Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The ultimate goal

Sports teams do not go "all out" to get around the rules of their particular sports. Individual teams do not try to do anything to win. They do not do so because winning games is not the ultimate goal of any sport. The ultimate goal is putting on an entertaining show, and, in a capitalist economy, (metaphorically) selling as many tickets as possible. Winning a lot of games does not give a particular team more power, even just within the sport: if everyone knew the Yankees would win almost every baseball game they played, no one would watch baseball. Not even the Yankees themselves want to always win; they want to sell tickets just like the next team, so their victory cannot be a foregone conclusion.

In contrast, in a capitalist economy, acquiring money is the ultimate goal, for most people literally a matter of life and death, and even for the richest, a matter of metaphorical life and death. So long as making money is the ultimate goal, individuals and organizations (i.e. businesses) will go "all out" to make money; they will do anything to win, because losing is death.

Thus, one goal of communism is to transform society so that acquiring money is not the ultimate goal. Under communism, the struggle to acquire money is not a matter of literal life and death for workers, and it is not a matter of metaphorical life and death for prominent or privileged members of society.

It is an open question as to whether or not there will even be any prominent or privileged people. It is possible that, even in a democratic society, unusual individuals will rise to positions of prominence and have privilege, i.e. a substantially greater voice in the operation of society than ordinary people. Martin Luther King and Gandhi are examples of prominence and privilege granted to unusual individuals by virtue of their popularity. However, democracy demands that any prominence and privilege is granted by the people, and can be arbitrarily revoked by the people.

In a capitalist society, prominence and privilege by virtue of acquiring money (or money-generating instruments such as stocks and bonds) is not democratic; in a capitalist society, money is property, and cannot be arbitrarily expropriated. Needless to say, to the extent that this private ownership of money confers prominence and privilege, it is inherently anti-democratic. Hence, a society can be considered fully democratic only if it either refuses to consider money as property or refuses to grant prominence and privilege on the basis of money. In other words, a democratic society must be communist.

The big question, though, is how do we optimize the economy without the struggle for money being the ultimate goal? I should note that now that we have achieved heavily specialized and industrialized economies in developed countries, the struggle for money is not optimizing the economy. It is definitely not the case that communism seeks to overthrow an otherwise pragmatically efficient system on the grounds of some abstract notion of justice. Quite the contrary: communism seeks to overthrow a system that, its historical victories notwithstanding, has proven itself in a modern society to be pragmatically inefficient. Indeed, most modern apologists for laissez faire capitalism argue not on a basis of pragmatic efficiency, but on abstract notions of justice, and modern apologists for democratic "socialism" to some degree or another just argue on the basis that There Is No Alternative to a fundamentally capitalist society.

Communism rejects both apologetics. While abstract notions of justice are important, pragmatic efficiency is also important, and provides a stronger argument for communism than only justice. The argument is not that we have to trade prosperity for justice; the argument is that we can have a society that is more efficient and more just.

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