The Birth Defect of Collectivism

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This column was originally published in the Roanoke Beacon the week of July 5th, 2021.

Many ideologies consider the “group” (the collective) more important than the individual. The class, society, the state, the people, the tribe etc. constitute a superior value. “You are nothing. Your nation is everything” was a NAZI motto. The Fascist motto was “You are nothing. The State is everything.” Today’s dominant collectivist ideology is Socialism. According to Marx, Socialism means that all private ownership of the means of production and largely also all ownership of private property (i.e. Capitalism) will cease to exist and that “society” will own all means of production and all land. But government will still exist. Marx imagined Communism as the final stage of Socialism, in which government would wither away and coercion would no longer be needed, because people would have learned how to behave in ways that benefit the entire society. Lenin, realizing that the Russian proletariat was not illuminated enough achieve Socialism, ordained that Socialism needed to be preceded by a period of “dictatorship of the proletariat”, which in reality turned out to be dictatorship of the leaders of the Communist Party. However, once established, dictatorship never gave way to the true ideal coercion-free Communism, which was never achieved by any of the collectivist experiments undertaken by humankind so far. All attempts to establish even a socialist society have thus far ended in totalitarian government, dictatorship, and tyranny, with a small group of non-democratically elected self-styled elitists controlling all functions of life of all of the people. I assume that some of the socialist leaders who tried to install Socialism meant well, at least initially, and that the systems they developed ended in totalitarian bureaucracy administering the absence of essential goods and services for all, while the ruling class, the “nomenklatura”, had everything in abundance, not because this was their intent, but because this is the inevitable result of the implementation of Socialism, which cannot be free, fair, and democratic due to a birth defect of the collectivist ideology.

This birth defect, the basic fallacy of all collectivist thought and value systems, is the postulate of equality. Collectivist ideologies like Socialism and Communism, but also some egalitarian religions, cults, and movements, postulate that all humans are equal. That would be just fine if it meant that all humans are equal in that they all belong to the same biological species or that all humans are equal under God or under nature, or that they should all be treated as equal under the law or that all humans should be given equal opportunity to succeed in their pursuit of happiness. But that is not what collectivists mean. They are upset about the fact that some people are richer, and some are poorer, that wealth, property, and power are not equally distributed among humans, that some people succeed while others do not. They mean indeed that all humans are entitled to equal success in life, to an equally beneficial outcome of their lives. The vogue term for this is “Equity”.

Equity appears outright illusionary if we consider the fact that humans are really only equal in that they are members of the humans species and in that they are all entitled to being treated with the same respect and to being judged by the same laws. But that is where equality ends. Humans differ in genetic makeup, hair structure, physical strength, performance, medical disposition, brain structure and function, mentality, emotional disposition, energy, intelligence, stamina, perseverance, capability to think in abstract categories, color perception, space perception, creativity, musical capabilities, fingerprints, skin color, pain resistance, sexual orientation, and many other parameters. In other words: we are not equal at all.

It is therefore to be expected as natural and normal that the results of our lives will differ greatly. Some people overcome obstacles, when others give up. Even the provision of equal opportunity will not provide equity. What some see as an opportunity, might be seen by others as an obstacle, a problem, or a scary risk. Different people may deal differently with the same opportunity. Collectivists say that these differences are caused by the social environment, by society. This view is called ‘Milieu-Theory’ and it is mostly wrong. We know today that much more is genetically conditioned than Marx or Pavlov knew. People respond in different ways to the same or similar social and cultural circumstances, mainly because they are genetically different.

The crux with ideologies is that most of them are not based on rational analysis of facts, reality, and logical reasoning but on postulates. They are not interested in what and how people and society really are but only in what they should be. Clearly a form of wishful thinking. In the case of Socialism and Communism, the postulate of equality is combined with the assertion that the human personality is shaped by social and economic factors alone or predominantly so. The conclusion is that people do not achieve equitable outcomes of their lives due to unequal social and economic conditions. While this is not totally untrue, it is also true that social, economic, and cultural conditions are unequal because people are unequal. For the collectivist unequal and unequitable equals unjust.

Communists and socialists are compassionate or at least they see themselves as compassionate. They cannot tolerate inequity – at least not when it exists in a society they do not control. They insist that the success (the outcome) of the lives of all people must be equal. We should all have approximately the same housing, food, clothing, means of transportation, education, income, and lifestyle. Yet, the differences between individual humans, if allowed to take effect, will inevitably lead to differences in performance between them. In the extreme, some will be very inventive, productive, persistent, ingenious, industrious, and full of energy and hence will be immensely successful in their lives as inventors and makers of things, leaders of people, or creators of culture, wealth, or knowledge. They put more into society than they take out. Others will be less industrious, less intelligent, have less energy, and will more easily give up when they meet resistance or run into difficulties. They work hard but with modest results. They will contribute about as much to the society as they take out of it. And then, there are people who can’t carry their own weight so to speak and require constant support and maintenance from others in order to stay alive and carry on. They miss opportunities and make many wrong decisions. They give up easily and have little stamina. They take more out of society than they contribute to it.

If given the freedom to use their talents, their energy, their productivity and creativity, more capable, more intelligent, and more energetic people will inevitably be more successful than less capable, less intelligent, and less energetic people. They will become richer and more powerful, since economic success and physical or intellectual dominance always translate into power, ultimately political power i.e. power to rule over others. Intelligent, productive, and creative people also like to compete with each other. When they overdo it, they may need to be reined in by the government.

Egalitarian collectivist ideologies provide several responses to inequality. One of them is to eradicate any form of competitive thinking, creativity, and excellence already in the education phase. Neither teachers nor students must be judged by their performance. No winners, no losers. Everybody wins, regardless of performance. What should count is intent, not result. The education system promotes groupthink and other-directed behavior. The pursuit of excellence is rejected as anti-social domination. Young people are encouraged to develop an antenna for the trend of the peer group and to go with the flow rather than develop their own inner compass and standards for acceptable behavior, their own goals and values. Self-reliance is replaced with reliance on the group and/or the government. They are taught that all violence is bad, even when used in self-defense against violent aggression, because self-defense is self-assertion, which is incompatible with collectivist control of society. Collectivism does not want people to stand out or to excel. It wants people to fit in, be average, and be easy to control. Inner-directed, self-motivated (leave alone armed) people are difficult to control. Collectivism breeds people who believe that they do not have to perform but are entitled to benefits they “deserve” (just listen to the average TV promotion about what all people are allegedly entitled to or deserve).

Another collectivists response to inequity is the concept of social justice and the redistribution of wealth. To the extent that more productive people have acquired more material wealth, collectivists deem it socially just to take some of this wealth away from them and to “redistribute” it to others, who did not earn or create it. While those to whom is given, may consider this just and fair, those from whom it is taken, usually do not. Instead, they usually consider redistribution of wealth a form of glorified theft.

Why Socialism inevitably turns into totalitarianism

In a socialist society, government controls all functions of the economy and of social and cultural life. The government is usually controlled by a collectivist Party or some other power group with a collectivist ideology, which is typically not elected through general, equal, free, and secret elections and is not subject to any truly democratic control (no free press, no free speech). Since, in a centrally planned economy, in which the regulatory effect of a free market is absent, the government not only needs to plan and control production, it also needs to plan and control consumption, but government cannot control consumption effectively without controlling every nook and cranny of social and individual life. Consumption control requires coercion. Since no government-controlled command economy is capable of producing enough of what people want and need when they want and need it, consumers must contend themselves with whatever the government produces and will allow them to consume. At least this is what we have seen happening in all the implementation experiments of socialism, in approx. 50 countries so far.

This is why, in the end, socialist systems become oppressive police states, in which a privileged power elite (the “nomenklatura”) administers the chronic lack of goods and services for the people, while itself has unrestricted access to everything. This is why socialism ends not only in servitude but also in inequity for most. Ironically, it does achieve a measure of equity by making all people equally miserable and oppressed except for the nomenklatura. Those who claim to improve human society and to achieve equity, which they proclaim to be just, have not only never succeeded but also mostly achieved only serfdom and misery for those under their control. Some collectivists blame this on human nature. Humans are not good enough for the blessings of socialism. Human nature is not suited for egalitarianism. Hence, many belief systems that proclaim to intend to save and improve the world start with re-education camps, brain washing, and the development of a “new human” (remember the “soviet man” and AOC’s “reeducation camps”?). Such reprogramming of individuals requires total control over the education system, the news media, the print media, the digital systems, and all communication between institutions and individuals, i.e. total mind and speech control. Human nature must be changed to fit the ideal of human society postulated by the collectivist salvation ideology.

In the Greek mythology, Poseidon’s son Procrustes had an iron bed. He forced every passer-by to sleep it and when they did not fit it, he either stretched or cut their bodies to fit. This is what collectivists and other saviors of humankind do to people: they force them to fit their preconceived concept of how human society should function. An attitude that combines arrogance, disrespect for we the people and a marked preparedness to use coercion to get what they want. This is why there is an irreconcilable choice all of us will have to make: total liberty will destroy equity and total equity will destroy liberty. A sensible balance between them? Not impossible, but it seems to be the hardest thing for humans to achieve.

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