Nice-Sounding Things With Which I Disagree: Du

“From each according to his ability. To each according to his need.” This is attacked by many people because of its source in the Communist Manifesto. They don’t ever say why. Others think that it is an obvious statement. Almost the Christian message.

My problem with it is more prosaic. “From each according to is ability” means hard work. Few of us continually work to all our ability. Such work is difficult, exhausting, and ought to be well rewarded. And who is to decide when one is working to one’s ability. There is a subliminal suggestion there. In a religious community one works for the grace of God. In a atheist community there is a structural need to have an administration to ensure – I shudder from the verb enforce – that one’s efforts are sufficient.

The other half is also subtly disturbing. “To each according to his need.” One’s needs are few and Spartan. I don’t need leisure or privacy. I don’t need comfortable clothes or a couch or a computer. I need little more than bread and water. I don’t need music or joy. I want these things. I won’t work hard for nothing but my needs. I don’t have to work to my ability just to satisfy my needs. Also the administration to supply just one’s needs is implied.

What is more there is a considerable surplus to be administered. Whenever I heard Marxism discussed in college all I heard about was the means of production. Whenever we asked about management or distribution we were pooh-poohed. The impression was given that such things were beneath consideration. With more maturity and an experienced suspicious nature, I have since inferred that such things were reserved for the elect. The hoi-polloi such as I needn’t be enlightened. In every Marxist state that has been created such administrators possess considerable wealth; they are more equal.

I know of two groups that live under such a regime. Monks work hard and have lives of remarkable simplicity. Their payment is not money of this world, but it is real to them. And they live so voluntarily. The other group who live only for their needs and to the limits of their ability are slaves. The are kept fed and even have their medical care provided by their betters. They are Not volunteers.


One comment on “Nice-Sounding Things With Which I Disagree: Du

  1. Dan Granot says:

    Nice sounding indeed. Soundbites are the viruses of language. Small, easily communicated, polymorphic, rarely as they originally seemed, and usually, I suspect, up to no good.

    It is a maxim that relies largely on an ideal that does not exist in the natural order of things, and maybe that is the basis for its appeal.

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