« Choice in economics | Main | Game of Thrones & ethical misjudgments »

August 09, 2017


Matthew Moore

By your definition, which actually existing nation comes closest to socialism at the moment?

How far is it from your ideal?


Steven Clarke

There's plenty of excellent stuff here.

However, you do not discuss the trade off between your values. As Isaiah Berlin said "Some among the great goods cannot live together."

Value one is freedom. You want to extend the realm where we can act independently of the constraints placed by others, such as a boss.

But your second value - extending democracy - will necessary restrict your ability to act independently and extend the ability of other voters and workers to constrain your choices.

For example, local voters will get a big say on whether all those houses you want built can get built. They usually severely restrict this - hence debt and rent bondage. Other voters can constrain you just as much as a bad boss.

Steven Clarke

Another trade-off may be freedom at work vs productivity. I know you believe that freeing workers from central control at work will boost productivity, and I'm sure there are cases where this is true. But I'm sure there are cases where it isn't.

I'm self-employed. I value the freedom and I'm happier. But I'm not as productive as I've been in more managed workplaces where there's more organisational capital.


As implied above by Matthew Moore, the real question would be: what practical methods might lead towards the three abstract ends asserted to be desirable?

Historically, we got state socialism, which always went more or less the way of Venezuela, demonstrating that absolute power corrupts absolutely. On a smaller scale, we got the kibbutzim and similar organizations, which eventually all but died out as people grew weary of answering tiresomely to a board of petty, meddlesome busybodies every time they needed a new shirt. And one suspects that ancient small tribes (like some present-day families) far outdid either of the preceding in obnoxious bossiness.

We seem to be entering an era when most people will cease to be of much economic use, as the scale on which actual creative work is automatically reproduced continues to grow without bound. "Jobs" will be left mainly as roles where "deplorables" signal their subservience to their self-appointed betters, a relationship taught quite well indeed in US public schools. Nevertheless, that arrangement cannot possibly end well, as it will engender widespread fury.

Thus, practical questions about how to go beyond hazy utopian abstraction and implement something feasible in the real world may prove important, and fairly soon.


Without wishing to be disrespectful, no-one is really interested in your form of socialism. You didn't nearly win a general election. You haven't got an army of Dillowites agitating to install themselves in power in your name and start the round-ups and the confiscations. Your vision of socialism attracts some discussion on a blog, but it isn't really going anywhere.

Corbyn and many of his followers specifically said that Venezuela was their sort of socialism. So now the executions have started we are entitled to ask if it is still their sort of socialism. And if not, what exactly are they doing to distance themselves from it?

James O'Reilly

I agree with much here but I think we miss the essential point once we accept the legitimacy of rich 'Wilt Chamberlains'.

The root problem isn't a 'capitalism' which has been around for a few hundred years but systemic inequality which is far older. The solution, therefore, isn't 'socialism', a word just as vague as 'capitalism', but equality.



Excellent stuff.
I don't understand why Socilaism has to be absolutely successful in everything it encompasses but Capitalism is obviously continually successful - whilst the rich get richer and Capitalism stutters from crisis to crisis. (Capitalism causes wages to decline shock!) I tend towards the view that Socialism makes Capitalism work much, much better.
And whilst Corbyn may prefer Chavez to the previous right wing lot (who wouldn't?) to suggest he endorses any kind of the current Venezuelan socialist absolutism is for the birds.

Peter K.

Very similar to my plans for Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism.

I recently heard an interesting discussion focused on single-payer health care where a UBI or job guarantee strategy was contrasted with the goals of "decommodifying" stuff everyone needs like health care, housing, transportation and food and making it free.

F.A.L.G.S.C is very much the opposite of the socialism we supposedly see in Venezuela.

I imagine people lounging, eating salty meats and drinking exotic mixed drinks under beautiful scenery like in The Sheltering Sky.

Luis Enrique

Would you still have largely private ownership of the means production? If so - and I realise semantics dear by really matter - what you describe could be called a variety of capitalism.


Ah yes... of course. Is this the same Chris Dillow who argued for a pro-rape, pro-violent crime immigration policy (grounded in 'luck egalitarian' philosophy)...

"From this perspective, the claim that migrants are prone to violence – far from being a reason to exclude them – is in fact a reason for letting them in. It is those who have been most traumatized in their youth that we have a duty to help – but equally, it is these people who are prone to violence. If our immigration policy is at all humane, it will increase the domestic crime rate."


So, are you going to volunteer your sister/mother/niece/aunty... to test out this policy?

Yes? No?


Maybe you could adopt a young, violent refugee rom Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan?

Put your money where your mouth/typing hand is. I mean, you used to work in the city of London. You have LOADSA money! Adopt a violent refugee. Surely, this consistent with your luck egalitarian moral philosophy?


Chris writes:

"For me, socialism is a system which fulfils, as far as possible, three principles.

One is real freedom."

Really? Well, what about the freedom not to be raped or assaulted or killed or burgled? Clearly, in your pro-rape blog post "Immigration, crime & jobs", you argued for a reduction in citizens' negative liberty to offset global poverty. That's totally inconsistent with everything you have said hitherto.


The question is not so much on which principles your'socialist' society would be set up, more of what it would do if everyone used the freedom you say they will have to abandon socialist ideals and revert to a more individualistic free market society? Or indeed what it would do to the significant minority (maybe majority) who would definitely want to do that? Because every socialist society we have seen in practice has ended up using violence to prevent that happening. How are you so sure your version would allow its own non-violent dissolving, if that was what people chose (and horror of horrors) they didn't actually want socialism?

Noah Carl

Your version of socialism sounds like libertarianism with a basic income––i.e., more-or-less what Milton Friedman advocated


@Noah Carl: exactly, the one thing that all socialist states have is precisely a lack of freedom for people to do what they want, because some, maybe the majority, will never want socialism, so they have to be forced to have it, like it or not. Usually at the end of a gun.

A free socialist state is an oxymoron because the two are inimical.

Handy Mike

There is a massive, intrinsic problem with Socialism, or rather Socialisms, and it is common to Corbyn's politics, the outcome in Venezuela, and the various schema by which you hope to select nice things and evade bad. It's this - the tremendous, historically demonstrated hazard of political programmes which aim to implement and enforce substantive, perfectionist regimes of human welfare, rather than to adjudicate between the inevitable competition and conflict of human social life lived among scarcity, value pluralism, and uneven distributions of goods and advantages.
There were excuses for being naive about this for the first 150 years of the argument, up until around the middle of the twentieth century. But not since then.
My critique of Chavez/Maduro isn't that by riding rough-shod over the needs of 'real freedom' and yanking the levers of state power too sharply it blundered into an impoverishing, authoritarian and now murderous tyranny. My critique is that of course it fucking well led to an impoverishing, authoritarian and murderous tyranny. That is what schemes initially cashed out in sinister euphemisms like 'deeper, more thoroughgoing democratisation of social life', 'consider mechanisms for deploying the wisdom of crowds', 'real freedom', 'facilitate the transition to socialism, by encouraging socialistic institutions' and 'empower people to reject exploitative capitalism ' find themselves resorting to when facilitating, encouraging, mechanisms etc fail to erect the city on the hill.
Also, this *is* emphatically statism - every intervention you describe is a policy action by a state.
So, of course, your 'vision of socialism is massively different from that of a centrally planned dictatorship'. I suspect the same was true of Chavez's vision. Centrally planned dictatorships are what visions of socialism, however sinuously articulated, end up requiring. It is in this sense that 'the shortcomings of the Chavez-Maduro government' absolutely undermine your conception of socialism.


What is everyone's problem with Venezuela. Prior to Venezuela's government the majority of the people were in extreme poverty. Resources belonged to a small group of oligarchs. The people rose up and took back there country and their commonwealth. The same psychopathic oligarchs that caused the problems in the first place to cause the uprising are attacking the socialistic government now. It is not political systems that are the root cause of violence, it is a small group of psychopaths who cannot share one bit of wealth that cause all of the problems within governments today. Hence that is why people need a government that protects them and provides a means for equitable distribution or otherwise they all become serfs. Socialism is one of them.


Perhaps you should take the time to read the paper Chris is referencing in your trilogy of hysterical rants before commenting.


EricT you're slipping. You've missed several cast iron justifications for why a self avowed socialist State is descending into economic collapse, violent social disorder and human rights abuses. Where's the 'Its not real socialism'? How about 'Its all the CIAs fault'? You could even have 'Forget toilet paper, look at the number of teachers and doctors!'

You did manage to get the 'wreckers' in there, I'll give you that. Strange how socialist States always attract these mysterious wreckers who seem to travel the globe in search of an innocent prosperous socialist State to wreck. And how efficient they are at wrecking, and with no discernible evidence for their existence either.


Incidentally EricT, Chavez's daughter seem to have acquired a personal wealth in the billions of dollars, all of which is deposited with banks outside Venezuela, making her if not the wealthiest person in Venezuela, certainly in the top 10. Indeed all his family and associates appear to have wealth running into billions and billions of dollars, and no obvious legal means by which they acquired it. No doubt they just holding all this wealth for safekeeping from the wreckers, and in time it will all be returned to the people of Venezuela.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad