How does Huxley's Dystopian Socialism in "Brave New World" fulfilled Theorem 4.4


#1

While studying the controversial Chapter 4, I’ve found a section that caught specially my attention due to the huge gap that it implies –In my opinion– between microeconomic theory and real life. It is in page 178 that Pancs arguments that Socialism Requires Egalitarism as conclusion of the next reasoning:

“How about adding to the list of socialist conditions equal treatment of unequals, which would require that both agents’ utilities be equalized, regardless of whether the agents’ skills are equal? Would that be too much egalitarianism? Logically, equal treatment of unequals is not in contra- diction with socialism and, hence, can be accommodated. But it seems gratuitously strong.
In fact, equal treatment of unequals is implied by the socialist conditions that we have already imposed.” R. Pancs

Followed by the proposition of the next theorem ( And its corresponding proof):

As we can recall from our courses of Economy III (Intermediate Microeconomics), one of the fundamental principles that we assume in utility theory is the ordinal –Not cardinal– approach of the utility function. This property made impossible to make interpersonal utility level comparisons due to the absence of an homologous criterion or unit that could make feasible to contrast the level of happiness that two different individuals derive from the consumption of the same good.

My questioning about the great distance between theory and reality came after making me conscious that socialism is the goal of many political parties all around the globe. So, as the equalization of the utilities of all the agents is a necessary condition for socialism to flourish, How does governments will be able that this condition is fulfilled if utility can’t be measures and compared?

Even though I couldn’t come up with a real solution, I’ve found a solution proposed in the classic dystopian novel written by the british novelist Aldous: Huxley A Brave New World. (Click link for a cool resume).

In this extraordinary book, Huxley proposed the existence of a powerful, no secondary effect and harmless drug called SOMA, which was provided by the government to each member of the society, regardless of their social position. This drug made everybody extremely happy and inducing them into a state of perpetual acceptance and satisfaction of their life.

As a drug has physical and chemical effects in the organism that can be measured, if state provides it and forces the population to consume it in on a daily basis, r it is a way in which a state can guarantee that everybody has the same level of utility.

So my final thought would be: If SOMA was a real drug, would the enforcement of its consumption would assure the possible presence of a perfect socialist state?

What do you think? Is this interpretation conceptually wrong?

I am impatient to read your pertinent comments.


#2

I also love this book and find the theoretical link interesting, but I consider that there is a mistake in the presented syllogism.

First, you say, based on micro theory, that utilities cannot be measured nor compared. OK, grant it.

Then you say that, since the pill has “chemical effects in the organism that can be measured”, now the utilities could be compared. Ok, no.

What I think you are referring to is to the effect on dopamine or oxytocin, right? This is what could be measured thanks to the pill.

But, these neurotransmitters can be measured even though the pill is not taken… So the pill will not make utility levels comparable; neurotransmitters can be measured without it.

Now, it could be thought that since the pill can manipulate these variables the level of happiness could be equalized. This is also a misconception of neuroendocrinology: we both could have the same levels of oxytocin and be unequally happy.

DFARHUD, MALMIR and KHANAHMADI (2014) argue that: “Then, the articles divided into five sub-groups (genetic, brain and neurotransmitters, endocrinology and hormones, physical health, morphology and physical attractiveness). […] Results of studies on genetic factors indicated an average effectiveness of genetic about 35 -50 percent on happiness. […] Neuroscience studies showed that some part of brain (e.g. amygdala, hipocamp and limbic system) and neurotransmitters (e.g. dopamine, serotonin, norepinefrine and endorphin) play a role in the control of happiness. […] Physical health and typology also concluded in most related studies to have a significant role in happiness.”

Hence, the pill would just address one variable of all the others which affect happiness.

To conclude, yes: the pill would make everyone happy and perhaps surpass a threshold in which a fictitious socialism is implemented. Nevertheless, it would still be impossible to measure and compare the happiness levels objectively.


#3

That is a pretty interesting remark Farid,

I must admit that my neuroendocrinology knowledge is limited, so I find this kind of corrections very useful and intellectually nourishing. Thank you.