by Kyle Becker -
The American Dream used to mean an opportunity to achieve success through hard work, rather than being promised a free ride at others’ expense. Those of us who respect the former, rather than believe in the latter, have an instinctive disdain for “socialism.”
But mention anything untoward about socialist ideals in polite society nowadays, and one is likely to be greeted with the reply:
What is wrong with Socialism?
Socialism is a necessarily totalitarian ideology that seeks to synthesize the political, economic, social, and private life of individuals and places control over it all in the state. Indeed, capitalism makes the separation of life into separate spheres possible, because freedom of choice economically is necessary for freedom of choice in every other sphere.
Individual rights, and specifically, private property, free exchange, freedom of labor movement, are necessary for political and social freedom. One cannot labor freely under a system when one’s economic or even personal fortunes are subject to the whims of the masses or are predicated on one’s political attitudes, which in practice means support for the government.
The alternative vision to socialism that is capitalism is a world where people work competitively and with one another in the absence of coercion to build better goods and provide better services to their fellow man. It is a world where each person owns his own life and his own labor decides what he or she will do with it, given that he does not coerce others or obstruct others from doing the same.
Capitalism is thus not envisioned to be a world of absolute freedom, which is impossible. It is one where people choose whether or not to take personal responsibility for their lives. It is understood that under this system people suffer the consequences of their actions, learn, and adapt; as opposed to shifting the consequences of their behavior off onto “society.”
The process of learning and striving brings out the best in men, and ultimately, leads to great civilizations led by great men. Civilization is not fundamentally driven by the political class, but by those who comprise the economy and the society. There are no great civilizations where elites rule over human chattel.
Utopian socialism holds out the possibility that desirable ends can be accomplished by undesirable or morally reprehensible means. This is the great lie of socialism. Morality itself is disfigured in the socialist utopian worldview, where evil becomes good, destruction leads to creation, and coercion leads to freedom.
It has never been satisfactorily answered: How is it possible to use coercion to propel mankind into a world free of coercion? How can one expect a socialist world of selfless contribution to society and the state, when socialism itself attracts those intellectuals and workers who themselves seek at all costs to avoid personal responsibility?
In other words, in practice wouldn’t a world run by socialists itself be comprised of people seeking to mutually avoid personal responsibility, and if so, wouldn’t this lead to declining personal contributions towards production?
And if so, wouldn’t this itself provoke the coercion socialism is said to be designed to rid the world of, as economic conditions crumble? Therefore, wouldn’t a socialist world wind up being infinitely more coercive, not less?
We find that socialism itself is an inherently destructive ideology without any redeeming value of being able to express specifically how mankind can transform society into a morally, economically, or politically superior system of human affairs as can free market capitalism. Instead we find socialism to be the rationalization of a deep-seated hatred for self-interest.
There is a misconception that socialists are naive and idealistic. This is not the case for the American Socialist, who is not just nurtured on theories of Utopia, but Machiavellian texts like Antonio Gramsci‘s The Prison Notebooks and Saul Alinsky‘s Rules for Radicals. The American Socialist radical assumes that self-interest is a political, economic, and social reality. We must understand that at its deepest roots, the socialist agenda is driven by a deep hatred of self-interest, first and foremost.
There is a good explanation for this. In primitive socialist imagination, the pursuit of self-interest comes at the expense of the tribe. This makes the socialist message readily consumable to the masses who have been deprogrammed of their rational faculties. It is an irony that socialism, recast as “progressivism,” is primitive in its aims to pander to the basest instincts of man: Painless security, effortless prosperity, and unearned love and admiration.
The socialist politician seeks to obliterate self-interest by embedding institutions in society that harness self-interest and turn it against itself; he offers “welfare” that comes from “the state” financed invisibly and without apparent opportunity cost to society. The politician’s proffering of welfare ensnares dependents on the state, and enables a form of selfishness that is lain on a foundation of coercion. This is true whether the value lost in the economy through the allocation of welfare, and by the recipients’ consumption of scarce resources, comes at the expense of taxes or currency devaluation.
The perversion of self-interest is this: it turns the independent pursuit of self-interest (or happiness) into the pursuit of self-interest that comes at the cost of others in society. The pursuit of independent self-interest in a free market economy does not come at the expense of others; indeed, the only way one can benefit is to provide a desired (or demanded) good or service. But the socialist politician sees the pursuit of independent self-interest as a direct loss of his own personal power, in other words, as a detraction of his own unenlightened self-interest.
The state, as it becomes less ideologically and thus institutionally constrained, enables politicians to pursue their self-interest at the expense of others in society. Socialism thus manifests the ultimate in political selfishness. Capitalism, on the other hand, allows men and women to serve one another, trading value for value in a voluntaristic manner to meet one another’s needs.
So, what is wrong with socialism? It is an authoritarian economic system that eventually leads to the obliteration of freedom. When economic choice is gradually eliminated, political choice and social license necessarily follow. The sooner our friends on the left realize that they cannot demand others serve them through the state, while maintaining a libertine culture and democratic elections, the better off our nation will be.