Communism is a(lmost) religion

Religion relies on one core principle, namely that if you believe in something hard enough it will be true. Belief in Yahweh or a supernatural realm both fall comfortably into the category of religion, but some other things, commonly called bullshit, pseudo science and wishful thinking tend to just overlap with religion in a nice little Venn diagram of shit that isn't true. Communism falls nicely in one of these outlying concerns.  Let-it-go economics (Laissez-faire) or libertarianism also fall within this area because they all make fatal flaws when it comes to understanding human nature.

Briefly... libertarianism

Libertarianism believes in The Invisible Hand of the market regulating the behaviour of everybody including consumers and companies and the small powerless governments it advocates. The reality is different. People are not naturally wise and rational consumers who vote with their wallets and consider each monetary investment. If people understand the concept of walled gardens and vendor lock in for instance, Apple and Microsoft would have not ever been able to lock people out of the stuff they themselves bought or prevented them from switching platforms at will. Smart consumers would just avoid them at all costs, even opting for inferior software. That is obviously not the case. I would like to expand on that problem some other time, but the fundamental error of libertarianism is based on its ignorance of human nature.

Communism and human nature

Communism suffers from exactly the same failure, but instead of The Invisible Hand of the market communism has the Invisible Force Of Community, a force that is equally lame and non-existent. The proof of this abounds. If you take a human being ask her if she would save 1 of her own children or 10 unknown children the answer is damn obvious. I bet you didn't even have to think of what she would decide. This natural tendency towards nepotism can be found everywhere in society from inheritances to the job for the nephew who is completely incompetent.

It has been studied extensively in primate models. Male chimps for instance spend most of their lives in the same troop. Females migrate into the group. The result is that male chimpanzees get along quite well, until you introduce another troop into their territory. There will be blood! Baboons on the other hand have males migrating from other troops and females remaining in a troop for life. Unlike chimps, they are real assholes to each other. No surprises there, this all seems obvious to most of us.

Not to communists. They believe we can modify human behaviour on a whim to make everyone care for everyone else. If they can't, then the whole system fails because families stick together and hoard resources, build alliances and give preferential treatment to friends and family. Not surprisingly if a stranger needs a lift to a neighbouring town I don't give a rat's ass, when it is my sibling I care. Friendship offers an even more complex challenge for a communist system.


Some communists accept the human nature argument, or try to brush it off by announcing that someday scarcity will be a thing of the past. Unfortunately this ignores another tragedy of human nature: the Tragedy Of The Commons. When things are abundant we waste them. The other problem is that of want versus need. Want and need are basic economic principles and communism adequately addresses need, but leaves want out of the picture. If one person wants something in a communist society, it is not fair for that person to get it unless everyone can have that thing.

Behaviourism failed

Give me a child and I'll shape him into anything. - B F Skinner

That was the brilliant psychologist B.F. Skinner who discovered that pigeons could become superstitious when they were fed randomly. Not so brilliantly, he thought that humans were kinda like pigeons. He thought that you can socialise a human being to behave in any way you wanted them to. Behaviourists were so dogmatic that they even refused to look at the brain and only focussed on behavioural stimuli and response. The whole concept was a drag on psychology for decades, and it seemed so nice that some people still cling to the idea. Communism relies on it. Everyone should be socialised to view everyone as a comrade with equal value, or else the whole idea is fucked. 

Change in the human race

One point that weakly reinforces behaviourism is that it is partially true. If there is a justice system there are less thefts than when there is not. Human behaviour can be changed to some degree, but it is much like a palm tree. We can bend it to the wind only to a certain degree before it uproots. We still have a long way to go to becoming a better species, but nowhere on that path can we be expected to ignore our families and pledge allegiance to some nationalistic god force.

So why the comparison with religion? Religion denies the sciences to fit its own world view. Project your image on the world and it will be so, or something like that. It is a direct contradiction of science because science tries to discover what nature is like, and how to best utilise it, not how it should be like to fit an agenda. That includes human nature. Communism stands opposed to the science that makes it an impossible idea, cementing itself into dogma, attached to an era in the 20th century where the idea of equality and modification of human nature seemed like lofty and realistic ideas.

More On Arguments: Your Opponent Matters

It seems like the general idea in argumentation is to ignore your opponent and focus only on what the opponent says. Understanding arguments has a lot to do with who is making those arguments. I could understand and sympathise with stupid immature rantings from a 15 year old, but I would block/ban a 50 year old pulling the same shenanigans. There is a difference between someone asking how evolution works because they are genuinely curious versus someone who is in denial and just wants to nitpick on any small technicality in your answers. Understanding your opponent...


I think when we meet people in person we subconsciously cold read them, and determine what kind of lingo they would understand, whether they are okay with swearing, whether they are likely Christian or Muslim, or whether they would rather watch Idols than Attenborough. Online these things are harder to guess. Facebook has the profile area that lays a lot of that stuff bare, but even then I think an incomplete picture forms. In person we also have the luxury of proximity. People around us share some of our experience, and they draw from the same experiences, whereas people from other countries have much different experiences. I find it hard to properly communicate South Africa, because our country is such a strange place. There are billionaires and people dying of hunger, top universities and mud schools, mansions and shanties with bucket toilets.

True motives

When an opponent says X, what they really mean is "I believe X is true because of Y". X is not important here, Y is. Y is often a feeling, but nobody wants to really admit that most of their answers are based on mere feelings. They construct elaborate defenses around Y to hide it from daylight, but when you know your opponent it becomes clear what Y is. For example:

X = "Prostitution should remain illegal"
Reason A="Prostitutes spread diseases and there will be more disease if it is legal"
Reason B="Prostitution degrades women"
Reason C="Legal prostitution makes it okay to objectify women"
Reason Y(The real reason)="I am disgusted by prostitutes" or "The bible says prostitution is wrong"

A, B and C are just cover ups, and knowing your opponent helps you to realise that. Most people rationalise their position after picking it, and don't actively seek rational positions. They usually fight with tooth and nail because below all their useless arguments lie a deeply seated emotional reason for wanting their position to be true. Understanding your opponent then is not only a good idea, but vital. It is probably wiser to abandon the argument if your opponent is unable to overcome their own emotional reason for believing in their position. I have made the mistake of trying again and again too many times.


Addressing someone is easier if you know what they are like. Like it or not, we adjust our behaviour to suit others when we are around them. This is not because we are fake or pretentious, it is merely a courtesy we extend to our fellow humans in order to make relating easier. They then return the favour by toning down their personality to suit you. Without understanding the nature of your opponent it is difficult to level with them. Personality makes a major difference in how we see the world.

I am myself quite withdrawn and pessimistic in general. If someone calls me friend or tries to contact me in a personal way too soon I withdraw more, and basically distrust that person. After all I wouldn't make friends that easily, they must want something! An extroverted optimist may not see things my way. If we fail to find common ground I will just seem paranoid and quiet and he or she will seem loud and untrustworthy. In online discussion we pretty much lose the personal interaction, and try instead to address each other as data points.

Personality gets lost in this mush because it is not something you can communicate with text only. Small body language cues and facial expressions speak to us when we interact with people in the real world. Online we don't see that, so the automatic assumption(maybe) is either that a person is like me or not like me. I think of this as a me/anti-me dichotomy, but maybe there is some technical term for it.


Based on the three problems above we can easily move forward if we try to understand the perspective of others. Knowing about how their locale, job, or religious affiliation is helps, and so does asking. European people referring to poverty may think of it as malnutrition, whereas Africans know it as death and disease. Roman catholics are bound to ceremony and undying respect, whereas evangelicals are loud and outgoing. Even atheists may carry some vestige of attitude from their religious surroundings or upbringing, all of it has to do with culture. Culture has no impact on our personalities, but it has a significant impact on how we express them.

Finding the motivation for beliefs is tough. People hide their motives, and are quick to spit out regurgitated defences or pseudo reasons for their positions. The only real way to get the information is to carefully craft questions that reveals motive. I have noticed that thought experiments, something I use extensively for self discovery, also helps to discover others. "What if mary was a prostitute?" "What if a prostitute had two children to feed after her husband left her, and that was the only way she could make ends meet?". Questions like that displace prejudices by forcing moral decisions. In other words: what is worse, children with malnutrition or a woman in prostitution? Someone who is deeply emotionally disgusted by prostitution happily sacrifices the good nutrition and schooling for the children, or they try and find loopholes, or make unimaginable leaps like solving world hunger. I think in reality they would not do that, but that is another story. The emotional backdrop of ideology can swiftly be crushed by reality.

When it comes to personality we should dissociate ourselves from others and try to see them as black boxes. Without the guiding light of knowing them personally it is difficult to draw conclusions. I have seen too many instances of a "Oh you must be an X!" getting an emphatic no from the person being called an X. We just lack sufficient information about a person online to draw any meaningful conclusions about what or who they are. We should spend some time trying to find out more and not just hopelessly bash at silly arguments that are essentially lost in translation.