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Communism: The Least Efficient Division of Labor

April 12, 2011

In The German Idealogy, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels discuss the effect a division of labor has on private property. They argue that allowing individuals to pursue their own careers detracts from the wellbeing of society by creating friction between the interests of the individual and those of the commune. Further, they assert that a division of labor confines men to a singular profession, and subsequently keeps them from exploring any of their other interests or talents. Marx suggests that only in a communist system is it possible to escape these “spheres of influence” that imprison the worker. In communism, he argues, society regulates production, so man is not required to devote himself to one profession. Instead man is able “to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner…without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.” Indeed in Communism, society allocates jobs so as to maximize the product of labor.  And while I must admit his theory appears convincing on paper, Marx is wrong in asserting that Communism best preserves the interests of society. Communism is in fact more detrimental to society than any societal structure defined by a natural division of labor because no government can ever distribute labor as efficiently as individual ambition can.

In a democratic system of government, or moreover, any governmental system that allows for a natural division of labor, every worker is inclined to specialize in that profession he is most talented in because it will bear the greatest return for him. While this rarely amounts to an equitable outcome, I would argue that even in its inequity society is better off allowing individuals to pursue their interests. An individual who is allowed to choose his own career will undoubtedly choose a job that utilizes his abilities, and so he will be more productive than if he had been assigned an arbitrary position by society.  Alternatively, a man who is forced into a certain profession may not be able to utilize any of his talents at all, and society will suffer from his inabilities. Marx falsely assumes that all men are equally capable, and by equating every individual’s abilities, he surrenders a great deal of economic efficiency. It is inefficient to train a fisherman to herd cattle, just as it is foolish to expect a manual laborer to be capable of running a corporation. Society’s interests are best preserved by a division of labor, in which men are allowed to pursue the occupation they are most interested in and talented at.


  1. rianhandler permalink
    April 12, 2011 1:51 PM

    I think you bring up a lot of great points in this post. I agree with your argument that, “Marx falsely assumes that all men are equally capable.” For the most part, people choose careers that they can do well in. In order to be successful, people utilize their skills. In turn, this benefits society. Communism would be completely impossible today, considering all of the specialized jobs. Great conclusion and thoughtful post.

  2. Melissa Boelstler permalink
    April 12, 2011 3:17 PM

    The point that efficiency is diminished in a communist society is very true. Although it seems ideal that we would not be stuck at the same job all our life, in reality that would not be such a pleasant outcome. Now we can choose a job in a subject field that we enjoy to work in and can become experts in. Now if we switched around, we could get stuck with jobs we have no idea about, or straight up loathe. And as experience produces better results, this would lack in this communist idea. Experience would often be lacking because new things would need to be taught all the time, which becomes to be a waste of time.

  3. timothyhall permalink
    April 12, 2011 8:12 PM

    It’s interesting just how “convincing on paper” the idea of Communism is while it fails to ever provide veritable results. In theory, though a bit radical as compared to the status quo, it makes a lot of sense. No property, only common respect and love for the fellow workingman and what he and his family need, as well as a love for one’s country deep enough to negate any possibility of lacking motivation as a worker. Idealistically, this is perfection for the development of a good nationalistic working relationship. However, as almost all historical communistic state occurrences have taught us, ideals don’t necessary translate to real success. Because of this lack of success after having such a good game plan, Communism is a great example of the necessity of taking human emotion and sociology into account when handling matters of the state. There’s a certain trait that all humans hold in common no matter one’s political/religious affiliations, and that is the fact that unless we want to do something, like work solely for the good of the state, we’re not going to do it, and it’s going to be hard to convince us otherwise.

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