By Charlie Johnston
After a century of murdering well over 100 million of its own citizens, socialism is making a comeback with young folks in the western world. Even as the denizens of recently prosperous Venezuela are eating their own pets and prostituting their children to try to survive, this is so. The country was prosperous when it was capitalist and quickly became a basket case when it turned to socialism. I don’t blame young people, most of whom have skulls full of mush and attitudes given to mindless outrage. I blame the education system.
At its most basic, market capitalism posits that a man is entitled to the bread he produces by the sweat of his own brow. Socialism posits that everything belongs to the state and there must be a parasite class established to decide who gets the bread any man produces. That’s it.
The reality of all this is muddled in America because, like an eccentric house that has been added on to for centuries with no reference to the original foundation or design, our economy has become a muddled blend, part capitalism and part socialism. Frankly, what it resembles most is (and I say this technically, not pejoratively) economic fascism, pioneered by fascist Italy and perfected by Nazi Germany. Economic fascism allows for private ownership, but forces private owners into becoming co-conspirators with the state through regulation that, if defied, results in loss of the property.
Things are further muddled by the intellectual muddiness of those who advocate for socialism. I only know of two genuine intellectuals from the socialist movement, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin – and both suffered from deep deficiencies. (I know most would include Friedrich Engels but, at bottom, I consider him a technician for Marx’ ideas rather than an actual intellectual, himself.) Marx had a genuine insight – that economics is a powerful driver of historical currents – that transformed historical scholarship. Yet he became a ludicrous crank in deciding it was the ONLY driver of historical currents. His “scientific” analysis of history was pure quackery that had nothing of science about it.
Lenin had a broad intellect but was severely deficient in logic and incapable of foreseeing completely obvious consequences of various policies and actions. In his last couple of years, Lenin often spoke bluntly of how baffled he was at the gulf between his theories and the reality of actual practice. With the looming rise of Stalin while Lenin grew sicker, the latter began to fear that, after him, all the brutality he had unleashed in service of his ideals would survive while the idealism perished. “I am, I believe, strongly guilty before the workers of Russia,” he wrote in a famous postscript on Jan. 4, 1923, just a year before his death. Near the end, Lenin did have the wit and the honesty to recognize that things were not working out as he intended – and that he may have unleashed a scourge on Russia.
The best-case scenario for anyone over 30 who is a socialist is that he is a glib dullard, lacking either the raw knowledge or the intellectual capacity to process raw knowledge with accuracy or insight. The worst case is that he is fanatically greedy for power and material things – and ruthlessly willing to lie to and then oppress the suckers that were stupid enough to be seduced by the con. I give some latitude to people under 30, for they usually lack serious life experience or deep historical study – and so are easily taken in by the shallow and specious claims of “fairness.” Any of these who have any real intellectual chops will look back at their early enthusiasm for socialism with the same embarrassment as they have for youthful bad haircuts and drinking binges.
The fact is, socialism is the lazy man’s way of pretending to intellectual superiority – without any rigorous study or accomplishment. The problem is that adult socialists think they are intellectual giants – and never stop telling you so. Again, this is not based on their rigorous and extensive study or accomplishment. They are convinced it is a characteristic akin to hair or eye color. This makes most of them actually invincibly ignorant.
Here are some of the common sophist tropes modern socialists try to use to justify their support for this deadly, destructive system:
- True socialism has never been tried. This is what they always say before they tank their economy and the gulags are opened and the executions commence.
- The Nordic countries are socialist and it works there. The Nordic countries are not socialist: they are high-tax capitalist welfare states. They flirted with actual socialism for a time, but all eliminated most business regulations over two decades ago in hopes of reviving their dying economies. It worked – and now business regulations are much less in most Nordic countries than in America. When some uninformed socialist goofball proposes the Nordic countries to me, I like to ask if they mean they want to privatize much of our social security system, as the Swedes did 20 years ago. I don’t expect them to have an answer – or even know this – but I do enjoy watching them splutter.
- Socialism and communism are not the same thing. On this, they are actually right, but not for the reasons they think they are. Socialism is a purely economic system by which the state controls all the means of production and determines distribution. Communism ruthlessly rules the political and personal realms as well as the economic realm. Ultimately, in order to exercise the power to enforce their economic regime, the state must seize full political control as well. This is not an accident. Marx wrote that socialism is the necessary intermediate stage leading to full communism. Lenin wrote that the goal of socialism is communism. Socialism that does not lead to communism must revert to some form of capitalism even if like, in the Nordic countries, it becomes a lightly regulated free market economy supporting a welfare state. Like a shark, socialism must swim forward or perish.
- Socialism is the most fair, compassionate system possible. To the contrary, socialism is the haven of the rawest greed among its ordinary advocates and the most vicious lust for coercive power among those who would be its leaders. Ask yourselves how many socialists you have ever known who were enthusiastic about how hard they were going to work. Next to none. Most advocates of socialism are enthused because they think they are going to be given bread earned by the sweat of someone else’s labor. It is pure, unadulterated laziness and greed.
- Every form of collective activity is a manifestation of socialism. I have literally had idiots try to tell me that having a police department or building roads is a form of socialism. Every society in history has done some things collectively that cannot be done individually. This is not socialism. A healthy free society embraces the principle of subsidiarity, which simply posits that every task should be performed by the smallest, simplest organization by which it can. It forbids centralization for the reason that it is inefficient and tramples on human liberty. Socialism posits that all projects should done collectively as commanded by the state. Anyone who thinks that, if a little collectivism is good that coerced centralization of everything is even better is the sort who might think that if a little water is good for a man, then all men ought to be dumped in the middle of the ocean. It is a stupid argument that falls apart at first contact.
Socialists make several irreparable mistakes in their assessments – which is why it always fails and produces misery.
First they misunderstand the nature of man: they believe that man is fundamentally a consumer; that when his needs for sustenance, companionship and shelter are met, he is content – and they imagine themselves to be the noble god-like entities that will philanthropically provide these things. I think of it as dog kennel ideology. Man is fundamentally a creator, relishing the work of his own hands. Rewarding a man for this creative instinct is the beginning of a healthy economy. He creates more than he needs, because he loves the work and others purchase his excess labor from him (or more accurately, exchange the fruits of their excess labor with him for the fruits of his). This exchange provides the means of obtaining the raw materials necessary to continue and expand his work.
The only real wealth is in the production of goods and services. Currency is just a sort of encryption key that facilitates the exchange of what is produced. If nothing is produced, the encryption key is useless – like putting it up against a brick. Socialists know little about distribution (though they think that is their great gift) and next to nothing about production. Their dream is that they will distribute what is produced by others. Ultimately, they are giving away encryption keys that have nothing to encrypt.
The most powerful force in the universe is the creative capacity of each man. When each uses that creative force to develop ideas to produce and provide for his family, a sort of cornucopia of goods and services springs up, enriching the whole society. Socialism destroys the incentives that encourage production at all. This is patently obvious if you think about it for more than a minute. If you are an incipient little socialist, pause for a moment from your dreams of all the stuff you are going to get from someone else’s labor. Think, instead, about how hard you will work if you don’t get to choose what you are going to do and no matter how hard you work or how much you produce, you will earn no more than the guy who lays about doing nothing. This is the genesis of the Soviet era joke that, “As long as they pretend to pay us, we will pretend to work.”
Even so, it is not enough for socialist officials to destroy the incentives for creative production; they seek to crush the creative capacity of ordinary men altogether. They believe that only they should exercise a free creative capacity while commanding everyone else what to do. This is as foolish as believing that ten candles (provided one of them is mine) will produce more light, more efficiently, than a million candles held freely by everyone in the society.
When socialists actually take power and their policies inevitably tank their economy and force people to eat their pets and prostitute their children, socialist officials almost never have the honesty or humility to admit error and correct course. That they were wrong is, in their minds, both impossible and unbearable. After all, they are the smartest people they know. So, they resort to accusing others of sabotage and their own fellows of insufficient ideological purity. Then begin the purges, imprisonments and executions…and things still get uglier and uglier. In 1933, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin forcibly began the starvation of 7 million people in Ukraine, the breadbasket of the Soviet Union. This was partly to quash talk of independence. But it was also because food production kept going down – and Stalin literally thought the way to increase it was to forcibly starve much of the nation’s farmers and give their farms to those who Stalin deemed ideologically loyal. God save us from centralized five-year plans.
Let me illustrate how socialism actually works in practice:
Imagine the little country of Marxburg. It is prosperous and free. It is noted for a magnificent little bakery called The Gregorian Pie Company that makes all varieties of delicious pies and cakes. People come from all over to buy its carefully crafted pies that use only the finest ingredients. Of course, some people in Marxburg can’t afford pie every week – but many still get them as gifts and at social outings through their churches and social clubs.
Then one day, a spokesman for a group called the Resistance declares that pie is a fundamental human right – and if the people will elect them, all pies will be distributed freely. Lo and behold, the degenerate electorate, salivating over the idea of all that free pie, elects the Resistance to office. At first, Resistance officials are great heroes, jubilantly passing out all the remaining stock of pie to all who form a line to receive. Ah, but free distribution does not provide the means of replacing the ingredients needed to make the pies. So the Resistance starts subsidizing the bakery – and skimping on the quality of ingredients. People notice that the pies taste more like cardboard and that, on any given day, you can only choose between two or three varieties.
Enraged that the bakers are obviously sabotaging their brilliant program, the Resistance fires everyone and replaces them with ideologically pure workers. Alas, while these workers can expound at length on intersectional LGBT theory, they don’t know anything about pie-making. Pretty soon there are massive pie shortages. People can only come on one day a week to get one variety of pie and must stand in line for five hours to have a chance at getting a pie so badly made it is nearly inedible. The Resistance decides the new workers they hired are insufficiently committed to the revolution after all, so it executes half of them to motivate the survivors to do a better job. The whole thing collapses. Instead of trying to fix it, the Resistance jails and executes any who complain about it, while continuing to congratulate themselves on making access to pie a fundamental human right.
If socialism were ever to actually take hold in this country, make sure to get plenty of pets now. You’re going to need them in your kitchen later. And get all the pie you can early on, for it will not be long until the next pie you see will be in the sky when you die.
The fundamental Christian ethos is to act as a subordinate creator to our Creator God. Arrange public affairs so that everyone is free to create and to reproduce and grow what is created. It is the role of the Churches and private associations to help those who cannot help themselves. Do this and all will have a share in the pie – and the means will be easily available to expand the production of pie. Yes, the share of some will be smaller than others, but even one percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing – which is all socialism has to offer.