↑ comment by Viliam ·
2016-12-14T20:02:27.520Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I generally agree with you, but the part "when Americans think of socialism or communism, they think of authoritarian interpretations" has some good reasons. By the way, I am not an American, but that statement is still true for me, maybe even more so: I remember the regime where I grew up, and I imagine that the same humans would most likely produce the same outcome. I am not saying it's inevitable; only that the burden of proof is on the people who say "trust me, this time it will be completely different".
I have the impression that when people propose something called "socialism", they usually don't even think about how specifically they would design the system to prevent the standard historical outcome (a few million people killed or starved to death). They just optimistically assume that this time the problem will magically solve itself. Because they are nice people, or something. (Like that would change something; there were also many nice people in Soviet Russia, but they were not able to stop Stalin.)
It's like talking with a guy who already built three nuclear power plants, and within a month each of them exploded and killed everyone around. But the guy just shrugs, says it was probably some irelevant random technical issue, and then proposes to build another nuclear power plant on your backyard. Giving the previous failures some thought is the least one can do in such situation.
Another thing that feeds my distrust is that when groups who want to build some kind of "socialism" contain more than dozen members, they usually already have some authoritarian personalities in their positions of power. The corruption is already there, even while their power is almost zero compared to what they aim to achieve, and they cannot fix it now, but they believe the problem will disappear later. It works exactly the other way round: the more power you get, the more psychopaths will be attracted to join you and climb to the top.
Similarly, if someone talks how free speech is bad and wrongthinkers should be silenced, it seems to me quite likely that the same people (or the worse ones who would replace them when the group gains more power) would be okay with imprisoning, torturing, or killing people for the crime of disagreeing. (And of course, the actions done against the wrongthinkers would be on the list of the things one cannot discuss publicly.)
The short version is that designing a society that doesn't quickly end up completely horribly is already fucking difficult. We see how even the most successful examples are quite disappointing. Civilization is frustrating almost by definition; it goes against our instinct, and doesn't make things magically perfect. And our instincts keep screaming at us that if we would just drop all the civilized behavior, find the right group of friends, and kill everyone who tries to stop us from doing what we want, everything would be great. Because that's what worked well for our ape ancestors. But civilization is a fragile house; when you kick too hard, it falls down, and suddenly you find yourself with no food, because all that kicking and killing destroyed the standard production chains. And now you have to keep killing everyone, because now there are too many people out there who really want to kill you if they only could get the smallest chance.
Think about it this way: what prevents a standard capitalist society from simply gradually evolving to the perfect society? Well, maybe there are some genuinely evil guys who want to prevent this outcome, because they enjoy e.g. making their billions by producing weapons that kill random innocent people. And what happens when the country becomes socialist? The very same people will most likely end up in positions of power of the ruling Socialist or Communist Party. Or will be the ones who pull the strings and decide who gets on the top within the party. They are not going to simply disappear overnight. They are experts at survival and power games.
prehistoric tribes, Nordic countries, The Venus Project, or Bernie Sanders.
"Prehistoric tribes" is the same category as fairy tales. Like, we mostly imagine nice things about them. Yeah, they didn't drop bombs, because they didn't have bombs. And they didn't spy on everyone on the internet, because they didn't have the internet. But within their technical options, the strong people oppressed the weak, and the fraction of people that died by murder was an order of magnitude higher than today.
I'm not familiar with the Venus Project. Nordic countries and Bernie Sanders sound like gradual improvements to the current system. Which is IMHO the only way to go. But the Nordic countries seem to already have some problems. I would totally vote for Bernie Sanders if I were an American, but I would expect to be disappointed by the outcome, simply because the society is too complex, and some forces are going to fight back. He could do an improvement or two, and maybe gradually, after having dozen such presidents, things could improve visibly.
Trump makes me unoptimistic.
Same here, but remember it was actually Clinton who defeated Sanders. :(