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January 18, 2017 / Congau

Gaping Society

“It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice,” said Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese communist leader, and then he abolished communism. If economy were just about the economy, if it were just about producing goods and gaining wealth, if it were just about catching mice, then he would have been right.

The attraction of communism was never due to its superiority as an economic theory. No heart is set on fire by equations of GNP prospects and no one puts his life on stake for a more efficient industrial production. Communism is a system of beliefs and as any other ideology or religion its fundamental assumptions can never be proven wrong simply by appeal to hard facts. Even if it were demonstrated a thousand times that the poor have a greater chance of getting richer in a capitalist system, it would be an insufficient reason for rejecting communism.

A good society is not judged according to income level, neither on average nor for the lowest classes. “Good” in a social context always refers to justice and for a social system to be just it must be harmonious. That again means that each part must function as an essential ingredient of the whole. When something is in harmony, no part is dominating another and none is being exploited.

It is not about what one individual has in isolation from the rest, neither is it relevant simply to compare them. If one person owns a lot and another quite little, that in itself is not an issue relevant to justice. If they live isolated and in no way are related to each other, the poor man’s wish for a share in the rich man’s wealth may just be a case of envy, but if they live in the same society, the uneven distribution goes beyond their personal feelings. It’s a sign of social ill health if the gap between the rich and poor is too big.

The cat is not just a mouse catching machine, and society has more than one purpose.

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