Voluntary vs Forced Collectivism

Hans Pelleboer’s comments made me look closer into collectivism. The concept of collectivism is not bad: a group of people can be more efficient than one in achieving way more ambitious goals. (Keyword is “can”.) Forced collectives are bad.

A voluntary collective is a small group of people who strive to achieve a shared goal. They know why they are here and know what they need to do. They contribute skills and time.  They can’t be forced to pay for membership: it’s their skills and time that make them valuable. A collective is no place for slackers, because everyone wants to see the goal achieved — ballast will get isolated and repulsed. No parasites will be attracted, if management positions are assigned at random for short periods, and managers account for their actions after their term is up.

The only foundations that will keep the thing going are (a) that management is random and short, and (b) that no fees can be extorted. Change either, and the whole thing will become what we are living in.

Signs that a voluntary collective has been hijacked by a few individuals and is transforming into a forced collective:

  • Members of the collective don’t know each other’s names, faces and/or responsibilities
  • Members have no way to voice their concerns directly to everyone else
  • People are not allowed to leave or join at will
  • Decisions are made without a vote from every member of sound mind and memory
  • Voting is performed by representatives
  • The collective treats members and members’ children as its property
  • The collective extorts fees from its members

15 comments to Voluntary vs Forced Collectivism

  • Hans Pelleboer

    Close to my home is an old flourmill, of the common type, that used to be seen
    everywhere over the country. It is electrified now, and the millworks are only run
    during Heritage Days and other holidays.

    But when it was still used as a windmill, the entire population of the village was
    summoned twice a year to replace the millstones. Also, when wind was favourable, everybody
    needed to come over and fill flour bags, hoist loads, crane the mill etc., on a continuous
    operation basis; the rota could be filled by agreement, but everybody participated, for
    about 50-80 hour stretches, until all work was done, or the wind subsided.
    This was not voluntary participation; no work, no flour, the rules were strict and simple.

    Should the crisis that we anticipate become full-fledged, then many practices, associated
    with small-scale farming and production, will return. Niceties as; is this the kind of
    crowd I feel comfy in, will become moot; you will work along in the collective, it is
    a simple matter of do or die.

  • BOB

    A tribe is a collective. An agrarian village is a collective. The small business I work for is a collective. Insurance requires collectivism. Railing against collectivism is ridiculous. It is tyranny that must be resisted.

    • Silver Shield

      Any group that would sacrifice an individual for the “greater good” is a colective.

      Any grOup that is a voluntary group of individuals that are rewarded for their individual efforts is good for me.

      Insurance is a Ponzi scheme.

      Tyranny is when a collective brutalizes individuals.

  • Hans Pelleboer

    And how would the social contract qualify that I have sketched above, Chris?
    Do realize, it is this strict organization of cooperation that –literally!–
    has kept my country from being swallowed by the sea.

  • Mustafa Cohen

    population of the village was summoned

    Who and by which mandate had the power to summon others?

    This was not voluntary participation

    What were they gaining in exchange for this? That is, if I choose not to work on the mill, what do I forfeit?

    Some people cherish food less than others (see Jonathan Livingston Seagull) – did they have to work as much as those who eat a lot?

    What weight did every single villager have in deciding on the operation of the village?

  • Hans Pelleboer

    The miller issued the call, when the situation required it. The mandate was issued
    to him by the entire community, with many interwoven links; the local baking facilities were
    operated in a similar vein, the communal grounds were leased out every year on a
    by demand basis (N.B. the number of cattle varied widely, due to illnesses and the like).
    I don’t think the idea of opting-out was ever given serious thought. Unlike present day America, the idea of community in the sense of _belonging_ was very strong and common sense dictated the need to maintain society. It was considered an honourable communal duty, and people operated very much on a consensus basis. Those who did not participate –if any– were frowned upon and, if persistent, probably ostracized; cut off of the facilities of the village.
    Formal conflicts were resolved by the Dingspel, a regional system of informal law whose origins date back at least 3000 years, probably much further, well established over entire northwestern Europe, the members elected from the elders.

    Compulsive eating and obesity did not feature as prominent problems in those days.
    If you yourself make progress in not eating, I would be very interested in your
    getting on; things will become mighty interesting by the time you hit the fifty day mark.

  • Ragnar

    Hans, Chris and Mustafa,

    I’ve followed all your comments from this article as well as the preceding forum discussion. It appears to me that y’all are arguing the same point, perhaps without the realization that on some level you possibly agree.

    Specifically Hans now, when you say the mill maintenance was not voluntary and was required in order to eat, what further punishment was extended to unwilling community members? I agree with your outlook on the need to eat and far before day 50 arrives, but what other measures were in place to “force” individuals to participate? Were they jailed, beaten, or fined? Were there possessions and or property seized and sold to subsidize their unwillingness to lend a hand? If they were not, and only ostracized as you’ve suggested, ultimately forced to do without sustenance, then this fact clearly places them in a “voluntary” position. I agree the outcome for failure to volunteer will be an unpleasant one, but that is their choice none the less.

    Mustafa and Chris, aren’t you guys both arguing this point and somewhat accepting of the collectivist nature that existed in Hans’ village? Isn’t the form collectivism you’d rail against the one which would punish those who refused to work or provide money from taxes or land or property? Punishment beyond being able to benefit from their own hard work, and eat from the community food bank.

    It would seem to me that those wanting to share in the food without sharing in the labor are not at all victims forced into the collective but rather likened to those entitlement folks of the present day who believe they are owed something in return for nothing. I’m not saying that happened in your village Hans, you pointed out that to your recollection, refusal was not considered. However, I’d like to point out that today, where I live, given that same choice, many would and do refuse to work and then riot and try to assume by force that which is not theirs. But there is no need for this uprising among them, because where I live, the collective to which I belong has political pawns who take from me with a gun and readily give to the parasite.

    I think this is the vile collective Mustafa and Chris warn you against. If I’m wrong and have interjected myself into a forum where my opinion was not correct or welcome, I apologize in advance. It was not my intent to criticize or offend.

  • Mustafa Cohen

    Ragnar, thank you. I wish I could be as calm and collected.

    My gripe is with having no choice. For example, if villagers in Hans’ example had a choice of taking it or leaving, it’s freedom.

    If, as in the USSR, their only choice was between working outside of a labor camp and working inside the labor camp (no option to leave or to suggest an improvement) – this is not a voluntary situation, even though at 6am every morning your radio starts singing how you live in the freest country on Earth.

    The choice I am dearly missing today is living in a State with all its perks and comforts vs not living in a State.

  • Aurochs

    I smell a rat.

  • Mustafa Cohen

    Which part smells like a rat?

  • Ben

    What happens if you are allergic to wheat?

  • Aurochs


    Ok I’ll tell you what smells like a rat. I don’t like the word ‘collective.’ As Bob pointed out, there are lots of words that we could use like; family, community, co-operative, group, neighbors, association etc., that would be familiar and comfortable to Americans. ‘Collective’ is a communist word in the context that we’re discussing it. So why are we discussing it? What’s your point? If you want to discuss liberty vs. slavery I’m with you but why are we focusing on this socialist term ‘collective?’ I’m sure you won’t mind that I question your motives since you say you are for liberty and critical thinking. It’s just that you say a lot of the right stuff but I often find after reading your posts that I have a funny aftertaste in my mouth. Don’t take it personally, I’m just trying to figure out who you are and what it is you are saying.

  • lastmanstanding

    Aurochs…I’ll add ‘sustainable’ and ‘entitled’ to your ‘collective’ of word that I dislike. I’ll go it with FRIENDS and FAMILY!

  • Mustafa Cohen

    @ Aurochs. Thanks for the clarification. I can see that the word “collective” slashes American ear. Community would be better. I guess this unfortunate word emerged when I was thinking about most informal organizations – music bands and artists’ unions. They tend to be called this.

    I often find after reading your posts that I have a funny aftertaste in my mouth

    No problem, thanks for the input. What you are reading is not answer, but an attempt to formulate the problem correctly. I am happy to be questioned and doubted, as this helps me think harder and see my own errors sooner.

    what it is you are saying

    In a nutshell: would be great if we learned and taught our kids to distinguish between “I want” and “I need”. Would be great if we were able to appreciate the substance and ignore the form.

    Mostly I am just wondering, why on Earth I am born into the world that violates everything I value? Why can’t I just flick a switch in my head and join the legions of happy slimy swindlers who feed off the mess?

    I am an anarchist in the sense that I don’t need red lights on the road, locks on other people’s doors, and any other restriction, because I have my own scale of good and bad that works fine. I enjoy learning and have no problem paying for my mistakes. There is no learning without mistakes – and the States does its best to prevent its members from making them.

    I’ll try to keep my socialist terminology at bay.

  • Hans Pelleboer

    As your comments already suggest, none of the punishments applied; at least not
    until nobility took over the system during the middle ages. Things definitely
    intensified much with the rise of cities as organizational centers; they also
    reinforced the money economy, which before never played much of a role on the
    countryside. Then again, being cut-off of your social stratum could, indirectly
    mean a death warrant; at my country’s latitude, before the arrival of mechanized
    agriculture and advanced fertilization, two out of three grain crops failed;
    storage was alway precarious, and just vagabonding on the land evidently not an

    However, the point that I really tried to make in writing all of this down, is that
    `choice’ is, in my view, are rather hypertrophied issue: There are many factors
    in the natural world that simply force you to undertake action, willingly or not.
    Indeed, one can argue that life itself is very much a fight against very bad odds.

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