|Working in the Field: A man and young boy kneeling in a green field |
with the sun setting over the mountains. Accessed September 16, 2017
from LDS Media Library.
A dear friend of mine posed the following question about the article:
What did you think about it? It seems a little off to call it socialism when it benefits so strongly from the capitalist portion of their society--selling off parts of their property and enormous prices that allows them to buy current farm equipment. I'd be interested to know what you think as I hear snip[p]ets from people I know who seem to admire a socialist society.I have a couple of thoughts:
Where is Freedom and Agency?
You need to focus on the essentials. First off, where is agency and where is compulsion? The collective farm started off through communism, a type of socialism. The farm did not result from people individually deciding to be a part of it. They had little, or no, choice.
Today, Russia theoretically has capitalism; but the people in this farm decided to keep operating as a collective. People used their agency to remain in the collective. They have chosen to stay as a collective and to maintain it it as such. Now, agency exists there.
Stop Thinking Capitalism is Better Than Socialism
We trip ourselves up by assuming capitalism is good and socialism is bad. As Mormons, we value agency; so the choice of capitalism over socialism (communism in this case) is easily made.
Capitalism allows for private ownership and individual choice more than socialism does. Given how we feel about agency, this is almost a nobrainer.
How a system is set up and operated should be evaluated on whether agency exists.
Property Means Ownership
When I taught American government in college, I told my students that the motto, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" was originally, "life, liberty and property." I asked the students if they knew why property figured so prominently in the founding values.
I always got such cynical answers. The truth is, property meant the ability to own something. Ownership was freedom. For that reason, property means freedom.
You have much more control over something if you own it, rather than rent. Home ownership is probably one of the ultimate freedoms. Renters always function under limitations; like pet ownership, remodeling and so forth.
Ownership is Freedom
Critics of socialism point out that if "everybody" owns something, then nobody actually owns it.
We know people tend to take care of things better if they feel they have ownership somehow. It is hard to get people to feel like they own a part of our national parks, for example, or our schools.
The article concedes this:
... The state and collective farms were doomed because if everything belongs to everybody, there is no sense of personal responsibility."
Collective Effort Works!
As Mormons, we all contributed to the funds that resulted in the semitrucks of hurricane relief supplies to the recent victims. Many of us were/are part of the collective effort of volunteer labor.
I look at the small denominations in my home area. Some of these congregations have filled up a trailer with donations and taken it down to the victims. There is nothing wrong with these efforts. However, if there was more collective coordination, planning and administration, the benefits could be maximized.
Our church, which we voluntarily contribute to and support, can do astonishing things with the collective efforts of its members and others.
Think of what the Mormon pioneers did in establishing Kirtland, Nauvoo and especially the western states in the U. S. The power of collective effort is on display. Individual agency was an intrinsic part of that.
Greed is Bad in Collective Efforts
The article did say that the leaders and members had chosen to forego individual wealth, easy money and greed. I wish it had spent more time on those points. Consider these quotes:
Most [farms] have since been broken up into private plots, sold off to big agro-concerns or – for those near big cities like Moscow – carved up by real estate interests who bought out their shareholders and resold the land for lucrative urban development.
"The management of the Lenin farm, led by its director Grudinin, were able to resist takeover bids and the lure of quick, easy money, and convince their members that by staying together they had better long-term prospects.
The farm has also constructed new housing for all its workers, a children's amusement park that attracts visitors from all over Moscow, and many other amenities for its members.
"I could have been a multi-millionaire many times over, if I'd chosen that path," says Grudinin.
"How are we different from all these new businessmen? Well, we do not send our profits offshore or line our personal bank accounts. We invest in development of our own people, and our own farm. We carry out social programs like the school, kindergartens, and medical clinic. We take care of our pensioners and children," he says."
Critical individuals in this post-Soviet collective farm have voluntarily limited their own personal greed and ambition in order to maintain and manage this collective effort.
They've taken a long term view and decided it is worth it. I applaud them. People in other countries and other forms of government could replicate this success as well.
Pride, selfishness and greed are the real enemies.
The Mormon Ideal is Consecration
Consider what a celestial economic system would look like. It would be the law of consecration.
People would voluntarily choose to participate. They would voluntarily donate everything they have and can do to the collective. They voluntarily assume individual responsibility to the collective.
Righteous leaders, together with the righteous individuals in question, would receive back what they agree the individual's needs truly are.
There would be such a surplus that everyone would be rich. The poor would cease to exist. This would be a true utopia. We know it can be done, because the people of Enoch did it. It should be our goal to achieve it too!
It should be our goal to live it as fully as we can in the place and time in which we live. This should be true, regardless of any other details, such as the country we live in or what our current political leaders are doing.
Personal responsibility should triumph!