How deeply ironic, that even after the economic collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics proved so conclusively that Socialism does not work, our own country should continue to sink into it deeper and deeper!
Gradually, of course. This year, the latest fad is Socialized Medicine; a trick that has been tried in many countries, and has failed, or failed to work well, in every single one. I really think the best thing that could happen for America's health right now is that Mrs Hillary Rodham Clinton should go and work for a couple of months in a hospital in any provincial Russian city, in any capacity of her choice, from toilet cleaner to assistant physician.
In fact, I'm told there's not too much difference between the two occupations there. Fervent socialist though she is, I cannot see how she could fail to come back from the experience, cured for life.
Define the Term
A smart young lawyer of my acquaintance amazed me a few years ago by defining "socialism" with words that would properly describe "sociable"! - the two ideas are, of course, entirely different, arguably contradictory. If one of such high intelligence and considerable education can be so confused about what socialism IS, little surprise that the rest of us are being so readily hornswaggled.
The dictionary probably puts it differently, but to my mind the best definition of Socialism comes from the pen of its godfather, Karl Marx: "To each according to his need, from each according to his ability!"
The whole idea is that all members of a society re-orient their beliefs and aims and ambitions so as to serve the whole community instead of themselves, to bring their talents to the service of everyone; "public service", in fact. And in exchange, each member of it would be entitled to everything he or she needs; food, clothing, shelter, medical care, etc. Attractive ideal!
Not all societies that have tried socialism have taken it all the way, as the Soviets did; and so, they survived better. Most socialized only certain parts of their economies, and so the damage was limited. Britain, for instance, socialized "the commanding heights of the economy"; nationalizing only coal mining, war, transportation, medicine, power generation, steel, broadcasting, mail delivery, telephones and education. Smaller enterprises were left alone, to make what profits they could, and then to be taxed to pay for the losses of those government enterprises.
The FACT that socialism doesn't work has been settled, in Moscow; the REASON it will never work lies in human nature. Only a very few humans will ever be persuaded to work only for the benefit of others, not for their own; it simply isn't in our genes. Marx's definition describes a pleasant fiction, a dream, an Utopia (that's any system that, even if it were set up, could not survive.)
In contrast, unfettered Capitalism fits human nature like a glove. It allows every member of society to do his or her own thing, his own way - limited only by the need to allow everyone else to do their own thing.
Since it fits human nature to labor for one's own benefit primarily, it works; and the proof is that around the world, the more free and capitalist a country is, other things being equal, the better off are ALL its people.
Socialism, in contrast, can only stagger along and work at all if the great mass of the people are continually subject to propaganda and enslavement. The Soviet governments almost succeeded in creating a slave society, and our own is headed in exactly the same direction.
As the socialists are quite fond of reminding us, the earliest settlers from Europe practised a form of communism. The Pilgrims of Plymouth set up a clearly Socialist society: To each according to his need, from each according to his ability, property being held in common. Those who could labor in the field, labored for all; those who could sew, sewed for all, and so on. And whoever needed a meal would (in theory) find that someone had prepared one for him.
This was the idea of the "common weal", or wealth, in which private property was frowned upon; and to the South of us to this day, the People's Republic of Massachussetts still goes under the name of a Commonwealth.
It lasted, if I recall correctly, the best part of a year, and then starvation forced these Christian Communists to reconsider their beliefs. Amazing how the absence of a good breakfast can focus the mind.
And once it was decided to allow each farmer to own his own ground and till it for his own profit, presto: there was food enough to go round. Free capitalism has this uncanny knack of doing the job; because instead of suppressing human greed, it rewards it. As Adam Smith so well pointed out, the selfish businessman, intent only on his own gain, will greatly benefit the rest of society whether he wants to or not; for there is literally no other way for him to gain wealth, except to please his customers.
For that good reason, Capitalism has been named "the only truly moral economic system in the world." Without any force, it causes us each to benefit others.
Before its members left it, to work in the Republican and Democrat Parties, the Socialist Party of the USA had on its manifesto such revolutionary ideas as a broad-based graduated income tax, a universal pension scheme, universal tax-funded unemployment insurance and welfare, universal tax-funded education, central planning, and a universal, tax-funded "free" health service.
Those are now almost all in place; and Hillarycare may complete the triumph.
|© Copyright Jim Davies 1999|
Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.
The above is Edition # 36
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