April 13, 2009

All roads lead to socialism

There's an article in National Review this week about Hong Kong's long slow slide from a shining beacon of capitalism into the quagmire that is socialism. As sad as that is, the real question is whether it's something that is symptomatic of the human condition. Does the natural state of being for humanity ultimately end in socialism?

Throughout human history, there have been civilizations that have risen and fallen. Even civilizations that have been around for millenia, China and India are prime examples, have had their ebb and flow. But in the 20th century things have taken more specific courses that may be indicative of a linear future and it does not look pleasant for those of us on the side of free-market capitalism.

Europe, having risen to great heights of power in centuries past, have all now settled into various states of socialism. China, while communist, falls into the same command economy category after millenia of emperors. Russia has backslid into a weird amalgam of socialism and fascism. And of course the United States has added welfare, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to it's roster of supposed free lunches for the masses.

Poverty gives rise to an inherent desire for justice and the short-cut route is always via a re-distributive economy. Free market capitalists know that capitalism offers a better way to achieve freedom and prosperity. Nevertheless, many free market economies - Europe, America and now Hong Kong most notably - having achieved their economic pinnacles seem to have slid back towards socialism in ever more sectors of their economies. Why is that? Is it inevitable that this should be?

Perhaps the issue is that having achieved wealth, people can move beyond survival, and self-interest and start thinking about social justice. The uninformed opinion looks at things like welfare and says we have to do something for those who can not take care of themselves. True. But that's where the uninformed opinion stops and looks for a simple solution - throw money at it. Unfortunately this solution fails the real test - does it solve the problem. With 50+ years of a welfare state, clearly the answer is no.

Welfare will always be necessary, but the goal of welfare should be the same as the goal of unemployment benefits; a temporary solution to a temporary problem. The real solution was expounded on by an ancient Chinese proverb:

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you feed him for a lifetime."
In other words, those who need welfare should be taught to feed themselves, not rely on others.

People may therefore drift towards socialism as a self-directed need to be compassionate, once they have the means to do so. That is, without a thorough analysis of what is really required to be compassionate - teaching self-sufficiency.

Another possible reason is socialism could be inevitable is complacency. Once a certain level of wealth and security has been established, those who have achieved may become complacent. They may feel that there is no need to get that extra little bit of wealth - be it a million dollars or ten dollars. Having reached that state, there is undoubtedly less drive to struggle and fight for every dollar and therefore more willingness to succumb to the ideas of those who are more vocal, more strident about having their needs met. An extra tax here and there become less important and less worth fighting over, or even examining. By this line of logic, no society can ever progress indefinitely and back slides are inevitable. Particularly, every society is doomed to a socialistic state at some point. The good news is it need not be permanent, the bad news is it cannot be avoided.

Perhaps the reason socialism is certain is sloth. The real danger is whether the condition of socialism is axiomatic to Newton's first law of physics. The law states an object in motion remains in motion and an object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. In other words, things like to do what they are already doing. The human condition at rest will want to stay at rest if possible. A motivated individual should continue to be motivated. In either case, this will hold true unless an outside force changes the circumstances. At a national level, the danger is that once a slide to socialism occurs, is it a permanent situation.

Many, many people are inherently lazy. If the choice is between relaxation and hard work, most would opt for the former. Socialism offers the illusion of more for less. More riches, more security, but less work, less uncertainty, less stress. Given that apparent selection, the choice is obvious. Unfortunately it's a false choice. There's no free lunch and sloth cannot provide an abundance for an individual, nor for a nation. And in that sense, perhaps socialism is as self-defeating as is the success of capitalism.

Are these possibilities about socialism actual truths? Not necessarily. But they are possible dangers. Each reason alone or as part of the scope of possibilities do indicate that socialism is potentially a historical certainty for every society, however long or short in duration.

When you look at the map of which countries either currently or have at some point in history regarded themselves as socialist, without even considering those that behave in socialist ways, the spread is pervasive.

Whatever the possible reason(s) for socialism out of capitalism, the lesson is simple. Free market capitalism and freedom have proven over centuries to have provided the most innovation, the most progress, and the most economic prosperity for everyday people and for every nation where they have been tried. Therefore, those of us who understand this truth, must be ever vigilant and guard against the slide into socialism. Socialism needn't be an inevitability and even if it were, it needn't be in our lifetimes. Stemming the tide of socialism is an eternal battle that must be engaged by those who want prosperity for themselves and their nation.


  1. The map is interesting in that it points to the trend that socialism is now embedded in the oldest civilizations, while newer civilizations and technologically advanced countries are flourishing through capitalism. The socialist governments have, over time, 'enslaved' their people whether through soft or hard tyranny! 'Soft tyranny' being the use of high taxes and regulations (legislation)enforced by courts, while 'Hard tyranny' would be the use force, decrees (like Obama does all time now) and political oppression to control citizens.

  2. Political oppression like this: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/apr/14/federal-agency-warns-of-radicals-on-right/

    Cause, you know, all veterans and especially those people who read the Constitution and conclude that it separates federal and state governments is a potential Tim McVeigh.


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