“Not True Communism/Socialism”


Whenever one points out the horrors of communism and socialism historically, folk pushing the latest round always dismiss them saying they weren’t “true communism” or “true socialism.”  First let’s dispose of the difference which is mainly in how you get there.  They both involve seizure of control of the means of production for what they profess to be the “common good.” The only real distinction is communism generally involves armed overthrow of the existing system and socialism does so through lawfare.

But let’s go with the idea that it wasn’t “true communism/socialism”:

Lenin: “Let’s do Communism/Socialism.”
Russia: “Okay.”
Horrors follow.
“That wasn’t true Communism/Socialism.”

Mao: “Let’s do Communism/Socialism.”
China: “Okay.”
Horrors follow.
“That wasn’t true Communism/Socialism.”

Ho Chi Minh: “Let’s do Communism/Socialism.”
Vietnam: “Okay.”
Horrors follow.
“That wasn’t true Communism/Socialism.”

Castro: “Let’s do Communism/Socialism.”
Cuba: “Okay.”
Horrors follow.
“That wasn’t true Communism/Socialism.”

Kaysone Phomvihane: “Let’s do Communism/Socialism.”
Laos: “Okay.”
Horrors follow.
“That wasn’t true Communism/Socialism.”

Pol Pot: “Let’s do Communism/Socialism.”
Campuchea: “Okay.”
Horrors follow.
“That wasn’t true Communism/Socialism.”

Chavez: “Let’s do Communism/Socialism.”
Venezuela: “Okay.”
Horrors follow.
“That wasn’t true Communism/Socialism.”

Bernie Sanders: “Let’s do Communism/Socialism.”
USA: “?”

I don’t care if it’s “true” (however you define “true”) Socialism/Communism.  The pattern after “Let’s do communism/socialism” and “okay” remains what it remains.

How about “let’s not.”

54 thoughts on ““Not True Communism/Socialism””

  1. Take a man’s property, and you own his life and liberty as well. Socialism pretty much needs absolute power to work, and no man or government can be trusted to handle absolute power without becoming corrupted by it.

    However, the only time one can honestly say “not true communism/ socialism” is when the topic of Scandinavia comes up.


    1. Last time I was in Denmark I got an earful. Basically, citizens are heavily taxed and provided mediocre services.
      To quote the Danish PM
      “I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” Rasmussen said.”

      “ So, what is the catch you might ask. The most obvious one, of course, is the high taxes. The top income tax in Denmark is almost 60 percent. We have a 25 percent sales tax and on cars the incise duties are up to 180 percent. In total, Danish taxes come to almost half of our national income compared to around 25 percent in the US. Quite a substantial difference,” he said. “

      Buy a car in Denmark, you pay a 150% sales tax on the price of the car. Bicycles are popular as the land is flat and cars are unaffordable. Wind turbines are used, again as the land is flat, but there’s also no coal or oil.

      The guide at the National Museum complained that is the economy dips, things cost more and taxes go up.



  2. Hi Mate, i know you had limited room but you have forgotten all the African Countries that were blessed by Communism.
    Another few score of millions “educated” to death there too.

    Communism: Mother Nature’s Human population control mechanism.


    1. Yep. It’s not so much a matter of room but I wanted to pick those that most people would recognize, plus a couple of “smaller” ones. Just enough to firmly establish the pattern. Too much and people’s eyes glaze over.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “ Too much and people’s eyes glaze over.”

        That’s referred to as ‘death’, with which leftists are not only quite familiar but apparently advocate. Just look at the leftists shutting down showings of the Jordan Peterson documentary by telling venue operators that showing the movie will lead them to bring back the guillotine.


  3. The thought process starts with it being axiomatic that true socialism results in utopia. When utopia fails to materialize, then, whatever you did, it couldn’t have been true socialism.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Why are you pretending the horror that follows isn’t what people like Sanders WANTS. They know exactly what they are doing and exactly what they want will do to the rest of us. These people are filled with a murderous violent rage against humanity and want nothing more than the horror that follows. That’s what they WANT.


    1. The implication of the post is that it’s what Sanders wants. It’s the folk who the “not true socialism” claims, who think that a “more fair” system is achievable that way, that the post is aimed at.


  5. For chapter and verse on this phenomenon, see ‘Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies’ by Kristian Niemietz. But the above post makes the same point in far fewer words. Good work!!


  6. Government always attracts psychopaths. The more power a government has, the more psychopaths are attracted. Socialism/Communism always end up with psychopaths at the top. Thee is no such thing as “Democratic Socialism”. By definition Socialism of any kind must be authoritarian. Ergo, it ends up with psychopaths. in control


    1. Which is why the Founders tried to minimize the power the national gov’t had.
      In expanding that power, we haven’t totally slipped the leash, but we’ve made it a really, REALLY long one, without much ability to truly restrain.


  7. Short and to the point!
    But I think that there is something missing between Lenin and Mao:
    Hitler: “Let’s do National Socialism.”
    Germany: “Okay.”
    Horrors follow.
    “That wasn’t true Socialism.”


  8. All the Scandinavian and Nordic states have retreated from Socialism, just not from cumbersome welfare states. That also doesn’t dive into their unhealthy relationship with the Third Reich and the Holocaust. Secondhand mass murder is still genocide and rests on the shoulders of their wartime embrace of Socialism. At least small government combined with unfettered capitalism draws the psychopaths and sociopaths to other occupations. Keeping them away from the levers of central power. Bad things can still happen as a result, but usually it doesn’t end in genocide.


  9. Campuchea: “Okay.”
    You mean Cambodia, right?
    (A sure sign of tyranny is renaming things – particularly the country. Especially if that new name involves “democratic”, “republic”, or “people’s”.)

    USA: “?”
    Is that how you type “Sound of rifle bolts slamming home”? Because that’s the right response.
    Or, if you want an intermediate step, “Sound of feet jerking in mid-air”.

    Socialism requires tyranny. And I’m a big fan of the seal/flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia.


    1. The “?” was because, unfortunately, the question is still in play.

      Really, really, really don’t want to get to that “fourth box” because at that point freedom will no longer be on the table as an option and we’ll just be looking at what version tyranny will take. (Armed revolts, historically, do not have a good track record of bringing about freedom; the American War of Independence being a near unique example otherwise and deriving from conditions that simply do not hold today.) Discussed here: https://thewriterinblack.com/2017/10/03/second-american-revolution-i-hope-not-an-updated-blast-from-the-past/


      1. Which is why immediate and certain consequences have to be applied. Or it will get to outright rebellion.
        Rising up against the chains that would bind us is only revolution if you wait too long. Otherwise it’s simply a necessary corrective. It’s the difference between a course of powerful anti-psychotics and a lobotomy.

        But, no matter what we do, it won’t matter if we don’t mobilize an adequate portion of the populace to understand and guard (zealously and jealously) their freedoms and the concomitant responsibilities. Otherwise it’s like the patient going home and just stuffing the anti-psychotics in his medicine cabinet and going about his murderous day.


  10. And if it wasn’t TRUE! Communism/Socialism, then the next excuse is always that “the right people weren’t in charge”


  11. Definitions, definitions…. There has never been true communism in modern times (if at all). True communism is defined as an economic system based on common ownership of the means of production by those who do the work. It is supposed to emerge from socialism.

    Socialism is the ownership of the means of production by the state acting in trust for the people. As the people become more public spirited or something, the state gradually “withers away” and turns into communism. (Joke: In communism, will police be necessary? No, because the people will have been trained to arrest themselves.)

    Socialism can be imposed by force (as is mostly the case these days) or arrived at through the democratic process. Usually, though, it must be maintained by increasing amounts of force. Socialism is actually a de-facto oligarchy, as the people on the top always do well, while the average person usually does poorly due to the inability of central planning to efficiently allocate resources. (This is a known problem called the “economic calculation” problem.)

    Nazi-ism is a kind of socialism where the government allows the appearance of private ownership of the means of production, but controls it through regulatory fiat. When the regulatory process is “captured” (one way or another) by the owners of the industries being regulated, this is called corporatism. The regulatory process is then often used to exclude competition (the medical field is one example of this, though in that case it is probably on the whole a good thing).

    Most of our so-called capitalist economies are “mixed” economies that are more like corporatism than true capitalism, though different sectors are less regulated than others. Capitalism is when the means of production are owned by individuals.

    Finally, the “free market” assumes that value is subjective and that when people engage in voluntary transactions they will both receive things they value more than what they have exchanged for those things. Government interference in the free market reduces the perceived value of the system. However, the free market is not moral but merely reflects the morality of those who participate. Example: murder-for-hire. So some government intervention in the free market is necessary to avoid the free market degenerating into “every man’s hand against his neighbor”. You need some entity to “keep the peace”, or, as they say, at least “keep the ring.” And this must involve coercion of some sort.

    All in all, however, free market societies have proven to be most pleasant to live in. They incentivize the production of wealth. They harness greed by requiring greedy people to provide something others want. Unfortunately they are only quasi-stable, as wealth can be used to influence the necessary political process to favor one group over another. I think Adam Smith said something like, “Whenever three businessmen are conversing on a street-corner, they are conspiring against the public good.”


    1. However, the free market is not moral but merely reflects the morality of those who participate. Example: murder-for-hire.

      What you’re describing there is an extreme example of what the late Milton Friedman Friedman called “neighborhood effects” and Thomas Sowell called “external costs/benefits”–where some third party, not a party to the transaction, has imposed a cost, or receives a benefit from the transaction. In the case of murder for hire, the intended victim is not a party to the transaction and yet the purpose of the transaction is to deprive that third party of life itself.

      Both Friedman and Sowell, among the most libertarian of economists, recognize that these third party effects cannot be handled well by the market and some government intervention can be beneficial. But Sowell is also wont to point out that “just because government can handle the situation better than the market doesn’t mean it will. Likewise, this is also why the line in the Declaration of Independence “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” Some oversight, to see that one group of people does not violate the rights of others is necessary–a referee who is not an active player, who sees that the rules are obeyed without picking who wins and who loses.

      We’ve gone far, far past that.

      as wealth can be used to influence the necessary political process to favor one group over another

      The problem there is not the “influence’ but the “political process,” or rather the power and influence that input into the “political process” grants one. Government is, put simply, license to use, to initiate the us of, force. Businesses are willing to sink much money into influencing politics because the power of government makes such influence valuable. Indeed, with the government sticking its ore in so often to pick and choose winners, failure to do so can mean the death of the enterprise. So, to “reduce the influence of big business” people make government yet more powerful, meaning influence becomes yet more valuable, meaning people who can will be willing to pay more for it. It just makes the situation worse. I strongly, strongly recommend Milton Friedman’s book “Free to Choose” which goes over examples of this process in action in some detail.

      It’s basically what I call the “Paradox of Liberty”. Liberty requires some small level of the coercive power of government to actually exist. The example I use is that being able to get up on your roof with a rifle to protect you and yours from barbarians (be they invaders, rioters, or whatever) is liberty. Having to do so all the time because the barbarians are so ubiquitous is not. Government, able to keep the barbarians in check so you have the freedom to go about your own business and not spend all your time up on that roof watching for barbarians, actually increases your liberty even count for the reduced liberty from the government itself.

      It’s not stable. Government, any government, seeks to increase its power. Cincinattus (and his moral heir in Washington) was an abberation. The Iron Law of Bureaucracy holds. Constant effort is needed to prune it back but the populace rarely has the attention span to maintain that constant effort. So we get cycles of up and down. Right now I’ve got my fingers crossed that we might be at the peak of a “government power” cycle and are posed to crash down into a “more liberty” cycle.

      And I’m doing my best to help make it happen.


      1. the government sticking its ore in
        Heh. Minor typo, but true. Gov’t seldom manages to put an oar into the water to propel or turn a vessel. Instead, it’s often simply tossing rocks. After all, sinking the vessel is “turning the vessel” for certain planes of movement……

        people who can will be willing to pay more for it
        And, thereby, pricing out the little guy who can’t afford to pay that much. (See, “entry, barriers to”.)

        the populace rarely has the attention span to maintain that constant effort
        We are never more than one generation away from tyranny. So we must teach, inspire, and preach Liberty and Justice constantly, a la Deuteronomy 6:6-9.
        (Oh, and the next few verses have something to say about how good times make weak men, too.)


    2. Capitalism is when the means of production are owned by individuals.
      I’m going to disagree. Marx defined it as the moneyed class (those with capital) owning the “means of production”. What you’re describing is not capitalism but a “free market”.

      You might think this is splitting hairs, but it’s important (imo) to not buy into the bogus language the left uses. They are NOT fighting “capitalism”, but the free market. Capitalism only arises out of a feudal (or near-feudal) system. We’ve never had that in America. (What version we did have, we eliminated in the late-19th century.)

      I think this is important because 1) the left is fighting something that doesn’t exist in America, and 2) it can help you knock down bad assumptions when discussing this with someone who might have a couple of brain cells to spare.


      1. Marx defined it as

        Marx used lots of bizarre definitions. That doesn’t make him right.

        Case in point (see Thomas Sowell’s book “Marxism”) Marx defined the poor “getting poorer” such that they can be “getting poorer” even with a rising standard of living. And it’s no surprise that Marx is full of struggles between classed, because that’s how he defined a class. No matter how much a group of people might have in common with each other, and different from others, if they weren’t in a struggle with some other group then they weren’t a “class.”

        Marx’s definitions obfuscate rather than illuminate. By design.

        Accepting Marx’s definitions of anything is the first step in falling into the trap.


        1. I beg to disagree with both of you.
          My understanding is that, for Marx, capitalism is a social system with the following features:
          * a free market;
          * ownership of the mans of production restricted to a small minority, the capitalist class (presumably, ownership follows a Pareto distribution);
          * this capitalist class is also the ruling class, in the sense that they have all, or almost all, the political power.

          This seems to me a fairly good account of Victorian Britain. Since then, things have changed, for better or for worse, due to
          * government regulation of business;
          * the welfare state;
          * limited liability;
          * pension funds;
          * universal suffrage.

          Therefore, people fighting “capitalism” are fighting a strawman.
          And Marx, however accurate his analysis of economic history might or might not be, made foolish predictions.


          1. Again “for Marx” is utterly irrelevant. Marx contributed nothing of import to economic thought. He regurgitated some half-understood ideas of previous economists, missed some major developments that were happening at the time, and wrapped it up in some ridiculous bullshit political “theory”.

            Capital, “means of production” exists because somebody was willing to delay gratification spending their resources not on immediate wants but to produce means for further production. See Bastiat’s story of “the plane” which predates Marx by some time–Bastiat’s seminal work “Capital and Interest” in 1849, vs. the first volume of Marx’s Capital in 1867.. Marx also draws an artificial distinction between the “capital” of large factory firms and that of smaller shops, and between the hardware such as factory machinery and the human skills that also improve production efficiency, not considering the latter to be capital at all.

            He builds fairy-tale castles out of smoke and mirrors. The wonder is that anybody takes the tripe seriously at all.


          2. (NB: this is a reply to thewriterinblack.)
            I am sorry but i cannot see what your reply has to do with what i wrote. It is an ad hominem argument … though i am grateful that you attacked Marx, instead of attacking me!

            Another thing:
            If you equate capitalism = free market, how do you understand the concept of crony capitalism?
            For me, it is easy: crony capitalism is capitalism in the sense that there is a capitalist class that has political power. All what is missing, is the free market.


          3. The neologism “crony capitalism” already had a name, Merchantilism. It was the theory in vogue at the time Adam Smith wrote “The Wealth of Nations”and against which it was largely a reaction. (See Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics–he goes into this in some detail.)

            The reason my rant against Marx was relevant is that he “defined” things like Capitalism and “Class” and “the poor getting poorer” certain ways to set up certain arguments then used them in different ways in his arguments, classic Fallacy of Equivocation. He described “capitalists” one way but the economic system he was arguing against was the laisse faire economic advocated by Smith, Bastiat, et al. I.e. he was arguing against free trade.

            This pattern continues today. People say they are opposing “Capitalism” and not “The Free Market” but then turn around and make arguments that are actually against the free market itself and their “solutions” invariably are restraints on that free market. Folk will criticize “Crony Capitalism” (Merchantilism) and then propose solutions which are always…always restrictions on free trade.

            The reason is simple there is no dividing line between “capitalism” and “free trade”. There is no specific point where possession of some particular amount of capital–means of production–causes a phase shift, a change in kind rather than quantity, from “ordinary person” to “capitalist.” If you think there is, then define it, and explain why there and not 2% higher or 3% lower. How much capital makes one a capitalist?

            The “monied classes”, “capitalists” (some vaguely defined subset of people who possess capital, that is the means of production), “the 1%”, et al are simply used as a hobgoblin, a “them” to be made into the enemy, but the restrictions on trade end up being general. Marx and his heirs would define “those rich people” as bad guys* but then suggest “solutions” that apply universally. That tactic is woven through Marx, and is carried on by his heirs down to the modern day–even by people who don’t even realize that they’re echoing his own fallacious arguments. The distinction you’re making between “capitalism” and “free trade” is just one example.

            The concept of capitalism predates Marx’s use of the term by a good 13 years and “capitalist” by more than half a century. I simply refuse to accept his corruption of the term, particularly since it was deliberately obfuscatory, as gospel.

            *Actually, he didn’t portray capitalists as bad guys although that’s the way Marxism is generally portrayed–see Thomas Sowell’s book “Marxism” for more complete discussion. Yes, I’ve been reading a lot of Sowell. He happens to be a conservative to libertarian economist who has written a lot.


        2. ‘The concept of capitalism predates Marx’s use of the term by a good 13 years and “capitalist” by more than half a century.’
          This is interesting. However, I consulted the Fount of All Knowledge and it seems that ‘capitalist’ and ‘capitalism’ were used, before Marx, in pretty much the same sense in which they were used by Marx. ‘Capitalism’ did not mean ‘the free market’ but a system in which capital is concentrated in the hands of a minority of people. So it is you who is corrupting the original meaning. (Although millions of others ON BOTH SIDES preceded you.)

          ‘There is no specific point where possession of some particular amount of capital–means of production–causes a phase shift, a change in kind rather than quantity, from “ordinary person” to “capitalist.”’
          But there was such a point, before the introduction of limited liability. Before then, owners of capital had to work full-time at making sure that their capital was used efficiently and that they did not become liable from its misuse. In that system, I could not invest $100 in your company without risking to lose all my other assets: home, pension, everything. My best bet would have been to put all my money into my own business — but first i have to put aside enough money to reach the threshold of being able to start a business.

          Note also that ‘capitalist’ is still used, almost always, in its Marxian and pre-Marxian sense, to mean somebody rich enough to live off income from capital. This usage would be incorrect according to your definition.

          OTOH ‘anti-capitalist’ does not denote a socio-economic class but an ideology. It is perfectly possible, even likely, to be both a capitalist and an anti-capitalist. See George Soros for a particularly blatant example.


          1. Well, okay, since you consulted the Fount of All Knowledge, capital letters and all…

            Again, they say they’re using a “Capitalist” and “Capitalism” in a certain way but what they argue against is the free market and the private ownership of capital. Fallacy of equivocation.

            Again, where is the line between possessing some amount of capital (and we all do–human capital is still capital) and being a “capitalist”? Why at that point? Why not 2% higher or 3% lower (or whatever other figures)? Without such a line, the distinction is nothing more than a verbal smokescreen. You claimed that there was a point, but you haven’t actually pointed to what the point is. Are you saying that the distinction is between limited liability corporations and other business arrangements? So, my boss in my day job, is a “capitalist” since the business, employing a total of three people aside from my boss, is organized as a corporation but the law firm that I hired for recent actions, employing an order of magnitude more people with far larger assets is not because it’s organized as a partnership? Is that the case?

            If it’s the limited liability–investors aren’t risking any more than the investment itself–that’s the problem, then perhaps we should go further. It was not all that long ago that family members were also held liable for individuals’ debts. Owe money and your children, and their children, could be held liable for it. Perhaps that should be the “point” instead,

            As Oliver Wendell Holmes said (and Thomas Sowell is wont to repeat), “Think things, not words.” Words, in this case “capitalist” and claims of what it “really means” is used to obfuscate that the arguments they make against “capitalism” are actually arguments against voluntary exchanges in a free market. Their “fixes” for their claimed “evils” of “capitalism” are always…always restrictions against free trade.


          2. Well, okay, since you consulted the Fount of All Knowledge, capital letters and all…
            That’s the way some of us refer to it on Samizdata. I assume you know that I mean Wikipedia.

            Again, they say they’re using a “Capitalist” and “Capitalism” in a certain way but what they argue against is the free market and the private ownership of capital. Fallacy of equivocation.
            We agree on the main point: there is a fallacy of equivocation. I must disagree on the nature of this equivocation. I believe that you would be in a weak position if you argued with a leftie that ‘capitalism’ does not mean what Marx meant, it means something else.

            Let me distinguish 4 meanings of ‘capitalism’:
            A. pre-Marx: a society in which a small minority owns all the means of production. (NB: I rely entirely on Wikipedia for this.)
            B. Marx: like A, plus this society has a free-market economy.
            C. A free-market economy, whatever the ownership of the means of production.
            D. The kind of economic system that we have in Western countries today.

            The real equivocation, I maintain, is between B and D: most lefties, and not a few “righties”, really believe that we still live in the kind of system that Marx described, when in reality the system has radically changed, and NOT in the way that Marx predicted.
            If the system had not changed, one could say that perhaps Marx was correct, just ahead of his time. Since capitalism sensu Marx did not turn into socialism sensu Marx, we can definitely say that Marx was a bullshitter* when it comes to predictions.

            * sensu Harry Frankfurt


          3. You claimed that there was a point, but you haven’t actually pointed to what the point is.

            I realize that you do not have enough time to read all comments carefully, but this is just plain wrong. I claimed that, before limited liability (more precisely, before general limited-liability laws), there were a few people (or more precisely, a few families) that lived entirely off the profits from ownership of the means of production, a large number of families that lived entirely off the profits from manual labor, and very few families in between. You could put the boundary (between the capitalists and the masses) anywhere between enough capital to support a family, and zero.

            I see from the millennium edition of The Economist that general limited-liability legislation was introduced in the UK in 1854*. After the Commie Manifesto, but before Das Kapital. Marx should have been able to predict the effect of the new laws, but either he didn’t bother to think about it, or was not smart enough.

            * 1811 in NY State, followed by other States.


          4. Wikipedia

            Yes. Thus the sarcasm of my reply. Wikipedia is not a reliable source for anything the least bit controversial or political.

            A. pre-Marx: a society in which a small minority owns all the means of production.

            Snort. Such a system never existed. Ever. There were some large companies in the mid nineteenth century, but there were also some smaller ones, all the way down to individual proprietorships and entrepreneurs. The forge of a village farrier is every much “means of production” as is a steam powered rolling mill.

            This is just one of the disconnects between Marx and reality. It creates a straw man, an economic “system” that has never existed, and then attempts to rebut it.

            Now, Marx actually did sort of acknowledge that the world wasn’t there yet. But he saw growing big businesses with “capitalists” as he termed them owning larger shares of the means of production (industrialization and economies of scale were leading to larger businesses) and simply extrapolated that and assumed that a handful of big capitalists would soon own everything. The problem there is that while there are economies of scale, there are also diseconomies of scale, where going larger becomes less rather than more efficient. This is why, for instance, auto manufacturers don’t make tires, or many another part for their cars but rather buy them from folk specializing in their manufacture–it’s simply more economically efficient. He also completely overlooked turnover in business. For a current example, The top 10 of the annual Fortune 500 list, seven of the top ten in 2019 were not on it in 2009. Likewise with family fortunes, there are a handful (a small handful) where the fortune was maintained over three or more generations and even there, well, the Rockefeller fortune (about $11 billion today) is a pale shadow of what it was under John D. Rockefeller ($314 billion in today’s dollars at its peak) and that spread over upwards of a hundred heirs. The only way to keep the wealth concentrated in the way Marx described is through power of government.

            Mark’s “capitalism” was a system that did not exist, never existed except possibly in absolute monarchies–but that was not what he was describing–and never would exist except by being enforced by government, exactly the opposite of what Marx proposed. The whole thing was a pure strawman from the beginning.

            The concept of limited liability is far older than the 19th century dating back to at least the 15th century with limited liability granted to monastic communities and trade guilds. In corporate form it dates back to 1600 and the founding of the British East India company. Admittedly it became more widespread in the early to middle 19th century, but if that’s the dividing line then once again things are backward. Limited liability corporations actually decentralize wealth. They encourage more widespread ownership of capital. Do you own any stock? I certainly do, and I’m a long way from wealthy–solidly middle class here (was upper middle before but single income now where was two incomes before). Being able to invest, to buy part ownership of a company including part ownership of its means of production, without the risk of losing everything else and being turned out in the street if a company fails (as about 2/3 do within a decade of founding), makes such investment a lot more appealing. One of the founders of Apple sold out his share to the two Steves when he realized it was being formed as a partnership, not a corporation (later, of course, became a corporation) and if it tanked he could be personally bankrupted. In hindsight, we can consider that a foolish decision but it was an entirely rational decision at the time.

            The effect of the limited liability corporation is exactly the opposite of what it would need to be to create a “capitalist” system as described by Marx.

            And there’s still the example of the place I work. It’s a small, four person shop (including the owner). My boss is a “capitalist” because it’s organized as a corporation but the legal firm I did business with, an order of magnitude larger both in employment and income, is not because it’s a partnership? How is such a definition actually useful?


          5. I am sorry, but there are only so many replies orthogonal to my comments that I can take without feeling gaslighted; and if there is one thing that I dislike, it is feeling gaslighted.


          6. Well, if you keep buying into Marx’s straw man of “capitalism” (a system which never existed in the form you describe as being Marx’s version), which was then used to actually argue against free trade, then of course you’ll feel “gaslighted” when that disconnect is pointed out to you. People who buy into an ideology do tend to feel that way when the ideology is challenged.


          7. I am sorry (again) but if you think that I am “”buying”” into Marxism, then you are as delusional as Hillary thinking that Tulsi Gabbard is a tool of the Kremlin.
            Which explains why I feel gaslighted, and that’s a relief!

            Actually, I do not know for a fact that Tulsi is not a tool of the Kremlin.
            Nor do i know for a fact that Hitlery really thinks that Tulsi is a tool of the Kremlin.
            So from my standpoint you are more delusional than Hitlery 🙂

            But I honestly appreciate that you approved my previous comment. I tried to be polite — which is not one of my natural talents — but even so, not all bloggers would have approved it.


          8. You have been…remarkably resistant to any explanations but let me try to spell it out one more time.

            The definition of “Capitalist” and “Capitalism” you are using is a Marxist idea. While not original with him (as much else attributed to him is not) it has largely been filtered through him and given far more attention than it deserves (possibly because the total package makes such a useful ready-made ideology for would be totalitarians to use to further their ends). This “a handful of capitalists own all the means of productions” did not describe the economics of the time. It did not describe any past economic systems (Mercantilism was closer, perhaps, than post-Adam Smith Laissez Faire). It has only been approached since (with “control” in place of “ownership”) in Communist regimes, usually right before economic disaster requires them to reassign control of at least some of the means of production back into private hands.

            Since it did not actually describe any economic system then or previously in effect, that definition of “Capitalism” only exists as a straw man to rail against. And then after knocking down this straw man what’s actually attacked is laizzez faire, where means of production is private property bought and sold in the free market.

            What they’re doing goes by various names, “Bait and switch”, “Fallacy of Equivocation”, “Mott and Bailey argument”, but it’s all the same basic concept: get people to agree that something, some label is “bad” then use that label to describe _other_ things that can be lumped under the same label but that don’t fit the definition that everyone agreed was “bad”.

            People can generally agree that having a few people living in wealth and splendor with everyone else is squalor is a bad thing. (Which is what the Marxian definition of “Capitalism” involves.) And so, they then say that we have to do something about “Capitalism” (since it’s been defined in such a way as to make it the problem). But then they get to the point of proposing “solutions” and their “solutions” are not to restrict “Capitalism” as they’ve defined it (They can’t because it doesn’t exist as they’ve defined it) but instead to restrict the. free. market. This makes it clear that their objection, what they really meant by “capitalism” was “the free market” and the definition they sold you on was a lie all along.

            So you’ve got two definitions, the straw man they set up specifically to get broader agreement of “that’s bad”, and the actual definition derived from how they use it when they propose policies and institutions to “control” this “evil capitalism.” And that latter definition can be summed up as “the free market.”

            Accepting this strawman definition of “Capitalism” without seeing through it to the actual meaning as demonstrated by their actions is buying into Marxist concepts. That you don’t think of it as such is not really a surprise. Marxist philosophy, although carefully not labeled as such, is endemic to education and much “political philosophy.” The schools (here in the US and while I don’t know about where you are–if your IP information is accurate–I doubt that they’re better in that respect), news, entertainment, et al are full of it.

            So, yeah, you’ve been gaslighted, but not by me. By the people feeding you Marxism with the serial numbers carefully filed off so that you don’t realize it’s Marxism.


          9. And I don’t block or moderate people for disagreement (first posts by a new poster are moderated until I let them through–it’s a WordPress thing; but I’m generally very open about what I let through). Hell, I’ll even allow a certain amount of abuse. I understand getting frustrated. Obvious trolling is another thing. And continuing to go around in circles when I’ve pointed out that we’re going around in circles and looking like they’re trying to “win” through simply exhausting me so I give up responding can get you banned.

            And “a certain amount of abuse” is not carte blanche. There is a limit and I’ll generally warn when approaching it.

            But simple disagreement? Truth is found in forging idea against idea until the best ideas emerge. And silencing dissent? As a fictional character once noted: “If you tear out a man’s tongue, you do not prove him a liar. You only show the world that you fear what he might say.”


          10. This should really be an independent thread.

            You have been…remarkably resistant to any explanations but let me try to spell it out one more time.

            I do not necessarily disagree with what you wrote, i just think that almost all of it is irrelevant to my understanding of politics, since the latter is not Marxist.

            The definition of “Capitalist” and “Capitalism” you are using is a Marxist idea.>/em>

            I explicitly said that i was discussing the Marxist definition, so what’s the point in informing me of that?
            In any case, Popper taught me never to argue about definitions.

            What they’re doing goes by various names, “Bait and switch”, “Fallacy of Equivocation”, “Mott and Bailey argument”, but it’s all the same basic concept

            Let’s take motte+bailey. My claim is that you are pointlessly attacking the motte when you should occupy the bailey instead.
            Or to mix metaphors, you should use verbal ju-jitsu: you should accuse your “leftist” opponents of being tools of the ruling class. Which happens to be true.
            If you deny the existence of a ruling class, that becomes hard to do.


          11. PS: just because the concept of checks & balances is first discussed in Plato’s Laws (to the best of my knowledge), that does not mean that everybody who believes in checks & balances is a totalitarian like Plato.

            Apologies for the bad formatting in my previous comment.


          12. I explicitly said that i was discussing the Marxist definition

            And I have explicitly rejected that definition for reasons that I have gone into multiple times and which boil down to that it does not describe any system then or previously in operation and that the proposals that were supposed to “fix” that straw man were actually proposals against private property exchanged in the free market. Thus, the functional meaning behind his deceptive verbiage (Holmes’ “Think things, not words”) was the free market.

            There are two meanings: one defined by the words they used to describe that meaning, and another defined by how they use the word. The two are not the same. I go by the latter. Again “think things, not words”.

            Popper taught me never to argue about definitions.

            Then perhaps instead of trying to convince me to use Marx’s definitions, you should have just accepted the definitions I clearly spelled out for the current discussion and moved on?

            My claim is that you are pointlessly attacking the motte when you should occupy the bailey instead.

            The “Motte” in this case is the Marxian straw man definition of Capitalism. The Bailey is “free market.” Attack the Bailey, they retreat to the Motte. So long as they remain secure in the Motte, they are in a position to retake the Bailey when it becomes convenient. And historically have done so. One of the reasons that Marxian ideology has proved so remarkably resilient in the more than a century and a half since its introduction is that it’s full of such motte and bailey definitions. “Class struggle”, the “poor getting poorer”, “Capitalism” all are verbally defined one way, then used in a much broader way.

            One needs to strip away the protection of the Motte, take away their defensive retreat, take away their insincere protestations of “well, of course I don’t oppose the free market, it’s just the concentration of all wealth in the hands of a few plutocrats, leaving the rest of humanity destitute, that I oppose”. Leave them that retreat and they just come back again and again and again. That’s the whole point of Motte and Bailey–to leave them in a fortified position ready to retake the Bailey as soon as opportunity presents.

            The Motte has to be taken down, or invested and starved or the fight just keeps going on. In this case, we need to strip away the veil of words, the Will o’ Wisp of the Marxian “definition” of Capitalism (an actual Will o’ Wisp has more physical reality than that Marxian definition), to bring attention to the actual things. Stop thinking “Words” and letting the Marxists define terms of the conflict, and start thinking “things”.

            Of course, the fight will always go on, but I’d rather deal in the future with small, independently rising skirmishes than with well-entrenched forces in a fortified position (the very definition of a Motte).


          13. Any time you are tired of this, let me know and you can have the last word.
            I thought i had enough of this, but now i am getting into it.

            […] their insincere protestations of “well, of course I don’t oppose the free market, it’s just the concentration of all wealth in the hands of a few plutocrats, leaving the rest of humanity destitute, that I oppose”.

            I don’t know where you live, but here on Earth, to the best of my knowledge, no modern Marxist, Marxisant, or leftie unwittingly influenced by Marx, makes that argument. None of them denies that they are against the free market. They all identify ‘capitalism’ with ‘the free market’, just as you do. You are adopting the definition of ‘capitalism’ used by modern “Marxists”, not me.

            That is what I have been saying: orthodox Marxism has withered away because Marx’s predictions, based partly on his definition, have been falsified. Demand that modern Marxists use Marx’s definition and they’ll become unable to defend their ideas.

            Then perhaps instead of trying to convince me to use Marx’s definitions, you should have just accepted the definitions I clearly spelled out for the current discussion and moved on?

            I am not trying to convince anybody to use any definition. I only try to explain what definitions I. Otherwise i would be misunderstood.
            I understand that you are a coder. As such, you should find it easy to understand that a definition cannot be true or false, but only useful or useless. Your definition is useless, since there is another, unambiguous term for the concept that you define as ‘capitalism’. That other term is ‘free market’.

            The “Motte” in this case is the Marxian straw man definition of Capitalism.

            Sorry, but that is not the motte. You are, by your own admission, engaging with a strawman, rather than attacking the motte.
            The motte-idea is supposed to be unassailable: either an analytic truth, whose negation implies a contradiction; or else something with overwhelming empirical support, such as Newton’s laws of motion.

            Postmoderns retreat to motte-ideas when you attack their bailey-ideas. But you cannot destroy motte-ideas, because they are true; or at least undeniable based on current knowledge. What you can do, is use the very same motte-ideas as basis for discussion, in which case you have effectively taken over the motte for your own use. That is what I mean by verbal ju-jitsu.

            In the case of Marxism, what I identify as the motte is the theory that, in human society, there has always been a ruling class. Many thinkers have used this very idea to attack Marxism, beginning with Bakunin, I believe. You don’t have to approve of Bakunin, to think that his criticism of Marx was correct.
            In any case, the only people who use the concept of ruling class sensibly today seem to be conservatives/libertarians such as Angelo Codevilla, Glenn Reynolds, and Joel Kotkin. But the usage seems to be spreading to others on “our” side.


          14. You are adopting the definition of ‘capitalism’ used by modern “Marxists”, not me.

            So you’re the one using a “definition” that doesn’t match any market system that has ever existed and ha only been most closely approximated by communist nations (generally right before economic disaster forces them to return at least part of the means of production back to private hands–see, for instance, the “private plots” granted to kolkhozniks in the old Soviet Union).

            Since Marxists are arguing against the free market and I’m arguing for the free market, we should be good. Instead you’re hung up on the label and, really, your entire line of argument makes no sense and now sounds like trolling.


          15. since there is another, unambiguous term for the concept that you define as ‘capitalism’. That other term is ‘free market’.

            Are you, perhaps, unfamiliar with the concept of “synonyms”? Just because there exists one word or phrase with a meaning does not mean that others cannot also exist of the same or similar meaning.

            The definition is useful because Marxists will often say “capitalism” when they don’t want to say “voluntary exchanges with prices determined by the free market”. It’s deliberately intent on obfuscating their actual intents. By using the word in the meaning demonstrated by their actions, I underscore that they are intent on controlling everyone, not just a few “1 percenters” (to use a term so beloved of our breed of “Democratic Socialists”).

            Sorry, you have an … odd description of Motte and Bailey argument. A common example is “feminists” on the one hand engaging in all sorts of man-hating, “women are superior in every way” stuff, but when you attack that, they retreat to the “motte” that “feminism is just about equal rights and by attacking feminism you say that you’re against equal rights for women.” The “motte” here isn’t analytically provable, its negation doesn’t lead to a contradiction (in logical terms), nor is it something that can be demonstrated empirically because it’s a matter of values not objective tract. But, at least in Western society, it is a matter of values that are so common that attacking the motte is nearly unthinkable. So they use that as their stronghold when the bailey (all the other baggage that modern intersectional feminism brings with it).

            Likewise, Marxists associate “capitalism” with “oppression”–the concentration of wealth into a few hands leaving the rest in squallor, the whole “the poor get poorer” idea (which I have discussed elsewhere).
            They attribute a whole host of evils to “capitalism” and the cupidity of “capitalists” to disguise that what they are actually opposing is the freedom to do what one wants with ones own property. Underscoring that, far from being oppression, Capitalism is actually freedom, undermines that.


    3. When it comes to crime & corruption, the various socialist societies are far, far worse than the capitalist ones.
      If you have to break the law on a regular basis just to survive, you don’t become paralyzed with terror as Strident Ayn tried to tell us. Instead, you just get jaded and inured to it- when’s the last time anyone here had a real crisis of conscience about going 75 on the interstate?
      The apparatus of the state likewise gets jaded and inured to the constant need for breaking the law- at least the non-political ones. If the local factory needs to make some deals under the table to meet the quotas, best one just let it go. Can’t do something that makes the local party look bad, now can you? And if you can get a bit of scratch yourself, better still.


  12. Communism is an implementation of socialism. Another implementation of socialism is fascism.

    According to Austrian-economics theoretician Ludwig von Mises, socialism and capitalism are social systems–opposite sets of beliefs for structuring a society to maximize the production of wealth and prosperity. Such beliefs have to be implemented somehow in the policies of societal institutions. So, communism is one model for implementing socialism. Mises calls it the socialism on the Bolshevik pattern; he calls (German) fascism the socialism on the Nazi pattern. Presumably, we can call Venezuela’s Chavismo the socialism on the Bolívarian pattern.

    In my own words, the main belief or thought grounding capitalism is that every property is privately owned by some person in a society, and the government isn’t a person. And the main belief or thought anchoring socialism is that every property in a society, including human beings, is publicly owned by one person, which is the government.


    1. Capitalism is not a “system”. It’s simply what happens a label given to allowing individuals or self-organized groups of individuals to control their own property (including themselves and their time, labor, and skills) in voluntary exchanges with prices determined not by some central body but by supply and demand as determined by the choices people make unconstrained by coercive force. It’s practically the definition of liberty. Anything involving coercive force is, by definition, not capitalism.

      Since, people being people, there’s always going to be somebody trying to apply coercive force to somebody else, complete capitalism is an ideal that can only be approached, never actually reached. Unlike what many people try, however, this is not an excuse to abandon the ideal–it can’t be perfect, therefore don’t bother trying at all–but rather a reason to work harder to get closer to that ideal. Generally speaking, the closer we get to true capitalism, the better for everybody, rich and poor alike. The closer we get to “true socialism” the worse for everybody except the Nomenklatura. Of course, Socialists think they’ll be among the Nomenklatura. The reality is most of them, if they’re lucky, will be scrabbling in the fields according to the dictates of the Nomenklatura. Most will be in the gulags if not in the mass graves.


      1. The closer we get to “true socialism” the worse for everybody
        Not quite. The issue with “true socialism” is not the lack of private property, but the ‘lack’ in human nature – we’re not angels. The “makes it worse for everyone” is a result of having to enforce socialism.

        The private property aspect of freedom is a recognition of the value of the individual. Life and Liberty are also centered in that concept. Individuality is not necessarily the highest good. HOWEVER, as long as human nature is what it is, valuing individuality – arising from those three principles – is the best way to maximize good for everyone. It provides incentive to maximize your own potential, to benefit others, even to establish community (laws, mutual aid, contract enforcement, etc.).

        IFF we didn’t need that incentive – because we had all magically become something other than fallen humanity – communal living would be beautiful. If that’s your goal, well, you’d best immanentize the eschaton, since Jesus’ return is the only way I know of that you’re making that happen.

        (Yeah, I’m in a slightly disagreeable mood today. But only slight. Because you are hitting the 10-ring.)


        1. The issue with “true socialism” is not the lack of private property, but the ‘lack’ in human nature – we’re not angels.

          The problem is more fundamental than even that. The problem with any centrally planned economy is that the planners can never have sufficient information to manage the plan. Simple things like how much of product A to produce and how much of product B. Then you have the further question of how much of resource C to allot for making Product A and how much of it for product B. Then, how many people do you need making product A for the amount you plan to produce and how many making product B, and how many obtaining/producing resource C? How do you arrange the number of people to be working in the appropriate fields? How much do you pay the people producing product A, and how much producing product B? If producing product B is a more unpleasant job than producing product A, then how are you going to induce more people to work at it? You could pay them more, but how much more? And if you get the wrong answer on how much to pay them, then the only thing you’re left with to get the people you need working to make the products you want is force. And those questions, and many more like them, need to be answered for every single product that will be available to the populace.

          It’s simply an impossibly monumental task. No individual, or reasonable group of individuals can possess all the information necessary to even begin to efficiently make all those decisions. And that’s even leaving aside individual problems like “I’m allergic to The People’s Soap, I want something that doesn’t use X” and “I find the smell of roses revolting, can I get another scent in my air freshener?”

          As Milton Friedman liked to point out, no one person knows all the myriad things necessary to make a simple wood pencil, from the mining the steel for the saws, to the producing the graphite, to the growing and cutting the trees for the wood, to the mixing of the paint, to the brass ferrule, to the rubber eraser. Instead, in a market economy, hundreds and thousands cooperate to make that pencil, all organized through the price system, without the need for coercive force. Oh, there may be coercive force used in parts–people may be forced at gunpoint to mine graphite in Ceylon (hypothetical here; I don’t actually know the status of graphite mining in Ceylon), but that doesn’t change the overall picture and the economic effects require more time to discuss than I really want to get into here. Each individual only has to know their small part of the process, plus how much the inputs to their part costs and how much they can “sell” the output for.

          Going back to my original point here, though, the simple truth is any centrally planned economy must end up using coercive force to make people do more work to produce product B, whose production is more unpleasant than Product A. In a free market, the producers of B have to offer more to workers to get them to produce product B. This drives up the cost of producing B which will affect the quantity demanded. If the demand is sufficient to pay the higher price, well and good. If not, then the quantity produced will have to come down one way or another (perhaps by the less efficient producers of product B going out of business) until the amount produced is no more than the amount people are willing to buy at that price. No coercive force required.

          The use of coercive force, tyranny, is built into the DNA of centrally planned economies, whether called “Communist”, “Socialist”, “Fascist” or whatever label somebody comes up with to try to smokescreen the reality. The only way to escape it is to abandon the central planning. Period.


      2. The genus “social system” simply identifies a structured set of thoughts (i.e., a logical hierarchy of moral-political doctrines} grounding a society’s laws, institutions, and government in a given locality. America as a country, then, is grounded on the thoughts written in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution. And those thoughts are logically supported by more thoughts. (A mental thought, achieved by willful thinking, is a fallible identification of what’s there, of what exists–of a fact.)

        People being people act on the basis of what we believe. Socialists have socialism on their minds when they act. For them to stop acting so, their beliefs must be recognized by them to be false. Since beliefs are abstractions, in order to falsify one, one has to falsify every subabstraction that logically supports it, and on and on recursively at every level.

        Since socialism abstractly is politico-economic, if it is to be falsified, its groundings on the nature of man, of government, of economy, of right, liberty, justice, equality, capital, profit, wage, market, etc. must all be logically refuted and shown to contradict reality. That is, socialism can’t be defeated simply with one thoughtful argument; it can only be defeated systematically with another system of thought concerning a society’s general welfare.

        Capitalism is not asymptotic. If one has the system of thought and affirms it, then one has it, then one is a capitalist in thought if not yet in deed. (And it’s not about being bookish; it’s more about an outlook backed by experience and some learning.) The problem is that people don’t have it. They have it in a kinda-sorta approximation, which leaves them susceptible to being undermined when a supposedly strong counterargument or empirical study comes along. Then they either concede or admits to the legitimacy of a little bit of socialism. Then they only talk about it generally and don’t have the confidence to identify themselves as capitalists.

        Capitalism as a social system is cited here:

        The Bolshevik and Nazi patterns are cited at the end of this page:


        1. People act, to a large extent based on the incentives and constraints of the situation around them. Their beliefs affect that, but they are not the only factor. As for that line about “capitalist in thought if not yet in deed”, sorry but what you do defines who you are.

          And you can’t just decide “I’m going to be a pure capitalist” if others decide otherwise. You’ve got to work within the constraints created by other people also making their choices. And part of that is dealing with external costs and external benefits or issues of indivisibility. (National defense, for instance, is indivisible–everybody benefits as long as somebody pays for it, therefore it is in each individuals interest not to pay for it themselves but to let someone else do so.)

          That is why pure, unadulterated capitalism is something that can never be completely achieved. There are always situations where individual self interest becomes harmful to others. And there are always people who will take advantage of that to their own benefit and the detriment of others. The existence of those is one of the constraints one needs to deal with. If everyone were angels, you could to it. But not everyone is, so you can get close, but never quite there.

          In any case, we can be a whole lot closer than we actually are.


  13. That thing Adam Smith describes is what people do, no matter what system they live under.

    It’s not some Utopian vision that requires the quixotic attempt to change humanity into something that it is not.
    The reason Socialism always fails is because that’s not how humans operate. We’re not good at functioning altruistically for long periods of time. But, we are great at trying to benefit ourselves and our own families.


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