ phrase or?"

I did not copy it from anyone, but it seems pretty generic.

Ann writes:

This makes a lot of sense. Communism (which is just a step past socialism) would work best in a society that's just barely surviving. For one thing, communism works best at dividing necessities but doesn't seem to have a clear guideline for dividing any excess.

More importantly, the incentive problem is less of an obstacle when everyone knows that not doing their share might mean that no one survives. There's not much of a free rider problem when everyone's life is at stake. Many tribes struggling at subsistence level have essentially operated along socialist/communist lines.

Another example is Filipino society (and many others, I'm sure). If a person starts a business or gets a good job in the Philippines, relatives crawl out of the woodwork to get their cut, often destroying the business in the process. This extended sharing makes survival more likely, but it also makes prosperity less likely.

LowCountryJoe writes:

I’m amazed by the numerous economics professors at the institution I attend who teach the concepts of how markets best allocate a society’s scarce resources, how there are tradeoff costs to all economic decisions, and how altering market outcomes leads to disincentives…then they proceed to extol the “virtues” of forced redistribution of wealth and over-regulation of markets while maintaining a straight face.

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