Many people believe that socialism, that is, the economic system in which a large part of the means of production is owned socially, started with Karl Marx and the Russian Revolution. Nevertheless, socialism has a long history, both in theory and practice.
Practically, primitive societies used some form of common ownership of means of production and the distribution of food among the members of the tribe. Adam Smith, the father of the laissez-faire system, mentioned that in primitive cultures, there was no appropriation of land and no accumulation of stock. 1 There was no conceptualization of ownership as tribes moved from place to place in search for food and other means of subsistence.
In ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, almost all the land and other resources were owned by the state. Economic activities were mainly controlled and coordinated by strong central authorities that had great power over the individuals and mobilized resources to build public projects in a similar fashion as in modern planned economies. For arguments of Plato and Aristotle, regarding private versus common ownership, as well as other related contentions, see Chapters 1 and 2.
Early Christians practiced a life with common ownership in land and houses and equal distribution of income on a voluntary basis. Such a collectivist experiment could be observed in Jerusalem, primarily to take care of the needy persons.
The Industrial Revolution in England, with its urban blight, child labor, and other unsocial side effects, resulted in wealth accumulation by the capitalists and an increase in poverty. The unrestrained laissez-faire doctrine caused misery on workers and created a fertile ground for socialism toward the end of the