T Nation

Another Failure fo Socialism


As Nobel laureate in economics Professor Gary Becker puts it, "nowhere is the failure of socialism clearer than in the radical transformation of the Israeli kibbutz."

If socialism could succeed, it should have done so here. Most of the kibbutz were founded by highly idealistic volunteers. The kibbutz were accorded high prestige in Israeli society, and many of Israel's first political leaders were kibbutz members. After Israel was chartered in 1948, the kibbutz also received extensive government subsidies.

The failure of the kibbutz cannot be blamed on lack of ideological commitment, inadequate resources, or hostility from the surrounding "capitalist" society. It's free riding, tragedy of the commons and the disincentivising of high-level achievement that are the problems.

Despite its advantages, the kibbutz model failed produce economically, and even failed to retain the loyalty of many of their own socialist members. Over time, many kibbutz residents became frustrated with the perverse incentives created by socialism, and many also desired the individual freedom and privacy created by private property. No talented young people wanted to stick around.

The only way the kibbutz have managed to survive at all has been by watering down or abandoning their commitment to socialism. If socialism cannot work under the highly favorable circumstances of the Israeli kibbutz, it almost certainly cannot work anywhere.

Here's the post by Professor Becker:



Do we really need Nobel laureates to tell us this?

Anyone who has ever visited a heavily used public bathroom should understand why socialism/communism don't work.

When something belongs to everyone, it belongs to no one, and no one cares.


Interesting. I find communal living to be the most ideal in the economic benefit that can be had with sharing resources. Imagine being able to produce all the necessities for the community without having to purchase multiple capital goods that would be needed for individual farmers, etc.

One would think that the benefit would outweigh the cost in all respects--this, of course, assumes that every one in the group is motivated by the same goals.

It seems the modern day Kibbutz don't even work their own land and even hire outside the Jewish faith. When the Kibbutz quit working the land the members were expected work outside and still share their pay.

It is also interesting to note that the members in the second major Kibbutz immigration from Russia -- known as the Second Aliyah (1903--1914)-- were not Orthodox Jew.

This may have also contributed to the down fall the Kibbutz economically as many started to replace their traditional Jewish spiritual roots with Israeli nationalism after the formation of the Jewish state. Thus in effect it could have been the Jewish state that caused the failure of the Kibbutz...?

Also, I am pretty sure that the Kibbutz is not voluntary in the strictest sense--since children are often the ones sent off to live in a Kibbutz and receive the official Israeli State indoctrination.

I wonder what this scholar would think about other communal collectivist societies like the Mennonites or Amish. I still think group ownership is more economical as long as it is based on voluntary exchange and the group is motivated by one common goal.


I live near Amish country and I don't think they are collectivists. They are very cooperative in many areas but they are also very capitalistic and the property seems to be owned by individuals.


The only ones who truly benefit from a socialist society are those in charge of it. Typically they quietly exempt themselves from the disadvantages. A prime example is the Minister of Healthcare in Canada several years ago coming to the US for medical care.


I think you are right. They may not share in ownership but their community is very tightly wound. I am sure that if a family in the community was to come on hard times the entire group looks at it as their responsibility to help out--but it isn't looked at like a burden handed to them from the state.

I wish I knew more about property ownership in these communities. I am really interested in social anthropology and its implications to communal economics.


Absolutely terrific analogy. I plan on stealing this one :-]


Where are there public restrooms that aren't taken care of? Here in the US most of the nasty restrooms are owned by Gas Stations and Dive Bars. I've been to "public" restrooms but they were always serviced regularly by paid cleaning contractors...?

I don't get the analogy.

I am going to have to do my own study. I will post results as they become available.


Sounds like a very contrived excuse for going to the Minneapolis Airport restrooms.

Yeah? Well, fuck all of you then. I though it was funny.