Super food on the deserted island: A thought experiment on Neoliberalism, Socialism and Democracy

Island, Desert, Deserted Island, Egypt

Imagine 100 people are on a cruise ship. The cruise ship starts to sink. However, everyone manages to swim to a nearby deserted island. On this deserted island, there are special trees that produce fruit that provides everything the body needs. The ultimate super food. There are no other food resources available and there are only 10 of these trees on this island.

Apple Tree, Tree, Apple, Nature, Fruit

There are 2 possible ways the 100 people can organise use of the trees. The 1st way is to let everyone go out and find the trees. The 1st person who finds a tree and claim ownership of that tree. Once ownership is claimed. They can do what they wish with the fruit from that tree.

The 2nd way is to locate all 10 trees. Once all trees are found, all 100 people have equal ownership of the trees. Everyone has an equal say on what is done with the fruit from those trees.

Which way do you think would be fair and just?

Which way do you think would be in the interest of most people on the island?

I would say that the 2nd way is fair, just and in the interest of most people on the island. And I imagine many others would agree.

The first way is analogous with Neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is the view that the means of production (physical/material things that can produce goods and services) ought to be left out of government and public hands. The private owners of these things can run their businesses however they wish without any (or minimal) interference from the government or the public.

The second way is analogous with Socialism. Socialism is the view that the means of production ought to be owned equally by everyone. Everyone has control, therefore has a say, on what is done with the means of production. The interests of everyone outweigh the interests of a select few.

In a previous post I mentioned that democracy means rule by the common people. If you thought the 2nd way was more in the interest of most people, then the 2nd way is more democratic than the first. This is because in the 1st way there would be 10 ‘haves’ and 90 ‘have nots’, hence would be not in the interests of the many, who in this case would be the common people. Therefore, Socialism is more democratic than Neoliberalism.

Consider the fact that in the World’s 1% of the population holds half of the world’s wealth. A Neoliberal philosophy says that 1% of the population should be allowed to have total say on what is done with that wealth whilst 50% of the population has no say. This is a far cry from a world ruled by the common people. This is why Neoliberalism is undemocratic.

Published by

Andrew Tulloch

I have a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Philosophy and Sociology, with a Political Science minor. I am currently completing my honours degree in Philosophy.

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