G. A. Cohen’s Bizarre Camping Trip – Econlib


I finally got to read the first two chapters of G. A. Cohen’s book Why Not Socialism? It was one of the readings for the colloquium on socialism that I attended this last weekend.

Cohen starts with an analogy to a camping trip, pointing out that people often go on camping trips and share the responsibilities. At the end of the chapter, he writes:

The circumstances of the camping trip are multiply special: many features distinguish it from the circumstances of life in a modern society. One may therefore not infer, from the fact that camping trips of the sort that I have described are feasible and desirable, that society-wide socialism is equally feasible and equally desirable.

Well, yes. In particular, one of the distinguishing features of camping trips, at least for adults, is that everyone on the trip wanted to go camping. One of the distinguishing features of socialism is that people are forced into it and have no choice except to leave the country, often leaving much of their wealth behind and sometimes not even being allowed to leave.

Yet when he gets to his Chapter 2, titled “The Principles Realized on the Camping Trip,” he doesn’t get to those two major differences. Amazing.



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