“The Tragedy of the Commons”

First, this argument is based on a misunderstanding of what “the tragedy of the commons” points to.  It is thrown around by anti-Communists as an “example” of what is “inevitable” in such a society where resources are shared.  They use it to suggest that mutually controlling resources inevitably leads to famine, as the resource is misused.  But this is not ever what “the tragedy of the commons” pointed to.  It points out a situation where a mutually shared resource will be wasted by everyone because they are in competition, and thus always act in their own selfish-interests, which leads to the squandering and waste of the resource, ending its existence for everyone.  That, as you can see, is what we have now.  That is pointing to the flaw of Capitalism, not Communism.  Because Communism regulates resources mutually for everyone’s benefit, and actively ends competition through the end of the necessity for profit, and providing for everyone’s needs.  

The second issue is that the recent popularization of the very phrase “the tragedy of the commons” comes from a 1968 scientific essay written by Garrett Hardin.  In this essay he points to the theoretical problem with “the tragedy of the commons” being caused by overpopulation.  A problem that is certainly possible, as I pointed out in this very book: infinite growth is not possible on a planet with finite resources.  That rule applies to population as well as business.  But, overpopulation is not as immanent of a threat as Hardin and others would have you believe.  I will not go into the deep details of this fact, as this book is not meant to be a scientific work, and also because Communism addresses this problem anyway.  

An ever increasing population is necessitated by Capitalism, because as I’ve pointed out already: Capitalism necessitates constant and ever-increasing growth of business.  This necessitates an ever increasing workforce, which necessitates an ever increasing food source, which necessitates an ever-increasing force of laborers to cultivate food sources.  Capitalism continues and promotes the almost universal cultural aspects which encourage everyone to marry and reproduce (a carry-over from the days of agrarian society, where a family had to supply its food for itself, and thus needed as many children as possible to work their food source) in order to fulfil this need.  Communism is the diametric opposite of Capitalism, being based on sustainability and fulfilling for everyone’s needs first, rather than profit and growth of business.  And without the need for profit, nor the need for the populace to purchase goods to move Capital, there is no need for everyone to work at all if it is possible.  We can replace the workforce with automation entirely if possible, without any negative economic side-effect.  All of this means that no one would be encouraged to reproduce at all if they don’t want to.  Because we don’t need a constantly growing workforce, or a workforce at all if we continue developing automation as it has been developed over the last two centuries.  Even without automation, the same need for an ever increasing workforce is non-existent in a Communist system, because only meeting people’s needs in a sustainable manner is considered.  There is no profit in Communism, no requirement to move Capital.  Such a system does not require a large workforce to begin with, nor does it require there to be jobs for everyone.  As I said earlier: it doesn’t matter who performs a job, only that the job gets done.  So if we can provide for everyone’s needs without everyone performing a job on a regular basis, that is a win for everyone, and drastically reduces the size of the workforce, reducing the stress on the commonly held resources that we already rely on.

Without encouraging or necessitating an ever-increasing workforce, the cultural traditions which encourage everyone to reproduce would quickly fade away, ending any potential overpopulation problems before they even occur.

But let’s return to what the opponents to Communism mean when they refer to “the tragedy of the commons.”  They argue that if all is held in common, then people will squander our shared resources, and ruin them for everyone.  This, they argue, is why famine is inevitable under Communism.  As I said, this based on a misunderstanding of Communism, a strawman.  Communists recognize that if a shared resources is available to all without any regulation, it would certainly be ruined and exhausted by modern consumption.  In fact, this is a major cornerstone of Communism, because that is exactly what Capitalism is doing.  It allows the resources that we all need to be privately owned and wasted by those private owners.  Communists see this and recognize that in order to prevent such a situation, we must democratically manage our resources.  They must be regulated as a part of the socio-economic system, we must end competition over these resources to avoid them being squandered and wasted.  

But, of course, this is not a guarantee that famines will not occur under a Communist system.  They are, after all, caused by natural events all the time.  And there were famines under past attempts at Communism.  So, we must learn from those mistakes.  And mistakes they were, not inherent aspects of Communism, but rather a result of the specific organization of the Governments that they occured under.  Mao’s “Great leap Forward” and the Ukrainian famine often called “Holodomor” occurred under highly centralized systems managed by a central committee, which over saw and mandated organization over the whole country.  This system organized the whole country into districts of specific production.  Meaning one or two regions of the county often were left to produce the food for the entire country.  This left the country susceptible to famine, as often one area of a country can be subjected to a drought while another experiences an abundance of rain.  A new Communist system must learn from this, production must not be so highly centralized.  We must leave each municipality to organize its own production systems according to its specific needs, as only the people in that region can understand how to manage it best.  But, at the same time, we must prohibit parochial independence of municipalities, and instead maintain a system to ensure that no community is left to endure hardships due to natural disaster, as the different regions of the country that are not subjected to the disaster can provide their access to the region that has been hit by drought, or hurricane, or some other event, until it can recover.  This will prevent such famines from occurring, and is similar to the precautions that the Soviet Union and China took after their famines, which ended famines in those regions for the first time in thousands of years.  Neither China nor the regions that composed the Soviet Union have experienced famines since “Holodomor” and “the Great Leap Forward,” prior to which they experienced famines on a regular basis for millenia.  China had previously experienced a famine almost every year for the last 2,000 years.

However, there is a possibility at least that “Holodomor” and “The Great Leap Forward” were deliberate malicious attempts to exterminate portions of these countries’ populations by their rulers.  It is not something that I believe it was, I do not see the evidence of such an act.  Rather I believe they were a failure in Governmental composition and management, and at the most a degree of apathy or ignorance about malicious intent within the lower ranks of the Soviet Union’s and Maoist China’s bureaucracies.  Still, if this claim was true it would not be a criticism of Communism, but rather another criticism of Republican Government, and yet another example of its flaws.  As is testified by the fact that Capitalist Republican Governments have done the same.  Particularly the United States and the United Kingdom.  In fact, the U.K. performed this exact method of attempted genocide in both Ireland and India.  Since the only common factor between China, the Soviet Union, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, is the fact that they are/were all some form of Republican Government, we must conclude that this Governmental system is the source of the problem.  Especially since the claim is that these famines were intentional and malicious.  Only a country that has rulers would even attempt something like that.  The solution is to not have rulers, to have a Communist Participatory-Democracy.  Because the people aren’t going to enact a genocide on themselves.

Of course, many will point out that such management is possible without totally abandoning Capitalism.  And they often point to countries like Sweden, Norway, and Denmark as successful Capitalist Social-Democracies.  These countries and their “Nordic model” of Capitalism are hailed as proof that Capitalism can be regulated into an ethical system.  As we will discuss, that is not the case, at all.  It is, in fact, impossible and undesirable.

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