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Social Networks Government The Internet Politics

Dot-Communism Is Already Here 554

thanosk sends in a story at Wired Magazine about how online culture is, in many ways, trending toward communal behavior. Sharing and collaboration have become staples of active participation on the Internet, while not necessarily incorporating a particular ideology or involving a government. "Most people in the West, including myself, were indoctrinated with the notion that extending the power of individuals necessarily diminishes the power of the state, and vice versa. In practice, though, most polities socialize some resources and individualize others. Most free-market economies have socialized education, and even extremely socialized societies allow some private property. Rather than viewing technological socialism as one side of a zero-sum trade-off between free-market individualism and centralized authority, it can be seen as a cultural OS that elevates both the individual and the group at once. The largely unarticulated but intuitively understood goal of communitarian technology is this: to maximize both individual autonomy and the power of people working together. Thus, digital socialism can be viewed as a third way that renders irrelevant the old debates."
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Dot-Communism Is Already Here

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  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:51AM (#28110569) Homepage Journal

    Most people in the West, including myself, were indoctrinated with the notion that extending the power of individuals necessarily diminishes the power of the state, and vice versa.

    I'm not quite sure where the author got that idea. The US has always been based on the idea that the individual is paramount. In our popular culture, we have always derived our strength from the individual and his willingness to help others.

    A perfect example of this is our super-heros. Developed during a time of great uncertainty and world wars, our culture developed personas who were both empowered and selfless. Whether it be an accident of birth (Superman), a millionare who puts his own life and fortune on the line (Batman), or a scientist dealt a bum hand by fate (Hulk), they all are shown to make the most of their unique abilities in service to others.

    Such thought processes have traditionally permeated our culture to the point where every child strives to be that hero. To save the world as it were. The results can be seen in everything from local government (simply amazing small towns built out of nothing) to the larger scale of US resolve during WWII and the later Space Race. Thus the communal aspects of working together have always been a strength for us.

    The idea of a Big Brother culture is a relatively new one imported from more socialist countries. As if the population needs protection from itself. And for all intents and purposes, it's been causing more harm than good. The government has frustrated more airline passengers than they've prevented terrorists, all while trying to convince the populace to roll over when someone takes over a plane. (THAT is never going to happen again.) They've seized money from countless honest businesses and individuals in an attempt to stop drug trafficing. (Which has been more or less ineffective.) And they've generally created a situation where the populace is either looking for their next handout (excuse me, "bailout") or their trying to cheat their way out of paying their taxes.

    Our system hasn't completely fallen yet, but I think the communal internet is a great wake up call for the system. It allows individuals to aspire, self-organize, and express their individuality in a helpful way. So in that respect, I agree with the article. I just don't think it's anything new or anything to do with Communism as a system. ;-)

  • by geoffrobinson (109879) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:51AM (#28110573) Homepage

    Adding an -ism to the end of a word completely changes the concept. Doing something communally and sharing is not the same as being forced to share by the government.

  • no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:53AM (#28110599) Homepage

    Socialism is state control. What we have on the web is anarchy. Fun, friendly anarchy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:55AM (#28110623)

    The summary seems to ignore that socialism and communism are actually two different things.

  • Not important (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:56AM (#28110627) Journal
    Change the world. Let other people put labels. You'll be called a liberal, a communist, a nazi, a heathen, a bigot anyway...
    Open Source (I think that is what it's about) is not communism, it is open source. Putting labels or trying to over-simplify things hinders correct thinking.
  • by chatgris (735079) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:56AM (#28110645) Homepage

    "Most people in the West, including myself, were indoctrinated with the notion that extending the power of individuals necessarily diminishes the power of the state, and vice versa"

    What? Western culture has been about empowering the individual, about heroes. Conversely, communist nations such as Russia and China are less about individuals, and more about "the good of many outweighs the good of the few".

    Additionally, the "free" software you see isn't an affront to free market principles, in fact it is an application of "when a product has an infinitely increasing returns to scale, cost tends towards distribution costs", and since distribution costs are free, well, hello open source.

    Open source is very much a product of western, capitalist countries that PROMOTE the power of the individual.

  • Sokal hoax? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:59AM (#28110673)
    Did anyone else get a flash of Alan Sokal's genius upon reading the quote from the summary? So many words, so little content.
  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @11:59AM (#28110687) Homepage Journal

    Developed during a time of great uncertainty and world wars, our culture developed personas who were both empowered and selfless.

    ...and Captain America is now dead.

  • Torrents (Score:2, Insightful)

    by googlesmith123 (1546733) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:00PM (#28110715)
    How about torrents?

    Torrents are after all based on share to get. If you upload you get to download.

    Communism at it's best.
  • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:03PM (#28110763)
    The "power of working together" comes from shared individual resources and individual insights. There is no collective consciousness, no collective ideas. Voluntary collaboration is capitalistic and leads to progress. Communism/socialism, on the other hand, demands forced collaboration.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:07PM (#28110829) Journal

    Our system hasn't completely fallen yet, but I think the communal internet is a great wake up call for the system. It allows individuals to aspire, self-organize, and express their individuality in a helpful way. So in that respect, I agree with the article. I just don't think it's anything new or anything to do with Communism as a system. ;-)

    Oh, I could play the devil's advocate and think of a stupid roundabout way of showing that Communism is more about empowering the individual to pursue their dreams than worry about possessions. Such flawed and impassioned exercises began to bore me long ago though--so I'll spare you the inanity.

    I thought that the majority of Americans have come to terms that absolute Communism and absolute Capitalism are both bad systems?

    I mean, even the most wing-nut conservatives believe in some sort of tax or anti-trust laws and even the most bleeding hearted liberals believe that we should be left a sizable share of our income to our own responsibility and desires.

    So why do we move back to a stupid argument between the absolutes of Capitalism vs Communism when the correct solution is somewhere to be found in the middle? And different peoples enjoy different solutions. It so turns out that corruptibility of humans by nature dictates we should be closer to capitalism that communism. If the author of this article thinks the internet has far too much communal activity, so be it. But make rational arguments and don't play on the red scare ... we're adults now, we're past that.

    I tire of the return to young idealist zealotry and yawn at the attempt to evoke fear from me of one side over the other. The absolutes are both dangerous and stupid.

  • by LifeWithJustin (969206) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:09PM (#28110867) Homepage Journal

    geoffrobinson is correct here.

    Think about it this way.

    When you choose to help your fellow man you are happy. You feel a kinship with them.

    But when I'm taxed or forced to help in another way... I get no joy from this. Most of the time you feel put out. (Get off your and do something to better yourself ! -- for example)

  • by tnk1 (899206) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:13PM (#28110905)

    I agree with you for the most part. I'm a little concerned with the idea that not attacking hijackers by default was a bad idea.

    Until recently, hijackers did not hijack in order to blow up buildings and commit suicide. Hijackers in the 1980s were very much looking to make a point. You *could* die or be wounded in a hijacking, but for the most part, you would live through it. They might be willing to die for their cause, but it wasn't a foregone conclusion.

    Of course, after 9/11, that strategy has changed. And perhaps the government should have known to change their story. But lets be clear here. When the people fought back over Pennsylvania, they still died. I would have been fighting with them, because I know I'd be dead either way and I wouldn't want to let them get away with that, but it didn't help them.

    What that story shows is that it's never been a case of us simply being sheep and letting them blow up our buildings and take us hostage. These people are armed and trained how to take over aircraft and to hold hostages. They have little or no fear of death, and their family members are back in the Middle East instead of sitting right next to them on the plane.

    On the other hand, I am not trained to take on armed combatants in an enclosed cabin. I'm willing to do it with little regard to my safety, but when it means that others get hurt because of my lack of training and experience, I would think twice. And you should think twice.

    Chances are, if this happens again, there's really going to be no choice but to attack. The terrorists have upped the ante and now the equation favors fighting back. Indeed, you may well be racing against time to either dodge a suicide attack or a Sidewinder up your plane's intakes. But that does not mean that the day has been saved, it just means that the stakes are higher.

  • Web vs. Meat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:14PM (#28110919) Homepage
    Communism did not work in meat-reality for several basic reasons.

    1. "...To each according to his needs." ignores luxury items, which no one needs, but people want. The existence of them makes people happy, and encourages work.

    2. It discourages individuals from working hard, as you gain nothing by doing so. Only those with a huge altruistic streak, or similar need for approval have incentive to work.

    3. "From each according to his capability". One of the major problems people have always had is to determine who is actually capable, as opposed to simply satisfactory. Capitalism, by offering HUGE incentives, tends to accurately discover who has capacity beyond minimal, while communism does not, resuolting in mediocre people being thought capable, thereby giving them authority.

    When you look at the web as opposed to meat-world, certain realities appear.

    First, everything on the web is at heart a luxury item. So what is going on is not "to each according to his needs", but instead "To each according to his desires."

    Second, The work at heart is realtively easier and ENJOYABLE to some. Anyone that has spent an hour digging a hole and an hour writing code will tell you that. So you don't need to actually encourage people to work hard.

    Third, capability on the web is easier to detect. More of it is one-person projects, and those are often signed. Software can be measured for speed, GUI can be easily be examined for ease of use.

    Fourthly, most of what is offered on the web is relatively low value, not high value. Honestly, we use socialism a lot in the Meat world - for low value things. People don't pay money for a better subway seat. We use socialism to assign movie theater seats - people in wheel chairs get the wheel chair seats for free, they are not forced to pay more for them - even if they are in prime spots.

    The web is not the meat-world. What works in one place will not work in the other.

    That said, I find that capitalism still tends to triump over socialism even in the web for most areas where money, the requirement for capitalism, exists. No socialist effort is going to make a web site that beats Google, Apple's itune Store, or Amazon.

  • Yeah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChienAndalu (1293930) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:15PM (#28110931)

    I wonder how North Korean Slashdot readers would respond to that.

    Oh, wait..

  • Re:no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:18PM (#28110985)
    Socialism's no more a stepping stone towards Communism than carnivory is a stepping stone towards cannibalism.
  • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:19PM (#28110989)

    The concept of owning resources in common isn't anti-individualistic

    There's nothing wrong with owning a resource in common - for example people in certain states resort to owning "shares" of a cow in order to legally get raw milk (you know, the stuff your grandparents drank without worry). But that's not the same thing as being *forced* to give up your property to a communal share. That is anti-individual and anti-man.

    having neighborhood parks or sharing roads and pipes and cables is just smart resource usage

    Well, that is obvious. I doubt anyone would disagree with you on that. So why the need to force it to happen through a government-backed monopoly?

  • Ummm no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:24PM (#28111071)
    "Thus, digital socialism can be viewed as a third way that renders irrelevant the old debates."

    No it doesn't. Why? Because on the one hand you're talking forms of government and on the other you're talking digital collaboration. Try comparing apples to apples and your analogy rings truer. What may work for pooling resources within a piece of technology may not fair well in societies at large. The main reason being that there are very real political differences not only between groups of individuals but individuals themselves. At the risk of being as guilty as the author, you see the same things within collaborative technologies as forking is prominent. Furthermore, even within companies there is such collaboration so "collaboration" need not equal "communism."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:28PM (#28111115)

    Adding an -ism to the end of a word completely changes the concept. Doing something communally and sharing is not the same as being forced to share by the government.

    This is a common misconception. A Communist society does not have a government.

    Being forced to share by a government is Socialism, not Communism. Communism is a society where everybody pitches in together so that nobody is in need and private ownership not only does not exist, but is not needed. It's a nice idea, and actually works very well in small groups where all members can police each other, but breaks down on any type of larger scale.

    Unfortunately many people still think that the USSR was a Communist country, even though the name itself says "Socialist" not "Communist", and it's to the point where the term is horribly misused. Kind of along the same lines as most people thinking the USA is a Democracy when in fact it is a Republic (or a "representational Democracy" if you prefer more politically 'correct' terminology).

  • Re:no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:29PM (#28111159) Homepage Journal

    economic man and political man are the same man. If you must dictate a man's economics to him, you've dictated his life and his politics as well.

    Challenge: implement economic planning without the coercive power of government. a plan is useless if people won't carry it out.

    the real issue is statism vs. individualism. communism and socialism, to the extent that they are different, both lead to suppression of the individual.

  • Re:no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:31PM (#28111195) Journal

    Not that political and social structures are on completely distinct axes. If you're oppressed after all, it doesn't matter much whether your oppressor is a government or corporation.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:32PM (#28111215) Journal

    Who said anything about Capitalism?

    Well, the article you and I are discussing mentions it several times, including:

    In fact, the work-reward ratio is so out of kilter from a free-market perspective-the workers do immense amounts of high-market-value work without being paid-that these collaborative efforts make no sense within capitalism.

    Which seems to more or less directly tie it to the culture (ours) you discuss. I would contend that if your post is not to be taken in the context of concern for economic measures of dot-com transactions then it is off-topic. I also find it amusing that you claim superheros are possessed by the United States and do not enjoy popularity in other countries. A US invention, perhaps, but embraced worldwide.

    Of which "Capitalism" as it has been named is merely a side effect of how such a culture operates economically, not a system in of itself.

    I do not think I present a false dichotomy when I assume that an argument (and I'm referring to the argument of the article we are discussing) against "dot-Communism" is an argument for "dot-Capitalism" but I am open to your alternative dimensions to this--and yes, I'm talking economics here--aspect of online interaction.

    I'm sorry you have wasted your time on such a long and pointless rant.

    The pleasure is all mine, apparently.

  • Re:no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:36PM (#28111277) Homepage

    Socialism is state control. What we have on the web is anarchy. Fun, friendly anarchy.

    Capitalism, socialism, and anarchism are ways of structuring an entire society. The web isn't a society, it's a tool. This is the same fallacy as talking about "netizens." You can't be a citizen of the net. That would be like being a citizen of your screwdriver.

    The main thing that makes anarchism different from, say, libertarianism, is that anarchists are against private property. The typical anarchist analysis is that the accumulation of private property leads to social inequality, the runaway concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people, and war. The Microsoft monopoly, for example, is something that's definitely completely antithetical to anarchist ideals of how society should work. Given that microsoft.com is part of the web, and that they'll take your money in return for their software, I don't really think the web qualifies as an institution that would be typical of an anarchist society.

    Since copyrights, trademarks, and patents are generally thought of as a kind of property, I really doubt that an anarchist society would have them. And yet I guarantee you that the computer I'm using, the computer you're using, and the computer that runs slashdot.org are all full of copyrighted software. For instance, my computer is running Linux, x.org, and Firefox right now. All that software is copyrighted, and the only reason it was legal for me to copy them off of the internet was that I was offered an opportunity to do so under licenses like the GPL. Doesn't sound very anarchistic to me.

  • Re:communism? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Flavio (12072) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:41PM (#28111347)

    Quote from one of the biggest Communists: Thomas Jefferson

    That statement made me cringe, because it contradicts the whole body of knowledge that exists about Jefferson.

    Thomas Jefferson's quote merely shows that he was opposed to an inventor or discoverer gaining a monopoly over an idea. This is consistent with his defense of liberty, minimal government and free market capitalism.

  • Re:communism? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:41PM (#28111355) Homepage Journal

    I'm not really familiar with Jefferson's communist tendencies (especially since he was greatly in favor of a weak federal government, personal liberties, and against nationalized banks), but your quote really has nothing to do with communism either. The freedom of ideas is independent of communism or democracy, it has more to do with what rights the individual has. But I guess it just goes to show how lame this article is.

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@bea[ ]rg ['u.o' in gap]> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:44PM (#28111405)

    > ... is that the word no longer means communism. Now it means oppressive government,

    No, it ALWAYS meant 'planned economy' and that implies a planner. To make that work requires force, and the only entity which can use force is the State.

    And that is why the Internet is about as far from .communism as you can get and the article is either idiocy or pushing a political agenda. There is no central planning on the Internet, which is why it works so well. Voluntary cooperation is as American/Capitalist/etc as Mom, Apple Pie and (until recently) Chevy.

  • by postbigbang (761081) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:45PM (#28111419)

    If you change the semantics just slightly, you can get rid of the boogeyman of 'communism' and instead, understand what's really going on: we behave like tribes. We are tribes, we will always be tribes, herds, or whatever you want to call them. This kind of behavior underlies most of what we do, mostly on a subconscious level. We're social beings, and that's how we've evolved when we're not killing each other.

    Government is also somewhat natural; there are alphas, betas, just as there are in bird, dog, and other animal behaviors. None of this is new. The word 'communal' is just distracting.

  • by StCredZero (169093) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:50PM (#28111493)

    > ...It allows individuals to aspire, self-organize, and express their individuality in a helpful way. So in that respect, I agree with the article. I just don't think it's anything new or anything to do with Communism as a system...

    So why do we move back to a stupid argument between the absolutes of Capitalism vs Communism when the correct solution is somewhere to be found in the middle?

    The key is that the Internet is Infrastructure. The tools we develop on it to organize ourselves are just Infrastructure. Open Source software, OSes and libraries are Infrastructure. It makes sense that individuals will sometimes collaborate in their own self interest to build common infrastructure, because ultimately it results in more benefit to individuals in the form of increased economic activity. If you're going to call the Internet Communist, you might as well also tar roads, bridges, water systems, sewage...

    Many think it should all be privatized, but this is a fringe view and the view of the majority is that some infrastructure is best implemented as some kind of collective endeavor, and that this is fine and normal. Communism is just a scare-word to make you think that this is somehow not good and normal.

  • Re:Not important (Score:3, Insightful)

    by harry666t (1062422) <harry666t@gma i l . c om> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:54PM (#28111575)
    Words help people exchange ideas and communicate, but sometimes a word can only spoil the picture of the thing it is trying to describe. To describe something we experience, using words, we have to define it, create an abstract model, and when we do - the thing suddenly stops being anything beyond that model.

    You go on a walk, you see a tree, and you think, "it's a tree", and then just keep walking. You see another tree, and because "it's just another tree", it gets the same amount of your attention as all the other trees do. But what would happen if you'd stop calling these trees "trees", and try to experience them as they *really* are?

    My name is a label, my nickname is a label, my gender is a label, my profession is a label, the name of my school is a label, my hobbies, interests and skills are all labels. They all might have some informative or functional value, but people get too attached to them and often fail to perceive beyond what the words could describe.
  • by psnyder (1326089) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:54PM (#28111585)
    Capitalism may be the quickest way to get to the true communistic ideal, not like the totalitarian states of the USSR, East Germany, North Korea, etc. Those were/are mainly dictatorships run by elite groups hiding under the veil of fairness and community.
    • Lightly regulated capitalism has shown to be the quickest "means to the ends" of technological progress and efficiency that the world has seen so far. The more efficiently we can satisfy our survival needs, the more time we have for altruistic endeavours.
    • The fact that there ARE still problems gives a motive to want to change those problems.
    • The idea that we can make a difference, without an oppressive, "overlord" state calling the shots, allows the motive to be put into action.

    The Open Source community exemplifies this.


    Despite its many flaws, capitalism is the quickest breeding ground for altruistic communal endeavours. When computer communication became efficient, an Open Source community was inevitable.

  • by butlerm (3112) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:58PM (#28111623)

    I hesitate to break it to you, but *the* distinguishing characteristic of Marxism is the advocacy of the *violent* overthrow of the bourgoisie. Marx would be a footnote in history if he did not advocate that course of action and have half the world take him up on it.

  • Karl Marx's Dream (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xaedalus (1192463) <Xaedalys AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @12:58PM (#28111641)
    When I read the Manifesto, my takeaway was that Marx was really railing against Corporatism instead of Capitalism. My opinion of him was that he wasn't mad at Capitalism per say, he was mad at the social structures people created when they participated in corporate activities that demeaned and abused the workers. Why didn't he just say Corporatism instead of Capitalism? My guess is that he didn't know how else to describe the enemy he was writing about. Michael Crichton writes in The Great Train Robbery that the Victorians were the first 'modern' civilization and they were the first to grapple with all the current social issues we have right now with urbanization, capitalism, etc. The very concept of 'Corporatism' probably hadn't been invented yet and Marx had to work with the concepts at hand. When people work for a corporation, they tend to be subsumed within an amoral entity that reflects the sum total of its individual components. Thus being in the corporate environment tends to decrease our empathy for our fellow humans and in Marx's time, would lead to the abuses he saw.
  • by thtrgremlin (1158085) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:01PM (#28111691) Homepage Journal
    Who is being compelled against their will to contribute? While each individual may contribute to their ability, it is on a voluntary basis. "Each according to their need" is ONLY being met as market demands and individuals consider it in their best interest to meet that demand. Just because the exchange can not be measured in per unit monetary compensation does not make the contribution "selfless". People contribute for recognition, or hell, maybe because they actually gain value from their own work and can not loose any value by sharing it. Also, major contributions give you an advantage of time to market. Red Hat, for example, greatly gains from its contributions because while the information is free to share (even if they are not assisting directly to the free exchange) they have built the reputation of quality products and can be the first to teach people how to use it.

    I think what people are finally realizing is that censorship isn't greedy, but irrational. Copyright was intended to be very limited, but people like Jack Valenti made a living as a con artist convincing people otherwise. Copyright is government attempting to put a control on something that doesn't need to be controlled, and as people are escaping the abuse of government regulation by way of free and voluntary exchange of information as was MEANT to be protected in the US Constitution, of course we are seeing tremendous growth.

    Karl Marx would have called for government to come in and heavily regulate software. Designate a central authority to manage the development of software, public schools train a specific number of necessary software developers, outlaw the possession, development, or use of "rogue" compilers to help protect people from poor quality software that wasn't approved by the state, and possibly imprison people for unauthorized forking of projects arguing that such action "steals" the necessary resources of the state and impedes progress.

    Centralized, communistic control over what people develop and how is the way of Microsoft, if not even more so by Apple. Government does give them big contracts too, and many government (public) schools mandate their use.

    James Madison and Thomas Jefferson both said that with no natural right to real property ownership, there is no imaginable justification for natural rights over an idea (Jefferson Letters). Does that make THEM Communists?

    Further, just because everyone wins does not make it collectivism. Collectivism asks for self sacrifice, that you as an individual is not as important as the many. Really? That is why people develop software? Hackers don't have really huge egos when it comes to their accomplishments? Gee, guess I had it all wrong.

    I think the Internet is Communistic about as much as I think Al Gore invented it. If I haven't made my point yet, I don't know what else I can say that will.
  • The author has kind of missed the point. Communism is an economic system. It is not about communal behaviour at all. Communism is an alternative to Capitalism or Socialism. It is not an alternative to democracy.

    Most of the systems the author speaks about are new social systems that operate within a Capitalist framework. They could not exist in a communist framework, unless sanctioned by the politburo, because in a communist everything is owned by the state.
  • by megamerican (1073936) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:04PM (#28111747)

    Whoever wrote that doesn't know what Communism is, at all. What they are describing is entirely free-market anarchism.

    Voluntary associations are a natural consequence of limited central authorities. Tocqueville's Democracy in America describes in great detail the amount of voluntary associations that sprang up in the country's early history.

    They fill the voids that government and corporations simply can't fill. Sharing and the building of like-minded communities and organizations are not Communistic or Socialistic in nature, unless they are forced.

    I hope the internet can stay like this but it'll be a hard, continuous fight. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance

  • Re:Web vs. Meat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by harry666t (1062422) <harry666t@gma i l . c om> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:13PM (#28111881)
    > Anyone that has spent an hour digging a hole
    > and an hour writing code will tell you that.

    Dunno. I've seen people on the 1st year of a CS course who'd be better off digging holes than being let to touch a computer.
  • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:18PM (#28111929) Homepage Journal

    "Most people in the West, including myself, were indoctrinated with the notion that extending the power of individuals necessarily diminishes the power of the state, and vice versa"

    What? Western culture has been about empowering the individual, about heroes. Conversely, communist nations such as Russia and China are less about individuals, and more about "the good of many outweighs the good of the few".

    The internet works because in many cases empowered individuals will choose the good of the many because it aligns so nicely with the good of the few/themselves. Some of these cases happen naturally, and some are the result of government setting a proper framework for interaction (so, extending the power of individuals by extending the power of government).

    There is no "conversely" here.

  • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:20PM (#28111981)
    This isn't communism in the sense that a government would implement communism (ie all property's held in common), it's more like communism in the way that it's communism to help your neighbor move out. It's holding things in common that have no intrinsic worth (eg the polarity on the hard disk's platter doesn't have any value in and of itself, but when you put it together with the other bits they become an mp3) and then giving labor for free that would normally be charged for (just like helping your neighbor move).

    It's more like communitism (yeah, I made that up), where people help each other just to help each other out. It's a great thing, but communism it's not.
  • by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:27PM (#28112103) Journal
    I've recently read 'The Quiet American' [wikipedia.org], which further investigates this. As I read it, it seems that Graham Greene thought that Americans can't imagine how other people could want something different from what they have, and how could they think different from what they, Americans, think. I don't know if it's true, but it's a very interesting POV.

    Don't believe everything you read. I'll agree that this probably pegs plenty of Americans correctly enough, but I think there is still a large contingent of us which really just don't care what other people think or want. This probably comes off as either arrogance or ignorance or both, but I doubt that there are a lot of Americans running around bemoaning that others aren't like us. Unfortunately, the type of people who do make a big deal out of it are usually the narcissistic types who are going to be loudest about it.

    Myself for example, I realize that people in other countries think and act differently, and then I quit navel gazing and go about living my own life. Sure, I run across it every now and again, but it's not something which enters my consciousness all that much, nor does it bother me. Sure, I find it odd, but I suspect that they have just been shaped to think the way they do by the experiences they have had in life, just like me. And that is, perhaps, one thing which maybe should come from your reading, the pot is just as black as the kettle. Sure, I don't really understand how you think, or why you think that way. I can't, I haven't had your life experiences. But, I doubt you truly understand how I think or why I think the way I do; you haven't had my life experiences. The best we can do is try to explain our point of view to each other, using something as imperfect as language, and accept that each other is not insane, just different.
  • by greenguy (162630) <estebandido AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:27PM (#28112117) Homepage Journal

    I have a different take on it. I think Marx was indeed railing against capitalism, but not against free markets. If that sounds like a total contradiction, I encourage you to read David Korten [peopleandplanet.net] and Kevin Carson [blogspot.com].

    Capitalism is a system run by, and for, the capitalist. There are a number of ways an economy can be organized that aren't dependent either on the state or a capitalist. Are they socialist? That depends on your definition of "socialist."

  • by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:44PM (#28112357) Journal
    I agree with you for the most part. I'm a little concerned with the idea that not attacking hijackers by default was a bad idea.

    Until recently, hijackers did not hijack in order to blow up buildings and commit suicide. Hijackers in the 1980s were very much looking to make a point. You *could* die or be wounded in a hijacking, but for the most part, you would live through it. They might be willing to die for their cause, but it wasn't a foregone conclusion.


    This seems to be a shirking of the responsibilities of a free citizen. It's important to keep in mind that The Authorities cannot possibly protect everyone, it's just a flat physical impossibility. There will never be a cop everywhere at once. Even with a surveillance state the best that will happen is that there will be evidence of a crime after the fact. And this seems to be something we have lost in our country, the understanding that the police are a reactionary force, they do not prevent crime, the do not stop crime, unless by serendipity. The police exist to investigate crimes after they have happened, collect evidence and hand it off to the State to seek redress for the aggrieved.

    The only people whom you can guarantee will be at the scene of a crime, when it happens, are the criminal, and the victim (theft by stealth not withstanding). This means that, as a free citizen, the victim is the first responder. It is up to the citizen to protect himself and his society. Certainly, there is a value judgment to be made, if the criminal has the drop on you, give up your wallet; dieing doesn't help anyone. On the other hand, if you have a reasonable chance of stopping the crime in progress, or it's a crime in which you or others are going to die anyway, you should be fighting. Moreover, we have fallen into the bystander mentality, we love to stand around in groups and watch crimes happen, but not get involved; because, we might get hurt. That needs to stop, the only people that is empowering are the criminals.

    Should people have fought on planes before? Absolutely, I don't care how well trained a couple of hijackers are, against several hundred people, from all sides, they will lose. Flight 93 was doomed, in part, by the "be a victim" mentality. The people started fighting far too late, the hijackers were already in control of the aircraft. Were the scenario to go more along the lines of the hijackers starting trouble, and the people on the plane immediately giving them a beat-down (or maybe even shooting them) the plane would be far less likely to crash as the pilots will always be in control of the aircraft.
  • Re:no. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Logic and Reason (952833) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:48PM (#28112419) Homepage
    The term "anarchism" literally means "without rulers". As I said, this is the only defining characteristic of anarchism, and free-market anarchism certainly qualifies.

    Now, it may be that the term "anarchism" is being re-defined through common usage, but I would submit that until its advocates can actually agree on some other definition, we have no choice but to continue using the original one.
  • by Azghoul (25786) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:49PM (#28112439) Homepage

    Just wanted to say, nice post.

    The idea that online software communities are somehow in any way related to government sponsored socialism is laughable at best. At worst, the guy's trying to co-opt the term and make it less scary when government DOES decide to do it to us.

  • by CarpetShark (865376) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:51PM (#28112461)

    or Socialistic in nature, unless they are forced.

    Where are you getting this idea that socialism means "Force"? I'm not saying you're wrong, just that it doesn't fit anything I've ever heard or read on the subject. I would say you're confusing socialism and authoritarian communism, except that you seemed to make a clear distinction between the two.

  • by Shoe Puppet (1557239) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:04PM (#28112643)

    Who is being compelled against their will to contribute?

    That isn't related to communism at all.

    Karl Marx would have called for government to come in and heavily regulate software. Designate a central authority to manage the development of software, public schools train a specific number of necessary software developers, outlaw the possession, development, or use of "rogue" compilers to help protect people from poor quality software that wasn't approved by the state, and possibly imprison people for unauthorized forking of projects arguing that such action "steals" the necessary resources of the state and impedes progress.

    Not really. He called for a state-run economy as a replacement for a capitalist-owned one, as to make the working class the owners of the means of production. Increasing productivity was at best a secondary aim. Anyway, I don't think we can now what Marx would think about today's internet capitalism-communism-anarchism-whatever. It's just too different from 19th century industrial capitalism.

  • by CarpetShark (865376) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:07PM (#28112689)

    it's communism to help your neighbor move out

    No, that's community.

  • The Inviasible Gun (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thtrgremlin (1158085) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:26PM (#28112967) Homepage Journal
    Maybe this only further supports your point, but I think one major issue is that people try to take all political issues and put them on one spectrum between capitalism and communism, or socialism versus free market. This is ridiculous. Capitalism is about the right for individuals to own property, and Free Market is the idea that individuals can make the most responsive efficient rational choices regarding their labor and resources, which of course quickly ties back to the idea of Capitalism. Communism claims that individuals are wasteful and inefficient, and if left to their own devices are corrosive to society; only an all powerful, all seeing state can best manage the resources and labor of a society for greatest good.

    Middle ground? There is no middle ground. What DOES exist is different questions, but not middle ground. If one tends towards a better society, than a mix of both is certain to be a failure.

    The problem I see is that people (of certain political tendencies) give government certain god-like qualities, most common believing government has perfect knowledge, or that anything the government does is "free". Government is simply a business that "we" have authorized a virtually unlimited use of force. Beyond that they have no special super powers. Government can help organize a military to protect against foreign invaders, police that can neutrally handle disputes over violations of social contract, courts to handle issues of contract law and establish statutes regarding the interpretation of contract language to help encourage mutually beneficial voluntary exchange of goods and service.

    To say "we need the government to blah blah blah..." is to say that violence is a necessary means to an end. To paraphrase Jonathan Gullible, the penalty for all crimes against government is death / loss of life. This is the difference between taxes and charitable donation or voluntary exchange; people will be most compelled to be charitable with a gun to their head, how could we ever expect to get so much from people on a voluntary basis? If it is a one time thing, I would be inclined to agree, but can you really argue maximum net production through such means? This implies that a robber could keep robbing the same home repeatedly and that their gain will be proportional to the number of times they rob the house. Does knowing which houses are the richest change much?

    To paraphrase Richard Saldman

    Let me suggest an experiment. ... For one year don't buy or use any Microsoft products. ... At the same time send the government no money, that is, pay no taxes. Then wait. Watch who comes after you for your money and how and with what weapons.

    The "problem" with the government trying to regulate the Internet is where do you point the gun, the governments only tool? The government does not do work, it only consumes, with the intent and strength to intimidate by threat do do what it desires... but it is ok because it is the will of (51% of) the people, right?

    And just because it was brought it up, got to mention something. I am really getting tired of this "finding a middle ground" / "moderate" position. Moderation is a tool of negotiation, not a principle unto itself. Take for example an accused killer. The courts have the authorization to take this persons life if convicted of the crime, so there is a burden of the court to justify both its use of force, and their authority to do so. In this particular case, it is found that the police in their enthusiasm fabricated evidence in order to make the case go faster. Unfortunately for the police as a matter of checks and balances, their fabrication of evidence and getting caught in doing so means that the accused man must be let go, because an objective measure of evidence, according to the law, is now impossible. One one side, (a type of classical conservative) people claim that unfortunately the man must be let go, and shame of the police for tainting their revered leg

  • by turbidostato (878842) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:53PM (#28113369)

    "Karl Marx would have called for government to come in and heavily regulate software. Designate a central authority to manage the development of software, public schools train a specific number of necessary software developers, outlaw the possession, development, or use of "rogue" compilers to help protect people from poor quality software that wasn't approved by the state, and possibly imprison people for unauthorized forking of projects arguing that such action "steals" the necessary resources of the state and impedes progress."

    It's obvious you never read Karl Marx. Marxism is not Stalinism. Did you knew that under Marx's opinion your "central authority" was just an interim but unavoidable artifact? Did you knew that lacking unsurmountable opposition from the capital oligochracy there's no need of such "central authority" in Marx'x opinion? In the end, did you knew that if the basic premise from this article is true -that capital oligochracy is not able to dismantle those communal efforts born from individuals' free will, Marx supports the opinion that no "central authority" is needed?

  • by Patch86 (1465427) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @02:53PM (#28113375)

    Maybe you don't understand the GP.

    In the '80s, hijackers didn't blow up planes and commit mass murder. It just wasn't what the game was all about. Some did it for ransom money (always popular). Some did it to make a political point, the same as waving a banner at a protest rally (only more so). The usual way these things went is that the plane would land somewhere, all the hostages would be safely released, and the hijackers would be rounded up by the police/CIA some time later.

    Encouraging people to fight back in this game is stupid. All you do is make people risk their lives needlessly. If they don't fight, everyone survives and the authorities can catch the criminals on safer ground. If you do fight, you risk having a gun fired in a crowded, pressurised cylinder 20,000 feet up.

    The game has obviously changed when you're dealing with terrorists for whom the end goal is to kill everyone. Suddenly, we're not talking about "we'll catch up with them later once everyone is safe", we're talking "how to ensure the fewest people die". Fighting for control of the aircraft is the only sensible thing the passengers can do.

    Pretending that nothing has changed in the last 30 years is just being thick-skulled. The rules were different back then because the game was different back then.

  • by OwnedByTwoCats (124103) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:10PM (#28113589)

    Capitalism is about the right for individuals to own property, and Free Market is the idea that individuals can make the most responsive efficient rational choices regarding their labor and resources, which of course quickly ties back to the idea of Capitalism.

    You are ignoring Market Failures: times when the free market does not produce an efficient solution. Free Markets have several problems:

    • uncaptured externalities, when an exchange does not capture all of the value or harm. Pollution is a significant uncaptured externality; companies could escape the costs of polluting others' environment.
    • free rider, when people cannot be prevented from benefiting from a good when they choose not to pay for it. National defense is an example of this. There is no way to enable the army to only protect those who choose to pay for it, and leave those choose not to pay vulnerable.
    • natural monopolies, when the nature of the good (continually declining marginal costs, or high sunk costs) enables the dominant supplier to undercut all other competitors, and eventually become the sole supplier and rake in monopoly profits.

    Middle ground? There is no middle ground. What DOES exist is different questions, but not middle ground. If one tends towards a better society, than a mix of both is certain to be a failure.

    Why? Because you say so? Because Ayn Rand wrote it down?

  • by tixxit (1107127) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @03:15PM (#28113657)

    To paraphrase Richard Saldman

    Let me suggest an experiment. ... For one year don't buy or use any Microsoft products. ... At the same time send the government no money, that is, pay no taxes. Then wait. Watch who comes after you for your money and how and with what weapons.

    That quote doesn't really work. If you don't use or buy any MS products, then there is no gain and MS has no loss, so they would have no justification for coming after you. However, your taxes are not without gain. You get roads, emergency services, an army, subsidized utilities of all kinds, etc. Just because you stopped paying your taxes, doesn't mean the police won't help you, or your military won't defend you. If you want a real analogy, it would be:

    Let me suggest an experiment. ... For one year don't buy or use any Microsoft products. ... At the same time move to another country and send the government of your original country no money, that is, pay no taxes for the country you no longer live in. Then wait. Watch who comes after you for your money and how and with what weapons.

    I don't pay tax to the UK, because I don't live there. I don't give money to MS because I don't use their products. Neither one will be "coming after me."

  • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @04:27PM (#28114419) Homepage

    And just because it was brought it up, got to mention something. I am really getting tired of this "finding a middle ground" / "moderate" position. Moderation is a tool of negotiation, not a principle unto itself.

    The principles on display:

    * The opinions of others have merit.
    * No one person has all the wisdom, so the best answers are usually found by bringing together a wide variety of views.
    * The ability to engage with opposing viewpoints is not just critical to a peaceful, civilized society, it is also a way of treating your fellow human beings as human beings, not as obstacles to steamroll over.

    Those principles are highly desirable. I don't think that the "add the positions and divide by two" approach is the best way to achieve them, though.

    In fact, it can achieve the opposite. Rather than listening to one another, two different sides can simply stake out more extreme positions, in the hope of screwing up the average.

  • by lwsimon (724555) <lyndsy@lyndsysimon.com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @04:49PM (#28114739) Homepage Journal

    This is what I was thinking.

    Individuals banding together, each contributing and receiving value in return is what the free market is all about - there are no conflicts of interest amongst rational actors.

    The problems start when people decide that they know better than the individual, and want to force - or "incentivize" - their compliance.

    The real battle in society is not capitalism vs. socialism, but statism vs. individualism.

  • by node 3 (115640) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @05:51PM (#28115887)

    People voluntarily sharing and collaborating forming online communities is not the same as Communism or socialism.

    Yes, it is, if their goals are communal or social. It's only if they are oriented around the acquisition of wealth (capital) that such endeavors are examples of capitalism.

    Communism is all about Government power being used to force people to behave in the "appropriate" ways. With government power brokers determining what is appropriate and what isn't.

    No, that's totalitarianism. Currently, the capitalists in America are clamoring for more totalitarianism than the socialists are.

    The cooperation being seen between individuals is the exact opposite. People voluntarily working towards a common good that they choose for themselves.

    Very few people care at all about the common goals they are working for in their job. For most people, a job is a job, and it's something they do because they have to, not because they want to. Relatively few people are lucky enough to get to work at a job that they truly love because it's something actually want to do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @08:04PM (#28117355)

    Hmmmm. Nope!

    I'd rather people stop equating Marxim with totalitarian dictatorships (such as Stalin's). It is as inaccurate and misrepresentative as equating the whole of medicine with the atrocities committed by the medical profession acting on behalf of the State. Godwin's Law forbids me from mentioning the obvious examples from Stalin's time but there are enough examples of others.

    Marx did not believe that the State should MAKE you do something in particular. His concern was actually that the State, in the interests of capital, MAKES you do something that's not in your best interests.

    He believed the State ought not be a means by which capital could control workers.

    For Marx his central concern was human nature was steamrolled by capital. The current (capitalist) economic relationships that preexisted each persons birth created an environment which produced a person alienated from the members of their community. Significantly it meant that people were forced (which is why your interpretation is so way off the mark) to participate in an economy which took their labour and efforts and returned less to them than it ought. It also (see the definition of alienation) meant that individuals were set up to compete, rather than cooperate, with each other - this he believed was against human nature and purely in the interest of the owners of the means of production.

    The history of Great Britain (and other industrialising nations) up until that time included mechanisms which provided capitalists with the pliable human resources which it was believed necessary for industrialism to work. For example, enclosure of the commons which forced people off the land and into the cities, thus making it imperative that they seek jobs which often paid them very little or in food and other goods. This limited people in being able to change jobs, move or improve their position. Laws were also passed resticting the right of labour to organise and negotiate.

    Capitalism separated indvidual workers from the fruit of their labour and thus alienated them from something central to the means by which humans created meaning and purpose in their lives - work. However, Marx's notion of work or labour did not mean that one HAD to be in paid employment to have purpose, meaning and value. This is what capitalism purports.

    Marx believed the product of labour belonged to those that produced it. He also believed that when this was allowed, people would naturally share - thinking this was part of human nature. Though his notion of human nature is difficult to identify, what is clear is that he felt humans were cooperative and sharing by nature and thus socialism was a more accurate reflection of this than capitalism, which denies sharing and promotes self-interest.

    In summary, he was concerned that capitalism meant that people were not able to benefit from their labour and were set up to compete against other members of their community. The notion of alienation is central to understanding Marx's work and a failure to grasp this turns Marxism into a slogan.

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