Starnesville, Greece

One of the things that Ayn Rand did particularly well in Atlas Shrugged was to set the rules of collectivism in motion and see them carried to their logical extreme.  To this end,  I have always considered the hobo's tale to Dagny on the train about 20th Century Motors to be the climax of the book.  It pulls a lot of plot threads in the book together, and the story represents the ultimate expression of how a true socialist society would evolve.  "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is taken to its extremes, and rather than brotherhood, everyone ends up hating and resenting their fellow workers.  In retrospect, it seems dead-on prescient of this bit about Greece:

The Greek state was not just corrupt but also corrupting. Once you saw how it worked you could understand a phenomenon which otherwise made no sense at all: the difficulty Greek people have saying a kind word about one another. Individual Greeks are delightful: funny, warm, smart, and good company. I left two dozen interviews saying to myself, "What great people!" They do not share the sentiment about one another: the hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back. No success of any kind is regarded without suspicion. Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible; the collapse of civic life only encourages more lying, cheating, and stealing. Lacking faith in one another, they fall back on themselves and their families.

The structure of the Greek economy is collectivist, but the country, in spirit, is the opposite of a collective. Its real structure is every man for himself. Into this system investors had poured hundreds of billions of dollars. And the credit boom had pushed the country over the edge, into total moral collapse.

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  • caseyboy

    I doubt the people who visit this site need more proof of the failure of collectivism/socialism. Some people are lazy and some people are industrious. The conflict arises when the lazy demand sustenance from the industrious with no strings attached. The lazy become a voting constituency of the politicians thereby setting up a very unhealthy social/economic alliance. Once again Thomas Jefferson's words seem prolific. "For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security."

  • LoneSnark

    This is the same theory used to explain Britain during the 20th century. At the start of the century, the government did relatively little, but the civil service was competent and the everyone would agree the country was well run. Then the government tried to run everything, and the civil service which had been so well respected became the definition of destructive bureaucracy. By the mid 20th, Britain was perhaps the worst governed country in western Europe. Then, reform set in, the government privatized much, and now Britain is once again one of the better run countries.

  • http://commonsenseliberty.com Terry Noel

    I agree. The hobo's story describes richly what an abstract discussion can only allude to--the eventual devolution of civil society into a backbiting and quarreling mob.

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