Travel In Communism

It occurred to me today that travel would be a lot simpler in a communist society.

One of the most difficult things about travel is the things you have to lug around. But how many of those individual things are ones that you really need to take, rather than things that will be available everywhere? You don’t really need to transport clothes – you can get clothes when you arrive wherever you’re going. Same with books, cosmetics, first aid, tools, furniture, mugs, cutlery, food, stationery, phones, computers, music players, pretty much anything except those things which are either very specific or very sentimentally important to us.

The reason we transport all these things (and then take them back when we travel in the opposite direction) is simply that if we pick things up at our destination, we’ll have to pay for them. If they’re held in common – no problem. A small example of this is with books – if you’re going somewhere well-equipped with libraries, you can leave your ‘own’ books at home and pick things up out of the library, whereas if there’s just bookshops, to avoid spending money you have to lug all that paper around.

Travel would also be easier because of socially-owned housing. Society already has a surplus of available rooms – but it makes this surplus into a deficit by pricing them, so that even if there are a hundred perfectly good rooms, you have to compete over the ones that you can afford (and if you don’t have enough money to get any of them, you sleep on the streets outside empty rooms).

If this was taken under society’s collective management I can’t think of a more reasonable idea than maintaining a constant ‘margin’ of unoccupied rooms in all locations (obviously adapting to changing situations, like a refugee crisis) so that people can turn up wherever they turn up and be booked into a room for the night without fuss.

And with free public transport (I have to say, short of fantastic new energy sources appearing I have to imagine private powered transport like cars would be phased out) you could basically decide on the spur of the moment to go somewhere, not have to book tickets or rooms, not have to pack, not even have to plan in advance when to come back, and just walk out the door and go. Maybe you don’t come back?

People sometimes suggest that communism is a sort of ‘levelling’, in that it makes everyone equivalent to a middle-income person now. No beggars, but no millionaires either. But what is a millionaire? A millionaire is, for example, a person who can go wherever they like, and who can know in advance that when they arrive, people there will be helpful and do what they can to make their lives easy and comfortable. Someone who can expect that if they feel a need and the means to satisfy it exist, it will be satisfied. Someone living in world set up for their benefit.

By these kinds of definitions, arguably, communism would make everyone a millionaire.

Personally, I can’t wait.

15 Responses to “Travel In Communism”

  1. rumblegumption Says:

    I take it you’re moving back into College then?

  2. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    What are you, my stalker?

  3. Brandon Says:

    Sorry, your going to be waiting a long time then. The closest any major government made to communism is the USSR and the GDR (DDR).

    While I was not old enough to see it for myself, I do hear stories from family members in these quasi-communist countries. They all affirm that the conditions are overbearing, bleak and miserable.

    One quick story, my father was traveling through the GDR and his car broke down. He had to post a sticker on his window to let the citizens know he needed to speak with a government official. He had to remain in the car until a police or military official came by to help him. Sounds pretty scary to me!

    Granted, the GDR was not a “pure” communist state, but since no communist state really exists (minus small African tribes). I can only base my argument on the next closest thing, socialism.

    I also find it disguising that you would want people to share their clothing because you didn’t want to pack it for your flight. No thanks, I will keep my clothes.

    Also what happens when I ask for a book they don’t have at my travel destination? I think I will bring my book anyways to save me the hassle.

  4. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    If they don’t have the book, bring your own, obviously. If you don’t want to share or library-ise clothes, bring your own. Individual freedom is what communism is all about.

    “The closest any major government made to communism is the USSR and the GDR”

    And I certainly hope it stays that way. The last thing communism would want is governments getting too close, they smell and are oppressive.

    “I can only base my argument on the next closest thing, socialism.”

    Calling the German Democratic Republic ‘socialist’ is rather like calling it, um, democratic. Socialism means the working class in control, it means collective ownership. That immediately implies very radical democracy.

    Also, even if we take the commissars at their word, socialism means collective ownership of the means of production but is consistent with a variety of forms of ownership for consumer goods, including money, so it doesn’t really merit comparison with full, moneyless, communism.

  5. freethinker Says:

    What the hell was that comment? The guy doesn’t have an idea what the left is all about!

    Brandon, you need to visit a library before you write out your half-witted comments. So did not appreciate the one you left on my blog, but finding one here made me really angry.

  6. Brandon Says:

    freethinker,

    That may be true, that’s because I am a capitalist. I believe capitalism allows the most individual freedom for people to do what they want (economically speaking of course). The last thing I want to do is approach a committee and have them deem I can’t open a bakery (or any other shop) because, the committee and not the people say I shouldn’t have it. If people don’t want to buy bread from me, I will go out of business and that will be my answer. If I do go out of business, I have not satisfied the needs of the people who may shop there.

    On the other hand, if my bakery does flourish, shouldn’t I be rewarded for my hard work?

    Alderson,

    How will I know they don’t have my book there? So instead of just packing my own, I will have to contact them to see that they do or do not have it. Seems kind of inefficient since I can just pack it myself.

    Ok, The German Democratic Republic was neither democratic or a republic. The GDR did maintain ownership of practically everything in the country, so I don’t see my point earlier as having no value.

    Also we can debate theories of socialism and communism until we are blue in the face, but every time some group of people try to create a communism “utopia”, it always leads to a government forming.

    I do believe that governments get in the way of people doing what they want to do (within the law). So I am always for less government as opposed to more.

  7. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    “That may be true, that’s because I am a capitalist.”
    Seems funny that not being a communist is sufficient reason to know little about communism and still talk about it, when prominent communists tend to spend an enormous amount of energy learning about capitalism.

    “How will I know they don’t have my book there?”
    Online catalogues take about 45 seconds to check.

    “The GDR did maintain ownership of practically everything in the country”
    Governments are a minority, ownership by an undemocratic government is ownership by a minority, minority ownership is not collective ownership.

    “every time some group of people try to create a communism “utopia”, it always leads to a government forming”
    Revolutions (actual ones, not coups backed by invading USSR tanks) in democratic countries have not typically formed governments, they’ve formed council systems before being massacred by the army. This ‘communists always produce Stalinist states’ line is a lazy generalisation from the 20th century phenomenon of the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia and the growing power of groups inspired by and mimicking them in other underdeveloped countries.

  8. Brandon Says:

    Alderson,

    I have read many books on communism. The works of Karl Marx, Lenin, etc… All I am saying is the system they envisioned is not one I would like to live in. Obviously, you may feel differently.

    This ‘book’ thing is rather stupid to fight about. I would choose to pack it in luggage, you want to consult an on-line catalog. Maybe you could start a business model where people could do something like this? Who knows, it could work beautifully. Maybe a library in every major airport?

    I agree that the GDR was undemocratic and that it wasn’t pure collective ownership of the means of production. The only people in the GDR that did control it were the political elites.

    I also don’t see how my comment regarding every country that moved towards communism is a lazy generalization. The USSR, GDR, Vietnam, North Korea, etc.. all used (or continue to use) socialism as a intermediate step towards communism. So far those countries have either dissolved, become totalitarian or in North Korea’s situation, hell on earth.

    China has relaxed some of it’s regulation and allowed private ownership and businesses. While China is far from prosperity, it is slowly working towards it.

    I also don’t like the concept of “collective ownership” as a whole. If no one person (or corporation, NGO) owns it, then if it fails, who is at fault? Also, if all the land is owned by “the people” then what incentives would I have to efficiently farm it and produce food for myself, family and others? By allowing land ownership, you are allowing someone to give back to society (in this case food) and the owner is rewarded for his hard work.

    As always, it’s a pleasure debating with you either on your site or mine.

  9. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    “Maybe you could start a business model…”
    Except that the point would be to make things simpler for people, give them more options, by removing the need for them to pay. So unless I could get someone to pay for it, it’s not profitable. Public goods, market failure, yadda yadda.

    “The USSR, GDR, Vietnam, North Korea, etc..”
    But the GDR, Vietnam, and North Korea were all set up with the help of, inspired by, the USSR, which is why I say it’s basically one phenomenon. Movements like the popular struggles in southern Mexico have taken a different form.

    “what incentives would I have to efficiently farm it”
    There is one question of what sorts of motivations can prompt people to do necessary work on a sufficient scale. I think this is a very flexible area, where culture and circumstances can cause non-material incentives (status, community, desire for useful activity to expend energy on, shared sense of “self-interest” with a group, etc.) to fill that role. There’s a psychological question there, you may feel that only material incentives can do that because humans are fixed in that personality. I would point out that a great many collective projects do occur, that historically half the adult population has worked not for pay but for a mix of economic, emotional, and cultural reasons, that much of humanity’s greatest cultural and scientific work has been done by leisured elites seeking recognition, not payment.

    There’s a separate question of what that would imply. If humans are as limited and inflexible as anti-communists believe, then the implication would be that the best we can hope for is a sort of socialism, not capitalism. That’s because people can be offered payment independently of what they own – people can be rewarded for working productively on collectively-owned land, it’s just that what they get paid in isn’t strictly ‘money’ because its role is limited to consumables, not capital goods. This would of course have many advantages, like allowing for externalities to be taken into account by whatever assembly is apportioning payment.

  10. Brandon Says:

    I do agree that people can and do work without money as their main motivation. Our society has many teachers, non profits, etc.. where the citizens are rewarded more emotionally or with recognition. The drawback is that they may not be rewarded monetarily. So one needs to prioritize their life and look at what is important to them. Is making 100K a year better than helping the homeless? Some may say no while others would say yes. Some people have multiple goals and ambitions that allow them to make a lot of money and still give a lot to charity and other helpful organizations.

    Another major gripe I have with communism as a whole is that I am not truly in charge of my life. Since everything is collectively owned, I will have to consult “the collective” to do most things. Since, technically speaking, I don’t own it. Therefore, I can’t make any decisions on my own regarding the properties usage.

    You also brought up:

    “That’s because people can be offered payment independently of what they own – people can be rewarded for working productively on collectively-owned land, it’s just that what they get paid in isn’t strictly ‘money’ because its role is limited to consumables, not capital goods.”

    What criteria would be used to “value” the person working on collective land? In a capitalist system, the value is “how much can I sell this for?”. The property itself is where it holds value, not some organization that sets an arbitrary number to what they feel it is worth.

    Why do you see the need to limit money to just consumables but not property and other capital goods? Why couldn’t I just walk into a store and take my toothpaste, mouthwash, etc… without paying for it?

    As always, a pleasure.

  11. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    “The drawback is that they may not be rewarded monetarily. So one needs to prioritize their life and look at what is important to them. Is making 100K a year better than helping the homeless?”

    I don’t quite see what your point is. The issue I was considering was, will stuff that needs doing get done. You seem to have brought it round to this ‘deciding my life for myself’ thing.

    Regarding which – no collective will want to make life onerous for its own members if they’re all involved. Conversely, the minority that controls most of the economy will have every incentive to make life onerous for the majority. You suggest that people now don’t have to consult the collective to do most things. I disagree. Almost everything involves ‘consulting the collective’, i.e. negotiating with other people – how you work, what work you do, how much you are paid, how much things cost, is determined independently of the individual, so except for the very rich, people’s lives are ruled by society (as is inevitable in a complex civilisation). The difference is that the capitalist ‘collective’ reflects the needs of a minority and a certain fixed set of principles (like the need for profit), rather than reflecting the conscious deliberations of all its members.

    “Why do you see the need to limit money to just consumables but not property and other capital goods?”
    Because if money can be used to buy capital, then capital becomes privately owned. To put it another way – when I buy toothpaste, I buy a goal, something useful to me in itself. When I buy a toothpaste factory, I buy power and influence over things useful to others. I don’t think those two things should be treated as the same.

    “Why couldn’t I just walk into a store and take my toothpaste, mouthwash, etc… without paying for it?”
    Because that would be communism?

  12. Brandon Says:

    “I don’t quite see what your point is. The issue I was considering was, will stuff that needs doing get done. You seem to have brought it round to this ‘deciding my life for myself’ thing.”

    As I brought up in an earlier comment, people are motivated by their priorities. So things WILL get done as long as people are motivated to do them. If people want to help the homeless, than they will be helped. If someone wants to make a crap load of money, they will do what it takes to make it (I don’t approve of breaking the law for it though).

    “You suggest that people now don’t have to consult the collective to do most things. I disagree. Almost everything involves ‘consulting the collective’, i.e. negotiating with other people – how you work, what work you do, how much you are paid, how much things cost, is determined independently of the individual, so except for the very rich, people’s lives are ruled by society (as is inevitable in a complex civilisation).”

    Sure, people negotiate with other people for contracts, pay, etc.. I was bringing up larger assemblies. I do not want to plead my case to a committee to open a business. If I want to open a convenience store, I just want to get the loans, zoning permits etc.. and open it. I don’t want to explain to the people my desire to sell cigarettes and newspapers to society. My business will fail if I do not properly serve the people with my business. If people do not want a product and that is all I am selling, I will go out of business.

    Most of my negotiating is with small groups (mainly individuals). I negotiate with my boss for a larger paycheck, I set up a contract with one person. This is not the same as walking into a group of people and giving the power to them to blatantly decide my fate. Once the committee gives its answer, I am forced to accept it (Since they are in essence, the government). While I can always work or make another contract with another person if I don’t like the terms.

    “Because if money can be used to buy capital, then capital becomes privately owned. To put it another way – when I buy toothpaste, I buy a goal, something useful to me in itself. When I buy a toothpaste factory, I buy power and influence over things useful to others. I don’t think those two things should be treated as the same.”

    Ya, there not really the same in one sense. Buying toothpaste is not really an investment. Well, maybe an investment for your teeth.

    “Why couldn’t I just walk into a store and take my toothpaste, mouthwash, etc… without paying for it?”
    Because that would be communism?”

    Because that would be theft! I would be stealing the toothpaste from the owner of the store. I would be actively taking something from him without paying him/her for their time, effort and product.

    This gets me back to my main point, If we did live in a stateless communist society, why would a person spend all day behind a counter giving away stuff that wasn’t his or hers? Why would I get up to run a store without reimbursement for my time? What would stop someone from walking into a store and take every last newspaper or any other product?

    When things are free, people value them less. This is why some people look in awe at expensive cars and products. If something was really free, I could (and probably would) take all of it. Hell, I am not even stealing. It’s like taking all of the free newspapers at the train station.

    The reason people don’t steal the newspapers is because their would be nothing in it for them after they took it. If I went around to every store in town and took all the toothpaste tubes, I know have control and power over others and I could charge money for it. People need toothpaste, so either the population would go toothless, pay me or try and take it back. Since “the government” in this scenario, would disapprove of me doing this, I would have to run this business underground. Just like today with drugs and prostitution.

    No matter what form of government (or lack of it), people will always try and get money or any other form of power. True capitalism just legitimizes this. It makes it so I can sell things without having to do it illegally.

  13. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    “If I went around to every store in town and took all the toothpaste tubes, I know have control and power over others and I could charge money for it.”

    No, you are now hated by everyone else in town. Now for a start, you can’t simply ‘own’ all that toothpaste without society’s support. Where do you put it? What stops people from going to take it themselves? Ownership is currently supported by law enforcement. For your scheme to work, you would have to hide the toothpaste somewhere that no-one else could get to it, and then make sure nobody found it when you went to fetch it. Which would probably require a lot more energy than most jobs. And then how do you keep up with every alternative supply of toothpaste? How much of it can you carry?

    It wouldn’t resemble the drugs business. In the drugs business, the buyer and the seller are united against the government/society. In your scenario, the buyer and society are united against the seller. Drugs businesses can operate ‘underground’ because sellers can communicate with buyers without thereby informing a hostile society of their actions.

    Assuming you have sufficient skill at hiding things, making locks, 24-hour surveillance of your toothpaste stash, etc, the likely result is that people first say ‘play by the rules we’ve agreed or we’ll stop dealing with you’, and then your life becomes miserable because while you may be able to ‘walk in and take’ goods, you can’t do that with services. So you’re expending a huge amount of effort and skill to maintain yourself in this unpleasant condition. If you persist your fellow citizens will probably just chuck you out of town as a nuiscance.

    Whatever films may want us to believe, an unsupported individual cannot stand against society if society is organised. Or if they do, they do so using superpowers.

  14. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    “If someone wants to make a crap load of money, they will do what it takes to make it”
    Unless there is no money. Then they will, at best, try to get a crapload of power. Unless there is no or very little hierarchy. In which case they either give up and go with the anarchic flow, or they launch a plot for domination, a la James Bond villains.

    “If I want to open a convenience store, I just want to get the loans, zoning permits etc.. and open it. I don’t want to explain to the people my desire to sell cigarettes and newspapers to society. My business will fail if I do not properly serve the people with my business. If people do not want a product and that is all I am selling, I will go out of business.”

    There are two possibilities. Either 1) people’s desires and welfare are adequately measured by price signals in this particular case, or 2) they are not (because of externalities, because people want the product but don’t want to want it, because it’s a public good, because there’s imperfect information, because of whatever else), which will usually be true to some extent.

    If 1) is true, then any business that would be profitable will be approved by the assembly. If 2) is true, then only hose businesses that ought to operate will be approved. If 1), you lose nothing, if 2) you lose but everyone else gains.

    Not to mention that you leave out entirely the question of who else works in your convenience store and your relationship with them.

    Not to mention that your account is, because it leaves out employees, petit-bourgeois. Petit-bourgeois property if a non-dominant form of property under capitalism anyway – it is subordinate to the property of the grande-bourgoisie, which nowadays means TNCs. To ‘set up a convenience store’ in this dominant form of property means going to committees who will interview you, employ you, promote you, and so forth. The difference is that their power is fixed on the goal of profit, regardless of its social consequences, rather than representing the interests of society as a whole.

    Ultimately though, I guess my feeling is, if you don’t want to be accountable to society for your business activities, tough. Make the most the reign of capital while it lasts.

  15. Tasha Stow Says:

    Do your home work . goverment was put in place if people did not follow the law of the constitution.unfortunately goverment started to control people lives keeping them from education and jobs now we have a new goverment in place controling without one goverment. Now people can make up the law who feel they can pay. To make there own law . which is dangerous because now we have a repubican party who the people vote in office and pay say they are going to work with the democratic party so now this has caused a war among the people


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