- Capitalism and Alternatives -

One more riff on human nature

Posted by: Stoller on September 29, 1999 at 14:01:12:

In Reply to: Sahlins on Hobbes posted by Chuck on September 28, 1999 at 12:33:31:

For all those connoisseurs of 'human nature' arguments (and rock 'n roll), here's yet another oldie-but-goldie:

Mr. Gorbachev has apparently stumbled onto one of the best-kept secrets in recent Soviet history [1989]: Communism doesn't work. It's against a basic law of nature: 'PEOPLE WANT TO OWN STUFF.'

...In every language, the first word after 'Mama!' that every kid learns to say is 'Mine!' A system that doesn't allow ownership, that doesn't allow you to say 'Mine!' when you grow up, has---to put it mildly---a fatal design flaw.(1)

So said the late Frank Zappa who, it should be known, began his book (filled with zillions of such weighty pronouncements) with the disclaimer that he himself doesn't actually read books (p.9). Yea, Frank!

I only dredge his argument up because it is so typical of triumphalists today.

What is wrong with this argument (made universal by Freud)? Well... (to abuse grammar in the manner of the great FZ himself): The whole point of Communism is that PEOPLE WANT TO OWN STUFF. Stuff like the means of production, for starters. Because 'people'---i.e. the proletariat---own nothing more than their labor (which is near worthless without access to the means of production) under the current set-up and the capitalists own everything else. So, historically speaking, 'people' eventually look upon the means of production that the capitalist minority has forcibly appropriated and say 'MINE!'

Now, wasn't it Frank Zappa who once claimed that 'stupidity is the building block of the universe'?

1. Zappa (with Occhiogrosso), The Real Frank Zappa Book, Poseidon Press, 1989, p. 330.

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