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Socialism: Be Careful What You Wish For
by Philip Carl Salzman • March 22, 2019 at 5:00 am
- The object of socialism is supposedly to increase economic equality by evening out the wealth in society among individuals and families. This is done by taking wealth from those with more than the average and redistributing it to those with less than the average. As wealth will not usually be voluntarily surrendered, the redistribution would have to be enforced by government agencies, backed by laws and administrative regulations. Socialism in practice, however, has usually resulted in members of the governments redistributing the wealth they seize to themselves and their associates. Even in the US government, at present, members of Congress do not bind themselves to observe the laws to which they bind the rest of the country. As Lee Atwater reportedly put it, “The dawgs don’t like the dawg food.”
- Equality of results severs the relationship between being able to enjoy the rewards of one’s production and the confiscation of those rewards for distribution to others. The disconnect between work and reward undermines the motivation to work and to innovate. Why work or take risks when the profits, if one is successful, go to others? If you take away an incentive to work and produce, you end up taking away the producers.
- Socialism means turning over your freedom to your government, which claims that it knows how to spend your money better than you do. History has unfortunately proven this to be an economic and delivery-of-services death spiral, whether of sub-standard quality of public education in the US, or the delivery of health care to veterans. Now, President Donald J. Trump is finally trying to address the crisis that veterans’ healthcare has become. How? By privatizing it.
- If justice is giving each person his or her due, then taking wealth from those who have earned it, in order to give it to those who have not earned it, is a practice dubious at best. It is human to envy those with more and better. However, it is doubtful that it is good social policy to base political policy on these sentiments: one historically ends up with worse and less.
For so long, it appeared that socialism had definitively failed in practice and had lost its appeal as an economic ideology. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had crashed; its Eastern European satellites had escaped in the 1990s; China had transitioned from socialism to state capitalism beginning with the economic reforms of 1978 and has carried on energetically ever since; communist Cuba had declined to an offshore holiday resort for Canadians and Europeans, and socialist Venezuela totally collapsed. In a 1989 essay entitled “The End of History?”, Francis Fukuyama argued that, in the events mentioned above, we were witnessing “an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.”