Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.
– Frank Zappa
Let’s break this down and refute it.
Frank Zappa says “Communism doesn’t work…”
I agree with him. 🙂
He then goes on to imply that if people did not like to own things, communism would work. Perhaps this is true. People see an inherent value in their work. Mostly, this is because it is a trade that naturally results in ownership of whatever is the object of the trade. Could it be any other way? Sure. We could trade our labor for something we do not own but what would be the point? Perhaps some higher good is attained through this.
The problem with this ‘higher good’ is that it is an inherent contradiction to natural law. This is so because whether or not a communist likes the notion, we already own something. We own our labor. As such we are not predisposed to trade it away without expecting a value in return. We call it “our” labor because it is ours. If we choose to trade it away for nothing in return we are continually losing property because our time is limited and our labor is therefore at a premium.
Communism thinks all property is bad news. The bad news for communism is that the mere existence of a person constitutes the ownership of property, specifically one’s labor. Communism would require us to think of this relationship between a person and his labor as arbitrary and even sinister.
The problem with this view of labor is if a man trades the labor he owns for a product he doesn’t or a type of non-payment, he has no say over what is done with his labor by any recipient that isn’t himself. He has no responsibility over his labor, yet paradoxically he can be accused and convicted by the law on a point over something he did or produced.
I want to stress that if a man cannot keep what is his by natural law, being naturally his due to the reality that it would not exist as a singular object if he had spent none of his labor on it, then he takes no responsibility for how it is used or in what manner or proportion it is distributed.
This may not seem like much of a problem to the “From each according to his ability, to each according to their need,” crowd, but if one owns nothing then by what law (since law is always based on identifying the responsible party) is their any evidence that can stick to a man being accused of a crime? I admit, this is an unlikely scenario. Men will most likely continue to be held responsible for their actions, by law or at least by social convention. However, if men are able to be accused of a crime then immediately they will see there is an inherent value to ownership for two reasons. One is simply that natural ownership is the only mechanism by which a grievance is upheld in a legal proceeding. If men own nothing, men cannot be robbed. Nor can men rob. Secondly, and more eminent in our discussion is that a man naturally feels if he can be accused of a crime over something he did (labor) and have some thing stripped from him as punishment, he finds he did own whatever was taken after all and therefore feels it only fair that his ownership of a thing, and in retrospect his labor, ought to be recognized by the state. Furthermore, he ought to have been, by right, entitled to put said thing to work gaining interest or up for sale or something, anything that brings to him the benefit of natural ownership, which would immediately translate for him as a natural right; since after all the right can apparently be stripped away by the state under the right circumstances. The notion of natural right would imply to him a principle of fair treatment under the law – an equal treatment based upon the natural state of man as having agency (the capacity to make morally responsible decisions) and by extension being naturally entitled to his labor resulting from agency (liberty) and by further extension expressing that ownership of agency in the only natural way that is apparent to the law or social contract – owning and being responsible for the product of said labor.
In conclusion, yes, men (as in mankind) want to own the product of their labor. This is true especially since there is no guarantee that any else’ labor will be beneficial to them or more importantly that anyone else will labor to produce anything at all. On the other hand, one man’s labor cannot be expected to produce enough for everyone else’ need. It may be enough for himself and his family. As such, a man is properly and reasonably expected to produce what he can for a limited number of people he elects to be responsible for. There is no other assured means by which he and those under his care will eat or live. Again, he has no guarantee of anyone’s work but his own and logistically he cannot be expected to produce enough for everyone in a given population.
Retrospectively, I agree with Frank Zappa’s above quote, in a way. I will, however, tweak his statement to something I find more accurate.
Communism doesn’t work because the expectation of equal labor does not guarantee equal labor.
For this reason, socialism is the closest we will ever get to communism. And, of course, in socialism the government owns all labor.