What’s in a Name?
I am alarmed by the promotion of socialism in America today. Proponents throw out definitions and make distinctions between socialism, communism and what they are calling Democratic Socialism and even Social Democracy. Does giving it a better sounding name makes it a better thing? Or do they think they have found a way to create a good version of an inherently bad thing? It is as if what makes socialism a bad thing is purely in the details of implementation. And they know a way to create the utopia without the oppression, starvation, and disasters that have historically followed previous attempts.
In reality, what makes any brand of socialism bad is the principles upon which it is based – principles which are directly in opposition to the principles upon which the United States was founded. To think that such conflicting principles can be merged into a successful system is unrealistic.
A Little History –
Foundations of American Government
I studied Karl Marx, and admit that some of his ideas sound rather good – in theory. This is especially so when understood in light of the system of aristocratic oppression of peasants from which he came. But this kind of oppression is a far cry from anything experienced in America today.
American colonists rejected this same aristocratic system in creating the United States of America. A fundamental principle of our government is the right to own private property and subsequent associated rights. It is true that this opportunity initially was not available to everyone, but it was available to many more than the “1 percent”-ish, wealthy land-owning class in the Europe they left.
Our government is based upon principles of personal choice and self-direction. It encourages initiative, innovation, free enterprise, personal development and prosperity. In such a system, some obviously prosper more than others, but otherwise there is little or no incentive for excellence or improvement. Consequences, positive or negative, are always connected to choice.
The Fallacy of “Rule by the People”
Our government was designed to keep a balance of power between branches of government and with representation of the people. Socialism presents itself as “rule by the people” because it sprung out of an effort to eliminate a elite ruling class, but the reality is that it creates an opportunity for a different, but very powerful ruling government entity.
Government is actually controlled by people – either “we the people” as a whole with each having some say in a representative manner, or a government controlled by a single dictator or a powerful group or “party”. The idea of “democratic socialism” is basically using democratic principles of choice/vote to get citizens to voluntarily give up control to a government, which most likely will become powerful and oppressive. There are always those waiting to take control and exercise power that citizens relinquish.
It is naive to think that you could take from socialism some good things and merge them with democracy and have something better. How could one guarantee economic benefits without decreasing liberty? How could one prevent the negative aspects of socialism becoming part of the system?
The costs of socialism would involve more than money, but also a loss of freedom. The distinction that “democratic socialism” is better than communism or plain socialism because it takes into account the choice of the people, is a misleading assumption. The majority might vote into effect socialistic laws, but then those laws become binding on everyone. There is no ability to “opt out” of compliance, but rather there are serious penalties for those who did not personally choose. Such socialism gives tremendous power to the state. In effect, the choice to vote for socialism is actually a choice to give away freedom.
If government becomes the giver of all good things to everyone, someone has to pay for all this. It is unrealistic to think that it will all be free. If the government is the giver of everything, it also becomes the taker. Taxes have to increase for everyone, not just the rich. The rich, being taxed more greatly, would be enticed to leave the country taking with them their earning potential, goods and services, and leaving employees without jobs and the government without their taxes.
The underlying issues and the reason socialism has and will continue to fail, is basically human nature. True economic equality can not be accomplished by compulsion or legislation when you recognize the core issues of selfishness and greed. You can’t cure the greed of the wealthy by taking away from them and giving to the greedy poor who want what they have not earned. Greedy politicians will always ensure that they get more than everyone else.
History has shown that even by physically eliminating (killing off) the wealthy, educated and prosperous, another group – government – steps in to assume the position of power and control, leaving the masses no better off and likely much worse off. The few, now government officials, will glut on the labor of the people. And history has shown that tyranny follows.
There will never be true equality in a society unless and until all of the people, especially those in leadership positions, are equally good, righteous and selfless. All must be willing to put the welfare of others and the good of society above their own self interests. I don’t see this happening in the USA of today. There will always be those individuals who thirst for and then abuse power. A socialist system gives them a great opportunity, which can easily be seen in a study of history.
Why this Generation?
The real irony to me is the support of socialism by a “me-generation” – one that has grown up being told how special they are, getting and expecting attention for everything they do, and feeling entitled to anything that anyone else has. How could socialism possibly work with such people? Do they really think that by all getting free stuff that they want, that it can still be “all about me”?
Communism/socialism treats the masses as “comrades” – all the same, nothing special about any, all insignificant workers, easily replaced by any other warm body. Is this really what they want – to be just a nameless number in a system? Or are they just short-sighted, thinking only of getting something without any personal effort? Did they really buy into the idea that they were individually that special when they all got the same participation trophy? Or did they just come to expect any reward that anyone else got because it would not be fair for some to get something that others did not?
Do they think that things like a guaranteed job with a living wage would mean that they – these young people who feel that menial physical labor is beneath them – get the kind of job they choose? Historically those government guaranteed jobs have been things like working in rice paddies, mines and factories.
Do they think that a house for everyone means they get the house they want in the neighborhood where they want to live? Historically government guaranteed housing has been government assigned sub-standard housing built by workers who have no incentive to do good work.
Maybe the appeal of socialism seems natural for those who have come to feel entitled, but that is a deceptive seduction. In buying into it, they may get what they feel entitled to, but it is an empty prize – meaningless because in accepting it, they lose any uniqueness, individuality or personal sense of accomplishment.
Agency and Liberty
The purpose of government should be to facilitate the free exercise of agency, to protect and promote liberty. Government guarantees however, tend to come with increased government control and less freedom to choose. This inconsistency of this with the value we Americans place on the rights of personal choice should be obvious.