We are all socialists now

10/02/2006 05:18 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

I will try to break it gently to the kind of super ultra neo-conservative free market 'unfettered globalised capitalism is the only possible option for the human race' trolls that we get on HuffPo, basing their views on radical economic rationalists, but here goes. All of your ancestors were socialists. [They were all people who turned environmentalism into a religion too, but that's a story for another day, can't be too rough with these guys all at once].

Hunter-gatherers you see had societies based on the concept 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need'. Societies, of necessity, where all members worked together for the common good, one for all and all for one.

Early farmers much the same. Helping each other plough the fields and herd the animals, sharing communal houses, sharing food in good seasons, going hungry together in bad seasons.

Nothing in either kind of economy that made capitalism an inevitable part of the human condition. Competition would have made no more sense to the hunter than to the farmer.

But inside every society it seems there is a potential CEO type bursting to get out. Just as now, when the CEOs are grabbing more and more obscene payments compared to your everyday working stiff, somewhere along the line someone emerges who can grab more farming land than someone else, by shock and awe if necessary. And they are determined that their heirs will hang on to it, so forget about an estate tax to recreate a level pasture each generation.

And as the industrial revolution began the opportunities for these CEO types to accumulate an even bigger share of the wealth of the community increased. So when, occasionally, the workers and peasants lifted their heads up long enough to see the obscene disparities in wealth, these CEO types had to convince them that everything was fine. Perfectly natural. Capitalism is the only way to run an economy, and capitalism depends on great disparity in wealth, and it just so happens that the natural rulers were the ones who finished up with the wealth. Nothing to see here folks, move right along back to the ploughing or the factory bench.

But it isn't natural, and it isn't inevitable, and the problems that capitalism and industrialisation have brought with them are just coming home to roost. In the new, hotter, unproductive world, the art of working together for the good of the community, indeed the survival of the community, is going to have to be re-learnt. And the CEO types are going to discover that their vast riches no longer have value.

Perhaps they never did.