As we’ve said before on this blog, we like it when people ask us questions (coherent ones, anyway) that we can answer and then “recycle” what we wrote as blog postings. It’s even better when somebody else answers a question instead of us. That way we can steal the question and answer and use it as a blog post without actually having to do any work. . . .
Recently we got a question from someone whom we’ll call “Mister X.” That’s not because the question or the answer is X-rated, but thinking up a good pseudonym is work, and the whole idea of using someone else’s work is to avoid doing your own work.
Anyway (as we said), recently we got a question from Mr. X. As X (first name Hammond) asked,
I was just reading your website. Couldn’t your “Just Third Way” be called Communism? As it says in the Wikipedia:
“Communism (from Latin communis, “common, universal”) is a philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of a communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.”
Fortunately, Dawn — CESJ’s Director of Communications — was equal to the task of responding. As she said,
Thanks for visiting CESJ’s website and for your question: “Couldn’t [CESJ’s] Just Third Way be called Communism?”
|"Mein shtick not Just Third Way ist. Peace, Herr X."|
Here are some responses to your question about whether the socioeconomic paradigm we espouse (the “Just Third Way,” also called “Personalism and Economic Personalism”) is Communism:
1) The short answer is, “No.” Although we agree with certain aspects of both systems, CESJ’s philosophy and socioeconomic paradigm is neither Communism, nor is it Capitalism. (See our “Quick Comparison of Capitalism, Socialism and the Just Third Way.”)
Karl Marx explained Communism most succinctly when he stated in The Communist Manifesto: “You can sum up the entire philosophy and program of Communism in a single sentence: Abolition of private property in the means of production.”
|"Not me, either."|
While we would agree with Communism in its rejection of social classes and Monopoly (or Monopolistic) Capitalism, which seeks to concentrate economic power and ownership of the means of production in the hands of a tiny elite, we would reject the idea of common (collective) or State ownership of the means of production, and the assertion that society’s need for money and the State will some day disappear.
We agree with advocates of free markets (who often, if not strictly accurately, call themselves “Capitalists”) with the need for free and open markets as the most democratic way of determining a fair market price, as well as protection of the full private property rights of every owner, and limited economic power of the State vis-à-vis the citizens.
We observe, however, that Capitalism ignores the structural barriers in the economy that prevent the majority of people from becoming economically independent and empowered capital owners. We would also say that the “ism” that stands behind “Capitalism” — a materialistic philosophy and value system that places the accumulation of things as its highest value — does not posit the higher pursuits and purposes of human existence, including the pursuit of values such as Truth, Beauty, Love and Justice.
2) As summarized in the short document, “The Just Third Way Paradigm (in a Nutshell),” we believe that a just social order must start with the dignity, equal rights and empowerment of each and every human being. We reject the idea in Communism that power and rights are inherent in an abstract “collective”, the State or even the majority.
|"There's labor and capital, and the twain meet in ownership."|
We also recognize that human beings, who are social beings interdependent with others for their well-being and survival, create social tools (institutions) that include the State, organized religion, tax systems, money, etc. When our institutions deny any member equal opportunity and access to the “common good” — the common good being that vast network of institutions within which each person realizes his or her individual good — social justice demands that those institutions need to be reorganized or reformed so that individual rights can be exercised and virtues can be developed. This requires that the persons affected by the injustice organize with others to correct those defective institutions.
3) We disagree with Karl Marx and other communists that “Capital” (the means of production) is simply augmented or congealed Labor. We view “Capital” as all non-human factors that contribute to the production of marketable goods and services. (We view “Labor” as all human inputs to production, including manual, intellectual, creative, managerial and entrepreneurial inputs). Ironically, none of the schools of Capitalism differ dramatically with this failure to see that capital ownership is an equally legitimate way for every human being to participate in the production of goods and services. (Even though some schools of Capitalism talk about factors of production including capital, land, etc. along with labor, they are still labor-based in their analysis of “productivity,” defined as the rate of output per unit of input — with that unit of input expressed in “labor-hours.”)
The problem with this one-factor assumption is that since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, we can witness the accelerating displacement of many forms of human labor by capital instruments (including automation, robotics and artificial intelligence). Some types of jobs, such as elevator operators, have been completely eliminated. What this means in terms of every human person being able to produce and earn a livable income is: Those who don’t own capital will be increasingly dependent on those who do own and/or control productive capital, whether that be a private employer, the government or charity. Stated simply: Own or be owned.
That’s the first part of the answer to Hammond X. We will present the rest of Dawn’s response in the next posting on this subject.#30#