Why Communism Always Devolves Into Heavy-Handed Authoritarianism

Every time one points out a historic failure of communism (most recently, for example, in Venezuela), Marxists will argue "well, that is not true communism."  Somehow they think that communism without heavy-handed exercise of state power is possible.  It is not.

Here is the latest example, from our own peoples' republic in California.  For reasons that are simply beyond me, no one in California wants to use market mechanisms and the power of prices to match supply and demand for water.  We use these market tools successfully in pretty much every other market, but not in water.  The result is that increasingly heavy-handed exercise of government power is necessary to match supply and demand.

Senate Bill 606 establishes a “governing body” to oversee all water suppliers, both private and public and will require extensive paperwork from those utility companies.

Assembly Bill 1668 is where it gets personal.  This establishes limits on indoor water usage for every person in California and the amount allowed will decrease even further over the next 12 years.

The bill, until January 1, 2025, would establish 55 gallons per capita daily as the standard for indoor residential water use, beginning January 1, 2025, would establish the greater of 52.5 gallons per capita daily or a standard recommended by the department and the board as the standard for indoor residential water use, and beginning January 1, 2030, would establish the greater of 50 gallons per capita daily or a standard recommended by the department and the board as the standard for indoor residential water use. The bill would impose civil liability for a violation of an order or regulation issued pursuant to these provisions, as specified.

If you’re wondering how the government would know how much water your family is using, the utility providers will be obligated to rat you out of face massive fines. And they’re encouraged to spy in all sorts of creative ways. They “shall use satellite imagery, site visits, or other best available technology to develop an accurate estimate of landscaped areas.”...

If you don’t plan to comply it’s going to be way cheaper to move. Here are the fines Californians will be looking at – and it’s not a typo – these fines are PER DAY.

(1) If the violation occurs in a critically dry year immediately preceded by two or more consecutive below normal, dry, or critically dry years or during a period for which the Governor has issued a proclamation of a state of emergency under the California Emergency Services Act (Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 8550) of Division 1 of Title 2 of the Government Code) based on drought conditions, ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for each day in which the violation occurs.

(2) For all violations other than those described in paragraph (1), one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each day in which the violation occurs.

All of this could easily be replaced with the simple expedient of allowing the price of water to rise until supply and demand matched, a solution that works for everything else and would provide the added benefit of giving financial incentives to seek out new sources of water.  If they are worried about prices for the poor, then they can have a subsidized rate for the first X gallons and then a market rate above that.  There are at least two reasons I think politicians don't do this, beyond just their socialist assumptions and distrust in markets

  1. The people who would most be hurt by market pricing for water -- farmers, golf course/resort owners, etc -- have a lot of political pull in the state and would prefer a regime where high-value uses are curtailed to save water for their potentially lower-value uses.  Just look at the carve-outs in the law for swimming pools, water features, and golf courses.
  2. Politicians like rationing, or more accurately they like being the rationers.  You can't generate political contributions from market pricing of water. But if you are the person doing rationing, then everyone is going to come to you and try to curry favor.

The simplest way to explain why Marxism fails is "incentives and information" -- planned economies shift economic decision-making from individuals who have the information and incentives to make the proper tradeoffs for their own set of circumstances and preferences and on to politicians whose main incentive is to see who is willing to do the most to curry favor with them.


  1. Dave Boz:

    Water is just the vehicle (or the excuse, if you wish). Control over citizens' lives is really the entire point of all this.

  2. Ike:

    I'm not sure there's a need to subsidize water consumption for the poor. Looking at those lofty green golf courses, it is pretty clear that the wealthy will pay the lion's share for the cost of water. The price would probably never really get so high that poor people can't afford to flush their own toilet.

  3. Ike:

    Control is always the point. Whether we are talking about global warming or gun control, it's not about the climate or guns, it is only about a certain distrust that centralized planners have in regards to the peaceful agency of the individual.

  4. The_Big_W:

    Help Wanted: Someone needed to lead the revolution of the Proletariat. Must have strong concern for the needs of the workers and oppressed classes. Will have total power to do whatever actions achieve the glorious revolution!

    What could possibly go wrong?!?!?

  5. wimfbuckleyivredux:

    Adolf Hilter hated those "Jewish Communists" but not STALIN . Josef Stalin was an upright , very sincere DICTATOR who the "NICE GUY" Adolf Hilter made a great non aggression PACT with, over Poland ,........... right fascism proponenents ??

    So what did Hitler's fascism NAZI totalitarian state devolve into, ALT Right wing WHACK fascists ??? MURDER & CHAOS.

    Donald Trump is at CHAOS, but not murder yet, right FOOLS ????

  6. Ken in NH:

    Price signaling might lead to horrifying outcomes like people and companies pushing for nuclear co-generation plants that turn seawater into fresh water while producing power! Can you imagine how many enviroweenies will die of the vapors if that happens?

  7. Bryan Fine:

    All caps - check
    Multiple punctuation marks - check
    Godwin realized - check

    Congratulations, you win the internet for today!

  8. Guide to a Crazy World:

    The problem with California water is that Northern Ca is basically on an oscillating drought/flood cycle and Southern CA is basically a desert. In the infinite wisdom of government, there isn't storage enough to hold the flood waters, and since the bulk of the population is in the south, the spice... er I mean water must flow.

  9. MikeyParks:

    Doesn't the water problem in CA have something to do with some little "endangered" fish?

  10. MikeyParks:

    Since you're not using your brain, could we borrow it for stem cell research?

  11. ErikTheRed:

    Oh, it gets worse. Much worse. In our little coastal desert corner of California, we didn't have a drought during the last few years while much of the rest of the state did. Our water district has purchase commitments to fulfill, but the state's emergency water restrictions were applied to us as well - so our district had to continue to buy water, but with our reservoir full they wound up dumping it while people were killing their landscaping. Idiot level: Sacramento.

    It should be noted that not all of California is full of idiots, but there are enough of them in the major population centers to control the state. Most of the inland areas (places like Sacramento and Stockton excluded), along with most of San Diego and Orange County are pretty decent.

  12. wimfbuckleyivredux:

    But, but, but ....& well you know , but STEM CELL research is outlawed by the ABORTION people, right PAL ??/

    Are you a certifiable GUN NUT job, REB rube of Kentucky or Arkansas ???? Are you a Georgia BULLDOG Cromagnon type of guy, Beauregard Sessions ???

  13. wimfbuckleyivredux:

    All caps what ??? & isn't punctuation very essential in YOUR HICK, confederacy "ENGLISH" language.......??????
    Doris Kearns Goodwin is a great historian, RIGHT GUNS RUBE of Chickamuaga ??

    Who were Hitler, Stalin , Mussolini & Emperor Hirohito, Chickamauga GUNS RUBE ???
    Were you born in the 21st century, OLD MAN ????

  14. MikeyParks:

    You're right. There wouldn't be enough tissue for decent research.

  15. marque2:

    It is also a planning problem. San Diego county actually has a significant surplus of stored and drinkable water. They planned 20 years ago for droughts, by lining water irrigation ditches - so the water doesn't leak through the sandy soil, increasing the size of reservoirs and building a desalination plant in Carlsbad. Rest of the state, no activity. So lets see San Diego is the only large size county with a relatively conservative base, and it is the only one with water. Wonder how that works. It is estimated even in a drought year 80% of CA water flows into the oceans.

    Also it is so ridiculous, that San Diego county water requested LA stop sending water because it wasn't needed and therefore could be used elsewhere. Los Angeles water and power, told San Diego - we can't, we have no way to stop the flow.

    Needless to say, with forced water conservation, by the state, even though San Diego didn't need to, and the extra LA water, the reservoirs that were expected to fill in 10 years, filled in a year.

  16. marque2:

    That and no new reservoirs have been build in god knows how long. No new dams. Only one county in the state has gone out of the way to source extra water for drought situations San Diego, and then even though it wasn't needed, Sacramento forced us to conserve 25% anyway.

  17. John Moore:

    The left never sees anything without wanting to control it. I put it down to a deep seated anxiety, and a belief system saying that things only work if wise people in power control them.

  18. irandom419:

    Actually they built something like 1.3 million acre feet of reservoir, but actually they needed around 4.0 million acre feet. Forgive me, those are from memory.

  19. JK Brown:

    It's not the communism that's the problem. It's the socialism they never seem to give up that is based on coercion and compulsion.

    If we go by this observation by Mises, no one has seen real communism because, so far, the wealth expected from the socialist methods of production has yet to materialize.

    What Stalin calls socialism corresponds by and large to Marx’s concept of the “early phase” of communism. Stalin reserves the term communism exclusively for what Marx called the “higher phase” of communism. Socialism, in the sense in which Stalin has lately used the term, is moving towards communism, but is in itself not yet communism. Socialism will turn into communism as soon as the increase in wealth to be expected from the operation of the socialist methods of production has raised the lower standard of living of the Russian masses to the higher standard which the distinguished holders of important offices enjoy in present-day Russia.

    von Mises, Ludwig (1947). Planned Chaos

  20. marque2:

    There were some micro dams/reservoirs created 2003 a 309 acre foot dam was biult. 1999 one was built with 209 acre feet capacity. These are so small they are not counted as any serious effort.. Lake Oroville has 3500000 acre feet as a comparison.


  21. Bruce Anderson:

    Wow. By reducing usage by five gallons per month, it will only take 179 years to save an acre-foot of water per person—a little more than agricultural users in California use in one year. The best and the brightest have surely picked the right target here.