Inspired by this question, I'd like to re-review if Communism can ever become a stable form of government.

To help restrict the scope of this question, please allow me to add the following constraints :

  • Whatever the inciting activity is for the switch to this form of government is, it is a peaceful one (think the Constitutional Convention because the Continental Congress was bankrupt)
  • Any national military force has disbanded
  • Any charismatic leaders that could easily seize control have refused to
  • The national government is weak / bankrupt. Most power during the switch over to the form of government is distributed among the cities and states. The precise number of semi-autonomous lesser bodies that make up the nation, and how deeply they are nested is up to you. The point is to find an answer that is stable, so if a certain power make-up is, in your opinion, required, please say so.
  • The population density is variable. I was imagining a mix of high- and low- density urban and rural areas. However, if you believe the only stable answer has a specific population density, please say so.
  • The proposed form is for the public to own "big" factors of production : land, large businesses, large factories, etc.
  • How "small" property is handled (is it public or personal) is TBD
  • The economy at the state level is strong
  • The people are ethical, and willing to tolerate this social experiment up to a point...

The "framers" of this new government are considering making most property public, as espoused by Marx w/o necessarily taking all of the ideas Marx espoused : especially his ideas that the only "True" Communist party was his party, and that party being only "True" Communists as long as he was in charge. Feel free to leave a lot of Marxism on the cutting room floor.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Way too broad! What you're asking is the stuff of multi year PhD theses, not a couple of paragraphs on a Q/A site $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Dec 31 '19 at 17:55
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ As a person born, raised and educated in a Socialist Republic, and a former member of the Pioneers, of the Union of Communist Youth and of our national Communist Party, I feel grievously offended when a Capitalist mindlessly mangles both Marxist-Leninist terminology and the very basics of the Communism. You are mixing politics (which is superstructure, aka social conscience) with economics (which is the base, aka social existence). You are misnaming the means of production, and misassigning them to the government, instead of the people. (The government doesn't own anything anywhere.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 31 '19 at 17:55
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Clarification: the factors of production are the means of production plus financial capital and human resources. No, Communism does not imply that human resources belong to anybody else than the humans in question; and financial capital basically doesn't exist, because it is meaningless in a Communist society. Second, the government is a set of elected officials and employees; as an organization it owns the desks, the chairs, and the paperclips it uses: but the land, the resources, the weapons, etc. which it manages belong to the state / the country / the people etc. for whom it works. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 31 '19 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ I'm willing to fix the question. Let me digest everything you just sent. $\endgroup$ Dec 31 '19 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ @JamesMcLellan I agree with the other commentators. This is such a massively broad and loaded question that I don't think any degree of clarification could really save it. Literally decades of wars have been fought over the arguments of ideology involved in this question. Capitalism vs Communism is a discussion on par with religion, which has another few thousand years of arguments and war itself. Sorry, but voting to close. $\endgroup$ Dec 31 '19 at 18:55

Hayek's Criticisms of Communism

Economist Friedrich Hayek in 'The Road to Serfdom' proposed two criticisms of communism, to which I'm going to add a third that I believe is important.

  • Motivation : for an economic system to work, people have got to want to work. Forcing people to labor eventually requires half or more of the people to be policing the other half, creating a slave class.
  • Mal-investment : for an economic system to work, there has to be a way for many differing ideas about how best to solve problems to compete on the merits of the ideas

And I am adding

  • Monopoly : for a system to be stable and remain free of corruption, there must be a meaningful and easily accessible marketplace of alternate leadership.

Corruption : the Monopoly Problem

Moving this first because so many communist implementations historically have turned swiftly into totalitarian governments.

The problem is this : votes and super-votes (social power) can concentrate in the hands of a small group of people, just like wealth can. However, the U.S. system has actually figures out a good way of solving the monopoly problem for a socialist system.

Electoral College

Voting power is distributed across the nation and allocated in such a way that the voting power of urban centers is muted.

Checks and balances

Government power is distributed across three branches (legislative, judicial, executive) that each have capabilities of shutting down the other, but not usurping it (failing safe into an inoperative state, instead of failing hot into a concentration of decision-making power)

Indirect electors

Judges are selected by a combination of the Executive and half a bi-cameral Legislature. Senators are chosen by State legislatures. Representatives are chosen by direct election. Presidents are chosen by an electoral college that is selected indirectly by the people and more directly by a written statute.

Limited powers

The most broad-reaching level of government only has powers expressly granted to it by a charter document (like a Constitution). For even further clarity, the charter document may expressly forbid the highest-level of government from exerting certain powers.

Terms of Service and Term Limits

Officials only serve a certain number of years, and sufficiently powerful positions should allow a fixed number of terms. After which, an individual is barred for life from holding that same high rank again.

Built-in Populist Panic Button

It should be possible (but difficult) for the people to directly overturn the results of indirect elections. The allows the people to directly possess final veto or approval power over their leaders and policies. This mechanism is intended to be used only when the indirect mechanics of government have become unwilling to represent the will of the people. Examples are : constitutional amendments, and calling new constitutional conventions.

How Does This Work on a Daily Level?

In this system, Boards of Directors are chosen by a city, county, state, or national selection process. Those Boards of Directors select and hold accountable the C-Suite staff (CEO, CFO, CIO, etc), who select their middle management and staff by whatever method they determine.

The Motivation Problem

Hayek repeated Adam Smith's belief that we are all, at heart, individualists. That, paraphrasing, "it is not for the common good that the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker labor; but for their own self-interest".

However, recent science seems to indicate Smith and Hayek were wrong. Assuming he's correct, Simon Senek in his book 'Leader Eat Last' (2014) indicated the neurotransmitter oxytocin shows that humans are biologically wired to work together, provided we believe the community is also looking out for us (also called the social contract). Individualism, he proposes, arises when the community is not, or does not appear to be, keeping it's obligation to the individuals.


What you need to deal with malinvestment are as many minds as possible working on the problem from potentially unique angles. These units of decision-making need to be empowered to defy conventional wisdom. These do not necessarily need to be individual citizens, but could be : villages, cities, counties, states, and national-level government, all of which potentially own factories, businesses and resources. These are free to negotiate with one another, creating a marketplace of ideas where price discovery (what's the best way of satisfying need X) can happen.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your belief that in a Communist country the Constitution has any applicability in actual practice, or that voting could possibly have any outcome other than the intended outcome, is adorable... Hint: the State owns everything; recalcitrant elements who work against the State will be dealt with, and swiftly. Second hint: in the immortal words of the All-Time Genius Joseph Stalin, Father of the Peoples, it's not the people who vote that count, it's the people who count the votes. (In those bygone days, our President regularly got 99.5% of the votes, as counted by the people who counted.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 31 '19 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ The fundamental problem of misallocation of resources results from the absence of a maketplace. Since the State owns everything of importance, it simply has no base on which to decide where to invest resources (land, minerals, fuel, electric power, manpower), because there is no marketplace where multiple actors signal their desire to buy stuff by means of offered prices. The solution seems to be market socialism, but whether this can be made to work is yet unresolved, even theoretically. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 31 '19 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ Lenin, Mao, Castro and others didn't surrender power; but George Washington did. Are you suggesting that's Communism at work as a bad philosophy? Would we be, in your opinion, a Constitutional Republic experiment if Washington had not? $\endgroup$ Dec 31 '19 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ The difference between a free country and a Communist country is that in a free country there are many competing powerful people. If George Washington hadn't surrendered power, there were many powerful people in the fledgling U.S.A. who were ready to show him the error of his ways; the country had just emerged from a victorious rebellion, after all. In a Communist country the only way to depose the dictator is basically a palace coup, or a military rebellion. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 31 '19 at 19:29

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.