Monday, 2 December 2013

“The Wilder Shores of Marx”, an excerpt

The Skeptical Doctor blog is a collection of writings by Anthony Daniels, also known as Theodore Dalrymple. They recently published an excerpt from one of Daniels’ earlier books, The Wilder Shores of Marx (or Utopias Elsewhere, in the United States). The book tells of when he traveled to North Korea for the World Festival of Youth and Students in 1989.

Read the whole excerpt here. On this page we want to highlight this passage in particular:

Department Store Number 1 was a tacit admission of the desirability of an abundance of material goods, consumption of which was very much a proper goal of mankind. Such an admission of the obvious would not have been in any way remarkable were it not that socialists so frequently deny it, criticising liberal capitalist democracy because of its wastefulness and its inculcation of artificial desires in its citizens, thereby obscuring their ‘true’ interests. By stocking Department Store Number 1 with as many goods as they could find, in order to impress foreign visitors, the North Koreans admitted that material plenty was morally preferable to shortage, and that scarcity was not a sign of abstemious virtue; rather it was proof of economic inefficiency. Choice, even in small matters, gives meaning to life. However well fed, however comfortable modern man might be without it, he demands choice as a right, not because it is economically superior, but as an end in itself. By pretending to offer it, the North Koreans acknowledged as much; and in doing so, recognised that they were consciously committed to the denial of what everyone wants.

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