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The Soul of Man Under Socialism

December 2009

Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good…

There is also this to be said. It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair.

— Oscar Wilde, The soul of man under Socialism

I can't quite bring myself to agree, but I'm not entirely convinced he's wrong. To minimise (on the personal scale) the evil effects of a system is to defend and perpetuate that system. This is even more true when the evil effects are not an unfortunate side-effect but the natural outcomes of the system.

Or, to put it elsewise, "using private property for good" is just a way of justifying your own participation and competition in that system. It might be intended as an act of subversion, but it's not a particularly effective one.

KT commented:

So don't recycle?

Matt commented:

I see your counter-example and raise you a counter-counter-example: Earth Hour, low-power light bulbs, and shorter showers.