Why Socialism

If you're paying attention to American politics at this time (January 2020), you may have noticed a trend amongst those who are naive and uneducated in civics, toward socialism.

Socialism is not a winning political philosophy. It's been said that Europe is primarily socialist, but this isn't true. Europe has vast social safety nets, but it is not socialist, according to the actual definition of socialism. And it can be readily argued that Europe as a whole has not benefitted from its safety nets. Of course, success in this case depends on what you consider important. I would argue that Europe's safety nets don't produce a better society, nor a happier population, but that's an argument for another day.

Socialism theoretically, and in practice, does not work. The death toll from socialism is higher than the death toll from all our wars combined. Look at any of the major socialist regimes of the last 200 years, and you'll find significant portions of their populations killed by the regime itself. Because socialism in practice isn't really socialism. It's fascism. It's a bunch of political leaders preaching austerity to the populace, while they vacation at their Black Sea vacation homes. Regardless of what Marx or Trotsky or any of these fools said, this is the practice of socialism. And in all the decades since Marx put pen to paper, socialism in practice has not deviated from the fascist model.

In theory, socialism sounds like an interesting idea. And it grew out of the inevitable inequities produced by capitialism. A cynical definition of capitalism might be, "a system where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer". And socialism grew out of the crucible of this inequity. But humans are inherently incapable of properly executing the theoretical ideal of pure socialism. And even if they did, it would do what it always does in socialist regimes: kill excellence and exceptionalism. America has been a beacon of achievement for over 200 years precisely because achievement is rewarded, unlike in socialist countries.

In fact, it could be reasonably argued that socialism in practice is a smoke screen promoted by elites to control and mollify a population, while the prime movers benefit inordinately from the labor of others. At least that's how it's played out in every socialist regime we can find.

But if this is true, then why are there significant swaths of the American electorate who advocate for socialism?

First, as I stated before, such advocates are naive. In most matters political, they haven't thought the thought through. Here's an example: in the 1960s, in the name of giving blacks in America "equality", the federal government embarked on a course of "desegretation". Schools were forced to increase the percentage of their minority students, and neighborhoods were forced to bus students in accord with that dictum. The result? School/student performance did not improve, and almost everyone who was touched by this effort hated it. Perhaps worse, racial segregation of minorities within schools remained. Students naturally tended to cling to those of their own race. The outcome should have been obvious from the outset, but those who mandated this solution failed to think the thought through. Most likely, this was a clumsy solution devised to silence critics who complained about inequality.

Second, socialism advocates are not properly schooled in civics, nor in history. The history of socialism, as detailed above, isn't a pretty one, and nothing in our current society indicates it would fair any better if practiced now. Moreover, a complete study of our form of government, and a comparative study of other forms (civics), would clearly show this system wouldn't work, and cannot be overlaid on the American system of government. You'd have to scrap the constitution. And only hardcore advocates would want that. The vast majority of Americans are in favor of our constitution and the form of government it dictates.

But if it's clear that socialism couldn't work and wouldn't benefit America, why do people advocate for it? Now we get into the depths of the human psyche.

Like others across our planet, Americans are dissatisfied with their government, and the society it governs. This only happens in affluent societies. Most of the major problems of the modern world have been solved. We have better health than ever before. We have far more leisure time than at any point in history. We have the opportunity to create, artistically, almost anything we can imagine. We are an affluent society. But that also means we have more time and ability to complain. Since the introduction of the World Wide Web, we can now air our complaints directly to any number of people willing to listen. You could almost say that the more time people have, the more trouble they make.

On top of this, there are legitimate problems in our society. A major problem which has gained more and more attention is the gap between rich and poor. This is a side effect of capitalism and free markets. Currently, their are three billionaires vying for the office of president of the United State. Wealthy individuals and corporations drive many of the laws which get passed (and which don't). They control social media, banks, the entertainment industry, etc. They've also managed to prove in recent years that justice is heavily influenced by wealth. These are not things which sit well in a country of people who came here to achieve equality and justice, and whose countries of origin lacked these things.

Americans, even those satisfied with their lives, see the problems of our society. They wish something could be done about them. Unfortunately, we arrived here on a trajectory which cannot be easily changed. And some of us, particularly those (usually privileged) who are naive and ignorant, are willing to go to extremes to eradicate these problems.

And this is a flaw in human nature. It has happened all too often in history. Public dissatisfaction with the status quo often leads to bloody revolution. Not knowing how to resolve the particular problems of a society, their impulse is to simply start over with a clean slate. Unfortunately, this all too often results is conditions even worse.

This has undoubtedly happened to you in your life at times. Something you've been working on simply isn't working out right, and you're not sure how to fix it, or the time and effort you would spend to fix it isn't worth it. The solution: start over.

We mostly conquered racism. We've mostly conquered poverty. (Our "poor" are richer by far than those of any other country on Earth. And those still poor are often in that condition because of drugs, self-pity or some other human failings.) We can travel to any point on the globe in a matter of hours. We can communate with anyone anywhere almost instantly. Our homes have running water, flushing toilets, refrigeration, and entertainment on demand. We have within our reach almost the entirety of human knowledge on the Internet. We have achieved incredible heights.

There are few problems left. But the major common problems which exist have similar characteristics and are seemingly unsolvable. We are heavily in debt. This is not an accident. We have a droning media which all but orders us to consume more and more. And that consumption typically results in debt. This is by design. Banks benefit. Huge corporations benefit. There are huge corporations whose net worth is larger than many countries on Earth, which are almost impossible to communicate with. They do as they like, with precious little regulation, and without input from you, since you can't actually talk to anyone there who could make a difference. This, too, is by design. Corporations don't want to hear from you, and they pay fantastic sums of money to bribe lawmakers for favorable legislative conditions. Moreover, when a corporation is actually found to have erred, the penalties are miniscule. And any penalties paid are recovered by the corporations in higher prices to the consumer.

Boiled down, the individual is being trampled by entities too large to fight. Yes, these entities have provided the means to have a good life for you. But you must follow their rules (which you didn't get to vote on). I can't count the number of Youtube, Facebook and Twitter accounts which have been silenced because they expressed thoughts which didn't agree with those who run these social media companies. You can have your "good life" but only at the expense of some of your freedoms and your privacy.

In a land like America, such conditions are irritating. We don't like tyrants, and we insist on a say in what happens to us. Perhaps worse, the contrariness of Americans infects the rest of the planet. They see us, and wish to be like us (whether they admit it or not).

And so, despite our vaunted standard of living, the problems we see are large and apparently unsolvable. And a significant human impulse is to trash it all and start over. Fire them all and hire new ones. (How many people would resort to exactly that with our government, if they had the choice?)

And thus, you have the rise of socialism in the minds of many Americans. Throw away the existing system and institute a new one. Theoretically, this might solve the problem of the little guy getting trampled by the rich, powerful and unaccountable. But only in theory. In truth, those in power now would be those in power in a socialist system. They'd be just as unaccountable, and you'd have an even worse time of it.

Consider democratic candidate for U.S. president Bernie Sanders. He's an avowed socialist, and echoes every progressive talking point he hears. But is he a "true believer"? No. He's worth millons of dollars, and owns three houses. If he really believed what he was promoting, he'd sell his houses, donate his millions to charity, and live in a bungalow in Brooklyn. But he won't. And no one in power who pushes socialism is a "true believer". Should socialism take over, they would be the ones at the top, with huge staffs to take care of their needs, expensive cars, and vacation homes away from the riffraff.

This is the legacy and the future of socialism. No one in their right might who didn't have some hidden agenda would even suggest such a system. But humans have a tendency to want to start over when they can't see a solution to the problems they see. And those who are profoundly ignorant believe that the system to replace this one is socialism.

Consider this: If you were one of the very few who operate the levers of power on this planet (and there are very few, and they are very rich and powerful), which system would you prefer your populations to have- a system where the population get a say in what happens, or socialism, where they don't?

And don't try to claim there's such a thing as "democratic socialism". Such a system carries within it the seeds of its own demise. No one would vote for a system where a few with fantastic power rule over the rest of us, and you get to stand in the same bread lines as the guy who discovers the cure for cancer. That's socialism, and "democratic" or not, it is a failure.

And by the way, "democracy" is for the birds. Democracy is what gives us the popularity contest which yields the homecoming king and queen. Democracy gives us presidents like Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. As of this writing humans as a group do not make good decisions in a strict democracy. On the rare occasion where a "good" decision results, it merely points up how bad the rest of them are. If you want a system where the best leaders emerge, a meritocracy is what you seek. Democracy raises leaders who are "popular", but often incompetent.

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