From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs

I think it’s easy to imagine that quote from Marx as being purely about redistribution. I’ve often read it like that and am down with it – nobody should have a billion dollars when so many people don’t even have one. It’s comforting to think about living in a society where even if you get really sick, you’ll still be taken care of.

But there is comfort as well in the first part – “from each according to their ability.” Your ability is probably not the ability of a billionaire – the ability to live on a lot less money than you’ve got. But you do have other abilities – you really like doing tedious manual labor while listening to podcasts, you’re a good listener, you’re a safe driver, you make people laugh, you can play Christmas carols on the piano, you can clean up people’s poo without being disgusted or making sick folks embarrassed, you can identify invasive species!

In a socialist world, whatever your abilities are, they are good and useful and we value them. In a socialist world, whatever you can do is good enough. In a socialist world, you are good enough.