As a conservative social worker, I stand out like a tar pit in a snowstorm. My family leans to the left like a genetic tower of Pisa and I live in a state that is heavily dependent on federal jobs. How this has happened is beyond me, but there it is. I’m surrounded. And baffled by what I hear.
When I’ve asked my friends and family why they want socialism, generally the response is terse: “To help people.” When I’ve asked why they reject the existence of nation states and hope for a socialist one-world order, none could provide a clear answer. Mostly they retreated to the sound bite: “It would be nicer.” “We have to share the planet.” Only one older family member had a clear position, “Because of all the atrocities perpetrated by nationalism.”
I countered by asking: “And would socialism eradicate toxic nationalism?”
He said, “I hope so.”
So, I asked, “How does the state taking over production prevent future atrocities?”
He answered, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore. You’re being hostile.”
And that sums up many of the dialogues.
He was right about one thing. He will need a lot of hope because progressive ideology is based on one part wishful thinking and the other part, well, wishful thinking. Did Russia stop behaving like a nation-state after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917? Did it stop brutalizing its own people when the state took over production? Did post-Mao China retreat into its own borders and cease interfering in world politics? Did it allow unfettered immigration? Was anyone actually sharing anything? And, by the way, how’s Venezuela doing these days?
All socialism does, like its kissing-cousin, communism, is put a greater concentration of power in even fewer people than national capitalism does, and the corruption continues without any impediment because human nature remains unchanged and unredeemed.
Millennials, as a group, don’t seem perturbed by the possibilities. They are even more affiliated with the progressive tenets of the Democratic party. They are strongly anti-national, anti-religious, and, despite being skeptical of institutions, they are more than happy to give ever-increasing power to the federal government.
The other problem progressive millennials have is that, as a group, they don’t concede that there is even such a thing as human nature, replete with base impulses. To them, humanity is perfectible (with a little government help and a lot of regulation).
The truth, however, is that human nature is bifurcated and fallen. As such, there will be atrocities and power grabs no matter what economic system we have. The question more appropriately becomes not which system is “nicest,” but which economic and social system best deals with the reality of human nature, its innate indolence and selfishness, its ambition and creativity, to corral and utilize all of it so the best outcome can be enjoyed by the most people. So far, based on worldwide experience, a gently regulated capitalism seems to produce the most good for the broadest segment of humanity.
I tried to explain the pitfalls of socialism to one young person who professed an open mind and saw himself as good-hearted.
“It doesn’t have to be the way it is in the world,” he said. “All we need to do is take care of the poor.”
“Yes, we do. And although that’s not all we need to do, charity is an ethical obligation. The question is who’s responsible for it? If it’s the government, where does the money come from?” In my mind, charity really does begin — and flourish — at home, in churches, and in small communities, not on Capitol Hill.
“From the rich, the people who work,” he said. I didn’t point out that not everyone who works is rich and often it’s the rich who invest the capital so people can work.
“So, you go and buy yourself a bowl of ice cream and someone walking by takes half of it.”
“Well, that’s not right. That’s stealing.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
But, let us take it further. Let’s say you willingly shared half. What about when someone else wants the other half? And let’s say you really are a good guy and gave that up, too. What’s next when you have no more ice cream? Where does the ice cream come from for all the federal ice cream programs, after the ice cream production is taken over and exhausted, when the workers give up because they can just as easily get benefits from a federal handout program as work 40 hours a week to pay for the ice cream they never get to eat? When that happens, the government has to start eating itself. And lest anyone delude himself, when the going gets tough, the word government really does eventually come to mean nation, which, ultimately comes to mean you and me…
As the 1607 socialist experiment at Jamestown brilliantly demonstrated.
Under the banner of King James, over a hundred men and boys came from England and built their fort in a fertile valley, overflowing with enough wildlife, fruits, and berries for the picking, fresh water, and tillable land to sustain a city. Yet within three years most of those able-bodied men were dead. According to George Percy, governor of the colony, most of them died from starvation. Why?
Their economy failed. They had a common store, no private property, and an attitude of indolence. Many of the colonists were indentured servants. As such, they were expected to contribute all the fruits of their labor to the common store, from which they could also take what they needed. But as any student of human nature knows, people who do not benefit personally from their hard work tend not to work all that hard. The upshot was that more was taken than given. Imagine that.
Enter John Smith, whose colonial version of tough love was the motto, “Work or Starve.” He instituted a work program in which every able-bodied settler performed a minimum of four hours of farming a day. And for a while, things got better until Smith suffered an injury and had to return to England in 1608. That misfortune for Smith turned out to be a disaster for the colonists who returned to their habitual indolence and entered what is called the Starving Time. One colonist ate his own wife.
To me, the danger of socialism is plain. Now, how do we convince the millennials before the starving times begin again?