- By Gitabushi
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably reject Socialism. You know it doesn’t work, you know it has never worked everywhere it’s been tried, and you know that as soon as it fails, it is deemed “Not *real* Socialism” so the True Believers can retain their dreams of a successful implementation, someday, somewhere.
But because we know Socialism doesn’t work, we often take it as an axiom, and we don’t look deeper. However, in the marketplace of ideas, we must constantly hone and refine our ideas. We must put these ideas out there for the unconvinced and unpersuaded to see and evaluate. If we never argue against Socialism, we increase the chance that a younger generation will fall sway to its siren call.
Here, then, are some of the arguments I’ve seen for Socialism, and my debunking response.
Under quasi-Free Market Capitalism (or the Current System, to whatever degree of Free Market Capitalism we have), the rich are encouraged and allowed to be selfish, rather than sharing their wealth with the poor.
Accepting for the sake of argument that rich people are motivated by selfishness to use their skills to exploit others, adopting a Socialist system doesn’t change human nature. Selfish people with ability will figure out what it takes to be promoted to positions of power within the Socialist government structure and use their position to ensure they get the best food, best clothes, best living spaces, etc.
This plays out a number of different ways.
- Socialist leaders must be compensated better than average, or else they might be susceptible to bribery.
- When everyone is equal, the Socialist leaders would be swamped with petitions unless there is some method of gatekeeping, which often takes the form of “gifts”, i.e., bribes
- Playing games with “equal”. If everyone gets a pound of meat, the Socialist leaders get the pound of filet mignon, the peasants get a pound of Spam. If everyone gets 2000 sq ft of living space, the Socialist leaders will get the Manhattan penthouse, the peasants will get an unheated hovel in Alaska, or an un-cooled tenement in Houston, Texas
The argument is that Socialism has always failed because it was authoritarian socialism, imposed by force. Democratic Socialism will come into being via Democracy, and being voluntary, will actually work.
Has there ever been anything in the history of the US that has had 100% agreement? One representative (from Montana, alas) voted against declaring war for the US entry into WWII.
Some people are always contrary. Some people will choose to go against the tide *because* it is against the tide.
Socialism is based on the principle, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” There are no exceptions allowed. Socialism requires *everyone* to be on board to work.
And universality really is a foundational concept for Socialism. If people could opt out of the supplying part, well, what stops people from giving according to their ability now? Is there some magic spell that makes people more generous if the society adopts formal Socialism? So why would you even need to vote it into place? If Socialism is a great idea, convince people ot give up their wealth now, voluntarily, in a charity system. Make virtual Socialism.
If you can’t, then you can’t make it work in a government, either, without force.
Socialists complain that the wealth gets locked up in a rich class, where the parents pass on wealth to their children, who use that wealth to maintain their position, locking out the poor. They own the houses that the poor must rent, they own the businesses and factories where the poor work, and they can skim off the top without working.
Again, human nature doesn’t change. One of the main motivations for people to work is to give their children advantages. In a Socialist system, there may not be wealth to pass on to children, but the children of the Socialist leaders will go to the best schools, where the best teachers are assigned. The children of the Socialist leaders will have the best opportunities to excel in competitions and events. The competitions and contests may even be adjudicated in favor of the children of Socialist leaders (to curry favor). But as sure as the sun rises, there will be a class system where the children of Socialist leaders do not have to work in factories or in the fields, but the children of factory and field workers will have no chance to enter the Socialist leadership. It will be systematic nepotism, rather than the conditional nepotism of our quasi-Free Market Capitalism system. There is some economic mobility in our current system. Less than a few decades ago, but the Elite Coastal Democrat class has gotten itself more entrenched since the boom of the 50s and 60s has faded.
Under Socialism, everyone will be equal, and everything will be fair. We’ll get Socialism when we achieve a post-scarcity society, like when almost all occupations are filled by robots and AI software.
Humans will never be equal, and things will never be fair to satisfy everyone. Human nature is such that we always overestimate our own contributions, underestimate the efforts and contributions of others, and underestimate how much trouble we cause other people.
Aside from that, responsibility varies from individual to individual.
The basic concept of Socialism is to ensure that no one starves, no one goes without housing, no one goes without clothes and other basic necessities.
Consider an analogy: Assume that by law, every child deserves a stuffed animal or an action figure.
Child One wants stuffed animals. That child cares for the stuffed animal, sleeps with it, protects it from harm.
Child Two wants action figures. But the action figure is put through the wringer, its arms ripped off, its accessories chewed on, and it is ruined within a month. So you provide another one. Rapidly ruined. You provide another one. This goes on and on.
Child Three doesn’t want a stuffed animal *or* an action figure, but rather a fire truck. Too bad.
This is all neither fair, nor equal. You put a dozen times the resources into Child Two. Is that fair? Child Three doesn’t get its preferred toy. Is that equal?
This is the same argument against providing a Universal Basic Income sufficient to house and feed everyone. What if individuals use the money for something else besides food and housing? Well, then you have to give them additional money for food and housing. What if they *still* don’t use the additional money for food and housing?
So you don’t provide UBI, you provide food and housing. We’ve seen this with food stamps: an economy develops where people sell their food stamps for pennies on the dollar to buy other things. Then they still starve and activists hold them up as examples of our unfair society. Or the amount given via food stamps gets to the point that the people on welfare eat better than the lower levels of working classes.
The problem is that once you *guarantee* a certain benefit, or a certain amount of money, you run up against the perversity, selfishness, and exploitive nature of human beings.
The weakness of Socialism is that it is a system, and humans will always exploit any system to extinction.
These are some of the fatal flaws of Socialism. Add more in the comments section.