• frank
    14.7k
    Imagine some world of the future where people are picking up the pieces from some cataclysm and they develop a collective. No one owns anything. Everything that's produced is pooled and shared. I'm wondering about whether this is something that dwells in the human potential or not.

    Is it possible? Could it last if it happened? What would the pros and cons be?

    The background of the question is a kind of genealogy of ownership. Is it innate? Is it a resident of certain types of culture? If it's cultural, what kind of culture reinforces the idea. In what kind of culture does ownership become a ghost?
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Again, how immeasurably greater is the pleasure, when a man feels a thing to be his own; for surely the love of self is a feeling implanted by nature and not given in vain, although selfishness is rightly censured; this, however, is not the mere love of self, but the love of self in excess, like the miser's love of money; for all, or almost all, men love money and other such objects in a measure. And further, there is the greatest pleasure in doing a kindness or service to friends or guests or companions, which can only be rendered when a man has private property. These advantages are lost by excessive unification of the state. The exhibition of two excellences, besides, is visibly annihilated in such a state: first, temperance towards women (for it is an honourable action to abstain from another's wife for temperance sake); secondly, liberality in the matter of property. No one, when men have all things in common, will any longer set an example of liberality or do any liberal action; for liberality consists in the use which is made of property.

    Such legislation may have a specious appearance of benevolence; men readily listen to it, and are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody's friend-especially when someone is heard denouncing the evils now existing in states, suits about contracts, convictions for perjury, flatteries of rich men and the like, which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due not to the absence of communism but to the wickedness of human nature. Indeed, we see that there is much more quarrelling among those who have all things in common, though there are not many of them when compared with the vast numbers who have private property.
    — Aristotle, Politics, II.5, tr. Jowett
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    Is it possible? Could it last if it happened?frank

    One of the interesting aspects of any society is how it deals with the parasites, the people who take but don't give, especially through violence or theft.

    Game theory is a lot about this - about studying situations where people cooperate or compete, figuring out what strategies give the most gain.

    A society with no property might give unreasonably high rewards to the sociopaths, psychopaths and parasites. You can take anything without giving anything. Have what you want, give back nothing at all. Such a society would be stripped of its resources by leeches faster than you can say "maybe this wasn't such a great idea after all".
  • tim wood
    8.9k
    Good to distinguish between the abstract "ownership" and what we might call the urge to own(ership). If no one owns anything, then someone(s)/something(s) own everything. If ownership is the right to dispose, then non-ownership implies no right to dispose. But it is the nature of the world that a lot of things need disposal one way or other.

    Consider donuts. Who gets the last donut? If by common decree no one gets the last donut, then who gets the next-to-last donut?

    Or from the Netherlands: I am under the impression that in the Netherlands are provided many readily identifiable bicycles that do not belong to anyone. Any person may take any such bicycle and ride it to their destination, leaving it there for anyone else to use and ride.

    And perhaps a lesson gleaned from these: in order for these to work, there must be an adequate supply, whether of donuts or bicycles. And the means, wherewithal, and will to provide them.

    And the idea of no ownership whatsoever seems quickly to crash into some realities, which are easy enough to imagine.
  • frank
    14.7k

    That's an interesting passage. It would stand as an argument against slavery. About 25% of the people in Aristotle's world were enslaved. He's saying that nature is being defied since they can't own property.

    But apparently he would say a collective won't last because of quarreling. I think it's true that there would have to be a strong central authority to act as the backbone of the collective. That would eliminate the quarreling. A democratic collective will probably never happen (for long.) So maybe we're never without the concept of ownership, but it's a matter of who actually has possession. In a collective, the owner is everyone, and so it's really the central authority.
  • frank
    14.7k
    A society with no property might give unreasonably high rewards to the sociopaths, psychopaths and parasites. You can take anything without giving anything. Have what you want, give back nothing at all. Such a society would be stripped of its resources by leeches faster than you can say "maybe this wasn't such a great idea after all".flannel jesus

    That's another reason a collective would need a chieftain or monarch. So maybe private property is a requirement for democracy. Ownership laws are taking the place of the chieftain when it comes to people who stray from the ideals.
  • frank
    14.7k
    Consider donuts. Who gets the last donut? If by common decree no one gets the last donut, then who gets the next-to-last donut?tim wood

    What they do is slice the donut into as many pieces as there are people present. If there are 300 people in attendance at the conference, they have to make 300 slices. They might need some kind of laser slicer outfitted with a scanning electron microscope, and a robot to put the slices on individual napkins so there's absolutely no cheating.
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    Ownership laws are taking the place of the chieftain when it comes to people who stray from the ideals.frank

    Something like that, I suppose
  • Outlander
    1.9k
    Imagine? Try being a woman in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Been there, done that. No thanks, OP. Hard pass. :up:

    And no not in some distant past, I mean right now as you're reading this.

    As well, I'm sure has or will be mentioned, people like to be rewarded for their contributions. If you're a raving intellect, and perhaps your peers have ostracized you or even worse, or perhaps you just don't consider them worthy of benefiting from your intellect, you become very disinclined to do anything but what can be called "quiet quitting", which as an intellect even your bare nearly-unconscious minimal effort far exceeds that which is "sufficient". So you live a quiet life, finding peace where you may, often in the bottle of a drink, and like always, because of the dregs of society, that society fails to progress. Or perhaps you have a bitter personal rivalry between a social better or even the leader for I don't know what's the classic, misappropriating your beloved, often due to circumstance outside any involved parties control (say the person was simply born larger than you and as a result would defeat you in a fight and due to the benighted nature of the society views that as some sort of character or quality of identity and great metaphysical worth and value instead of the transient happenstance it is, or perhaps is simply wealthier due to being born into a position, etc), and you don't want him to take credit for your work of exponentially improving the society, or something like that.

    Whereas in this modern "free market" ownership type system, you can effectively work for yourself, make what you need to make, copyright it, make it private or closed-source, earn your money, and shoot even fly the coop to go to an entirely different nation or land and benefit them, leaving your doubting peers in the innovative dust and darkness they so desperately tried to sentence and prescribed unto you. So it works the way it is, sure there's some downside, but it's the only way you're going to get work out of certain people. So again, literally, "it works" :grin:
  • Vera Mont
    3.6k
    Everything that's produced is pooled and shared. I'm wondering about whether this is something that dwells in the human potential or not.frank
    Yes, I believe it is, and that something of the kind has been practiced by groups in various settings since the beginning of people. It works in groups small enough to be personally connected, each to each, and doesn't seem to work in large, anonymous ones.
    After the apocalypse, it will probably be the only way anyone can survive. Since it's unlikely that the survivors will overpopulate their territory very quickly, those communal habits will probably become ingrained even as the groups grow more numerous. But, I think they'll need to do what the bees and ants do: when the community grows beyond a manageable size, a portion must break off and settle elsewhere. Settlements can still trade with one another, get together for fairs and celebrations and exchange young people in marriage to keep the gene pool fresh.

    I'll set aside one class of property for private ownership: clothes, tools, utensils, personal transport and shelter. People thrive better if they have some privacy and favourite things that are unique to themselves. It's possible to pool the care and training of the young, but parents like to hold on to their kids in the domestic sphere. And there will almost certainly be mate-pairing and sexual possessiveness: provision has to be made for handling those social issues.

    We could do a lot worse than to educate our own children in the mores and structures of Native American cultures. Their traditional skills wouldn't go amiss, either.
    If it's cultural, what kind of culture reinforces the idea. In what kind of culture does ownership become a ghost?frank
    The kind in which every individual is valued and respected.
  • unenlightened
    8.9k
    Imagine some world of the future where people are picking up the pieces from some cataclysm and they develop a collective. No one owns anything. Everything that's produced is pooled and shared. I'm wondering about whether this is something that dwells in the human potential or not.frank

    Respect for personal property is not enshrined in nature, it is established cooperatively in human societies. In an emergency, the government will requisition whatever it deems to be required for the protection of the people, and that limitation to ownership will also be cooperatively established. It seems hard for some to understand that one cannot have ownership unless others recognise and respect that relation.

    Folks might like to read 'The Dispossessed', by Ursula K LeGuin, for a plausible imagining of a cooperative anarchy.
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    :100:

    Folks might like to read 'The Dispossessed', by Ursula K LeGuin, for a plausible imagining of a cooperative anarchy.unenlightened
    Terrific story. :up:

    In a similar vein, Iain M. Bank's Culture series of an AI-managed post-scarcity, interstellar civilization-wide anarchy...

    The background of the question is a kind of genealogy of ownership.frank
    I think property, not "ownership" (mine-ness), is optional – a venn diagram from the least artificial and essential social arrangement to the most artificial and inessential: personal property (one's own mindbody (re: responsibilities), clothes, tools / labor, leisure), communal property (commons), public property ('republic', city / town, roads / waterways), and private property ('codified' scarcity-re/production, ergo class-caste conflicts) – [personal [communal [public [ private ]]]].
  • frank
    14.7k
    Respect for personal property is not enshrined in nature, it is established cooperatively in human societies. In an emergency, the government will requisition whatever it deems to be required for the protection of the people, and that limitation to ownership will also be cooperatively established. It seems hard for some to understand that one cannot have ownership unless others recognise and respect that relation.unenlightened

    Why do some societies enshrine private property? I think it may have to do with a lack of trust. Maybe it first started in chaotic times. Then once the order is reestablished, the property owners really want only one thing from a chieftain: protect their property rights. Whereas the chieftain was once the hub of the world, he or she has been reduced to constable. Property owners are now the hub.
  • frank
    14.7k
    I think property, not "ownership" (mine-ness), is optional – a venn diagram from the least artificial and essential social arrangement to the most artificial and inessential: personal property (one's own mindbody (re: responsibilities), clothes, tools / labor, leisure), communal property (commons), public property ('republic', city / town, roads / waterways), and private property ('codified' scarcity-re/production, ergo class-caste conflicts) – [personal [communal [public [ private ]]]].180 Proof

    Maybe there's a spectrum.
  • unenlightened
    8.9k
    Why do some societies enshrine private property?frank

    I think Marx went into it in detail, but the advent of agriculture, memorialised as 'the fall' from a state of nature into the condition of bring forth bread by the sweat of thy brow begins the idea of 'property' that could be cooperatively or privately owned, with title originating in the hard work of clearing and fencing and improving land. Before that, though a tribe had a territory, it was not clear whether land belonged to people or people belonged to land.
  • frank
    14.7k
    The first agricultural societies were what we would think of as communist. The people brought their produce to the temple and the priests divided it up. That doesn't mean there was no idea of ownership, but it wasn't private property. The preceding tribes were nomadic. "Home" was wherever they were. Again, that doesn't mean there was no ownership. They say Lakota women built and "owned" their portable dwellings. I don't think that means someone was likely to take it from them. I think it just means it was the women's domain?
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    Why would owning something mean someone was likely to take it from them?
  • frank
    14.7k
    Why would owning something mean someone was likely to take it from them?flannel jesus

    Isn't that what private property is about? What does it mean for it to be "mine" other than that you can't take it from me? Or have control over it? I'm asking.
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    I think your wording is giving me the reverse implication of what you meant. I'll reword it to what I think is something closer to what you meant:

    They say Lakota women built and "owned" their portable dwellings. I don't think that means they owned it as a protection from someone taking it from them.

    The way you worded it makes it sound almost like ownership makes someone taking it MORE likely.
  • frank
    14.7k
    The way you worded it makes it sound almost like ownership makes someone taking it MORE likely.flannel jesus

    I didn't mean that, but that's the point of Augustine's City of God. He was saying that when cities pile up riches, they're practically asking to be raided. I guess another way to put his point is that there is no theft until there is ownership. Ownership makes thieves. Something like that.
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    And there's no murder until someone invents a law that defines murder and says it's disallowed. Before that, people weren't murdering, stabbing someone was just an "uninvited metallic guest".
  • frank
    14.7k
    And there's no murder until someone invents a law that defines murder and says it's disallowed. Before that, people weren't murdering, stabbing someone was just an "uninvited metallic guest".flannel jesus

    It's not the same. You can kill someone whether there's a law against it or not. You literally can't be a thief if there's no such thing as private property. The concept of theft becomes meaningless.
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    If I spent all day fishing and put my haul down for a moment to take a slash, I'm gonna be pretty upset to find my fish missing when I'm done. I don't think it's that much different. Even apes have a sense of ownership.

    edit. I'm probably wrong about that last sentence. Not sure if that affects the rest of what I said though.
  • frank
    14.7k
    I spent all day fishing and put my haul down for a moment to take a slash, I'm gonna be pretty upset to find my fish missing when I'm done.flannel jesus

    I suppose that's because you think the fish are yours, and not public property.

    Even apes have a sense of ownership.flannel jesus

    What about chipmunks?
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    I suppose that's because you think the fish are yours, and not public property.frank

    Exactly, and I strongly suspect people felt that way about the shit they worked for, for as long as people have been working for shit. I don't think there's any point in homo sapiens history where someone is happy to lose their days work to a stranger for nothing.
  • frank
    14.7k
    Exactly, and I strongly suspect people felt that way about the shit they worked for, for as long as people have been working for shit. I don't think there's any point in homo sapiens history where someone is happy to lose their days work to a stranger for nothing.flannel jesus

    It's true though.. Communism came first. Free markets came much later, when the old system was dying. I think property, as we know the concept has to do with chaotic conditions and a profound lack of trust. In other words, I think private property is an adaptation. Makes sense doesn't it?
  • Vera Mont
    3.6k
    He was saying that when cities pile up riches, they're practically asking to be raided.frank
    Which certainly proved historically true. There is also another aspect to amassing treasure: it had to come from somewhere - through somebody's effort, or somebody's loss - and those people are naturally motivated to take it back, along with maybe a strip of your hide.
    I guess another way to put his point is that there is no theft until there is ownership.frank
    Quite true. Hardly anyone is tempted to take another person's clothes or tent, unless they're in dire need of it. A mindful society makes sure that doesn't happen, simply by providing for all its members. Treasure amassing is partly a result of the lust for power. Once society is stratified enough to isolate its wealth under the control of a few people, it becomes the highest ambition to be one of those people - not the strongest, wisest, most skilled or best loved, but the richest. Another large part of amassing is compulsive or pre-emptive: the urge to grab everything you can before somebody else does. That's symptomatic of an indifferent society.

    And there's no murder until someone invents a law that defines murder and says it's disallowed.flannel jesus
    Yes, that's right. People have always killed one another in various mental states, for various reasons and by various methods. Some forms of killing were socially condoned, or even mandated (as in ritual sacrifice or dispatching a dangerous enemy) and some were forbidden and required atonement, restitution, treatment or banishment. Such cases of private killing were usually considered by a meeting of elders and the outcome decided case by case, as each such incident is unique.
    Only when it's defined and categorized in law does the process of justice become industrial.
  • unenlightened
    8.9k
    ↪frank Why would owning something mean someone was likely to take it from them?flannel jesus

    Why would you need to assert ownership of something no one else wanted?
  • Vera Mont
    3.6k
    If I spent all day fishing and put my haul down for a moment to take a slash, I'm gonna be pretty upset to find my fish missing when I'm done.flannel jesus
    If you refuse to share and others are hungry, that's exactly what will happen. You can get upset, and a fragmented, selfish society will shrug and walk past you: "Finders keepers, losers weepers." That same society will send designated law-enforcers after the thief if he takes the fish from your kitchen. But a caring community would ask the one who took it why he thought his need was so much greater and yours, and ask you why you didn't offer a hungry compatriot some of your fish, then decide who is in the wrong.
    Even apes have a sense of ownership.flannel jesus
    They can be quite protective of their food, especially treats, and whatever toy they happen find interesting at the moment. But once they're bored with the toy, it's fine for another ape to have a turn.

    I don't think there's any point in homo sapiens history where someone is happy to lose their days work to a stranger for nothing.flannel jesus
    But before that, there was a point - a quite large splotch, in fact - when people were happy to work, in teams or individually at all the tasks required for the welfare of their community. That's the big difference: in a sharing society, you never work for a stranger (there aren't any) and you're never underpaid.
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    But before that, there was a point - a quite large splotch, in fact - when people were happy to work, in teams or individually at all the tasks required for the welfare of their community.Vera Mont

    Yup, I never contradicted that.
  • Vera Mont
    3.6k

    If it has been possible, there's reasonable grounds to believe that it will be possible again.
    Actually, there are many communal arrangements in operation around the world right now. In most cases, they don't deny ownership of household goods or vehicles, but do share the land and labour of food production and maintenance. It's a step in the direction of a horizontal society.
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