As western nations continue to debate what levels of socialism to incorporate into our capitalist systems, it is worth noting a recent article in US News & World Report. Socialism is, in layman’s terms, the pooling of a communities resources so that everybody shares equally in those resources. Think healthcare and welfare plans in the US.
As this article reports, a nearly century old experiment in voluntary socialism exists in the the 273 kibbutzim in Israel. In the summer of 1981, I visited a kibbutz in Israel. Now, it appears that to survive the kibbutz movement is having to make some less-than-socialist changes. A dose of capitalism seems to be the remedy for what has ailed the kibbutzim (or kibbutzes).
The oldest kibbutz is Kibbutz Degania near the Sea of Galilee. In 2006, this kibbutz changed one of the basic tenets of the movement. That tenet was that everybody should make the same amount of money for work (or for not working). Now the workers get paid based on productivity. Notice the quote of Nina Ben-Moshe who was born on the kibbutz 70 years ago,
All these members who’d been staying home with back problems suddenly felt well enough to go back to work. There were a lot of parasites in the old days. It’s not like that anymore.
Sound familiar? It is ironic that while a socialist setting moves toward capitalism, our capitalist setting seems determined to move towards socialism. It must be noted that in contrast to the Soviet Union, China and other communist societies, the kibbutz movement has been voluntary socialism. Lenin and Stalin forced a corrupted form upon the Soviet Union while killing millions to implement the plan. Mao did the same in China.
This reformed kibbutz movement is not fully capitalistic. Some pay as much as 60% of their earnings in taxes to provide for the community. Another coming change – home ownership. As the chairperson at Kibbutz Degania said, “Even socialists want to pass something on to their children.”
Lest I be misunderstood, I think that the danger of capitalism is unfettered greed. Greed is sinful and it corrupts the system. Wall Street may need to look inward to repair itself. I also think that any society worth its salt, must find ways to care for those truly in need. But do we really need to keep paying people for not getting an education? For not getting a job? For not taking care of their families? In a socialist system, whether a kibbutz or a welfare state, the parasites will exist and suck the blood out of others.