Principium Volume II, Book 7, Quote 761 and 763

761. Totalitarianism, like democracy, is an ideal – an evil and destructive one, but still an ideal in the sense of being an objective so ambitious that it can never be fully obtained. Democracy calls for government ruled by the people and subject to laws: in reality, however, democratic regimes are dominated by elites who devise ways of shaping and bending the law in their favor. Totalitarianism aspires to be the very opposite of democracy: it strives to atomize society and establish complete control over it, paying no heed to its wishes and acknowledging no law superior to the government’s will.

- Richard Pipes – Property and Freedom, 2000


763. (4-14-2010) There obviously were many reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991, an event unparalleled in world history – an empire under peacetime conditions, disintegrating in a matter of weeks. But if, as there are good grounds to believe, the prime reason for this collapse was the faltering economy, then it is not unreasonable to conclude that the absence of private property was a major and possibly the decisive factor. It affected economic performance in two ways. The citizenry lacked incentives to produce beyond the minimum, since its basic needs were guaranteed whereas doing more brought no significant rewards and could even bring penalties in the form of higher production quotas. But even if, in disregard of such discouragement, a Soviet citizen displayed enterprise, he ran afoul of the bureaucratic apparatus whose self-interest required the stifling of every independent initiative. Thus the concentration of all economic resources in the hands of the state undermined the nation’s work ethic and inhibited innovation. Far from making the communist economy the world’s most efficient, as the Bolsheviks had once expected, the state monopoly on productive resources made it hidebound and lethargic. The regime died of anemia: the elimination of private ownership, pursued with a fanatical zeal and buttressed by the ruling elites’ self-interest, led to the withering of personality, the prime mover of progress. The inevitability of such an outcome had been foreseen long before communism was tried. David Hume, writing in the late eighteenth century, predicted the result of attempts to impose “perfect equality”: “Render possessions ever so equal, men’s different degrees of art, care, and industry, will immediately break that equality. Or if you check these virtues, you reduce society to the most extreme indigence; and, instead of preventing want and beggary in a few, render it unavoidable to the whole community.” (- David Hume, 1711-1776 – Of Justice)

- Richard Pipes – Property and Freedom, 2000

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