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Everyone knows what communism is, and generally in the real world it doesn’t work out for the people. Communism has many flaws and after a long while of thinking how these flaws can be fixed it became apparent it would need to be fundamentally changed.

So I created ‘my own’ economic ideology and I was wondering if it was already a thing.

The Ideology:

This ideology would be similar to communism except instead of paying people equally they would be paid fairly according to their needs/performance. The government would essentially be very centralized and all jobs would be provided by the government and the resources produced by these jobs would be given back to the government. In this society every single worker would be supplied with housing, food, and basic entertainment as long as they worked. They would also be given a small wage (a wage that scales depending on your job/work effort) of which citizens could use to buy consumer goods sold by the government.

(Please note this question is not about the actual structure of the economic ideology and is purely for me to understand if this is already a thing.)

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    "Everyone knows what communism is" I don't think that is true at all. In fact given all the different factions, not even communists know what communism is. ... "Paying people equally" certainly isn't "Communism" (which would, according to Marx, involve a fundamental shift in our understanding of possession and money)
    – James K
    Mar 15, 2023 at 20:05
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    @JamesK Communism is supposed to be a collectivist, stateless moneyless society that is achieved after socialism. The problem is that Marx and others produced a bunch of different hypothetical ways to achieve communism, so everyone essentially agrees on the endgoal, but not the method to get there.
    – Tyler Mc
    Mar 15, 2023 at 20:10
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    So you have one definition of communism, are you sure that Mao, Guevara, Lenin, Owen, Stalin and Pot and Xi would have the same? I'm not sure that even the end goal is agreed upon.
    – James K
    Mar 15, 2023 at 20:20
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    This proposal suffers from the same problems as real communism: who will decide about importance of needs or quality of one's performance; that such centralized decision-making would hamper economic development, etc.
    – Roger V.
    Mar 15, 2023 at 20:36
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    @RogerVadim What is real communism? Inquiring communists want to know! Mar 16, 2023 at 0:40

8 Answers 8

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It is emphatically not the case that "Everyone knows what communism is". The term "communism" does not have a particular and precise definition that is universally accepted. The exact definition of communism is highly debated, particularly in the context of political debates.

At one extreme it can refer to 100% state ownership of property or at least of the "means of production" and at another rhetorical extreme it can refer to any government sponsored redistribution of wealth according to need.

But in any sense but the most strict and narrow senses of the word, the ideology or system that you describe is called communism. One might distinguish different "kinds" of communism, but this certainly would be among them.

Indeed, this description is a decent fit to how Soviet Communism worked (or at least, was supposed to work absent corruption) in parts of the Soviet Union during some part of the Soviet era.

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    considering those two as the extremes is quite odd considering that one popular definition of communism is something like "a utopian, classless, stateless, moneyless society". Stateless societies have no states. Mar 16, 2023 at 0:41
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    @user253751 That sounds more like anarchism.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 16, 2023 at 0:50
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    I think this answer would be better if it included @user253751's definition as well. The fact that the endgame of communism is a stateless society I think would be fairly widely agreed upon Mar 16, 2023 at 5:00
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    @BugCatcherNakata A very common operational definition of communism in the field of economics is an economy where there is nearly 100% state ownership, and there are no stateless communist societies of any meaningful scale.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 16, 2023 at 5:03
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    Ideal communism was also highly decentralized:ie. communes or cooperatives - farmers working the land together, sharing the equipment. Like Israel did in the 60s
    – Stian
    Mar 16, 2023 at 6:56
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I guess this for a form of Fabian socialism. This form of socialism called for a notion of socialism where property and funds were given (in addition to jobs) through a group of enlightened experts elected into a government. This form of socialism was supported by many, including H.G. Wells according to Encyclopedia Britannica. It was supposed to be implemented over time through persuasion and education and civil disobedience instead of direct violent class warfare. It also preached an idea that was believed by many Marxist socialists (as part of the transition to communism) and Ricardian socialists where people get paid "To each according to his contribution", so everyone gets paid based on how much work they put in.

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    I always wonder how the English socialism was supposed to reconcile with English feudalism, i.e. a class of large, politically active hereditary landowners.
    – alamar
    Mar 16, 2023 at 10:09
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Your idea sounds like a variation on the theme of

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs

You've heard that one no doubt, popularised by Karl Marx, but it's not quite what you describe.

In 1936, the Soviet Union, under Stalin's leadership, adopted a new constitution with this phrasing:

ARTICLE 12. In the U.S.S.R. work is a duty and a matter of honour for every able-bodied citizen, in accordance with the principle: "He who does not work, neither shall he eat."

The principle applied in the U.S.S.R. is that of socialism : "From each according to his ability, to each according to his work."

(From the English version found here, p. 203-204 of the PDF, emphasis added)

Note the difference. According to his work, not his need. The idea here is that how much you work, rather than how much you need, conditions how much you get. That sounds exactly like your idea of paying workers according to how much they work, and them using that money to buy what they need (which in the Soviet Union would have been produced either by solo entrepreneurs, cooperatives, or state-owned companies). This almost certainly was not a novel idea in 1936 either.

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    Yeah, I was going to put in the same answer using that 1st quote. The OP is mistaken when they say that communism posited equal pay. Mar 16, 2023 at 10:58
  • Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme is a good starting point for understanding what each of these slogans mean and the contexts in which they are relevant.
    – user234461
    Mar 16, 2023 at 14:19
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You're not the first to try to improve communism and make it more humanistic, "Socialism with a human face" comes to mind. However, the core problem still remains: instead of letting the free market decide what people need, the state which owns all the "means of production" decides what items to produce (and how many), and people get to chose from this state-approved item pool. This inevitably leads to shortages (since it's difficult to predict market demand) and hinders innovation (since you cannot plan to produce something that doesn't exits).

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    That's the same way it works now except the construct that is called "the state" in your answer is called "billionaires" in the current system Mar 16, 2023 at 11:39
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    There's more than one billionare, though, and some of these are in China or Japan or India busy making produce for your local market. There's just a single socialist government, though. If you don't like some of its decisions, too bad.
    – alamar
    Mar 19, 2023 at 17:21
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There are several religious sects that run it like this. People then live on e.g. a farm and work, and get all they need: food, clothing etc.

On the top of my mind I can't google examples, but I have heard of places where this works with over 500 people. (without anyone being unhappy, and money stored for the better of everybody).

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I believe that you have just described late Soviet Union economy.

It did not work out in the end, for one part, since the quality (and quantity) of consumer goods produced and sold by government was insufficient, and compared to commercial enterprises government has no incentive to manage its quality, meaning it will succumb eventually.

It was, however, able to work for a few decades, including production of high-tech stuff such as airliners, nuclear reactors or spaceships.

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Everyone knows what communism is, and generally in the real world it doesn’t work out for the people. Communism has many flaws and after a long while of thinking how these flaws can be fixed it became apparent it would need to be fundamentally changed.

Not really and it would really help if you could share a short definition of yours or someone else that you'd agree with (by which I mean it being a suitable definition not necessarily agreeing with it's content). Seriously if you call something flawed, without naming the flaws or what it is and then presenting fixes to unknown problems and asking for a comparison with an unknown definition, then this gets borderline impossible to answer and encourages opinionated comments.

For a start about how not everyone knows what communism is: Marx&Engels literally had to write a manifesto to explain what THEY considered the action plan of a movement that was aiming for communism, because even 150 years ago everyone talked about it, accused each other of it or wore it as a badge of honor, but there were hundreds of definitions around even at the time, so what they talked about was wholly nebulous.

However you could generally sketched up the perimeter of the idea. For example: Prior to the Enlightenment and the liberal revolutions you had a feudal caste system, where you had those who ruled and those who are ruled and those who told the ruled that this was all dandy.

And it sucked. People accepted it though, more or less, probably because there was no alternative and no means to change it. And then through a series of events a lot of veils got pulled from the machine of power so that people got a much bigger appreciation of how much it sucked and how it was anything but inevitable or optimal. So for example the philosophic movements challenged the church and the grand narrative, the political movements challenged the ruling class and their narrative of meritocracy, the economic progress challenged the entire feudal society, aso. Bigger productivity could means less work, more stuff and better lives, but also bigger populations and bigger empires.

And while the revolutionary liberals made grand standing assertions about the individual and it's liberties, for the majority of people that was probably irrelevant drivel as they went from agricultural servitude to industrial wage slavery without much of a practical difference other than technicalities about status, such as the status change from subject of a king to being citizen with similarly little political power. Democracy was still tied to wealth, either directly more taxes=more influence or indirectly like in having a political position = no income = only a job for rich people or due to the lack means to generate publicity for themselves without money.

So people saw the master/slave relation of the feudal caste system and it's successor the capitalist labor system no longer as a given, but imagined what it would be like if they could actually do what the liberal revolutionaries were saying (probably without meaning it in that radical way), "what if people could actually govern themselves without kings or rulers of other names and what if one could actually produce for ones own consumption instead of having the reward of ones labor largely being taken by someone else, whether it's a king demanding taxes or an employer taking the product of ones labor giving you a measly compensation and selling it for much more".

So the general outlines were largely described by a cooperative:

an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise

Just that it's not just one enterprise but a community organized like that. However that is an utopian ideal and not a concrete outline for how such a system would look like or how you'd move from "here" to "there". It's not an impossible or unthinkable idea, on the contrary it's quite easy to imagine primitive societies to live like that and even more advanced societies to live more like that.

That being said it faced tough oppositions from those in power and privilege that already opposed the liberal revolutions and that now found new allies in that liberal camp who also wouldn't want to give up the newly acquired privilege over the working class.

And contrary to popular believe Marx wasn't talking all that much about what communism is or how it would look like and even his assertions on "how to get there" were not rock solid definitions but rather pragmatic in nature. What he actually did was give a definition of "how the CURRENT SYSTEM works", "why it doesn't work" and an outline of what would need to be done immediately. Not long term, not permanent, not communism, but immediate in that era.

So Marx is NOT the inventor of communism, neither did he thoroughly define it nor lay out a plan for what it would look like. His biggest contribution is the critique of capitalism and as far as I know he was a staunch opponent of utopism. Also contrary to the Nazis or stuff that Stalin did, the problem with capitalism also isn't that it's run by an evil elite or that capitalists are just inherently evil and corrupt and someone else would do the job better, but that the system itself is flawed. Exploitation isn't necessarily robbery and theft, but just business as usual. That doesn't make it any less exploitative though.

So "capitalist" and "worker" are not identities, they are descriptions of a role. Stalin as the de facto owner of the soviet union would have been a capitalist regardless of whether or not he had a working class background. So with respect to the nature of the system it wouldn't make a difference who is in power. That being said as the communist/socialist movements also were workers movements it obviously made a big difference as to who is in power and who is not. Similar to how many national movements use emancipatory language until they themselves sit in the position of power, which they previously vowed to get rid of, but who also just play the same game as their predecessors.

And it's not even corruption that motivates them, to a degree they almost have to, because not doing so, would lead to a period of turmoil in which people have to learn very fast what had previously been someone else's job.

Though when a majority is up to the challenge and willing to take the risk that wouldn't be much of a problem. But with Marx talking shit about the "Lumpenproletariat" and Lenin even further narrowing down the revolutionaries to an elite group, that endeavor is almost bound to fail and be just a replacement or worse.

And unfortunately Marx and later Lenin had been the most influential figures in the political struggle of the workers movement so that "communist parties", strayed pretty far away of the communist ideal, in the name of "pragmatic necessity".

So that if you say "communism" today there's a good chance people will confuse it for a state capitalism akin to the USSR or of one of it's dominions and sponsored regimes.

This ideology would be similar to communism except instead of paying people equally they would be paid fairly according to their needs/performance.

People wouldn't be paid the same, they would share the means of production, the work and the outcome.

The government would essentially be very centralized and all jobs would be provided by the government and the resources produced by these jobs would be given back to the government.

The crucial question is what this government would look like. Is it direct democratic equal participation and whatnot or autocratic? That difference is huge.

In this society every single worker would be supplied with housing, food, and basic entertainment as long as they worked. They would also be given a small wage (a wage that scales depending on your job/work effort) of which citizens could use to buy consumer goods sold by the government.

That would be determined by the productive outcome of that society. If you could afford to house anyone then you should do that, if you can't you'd need to share houses. But if you can afford to and not do so, then that speaks of a level of spite regardless of what ideology you use to excuse that.

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I will just tell that Marxist communism follows the principle of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs". So you have just described Marxist (also Leninist) view of communism. There is no such a thing under communism that everyone will get paid equally. In an ideal world, the Worldwide Commune can fulfill everyone's needs.

As for me, I can imagine this as follows:

For example, let's say you want a new laptop (as personal property, which is a thing under communism, not to be confused with private property). The condition is - you need to do some fixed amount of work at your workplace (measured probably with time, labor or both). After you are done, you recieve the thing you need, the laptop in our case. Or take a similar approach, where you order something from the Commune, and Commune tells you the time you need to wait for your order to get ready. In the meantime you do your work unconditionally (which will not be a problem under communism), and when your order is ready, you recieve it for free. And of course you can and probably will make multiple simultaneous orders which won't take that much of a time.

(That's not the theory, but just my interpretation of the theory and my vision of life under communism.)

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