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Israeli Kibbutzim and the Failure of Socialism:

Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker has a fascinating post on Israel's kibbutzim. The kibbutzim are Israeli agricultural communities initially organized on socialist lines, mostly between the 1910s and 1950s. Originally, most kibbutzim followed strict socialist policies forbidding private property; they also required near-total equality of income regardless of differences in productivity, and in some cases even abandoned specialization of labor. In recent years, Becker points out, most of the kibbutzim have had to abandon these policies, due to the perverse incentives they create and their inability to to hold on to their more talented younger residents.

As Becker puts it, "nowhere is the failure of socialism clearer than in the radical transformation of the Israeli kibbutz." If a socialist experiment could ever succeed, it should have done so in this case. Most kibbutzim were founded by highly motivated volunteers strongly committed to socialist ideology. For many years, kibbutzim had great prestige in Israeli society, and many of the nation's early leaders were kibbutz members. After Israel became an independent state in 1948, the kibbutzim also benefited from extensive government subsidies. Unlike other socialist experiments, the failure of the kibbutzim cannot be ascribed to lack of ideological fervor, inadequate resources, or hostility from the surrounding "capitalist" society. Despite these advantages, kibbutzim failed to achieve a high level of economic productivity, and even failed to retain the loyalty of many of their own members. Over time, many kibbutz residents became frustrated with the perverse incentives created by socialism, and many also yearned for the individual freedom and privacy created by private property rights.

Only by watering down or abandoning their comitment to socialism have kibbutzim been able to survive. If socialism cannot work under the highly favorable circumstances of the Israeli kibbutz, it almost certainly cannot work anywhere.

Of course there is one advantage that socialist governments enjoy that the kibbutzim did not. Unlike a kibbutz, a totalitarian socialist state can use its secret police to suppress dissent and force the people to work for the state whether they want to or not. This explains why Israel's kibbutzim have mostly abandoned socialism, while North Korea and Cuba have not. When given a choice (as in Eastern Europe after 1989), the people of socialist states have rejected socialism even more decisively than most Israeli kibbutzim eventually did.

The failure of socialist kibbutzim does not prove that small, voluntary communities should abjure all communal property. To the contrary, scholars such as Elinor Ostrom have shown that voluntary social groups can often manage common property resources effectively if they also have private property as well. In Israel itself, the less famous moshavim have enjoyed much greater success than the kibbutz model. Unlike the original kibbutz, moshav members hold their land as private property and are paid at least in part on the basis of performance; at the same time, moshavim also often have considerably communal property as well, managed by rules that try to curtail free-riding and the "tragedy of the commons." Small-scale experiments in limited communal property can sometimes work. Indeed, they are perfectly consistent with free-market libertarianism, so long as they remain purely voluntary in nature. By contrast, the kibbutz experience shows that experiments in full-blown socialism are likely to fail even under very favorable conditions. A free society should not ban the formation of voluntary collectivist communities. However, their debilitating shortcomings provide a valuable lesson in the virtues of private property.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Why the Debate Over Socialism Isn't Over:
  2. Israeli Kibbutzim and the Failure of Socialism:
Malvolio:
Next, Becker will prove that water is wet and the sky is blue.

Sorry, I'm not mocking Ilya or Becker, but if there is one thing the last 100 years or so have proven, obviously, blatantly, undeniably, is that collectivism doesn't work as well as individualism. What would make an interesting post is why some people remain unaware, or at least continue to pretend to be unaware, of this fact.
9.7.2007 2:10am
Christopher M (mail):
Indeed, just as the debilitating shortcomings of massively unequal societies roiled by revolution provides a valuable lesson in the virtues of redistribution. Notably, though, virtually no one in the American political scene (and very few even in Europe) advocate modeling civil society on the Israeli kibbutzim, while nearly-pure libertarianism remains a respectable political position.
9.7.2007 2:36am
V:
Not only is Becker's point obvious (though certainly still in need of being made), it's not even terribly original in its insights. I recall Robert Nozick making the same point in Reason magazine back in the 1980s...
9.7.2007 2:41am
Ilya Somin:
Indeed, just as the debilitating shortcomings of massively unequal societies roiled by revolution provides a valuable lesson in the virtues of redistribution. Notably, though, virtually no one in the American political scene (and very few even in Europe) advocate modeling civil society on the Israeli kibbutzim, while nearly-pure libertarianism remains a respectable political position.

There is not a single example in world history of "nearly-pure libertarianism" causing violent revolution - or even of inequalities in wealth doing so in and of themselves.

As for advocates of modeling civil society on a collectivist basis, there are plenty of them in academia and elsewhere.
9.7.2007 3:33am
Ilya Somin:
I recall Robert Nozick making the same point in Reason magazine back in the 1980s...

Nozick did indeed write an article on kibbutzim. But his point was different from Becker's. Nozick argued that the fact that only a small percentage of Israelis wanted to live on kibbutzim shows that socialism has limited appeal. He did not address the incentive issues considered in Becker's post and mine.
9.7.2007 3:34am
pmorem (mail):
Communism works fairly well when there are two people involved who are committed to it. In the US alone, there are millions of stable systems... and millions more that fail. At the 200 level, the kibbutzim have demonstrated that it breaks down slowly.

Beyond that... only by iron boot.
9.7.2007 4:34am
Zathras (mail):
Another example of working small-scale communism is provided by Catholic monasteries. There are quite a few Catholic monasteries that have existed and thrived for centuries, although quite a few others that didn't make it.
9.7.2007 8:26am
Bottomfish (mail):
One example of an order that did make it would be the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools, who ran a California winery. The products were sold nationally under the "Christian Brothers" label. In 1885 the winery was sold to Heublein Inc.
9.7.2007 9:25am
Bottomfish (mail):
Pardon, the year was 1985.
9.7.2007 9:26am
Temp Guest (mail):
Apropos the comment on monasteries, I would like to point out that the earliest breakdown in the Kibutz experiment involved families. Into the late 1950s most Kibbutzim wrere designed for communal child-raising. Although there were marriages, there weree not supposed to be separate quarters for individual family units. Natural tendencies of parents to favor their children and of couples/parents to live in family units caused the first major breakdown in the pure socialist vision of Kibbutznics. Considering the savage attack on traditional marriage and family in current Western culture, this may be worth noting.
9.7.2007 9:29am
steve (mail):
There is not a single example in world history of "nearly-pure libertarianism" causing violent revolution...

Lessee, how would that go?

1st Libertarian: "We need to get organized."

2nd Libertarian: "Whoa, hold a minute a minute there."
9.7.2007 9:54am
Another Kevin (mail):
@Bottomfish fails to point out that while the winery was sold, the schools are still very much in operation. In the northeastern United States alone, I know of three schools named "Christian Brothers Academy" and two named "LaSalle Institute," all operated by the Lasallians.
9.7.2007 9:58am
TechieLaw (mail) (www):
"KIBBUTZ YASUR JOURNAL; The Kibbutz Sheds Socialism And Regains Lost Popularity" by ISABEL KERSHNER (Aug. 27, 2007) (or just pull it up on Lexis)

Here's an excerpt:

"Now, in a surprising third act, the kibbutzim are again thriving. Only in 2007 they are less about pure socialism than a kind of suburbanized version of it.

On most kibbutzim, food and laundry services are now privatized; on many, houses may be transferred to individual members, and newcomers can buy in. While the major assets of the kibbutzim are still collectively owned, the communities are now largely run by professional managers rather than by popular vote. And, most important, not everyone is paid the same.

Once again, people are lining up to get in.

''What we love here is the simplicity,'' said Boaz Varol, 38, who rides his bike along wooded pathways to work at the swimming pool, once for communal use, that he rents and runs as a private business at Kibbutz Yasur, in the rolling hills of the Western Galilee, northeast of Haifa. ''Everyone does what they want, we have our independence, but without the kind of competition you find outside.'' "
9.7.2007 10:02am
Grange95 (mail):

Natural tendencies of parents to favor their children and of couples/parents to live in family units caused the first major breakdown in the pure socialist vision of Kibbutznics. Considering the savage attack* on traditional marriage and family in current Western culture, this may be worth noting.


Umm, so gay marriage leads to socialism? Not sure I see the leap in logic here ...

* Can we please leave the violent language out of the same-sex marriage rhetoric? Oh wait, Karl Rive abolished honest intellectual debate. My bad.
9.7.2007 10:54am
Don Miller (mail) (www):
150 years ago when the Mormons settled in the Utah region, they also experimented with a system that would referred to as a purely socialistic way of life.

The term socialism hadn't been invented in the 1840's. They called it the "United Order". If you talk to members of the LDS Church and bring up the United Order, you find out that the Church still talks about it. They believe that when Christ returns to the earth, it will be re-implemented by Christ over the whole earth.

How do I know this, Life-long Mormon, have the personal journals of some of my ancestors that lived under the system.
9.7.2007 11:13am
Seth Eagelfeld (mail) (www):
The "communal child-raising" was one of the quaint things our parents used to joke about before we visited these places. Beyond the Kibbutzim, however, you must remember that Israel itself had a largely socialist economy upon it's statehood, which--like India's--has been largely discarded. It's interesting to note though, that India and Israel's gradual transition to capitalism has proved largely effective, while Russia et al.'s "shock" approach, one advocated by American Conservatives, has proven devastating and left large numbers of unhappy citizens willing to embrace Putinism.
9.7.2007 11:24am
DCraig:
"Unlike other socialist experiments, the failure of the kibbutzim cannot be ascribed to lack of ideological fervor, inadequate resources, or hostility from the surrounding "capitalist" society."
I'm not a big commie guy but I can play devil's advocate here:

Wouldn't the fact that they can't retain young people point to some decline in ideological fervor? And I'm not sure that I would equate government farm subsidies with "adequate resources," because, as many a Midwest farmer can attest, government subsidies don't offset other market forces. And I would also say that there has been a fair amount of hostility to the idea of the Israeli kibbutz among western capitalist nations throught the kibbutz's history.

The social experiment of the kibbutz may have failed because it was socialist, but these are very poor arguments to make in my opinion.
9.7.2007 11:32am
TGGP (mail):
It's interesting to note though, that India and Israel's gradual transition to capitalism has proved largely effective, while Russia et al.'s "shock" approach, one advocated by American Conservatives, has proven devastating and left large numbers of unhappy citizens willing to embrace Putinism.
The term "shock therapy" originated from the successful and even MORE drastic changes in Eastern European countries. Russia actually pursued more gradual changes than them though it set out to imitate their success. See Comparing Apples.
9.7.2007 11:38am
Houston Lawyer:
I don't think you can analyze a monastery from an economic incentive point of view. Residents of monasteries have generally taken vows of celibacy and vows of poverty. They live in monasteries because of their religious faith. Some of the monasteries produce certain goods to help support themselves, but this is incidental to their life styles.
9.7.2007 11:40am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
There is not a single example in world history of "nearly-pure libertarianism" causing violent revolution - or even of inequalities in wealth doing so in and of themselves.

The first statement is true only because such a society has never existed, and of course never could exist. The second true only to the extent that there is rarely, if ever, a single cause of a revolution. Inequalities in wealth have of course played a major, if not predominant, role in many revolutions.
9.7.2007 11:44am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I don't think you can analyze a monastery from an economic incentive point of view.

Why on earth not? The assertion was made that socialism fails because it simply cannot exist when faced with competition from a capitalist society. If a group of people can live in a socialistic society and run a successful business, no matter what their motivation, or what they do with their profits (in the case of the Christian Brothers Wineries--use them for charitable works rather than to enrich themselves), why doesn't that disprove the contention?

There are a lot more examples of successful and long lasting socialist communities in history than there are of libertarian ones. In fact I can't think of a single example of the latter, perhaps Ilya can enlighten me.
9.7.2007 12:01pm
JB:
While there has been an attack on traditional marriage, I would hardly call a movement to let more people get married an attack upon the family as such. It seems to me that there has been instead a massive strengthening of the family, as families that don't work in the classic man+woman+child+dog paradigm are now socially acceptable and thus hang together instead of breaking apart into feuding chaos.

Of course, if your definition of "the family" is excessively narrow, you may have missed this.
9.7.2007 12:50pm
Smokey:
Israelis on the kibbutz had to re-learn the lessons of the Pilgrims:

From Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War:

''The fall of 1623 marked the end of Plymouth's debilitating food shortages. For the last two planting seasons, the Pilgrims had grown crops communally -- the approach first used at Jamestown and other English settlements. But as the disastrous harvest of the previous fall had shown, something drastic needed to be done to increase the annual yield.

"In April, Bradford had decided that each household should be assigned its own plot to cultivate, with the understanding that each family kept whatever it grew. The change in attitude was stunning. Families were now willing to work much harder than they had ever worked before. In previous years, the men had tended the fields while the women tended the children at home. 'The women now went willingly into the field,' Bradford wrote, 'and took their little ones with them to set corn.' The Pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism. The inhabitants never again starved.''

When all the rhetoric is stripped away, Socialism/Communism is based on envy and the coveting of their neighbors' goods. As Walter E. Williams says, Americans are far and away the most charitable people on Earth. They willingly reach deep into their pockets to provide help to the unfortunate. But when government reaches into someone else's pocket in the name of charity [ostensibly to provide help but in reality to buy votes], that is not charity. That is theft.

Anyone who believes that the ''poor'' in America are still hungry and deprived of life's necessities needs to look at this.
9.7.2007 12:58pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The Pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism. The inhabitants never again starved.''

Of course the native inhabitants of the Americas had flourished for well over 10,000 years living in communal and socialist societies. In some places (e.g., Central America) with population densities greater than almost anywhere else on the face of the earth that wouldn't be achieved in the Americas again for more than 100 years. They developed some of the largest empires the world has ever known and certainly the most successful purely Socialist empire. If not for the introduction of devastating plagues that completely destroyed and disrupted societies, these socialist societies would have very likely have been able to resist European colonization. Even in the case of the Pilgrims, it is only because a plague had practically wiped out the local Indians that the Pilgrims were able to establish their colony, earlier attempts in the same area had been rebuffed by hostile Indians.
9.7.2007 2:04pm
MDJD2B (mail):
The original purpose of the Kibbutzim was to create defensible settlements that were as self-sufficient as possible. It was *not* to maximize economic output.

I hold no great brief for socialism but, as my relative on Kibbutz Matsuba (just sourth of the Lebanese border) told me in 1970, the 1949 borders of Israel are defined by the location of the kibbutzim. (An exception is the Etzion bloc of kibbutzim between Jerusalem and Hebron, whose members were massacred duing the Israeli war of independence.)

Kibbutz members,like members of a monastery, pooled their economic goods and futures to create communities to acheive the ideal of a self-sufficient agrarian society. The kibbutzim may not have been self-sufficient, but they provided a vastly disproportionate share of the country's early leadership.

The decline of the kibbutzim was tied to the incresing irrelevancy of the ideal as economic conditions changed, and as defense became more high-tech..
9.7.2007 2:48pm
Temp Guest (mail):
J. F. Thomas: I'm really crious what pre-Columbian socialist empire you are referencing. All the ones I'm familiar with -- Mayan, Aztec, Incan, Natchez, etc., etc. -- had hereditary aristocracies, mal-distribution of goods that is grotesque by our standards (certain luxury goods were denied on pain of death to all but the king and his favorites), and incredibly destructive agricultural policies. According to most accounts Mayan civilization fell precisely because of over-exploitation of the land coupled with long-term climate change. many of these empires were prone to violent political convulsions by the oppressed masses, e.g., the Natchez were undergoing political convulsions like this when first contacted by Europeans and Cortez took advantage of hatred of the Aztec empire to gain Indian allies. Don't make up facts about things that you clearly know nothing about.
9.7.2007 3:08pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Of course the native inhabitants of the Americas had flourished for well over 10,000 years living in communal and socialist societies. In some places (e.g., Central America) with population densities greater than almost anywhere else on the face of the earth that wouldn't be achieved in the Americas again for more than 100 years. They developed some of the largest empires the world has ever known and certainly the most successful purely Socialist empire. If not for the introduction of devastating plagues that completely destroyed and disrupted societies, these socialist societies would have very likely have been able to resist European colonization. Even in the case of the Pilgrims, it is only because a plague had practically wiped out the local Indians that the Pilgrims were able to establish their colony, earlier attempts in the same area had been rebuffed by hostile Indians.
I am not sure how much of this is historical revisionism and/or wishful thinking - obviously neither Thomas nor the rest of us were around for any of this. Let me suggest though that most of those Native American cultures that J.F. Thomas is characterizing as socialist were in actuality mixed economies, with some socialism and some private ownership, more akin to what works now in Israel, as opposed to what failed earlier.

As to the Pilgrims, my understanding is that most of the Indians were already dead by the time the Pilgrims landed and tried to settle, as a result of plague from previous European explorers. The result was less pressure on the Pilgrims, combined with access to already cleared land. So, to the extent that the Pilgrims had to convert from socialism to a mixed economy to survive, the point about the Indians being dead is irrelevant. The difference is that some of the Pilgrims lived, and they may not have if they had not changed their economy.
9.7.2007 3:20pm
Lior:
I think the article (and the commenters) are trying to draw the wrong conclusion from the failure of the kibbutzim. The lesson to be learned is that a commune of several hundred committed people works great to start with, but that it cannot last because the next generation does not join out of personal committment.

The first-generation members are happy with the life the chose for themselves. They wouldn't be happier anywhere else.

The second-generation members (like the nuclear engineer in the anecdote) do not freely choose to join and do not necessarily believe in the commune. Many would rather leave. but they cannot take with them their "share" of the commune. Some (in the third generation, many) of them leave anyway. The end result (today) is that most people who remain are the older members, but there are few young people to work and support everyone.

In other words, the kibbutzim didn't fail because they couldn't withstand direct economic competition (that is, because if the members worked they couldn't support themselves). Rather, they failed because they couldn't convince enough people that the kibbutz is the way to go -- which is a social, not economic, form of competition.
9.7.2007 3:40pm
Carolina:

J. F. Thomas: I'm really crious what pre-Columbian socialist empire you are referencing. All the ones I'm familiar with -- Mayan, Aztec, Incan, Natchez, etc., etc. -- had hereditary aristocracies, mal-distribution of goods that is grotesque by our standards (certain luxury goods were denied on pain of death to all but the king and his favorites), and incredibly destructive agricultural policies.


Agreed. I'd also like to know where J.F. Thomas' mythical socialist nation was in the pre-Columbian Americas.
9.7.2007 3:40pm
Carolina:
Lior:


In other words, the kibbutzim didn't fail because they couldn't withstand direct economic competition (that is, because if the members worked they couldn't support themselves). Rather, they failed because they couldn't convince enough people that the kibbutz is the way to go -- which is a social, not economic, form of competition.


You have a decent point, but remember that the second and third generation people who grew up in the kibbutz are the ones who want to get out. The fact the many people who have first-hand experience with a system want out suggests there are serious problems.
9.7.2007 3:44pm
Bpbatista (mail):
J.F. Thomas -- whatever the supposed glories of Native American "communal" cultures (many of which were based on conquest and exploitation of neighboring tribes/peoples), they were all still living in the Stone Age when the Europeans arrived. This is particularly true of the North American tribes encountered by English settlers.

As for Socialism, lets go to the tape: Doesn't work in Jamestown, Plymouth, Russia, Eastern Europe, Cuba, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, or Israel. Works in . . . Fantasyland?
9.7.2007 3:48pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I'm really crious what pre-Columbian socialist empire you are referencing. All the ones I'm familiar with -- Mayan, Aztec, Incan, Natchez, etc., etc. -- had hereditary aristocracies, mal-distribution of goods that is grotesque by our standards (certain luxury goods were denied on pain of death to all but the king and his favorites), and incredibly destructive agricultural policies.

It is true that most pre-Columbian societies were hereditary aristocracies with often brutal rulers, subject to wars and at the mercy of devastating climate events. But so were the European nations that conquered them--heck it would be more than a 100 years after Columbus until Europe regained the population it lost in the Black Death. Private ownership of land in the New World was an almost completely alien concept. It was a relatively new idea in Europe. Even in Europe, land was traditionally owned by the King, not individuals. Even in Ilya's home country before the communists took over, large parts of the country were farmed communally. Villages owned farmland in common and the village allotted plots to families to farm (often in narrow strips in the fields). Land reform and dividing of the land into private ownership was just getting under way when the revolution ended all that (and that was 1917, not 1517).

The Inca were almost a completely socialist society. The government controlled almost every aspect of the economy and distributed everything from food to clothing from central stores. It also moved labor around as needed.

It is patently false that Native American agricultural policies were incredibly destructive (you have been watching too many Mel Gibson movies). In fact quite the opposite. The native populations, prior to the devastating plagues brought by the Europeans, were healthier, better fed and practiced much more sustainable agriculture than the Europeans. In some areas of the continent population densities were greater than that of Europe. Europe's fields in the 16th century were exhausted and much of its population was malnourished. Fields in the new world that were farmed using European methods also quickly became exhausted. Fields in Mexico that have been farmed continuosly using native methods since pre-Columbian days are still fertile to this day.

And you are right about the Pilgrims. They moved into an area that had recently been depopulated by a plague. The Indians they encountered had, until recently, lived further inland.
9.7.2007 4:08pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
whatever the supposed glories of Native American "communal" cultures (many of which were based on conquest and exploitation of neighboring tribes/peoples), they were all still living in the Stone Age when the Europeans arrived.

And 16th century European culture was not based on conquest and exploitation? Other than the European's mastery of metal working, technologically the societies--at least in Central America--were not that far apart at the time of contact. Certainly, 150 years later, when up to 95% of the native population of the Americas had been wiped out by disease and war, the remanents of American civilization had been destroyed (and the Catholic Church had launched an active campaign to destroy all records of its history).
9.7.2007 4:17pm
JustinP (mail):
Lior,

The "social" problem that you identify is also pointed out in Professor Becker's post--although I don't think he sees a distinction between "social" and "economic" competitiveness. Nor do I. Competition for labor is still economic competition. The failure of the kibbutzim to be competitive in this regard, despite a substantial 'barrier-to-exit,' seems significant.

In any event, if the problem were purely "social," it seems easily remedied. Simply allow disillusioned 2nd or 3rd generation members to sell their spot/membership(?) in the kibbutz to a younger, more ideologically fervent outsider. [I'm not at all familiar with the kibbutzim, so I don't know what might prevent this: transaction costs? social norms?]
9.7.2007 4:28pm
happylee:
What's amazing is that despite socialism's fantastic failures, I still have reprogram my kids every week -- and they go to a good private school! Public skools are even worse. And even this blog thread has pro-socialists posting with fervor.

What the heck! That any honest man with an IQ over 80 can extol any part of socialist thought leaves me almost speechless and very worried.
9.7.2007 4:38pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
As for Socialism, lets go to the tape

I'm still waiting for the libertarian success stories. Oh yeah, wasn't someone trying to sell Somalia as one a couple weeks back?
9.7.2007 4:41pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Public skools are even worse.

I just love people who condemn public education as somehow inherently evil. Remember, some of our hosts teach at public "skools".
9.7.2007 4:44pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
People in a commune live together like a family. Surely no one would be surprised if their children decided to leave home and family once they grew up -- in fact who here would want their children to live with them the rest of their lives?
9.7.2007 4:57pm
The Cabbage:
I don't think you can analyze a monastery from an economic incentive point of view. Residents of monasteries have generally taken vows of celibacy and vows of poverty. They live in monasteries because of their religious faith. Some of the monasteries produce certain goods to help support themselves, but this is incidental to their life styles.

Mount Athos has been full of productive monasteries for hundreds and hundreds of years. This successful collectivist approach owes its success as much to the monk's vow of obedience to a single abbot as to general religious reasons for working together.

Autocracies, even if they're benevolent and religious, can be very efficient. The only problem is that they're autocracies. You have to opt into it for it to be effective.
9.7.2007 5:04pm
Elliot123 (mail):
J F Thomas,

What does European social organization have to do with the question of whether Native Americans were socialists?
9.7.2007 5:28pm
Bottomfish (mail):
J. F. Thomas: on the technology question you are incredible. Here are some things the Renaissance Europeans had which the Amerindians did not: algebra, windmills, clocks, printed books for mass distribution, the compass, ships, navigation, serious use of the wheel, astronomy, perspective in drawing and painting, geometry... I'm just knocking things off the top of my head.
9.7.2007 5:33pm
happylee:

I'm still waiting for the libertarian success stories. Oh yeah, wasn't someone trying to sell Somalia as one a couple weeks back?


You jest? Of course, pure libertarianism has never been achieved on earth thanks to a conspiracy of corporatists, fascists, elitists, monarchists, et al, but in those lands where libertarianism was nurtured even a little bit, it yielded humongous ripe fruits of prosperity, happiness and freedom.

A short and entirely incomplete list:
Pre-Lincoln USA
17-19th Century England
Hong Kong (for a little bitty bit, under British rule)
1946-1958 Germany and France
2003-2007 Somalia
Pre-WWI Argentina
Pre-pinko takeover Sweden
Pre-pinko Holland (17th Century?)
Pre-pinko Italy (14-15th Century?)
Pre-pinkofascistii Spain (15-16th Century?)

The great problem with liberty and prosperity is that it so lengthens the structure of production that common man can live his entire life without even sensing the true state of nature -- scarcity and death around the corner at all times. So deprived of reality, and comfy in the cotton underwear made possible by freedom, it becomes terribly easy to fancy foolish fantasies, such as socialism.

And, of course, the entire purpose of Publik Skools is to turn little minds into malleable mush that will accept with wide-eyed wonderment the lies that follow. Hence my kids coming home with some bullshit "save the dolphin" or "save the earth" or "equity now" or some other tripe. >shudder<
9.7.2007 5:43pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
A short and entirely incomplete list:

Pre-Lincoln USA: that's a good one. A society where more than ten percent of the entire population (more than 30% of some states) could be bought and sold like cattle.

How you can paint a bunch of monarchies and principalities, a few with limited democracy or welfare states emerging from the destruction of World War II as libertarian paradises is beyond me (it's pretty interesting that Germany and France could be considered "libertarian" to any degree considering they were still rationing basic neccessities well into the 1950's). As for Somalia and Argentina, I assume you just threw in those two countries, especially Somalia, as jokes.
9.7.2007 6:12pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Not to mention that both Germany and France had large nationalized industrial sectors
9.7.2007 6:18pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Here are some things the Renaissance Europeans had which the Amerindians did not: algebra, windmills, clocks, printed books for mass distribution, the compass, ships, navigation, serious use of the wheel, astronomy, perspective in drawing and painting, geometry...

You can take astronomy and geometry off the list. The Amerindians had superior knowledge of textiles and dyes, and their stonework was the equal to that of any in Europe. Their calendars and knowledge of astronomy was superior (they were much better at predicting astronomical events like eclipses and the return of comets). Their knowledge of suspension bridges would not be equaled by western engineers for more than three hundred years. We still don't know how they built some of their larger monuments with no draft animals.
9.7.2007 6:27pm
Yankev (mail):

While there has been an attack on traditional marriage, I would hardly call a movement to let more people get married an attack upon the family as such.

I took the "vicious attack" to refer to something else entirely -- the attacks by the more radical elements of the feminist movement in the 1970s and 1980s that attacked marriage as inherently oppressive to women and unneccessary to society, as well as today's skyrocketing rate of out-of-wedlock births, never married parents with multiple children by multiple partners, cohabiting unmarried couples, increasingly impersonal and promiscuous recreational uncommitted sex, and mulitple divorces and remarriage, all reinforced by popular entertainment, public education and public sentiment that sees no harm in these phenomena, and that condemns as intolerant the merest speculation that these things may be bad for society and especially for children.
9.7.2007 6:35pm
Smokey:
Yo, J.F.-

According to your own argument, the indigenous tribes of the New World were socialist. When the two cultures collided, what happened? The much more capitalist culture completely decimated your socialist culture. Darwinism did its thing.

You see, all cultures are not equal. Some are superior. [Claiming that indigenous folks were 'socialist' is a mighty big stretch anyway; tribes practiced the same European customs of primogeniture and entail.]

And the old argument that the indigenous tribes were mostly wiped out by diseases introduced by the Euros has never withstood scrutiny, because disease isn't a one-way street. When two gene pools meet for the first time, common sense tells us that each will contract the diseases of the other. IIRC, syphilis came from the New World. But the death and destruction of the indigenous peoples from disease must surely be overstated, since there isn't evidence on the European side of tens of millions of deaths from new diseases after 1492 -- which would certainly be the case in a population with no immunity to New World diseases.

Since nobody kept much in the way of detailed records early on, the most reasonable conclusion is that 1) the population numbers in the New World are overestimated, and 2) in the ensuing fight for survival between the natives and the Euros, no one kept count, or even cared very much, when the opposing fighters were killed. As usual, the technologically superior culture prevailed over a stone age culture that hadn't yet invented writing or the wheel.

Got nothing against anyone. Just sayin'...
9.7.2007 6:40pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Smokey -- the Amerinds lived in much smaller groups than did the Europeans. Europeans were able to build up a subpopulation that was immune to those diseases. And the mothers could pass their immunity on to their offspring. Europeans filled with both germs and antibodies came to America and infected the locals. Amerinds had no such immunities, and their small populations largely died out.

Plus the situations were not mirror images. No Amerindians invaded Europe. For Europe to be infected with disease, some infected Europeans would have to live to reach home and infect them. No large numbers of epidemic diseases developed in America. Even assuming syphilis originated in the New World, it would have to be spread by sexual contact. As the AIDS epidemic showed, diseases that spread by sexual contact spread much more slowly than diseases that spread by coughing, etc.
9.7.2007 7:07pm
Shelby (mail):
Smokey,

If you're interested in serious discussion of why native Americans were more vulnerable than Europeans to introduced diseases, read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. Then Google for discussions and criticisms of it. To summarize, Diamond thinks the fortuitous presence of a variety of domesticated animals in Eurasia meant that a lot of people were living for tens of thousands of years in close proximity to animals, and some diseases leapt the species barrier. Eurasians therefore were exposed to more diseases, and developed more immunities. There was therefore a larger reservoir of diseases to go from Eurasia to the Americas, than there was to go the other way.
9.7.2007 7:15pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Inequalities in wealth have of course played a major, if not predominant, role in many revolutions.
No. Poverty has played such a role in many revolutions. Unfortunately for our leftist comrades, but fortunately for the rest of us, nobody has ever revolted because his neighbor had two Porsches and he only had one.
9.7.2007 8:13pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Smokey -- the Amerinds lived in much smaller groups than did the Europeans.
That's entirely logical, Tony, and true. The problem is that JFT is inventing the opposite claim.
9.7.2007 8:20pm
tsotha:
Yankev and I had exactly the same reaction. The "attack" on marriage started in the 60's and was largely successful. Marriage simply doesn't fulfill the same social function it did in the past. Doesn't really have anything to do with gay marriage.
9.7.2007 9:00pm
Smokey:
Thanx, Tony T and Shelby, those are interesting points. The only [slight] quibble is that disease resistance takes either coming down with the illness and surviving, or having one's natural immunity passed on to surviving generations.

Nor are the population/disease theories mutually exclusive. It seems reasonable that the Amerind population, which had no cities in what is now the U.S., had a lower population than what some folks assume.
9.7.2007 9:04pm
ys:

If you're interested in serious discussion of why native Americans were more vulnerable than Europeans to introduced diseases, read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. Then Google for discussions and criticisms of it. To summarize, Diamond thinks the fortuitous presence of a variety of domesticated animals in Eurasia meant that a lot of people were living for tens of thousands of years in close proximity to animals, and some diseases leapt the species barrier. Eurasians therefore were exposed to more diseases, and developed more immunities. There was therefore a larger reservoir of diseases to go from Eurasia to the Americas, than there was to go the other way.

This same Diamond also shows why it was Eurasians that invaded Amerindians and not vice versa (Amerindians "superior" knowledge of astronomy apparently being not enough to facilitate serious navigation), thus getting a chance to spread their killer diseases (acquired as explained above).
9.7.2007 9:05pm
Smokey:
Yankev and tsotha:

My new theory is that gay marriage limited the Amerind population.

Discuss.
9.7.2007 9:07pm
byomtov (mail):
My new theory is that gay marriage limited the Amerind population.

It's as good as your others.
9.7.2007 9:14pm
Smokey:
byomtov-

Now, now, Mr b. You're a little late to the party to get all snarky.
9.7.2007 9:18pm
Groucho Marxism:
You see, all cultures are not equal. Some are superior.

Okay, I'll bite. Which cultures are "superior," and why do you think that one civilization conquering another necessarily makes the conqueror superior, as you imply with "The much more capitalist culture completely decimated your socialist culture. Darwinism did its thing."?
9.7.2007 9:46pm
Truth Seeker:
The Amerindians had superior knowledge of textiles and dyes, and their stonework was the equal to that of any in Europe.

Oh, those Amerindian velvets and cathedrals were so much better than the European ones.
9.8.2007 12:39am
Elliot123 (mail):
J F Thomas: "The Amerindians had superior knowledge of textiles and dyes, and their stonework was the equal to that of any in Europe."

Europe: Venus de Milo(100BC), Pieta(1499), David(1501), Notre Dame(1345), Chartres(1260)

So, what did the Native Americans have to compere to these?
9.8.2007 2:11pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
The most communist social grouping in America is the family.
9.9.2007 10:23am
FrankJ (mail):
People should read F. Hayek's important article "The Reactionary Nature of the Socialist Conception," if they have any doubt that Socialism can make a come-back. Hayek points out that the real motivation for socialism is the atavistic desire to return to a tribal social organization. Human love for living in small tribes is probably genetic, and can't be eliminated by rational argument. Eliminating Modernity and returning to tribal life is also Osama's goal, and could explain the support he gets from modern lefties.

The main reason I'm Libertarian-Republican is my belief that modern liberalism is fundamentally anti-science and anti-technology. A geology colleague of mine at my university told me that we are now shipping huge amounts of raw iron ore from the USA to China for processing into steel, because environmental regulations make it impossible to process the ore here. Modern technology is slowly being banned in the USA. I predict that when nanotechnology becomes a practical manufacturing technique, it will be banned in the USA, as nuclear reactors and oil refineries are now, at least in effect. So we, like Iran, have to import much of our gasoline. We're becoming a Third World Country.
9.9.2007 4:19pm