- Capitalism and Alternatives -

From each according to ability to.....whom exactly?

Posted by: Gee ( si ) on January 20, 19100 at 13:59:25:

There are two main versions of the popular maxim.

Version 1: "From each according to ability to each according to need"

This version implies that need is a 'blank check' claim on ability and that (if the maxim is to have meaning) its enforceable. Implying that if you have ability and do not use your ability to meet other people's needs you will be held responsible for whatever becomes of them, as if you were somehow the cause of their need. Not only is that a causal con trick it is also quite monstrous. It means that the extent of your ability is the extent of you encarceration. The more able you are the more 'needs' you can serve and thus the more culpible you are for any one else's needs should you fail to serve them.

Who is the least free in such a society? The more able you are the less freedom you have, your enforced obligation sees to that. The less able you are and the more needs you have the more free you are, there are no obligations upon you then. So what will be the result? People will play down or deny their abilities and exaggerate or focus on their needs so as to avoid becoming a slave to needs.

More entertaining is the society that states ability and needs are 'self defined' and that each definition is equally valid. I can see it now. "by my definition I need 3 yachts and I can't do anything...get on with it then!". If Barry recognises the problem of freeloaders I can see why he didn't quote this version.

Version 2: "From each according to ability to each according to work"

You'll have to help me out here. What does it mean by 'work'? Does that mean any work, any contribution is an equal claim on ability? Or does this in essence mean that each person works for themselves, gains outcome equal to their input? Ofcourse it implies that the maxim be enforceable (And Barry does not shy away from this). It would be interesing to hear what becomes of those who don't work too.

It seems a step up from the madness of version 1 and as such is worth exploring more fully as a statement and philosophy.

Follow Ups:

The Debating Room Post a Followup