Notes on Four Futures by Peter Frase, Note 3

Frase’s first solution is communism, which he says fits into the abundant and equality quadrant. However, it doesn’t take very long to expose the core problem of communism, and to demonstrate that this cannot work.

Frase quotes Marx: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” (p.48). As social theories go, there could hardly be a bleaker aspiration, nor a statement that more clearly identifies communism as neither abundant nor equalitarian.

One can only assume that “From each according to their ability” means that if you can, you must. People do not have choices—they can’t choose work they prefer, they have to do what they are good at—very much like in capitalism. In capitalism, you do what you are good at because that makes the most money. In communism, apparently, if you are able you must do that thing because it is your obligation. In either case, the likelihood of spending one’s life at work one does not enjoy is very high. Abundance, if it is anything at all, must allow people to follow their own passions, interests, and dreams. Since this formulation does not do that, where is the abundance?

Equally, there is the problem of determining one’s ability. Who does that? Wouldn’t we say that if it is anyone other than the person themselves, then there is hierarchy? How is this, then equalitarian?

The same dynamics infect the “to each according to their need” side of the equation. Who determines your need? Someone in the hierarchy.

And, what is the experience of abundance if all you get is your needs met? I mean, in essence, all anyone really needs is a little food and water, right?

The point is that while communism occupies Frase’s abundant equalitarian quadrant, his description of it is neither.

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published.

To prevent spam, please show us you are a real person *