Communists, socialists, and leftists are generally confused on what “scarcity” is. This isn’t surprising considering the fact that language has been one of the first things these kinds of people have attempted to poison with their confused and emotive rhetoric. Words mean nothing until they do mean something and that line is decided arbitrarily by the leftists emotions of him/her/”ze”/”zir” self. The problem with the perspective of some communists and socialists is the denial of scarcity as a real problem.
Let me clarify (I’m not a leftist so I think solid definitions are important).
Many do acknowledge that scarcity is a problem but the catcher is that they believe that scarcity is a problem for the capitalist only. Recently, an Anarcho-Communist told me in a debate group that “scarcity is artificial and caused by capitalism.” I fail to see how this is so. If I want to do X with good G and you want do Y with that very same good (and X and Y are both mutually exclusive), there is scarcity in regards to good G if there is only one available to us. We either need to come to blows over the resource (the Communist solution via the proletariat or working class “seizing the means” from the bourgeoisie class), or adhering to a first user homesteading principle (the Anarcho-Capitalist solution). But let us dissect this concept that scarcity is artificial and caused by capitalism. If this is an accurate and true assessment of reality, then there should be archaeological evidence of a time when, prior to capitalism, man lived in a world with no scarcity. We should be able to look at primitive cultures and see how their ideology magically willed scarcity out of existence, creating plenty for all.
Plains Warfare in the Americas
It is safe to say that the natives of North America did not practice capitalism. This is why Anarcho-Primitivists (essentially communists who take communism to one of its many moronic but logical conclusions) praise primitive cultures and that way of life. If capitalism is the cause of scarcity, rather than a tool in managing it, then how do Anarcho-Primitivists and Communists explain the following:
“Human skeletons from as early as the Woodland Period (250 B.C. to A.D. 900) show occasional marks of violence, but conflict intensified during and after the thirteenth century, by which time farmers were well established in the Plains. After 1250, villages were often destroyed by fire, and human skeletons regularly show marks of violence, scalping, and other mutilations. Warfare was most intense along the Missouri River in the present-day Dakotas, where ancestors of the Mandans, Hidatsas, and Arikaras were at war with each other, and towns inhabited by as many as 1,000 people were often fortified with ditch and palisade defenses. Excavations at the Crow Creek site, an ancestral Arikara town dated to 1325, revealed the bodies of 486 people–men, women, and children, essentially the town’s entire population–in a mass grave. These individuals had been scalped and dismembered, and their bones showed clear evidence of severe malnutrition, suggesting that violence resulted from competition for food, probably due to local overpopulation and climatic deterioration…
…Archaeological data on war among the nomadic Plains hunters are few, but some nomads were attacking farmers on the edges of the Plains by at least the 1500s. By the eighteenth century, war was common among the nomads, apparently largely because of conflicts over hunting territories.”
Somehow, scarcity still existed for native cultures in north America in regards to arable land, food, and hunting grounds. So much so, that warfare among the indigenous tribes was commonplace. But wait, I thought that scarcity was caused by capitalism and yet here we see cultures that did not practice such an economic system still killing each other over “scarce” resources?
Plymouth Colony and 1621
Some may find this example hard to grasp at first, but once the true history of Plymouth is understood, socialism and scarcity are also understood in a better light. The official story of Thanksgiving is that the colonists arrive and half of them die to starvation. But they learn some valuable agricultural techniques from the natives and have a bountiful and full harvest in 1621. As thanks for this bounty, the tradition of giving thanks at harvest for the bounty God has blessed us with is created called “Thanksgiving”. Except, this isn’t what happened at all.
Officially, there was nothing going on but death and famine in 1621 and 1622. Things didn’t actually change until 1623. Richard Maybury notes the following in regards to the economic changes of 1623:
“But in subsequent years something changes. The harvest of 1623 was different. Suddenly, ‘instead of famine now God gave them plenty,” Bradford wrote, ‘and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.’ Thereafter, he’wrote, ‘any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.’ In fact, in 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were able to begin exporting corn.
What happened? After the poor harvest of 1622, writes Bradford, ‘they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop.’ They began to question their form of economic organization.
This had required that ‘all profits & benefits that are got by trade, traffic, trucking, working, fishing, or any other means’ were to be placed in the common stock of the colony, and that, ‘all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock.’ A person was to put into the common stock all he could, and take only what he needed.
This ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’ was an early form of socialism, and it is why the Pilgrims were starving. Bradford writes that ‘young men that were most able and fit for labor and service’ complained about being forced to ‘spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children.’ Also, ‘the strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak.’ So the young and strong refused to work and the total amount of food produced was never adequate.
To rectify this situation, in 1623 Bradford abolished socialism. He gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. In other words, he replaced socialism with a free market, and that was the end of the famines.”
How, pray tell, was scarcity such a problem for such a pure socialist economy at Plymouth? Surely, the moment they abolished private property and shared everything in common, a golden age devoid of scarcity should have taken hold. Yet, starvation and death was all they knew of in this new world until they adopted a form of private property and capitalistic economy. Surely, the outcome of events would be the other way around if the communist and socialist was accurate in blaming capitalism for scarcity and maintaining that all we need to do is abolish private property and capitalism in order to reach this heaven on earth known as “post scarcity”.
Human Action Refutes the Communist
Not only are socialists and communists terrible students of history, they also do not understand logic and economics. Let me provide a scenario to explain. Say you are washed up on a deserted island with nothing but the clothes on your back. You are the only one on this island therefore “capitalism” is simply not possible. Does this mean that you will magically have all of your needs met or will you still have to engage in economic action, be it labor or anything like that, in order to satisfy any needs you may have? You have to labor in order to survive. You have a desired end, continuing to live, and so you take action by applying the scarce means and resources in your control towards this end. You use your labor, energy and time (all scarce resources available to you) in order to hunt, fish, and gather the food and resources you feel you need to survive. If scarcity was not a natural factor of reality, all of our wants would be met instantly and there would be no need to act. So either the communist or socialist has not really thought about their ideas, or they are engaging in some kind of secular religion were salvation and paradise will arrive the moment we all abandon property and live like the colonists at Plymouth before 1623.
Humans engage in action by applying their scarce means towards their varying ends. This is the action axiom and it is obviously problematic for collectivists of any stripe. So, these collectivists attempt a refutation and fail to understand that they are falling into a performative contradiction. This is because the action axiom is a “synthetic a prior proposition” and any refutation requires the action axiom to be true in order for it to be shown false. Such “refutations” can then be easily thrown out as the axiom cannot both be true and false at the same time. Recently, one of these collectivists types tried to refute this point by saying the following:
“Your ‘a priori’ proposition is not a priori. The system we derive a priori we know will either be incomplete or self-contradictory. Even if we could rely on a priori reasoning (if it is possible), we could not know that 1. There are individuals, 2. Individuals act, 3. Individuals have means, 4. Means are scarce, 5. Individuals can control means, 6. Individuals have ends, or 7. Individuals vary.”
This person has just engaged in action by attempting to refute the action axiom by applying the scarce means in their control towards it (their time, mind, body, computer/phone, etc).
“[T]he proposition that humans act … fulfills the requirements precisely for a true synthetic a priori proposition. It cannot be denied that this proposition is true, since the denial would have to be categorized as an action — and so the truth of the statement literally cannot be undone… This also implies that the action axiom is a statement about a fact of reality. Even though an individual might try to deny the axiom, his real behavior attests to its existence. Action is the deliberate employment of means for attaining ends. In this case, the actor’s end is the denial of the action axiom. His attempted means is the statement, ‘Humans do not act.’ While his endeavor is bound to fail, he still acts so long as he thinks that the means he employs will arrive at the end he seeks.”
The mere fact that we take action implies scarcity and there is no way to refute this observation without contradicting one’s self entirely. It’s safe to say that the communist and socialist lives in a fantasy world. Any acceptance of their stupidity in regards to philosophy, ethics, and economics is death a sentence.