With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the economic and political system known as communism suffered its largest public condemnation to date. Although China, Cuba and North Korea still continue to practice modified versions of communism, by and large the world's leading economic powers have deemed the theory of a state-controlled economy a distinct failure. Communism in theory may have sounded plausible, but communism in practice proved to encourage only the most corrupt members of government to seek advancements within the system.
But is communism still a practical idea? In some ways, communism is just as practical as the capitalist concepts they attempted to replace. The problem still appears to be implementing the positive aspects of communism in a capitalist society which equates economic communism with political totalitarianism. Allowing for public ownership of essential services, such as public transportation or postal deliveries, has not proven to be an impractical idea, for example.
Communism in its purest form was a much more practical alternative to capitalism during the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution. It made good economic sense, for example, to encourage collective farming in a time when the world's economies were still largely agrarian. Under economic communism, individual farmers could agree to pool all of their resources together in order to produce more crops for their fellow citizens without the worry of providing financial support for their own families. Under capitalism, if an individual farmer failed to produce a sufficient crop, he could face repossession of his land and be forced to find other work. Under communism, however, an individual farmer and his family would survive even if his own contributions were minimal.
One concept of economic communism which may have sounded more practical on paper than in practice was the idea of each worker having the right to find a job according to his or her abilities. This may have worked in theory, but in practice it is nearly impossible to guarantee suitable work for everyone's interests or abilities. If we could all choose our jobs according to our personal desires, the world would be filled with models, musicians, doctors and other high profile workers. There would not be a sufficient number of unskilled or semi-skilled workers to fill necessary but unglamorous job positions. The idea of matching workers' skills to their jobs proved to be difficult in practice, since many workers under communism became disgruntled with their assigned jobs and had little incentive to improve their productivity.
A modified form of communism could still be considered practical and workable, but implementation on a wide scale is unlikely after the collapse of the Soviet Union. As long as capitalism remains the dominant economic system, workers and politicians are always going to enjoy its obvious material advantages over communism. It would be very difficult to sell an entire country on the benefits of communism in an age where consumerism and private entrepreneurship are encouraged and rewarded. Communism may have some practical elements, especially in the control of natural resources, but overall it has proven to be unworkable without at least some form of modification or capitalistic influences.