“Welcome to 2030. I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better". That is the title of an article from the World Economic Forum in November of 2016. The title is basically socialism in a nutshell: no private property, no self-ownership, and no privacy, but somehow, they contend, life will be better. This is the budding trend in America, away from freedom and capitalism in favor of government and socialism; and the data bear this out. Decades after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and dismemberment of the Soviet Union, socialism has reemerged as ungracefully as bellbottom jeans in the classroom and public conscience. According to a 2015 Reason-Rupe survey, 53 percent of Americans under 30 have a favorable view of socialism. Likewise, Gallup has found that an astounding 69 percent of millennials say they’d be willing to vote for a “socialist” candidate for president. Among their parents’ generation, only a third would do so. In 2016, national and exit polls revealed about 70 to 80 percent of young Democrats cast their ballots for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist.” No matter where you stand on today’s political, social, and economic issues, you have probably heard about this. And for those unaware of this trend, it’s time to heed this warning and learn of the risks. Socialism threatens liberty, as Satan appears disguised as an angel.
In this article, we are going to uncover the identity of socialism, its various disguises, and the continual threats posed to us and any free society. Finally, we’ll embark to prescribe the antidote and the lifeblood to our freedom. First, let's talk about socialism.
Socialism is traditionally defined as collective ownership over the means of production. Its admirers regard it as a form of compassion, moral by definition, virtuous by fiat. Yet this betrays the truth about socialism, a dynamic despotism that adapts to its environment and the technologies available to it. Whatever its motives, whatever its definition, it amounts to force, and ultimately oppression, in execution. At its core, socialism is truly whatever its defenders want it to be, tailored to suit any hot topic and conveniently aligned with anything perceived as kind, compassionate or sensitive to the plight of the citizenry and the so-called “general welfare”. Whether it is an ambitious plan to end poverty or world hunger, or to eliminate inequality in our midst, socialism is merely a specious device for social control and, invariably, social ruin. As Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov stated, “Socialism will always be an alluring dream, even in the freest and richest countries in the world.”
In its more nuanced forms, such as in the United States, socialism lays claim to some fraction of business or property, cleverly leaving the main of business in the hands of those who know better how to manage it. This, however, is not a benefit of socialism, but rather a clever disguise by which it cons its subjects into believing that they’re free, in effect leveraging some vestige of capitalism for the advantage of the bureaucracy and the furtherance of socialism, albeit in its modern incarnation. It preserves some semblance of private property, whereby the bureaucracy assumes authority in deciding how much belongs to it; only thereafter does the remainder stay in the hands of the so-called "owners." Of course, under this arrangement, it is the bureaucracy that truly owns the business and the property, but it cleverly allows for the illusion of private ownership, whereby those so-called "owners" are left to manage the business for the benefit of the bureaucrats. After all, the bureaucrats will enjoy a much larger take with this arrangement, as there will be a greater pie for the politicians to enjoy so long as those businesses still believe that they are their rightful owners.
Suffice it to say, the sustainability of this system depends squarely on the maintenance of that illusion and the hope that the people never grow wary of it; as soon they’ve become aware of the system to truly appreciate their relationship with their government and their society, they will want nothing to do with it. They will have finally awakened to the truth about their enslavement, and they will invariably determine that the effort and the risk of their daily toil are inadequately offset by the limited advantages and future prospects, pecuniary or otherwise, inherent to this kind of arrangement. At this juncture, only force and coercion will stave off the mass exodus, and this can only slow the death of a system destined for its demise, but not before it spills some blood and drags its opponents, and even many of its supporters, down with it. This is precisely where socialism grows violent, either in response to or in anticipation of this exodus, because it cannot possibly endure without the subjects whom it enslaves. For this reason, the masters of deceit are always clever in their methods and their disguises, consistently keeping their subjects at bay as they claim an ever greater share of the pie for themselves.
Interestingly enough, through central banking and bills of credit, whereby government monopolizes the supply of money, or currency, that bureaucracy can get away with taking an even greater share of that pie without raising the official tax rate. This is truly the modern form of socialism, whereby ownership over the means of production has been replaced by ownership over the form of money. This is, by appearances, less invasive, but it is truly more pernicious than the forms which preceded it.
Indeed, under this arrangement, the socialists get away with sounding charitable while convincing the public that their initiatives will impose no additional costs. Moreover, they claim that the additional money, which they merely print off the presses, makes us richer in the process. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the printing of money only makes us poorer, transferring purchasing power and real goods and services from those "owners" into the hands of the bureaucrats, or those connected to them. Whereas the bureaucrats contend that society will be richer for it, the truth is that the bureaucrats will have successfully stolen more stuff while leaving society with more paper, or its equivalent. So, while people will predictably feel wealthier, and maybe even more "progressive" upon their government's imposition, they will all be worse off because of it.
Finally, through its clever and convoluted network, the bureaucracy will succeed in influencing every aspect of commerce and daily life, not merely at the hands of the state, but by private enterprise genuflecting to false idols, repeating their mantras and pressuring their own peers, customers and employees to comply. This is yet another disguise of socialism, a mutilated form of a market economy and an outgrowth of a government wielding too much power and influence. Of course, this is no coincidence.
As Henry Grady Weaver wrote in 1947, in his Mainspring of Human Progress, “[Marx and his followers] believed industrial capitalism to be the natural forerunner of socialism; that to bring about the world millennium they must concentrate, first of all, on highly developed capitalistic countries — using the processes of attrition, boring from within, fomenting dissension and class hatred, and promoting collectivistic measures through existing governmental agencies.” Weaver continued, “This is something like jujitsu, which has been described as the technique of defeating an opponent by turning his own strength against him.” Weaver concluded, “In other words, it was a program of inducing capitalism to commit suicide, then stepping in and taking things over.”
Socialism feeds on prosperous capitalist societies not only out of economic necessity — for it couldn’t possibly survive, let alone advance, for any meaningful period of time over any other — but for the advantage enjoyed over the kind of public which has grown comfortable and generally unwilling to risk that comfort by any effort which might cost them financially, a night’s rest, or some time behind bars. In becoming comfortable, they are more susceptible to any soft despotism, for they have more to lose, and they have long been spared the need to fight. Ironically, unbeknownst to them, they have everything to lose in their complacency and their unwillingness to take up the mantle in defense of liberty. In one of the great tragedies of the human experience, we find that comfort breeds a form of cowardice which leaves the people unwilling to defend the very principle which gave rise to those unrivaled comforts in the first place: liberty. As Fyodor Dostoevsky famously wrote in his 1866 novel Crime and Punishment, “Man has it all in his hands, and it all slips through his fingers from sheer cowardice.”
This takeover happens gradually and surreptitiously, under the most clever of disguises, often advertised under the banners of equality, “the common good” and the “the general welfare.” Whether through non-profit organizations or non-governmental agencies, whether sponsored or subsidized by government, or whether a public school indoctrinating the youth or a private company promoting some political agenda or condemning its critics, the tentacles of socialism are upon us, manipulating nearly every aspect of our lives, even the very thoughts that occupy our minds. The pressures around us, sponsored or certified by the beast, evidence its pervasive influence, yet leave little trace of it. Instead, the unthinking and unsuspecting pay little mind to the building pressures, the trenches carved around them, and the masses preparing to lay siege. By taking over and controlling their media, they’ve controlled their minds, and by controlling their familiar businesses and their neighbors, they’ve limited all that they are permitted to do or say. While not expressly the work of government, the people and their businesses, succumbing to the pressures around them, do their bidding as agents on their behalf. All the while, of course, the beast keeps its hands clean, rejoicing in the decisions of the public, taking credit while assuming none of the blame.
In this manner, socialism always emerges in clever ways, making life easier for those who acquiesce, yet excruciatingly difficult for those who wish only to continue living as freely as they once did. In this way, the scales predictably tilt in favor of socialism once the people figure out how to comply, intensifying the peer pressure upon the diminishing ranks of the few bold enough to stand on principle and defend their liberty. Once the scales have tipped, it’s almost impossible to recover. Once it’s become easier to comply than to defend liberty, the people mustn’t shrink in cowardice. They must stand together, shoulder to shoulder, decrying passionately and unequivocally every injustice upon their liberty. This is their final defense against tyranny of any form, and their highest obligation to their heirs and posterity: to stay vigilant to every threat, to unveil tyranny in its various forms, and to strip it to the bone in utter humiliation as a reminder of the cost of any threat posed to liberty.
Unfortunately, this is an endless battle of vigilance, as it is in our nature to survive, not to be free. All too often, compliance makes it all too easy to survive, but we must remember that it’s liberty that makes life worth surviving.
In its various disguises, socialism seeks to discredit liberty and erase it altogether from the collective memory. It is the duty of the people to remember the cost attending too little liberty, the countless hundreds of millions of lives lost in its absence, and the means by which it’s threatened today.
Ironically, socialism is often praised for its provision of social services and its poetic promises of welfare and equality. However, these initiatives operate from the middle of the story, a fabricated premise which highlights the plight of individuals or demographics mired in some kind of adversity, and which predictably fails to evaluate, or even remotely acknowledge, the attending factors or plausible causes. Instead, the socialist flatly assumes and boldly asserts that each instance is merely another example of inequality and injustice. Of course, the socialist pays little mind to the fact that inequality is the rule, the organic state of all things in nature; instead, the socialist leverages that inequality to rally unthinking masses around the political cause, rooted inextricably in covetous greed and envy.
What's more, the socialist assumes that wealthy people have succeeded only insofar as they have exploited or stolen from those among them who are purportedly struggling daily to survive, living paycheck to paycheck, or having a hard time making ends meet. Irony is hardly lost here, however, where we find the latter typically carrying an expensive handbag or cellphone, cruising around town in a brand new vehicle. Interestingly, despite the many among them clamoring about their struggle, one scarcely finds any of them burglarizing grocery stores.
In still other cases, we find those struggling actors joining in "protests" burglarizing designer clothiers and electronics stores; ironically — or perhaps not so ironically, given an adequate understanding of their worldview — it is the socialists who are found mugging people and robbing their stores; it is the socialists who seek equality, not under the law but for their own personal advantage, through theft, violence and intimidation.
In any free market, however, it is the capitalist and the entrepreneur who must necessarily add value in any transaction to entice any person to willingly do business with them. It is the capitalist and the entrepreneur who invest in plant and equipment to enable their workers to gain in their productivity; and it is this gain in productivity, and the attending benefits that accompany a stable, and often safe, work environment which entice people to abandon their lives as individuals in order to accept the terms of their employment. In any free market, people are free to use, or to not use, their property; they are free to offer their labor or services, just as they are free to withhold them. In a free market, no one sacrifices any of these rights upon launching a business. Just as every worker is entitled to his wage and the total terms of his employment, so too is the employer entitled to retain the right to his property, which includes the revenue generated by that property and by the contracts negotiated upon the use of that property.
Socialists plainly have no interest in private property, which is to say that they have no interest in freedom. The right of private property is not just a benefit of freedom, but a necessary condition for it. Wherever this right is withheld, there is slavery. After all, wherever man is without the right to his property, or to the product of his labor, he is left without the right of self-ownership; and wherever man is said to not own himself, he is owned by someone else or, by the claims of the socialist, by his society. The only difference here, as it turns out, is one between a conspicuous form and another which is more abstract.
The socialists are everywhere armed with slogans and compassionate-sounding pleas, ranging from scaremongering, in the form of manmade climate change, to a false premise which contends that certain people are doomed to their stations in life, that there is no economic mobility, and that their only salvation can come in the form of government. Ironically — admittedly, the most clever of socialists understand this — these activities predictably result in only greater adversity, poverty and, in many cases, inequality. Conveniently for the socialists, this only bolsters their ranks as confusion and despondency leaves them desperately searching for quick fixes and easy solutions.
In truth, unfortunately, the socialist agenda destroys every aspect of human existence, beginning with its economic ramifications. In setting out to achieve nirvana, which proves everywhere elusive, the administration will invariably require prohibitively-high taxes and inflation which decelerate economic growth, which impair society’s ability to sustainably meet the proposed ends. In truth, as the author George Orwell once quipped, Leftists are motivated not by some love for the poor, but by their hatred for success.
A twisted form of envy and greed, they seek to pillage and plunder, to tear down society and any among them who’ve enjoyed any measure of success, to foment revolution. Under the banners of socialism and equality, they are more appropriately termed agents of violence and coercion. In seeking “equality” over freedom, the socialist, unwittingly or otherwise, prioritizes a kind of “equality” at the expense of prosperity and liberty.
Where society otherwise enjoys higher standards of living, the socialist, in most cases, insists that we dispense with it in favor of “equality”; in other cases, he even admits that equal suffering is preferable to the kind of prosperity that yields inequality. For the socialist, in this sense, it’s not important that the member of society have the opportunity to improve his lot in life, or that he enjoy a higher standard of living; on the contrary, the socialist prefers that every member of society be spared the agony of witnessing others with greater success.
So why do people still think that socialism is "progressive"? That’s the subject of the next point.
As Winston Churchill stated, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
Recent history demonstrates the ease with which clever politicians have successfully attached the label "socialism" to several causes. When considered seriously, they have virtually nothing to do with socialism. For example, human rights, welfare, environmentalism, and the end of poverty and racial prejudice, are initiatives often associated with socialism. However, these causes, as advertised, are generally unrelated, or merely incidental to, socialism, a kind of specious humbug designed to conceal its greater desire for economic control.
Whether a form of regulation, a series of subsidies, or the construction of forced labor camps, socialism ultimately seeks to broaden its control; of course, it has achieved this objective diplomatically and with pretense, scarcely admitting of its desired ends in its promise of benefits along the way. Whether central banking, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, subsidized housing, environmental or consumer protection, tariffs, price controls, taxes on income, property, wealth, capital gains or any transaction, the means are always justified by their higher ends; and those means, offset in theory by their motivations, invariably transform any civilization into one massive forced labor camp, where freedom goes virtually extinct as its subjects, one after another, lose their freedom to choose the form, frequency and purpose of their labor, shortly after they’ve conceded the product thereof.
Nevertheless, that sole objective, control, is always concealed by claims which purport to advance the “general welfare” or “common good” of the people. This is, perhaps, the most pernicious aspect of socialism: it is all too often appraised for its purported intentions instead of its predictable results. Socialism is either a fantastic dream, a palatable lie, or a great deceit, but it is not and never will be progressive.
Despite the compassionate packaging of socialism, it is effected only through force, democratic or otherwise. Ultimately, whatever the seemingly-virtuous or -noble ends, under socialism they are corrupted by the means. After all, the virtue of charity is found not in the regimentation of society, but in the voluntary will and compassion of individuals; the efficacy of charity is found there as well, as individuals are always better stewards of charity than any thoughtless system which seeks to replace them. As it turns out, through socialism, charity and compassion are gutted from society and replaced with the thoughtless and uncaring mechanics of tyranny, commonly corroborated on the surface by some agreeable "common good".
In his 1947 work The Mainspring of Human Progress, Henry Grady Weaver described socialism as follows:
“In line with the teachings of Marx, the proponents admit the necessity but argue that it is merely a temporary measure — that the dictatorship will automatically ‘wither away’ just as soon as things get going. They contend that history decrees this withering away, but the facts do not bear out this theory. In all history, there is no evidence of any dictatorship ever withering away. Dictatorship always feeds on itself. The ruthless tactics necessary to get it started becoming increasingly ruthless in the efforts to conceal the errors and defects of a scheme that can’t be made to work.”
Socialism can’t be made to work precisely because of three defects inherent to it. First is the incentive problem, the failure of socialism to incentivize production, saving and investment. This, in turn, stifles innovation and atrophies industry. This deficiency comes in the abandonment of private property and, just as importantly, the repurposing of labor and, above all, the meaning of life. This begs of socialism an answer to the question, what is the meaning of life? This is a question that socialism universally fails to address, as socialism assumes that the individual and the family are unimportant, dispensable for the welfare of society or the utopia they can nearly imagine. In their lust for utopia, however, they fall short of approximating the very real risks and the predictable consequence of any such design which rejects the sovereignty of man.
As Russian philosopher Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote in his 1864 novel Notes from Underground, “Shower upon him every earthly blessing, drown him in bliss so that nothing but bubbles would dance on the surface of his bliss, as on a sea... and even then every man, out of sheer ingratitude, sheer libel, would play you some loathsome trick. He would even risk his cakes and would deliberately desire the most fatal rubbish, the most uneconomical absurdity, simply to introduce into all this positive rationality his fatal fantastic element... simply in order to prove to himself that men still are men and not piano keys.”
After all, despite waxing poetic about designs for nirvana, all that man naturally desires is in his struggle for the benefit of himself and for that of his family. The socialist, or any collectivist by any other name, seeks to rewrite the human condition. In this, he seeks first to convince his unwitting subjects of another world order, something distinct from the natural course just described. Upon convincing his followers, he rearranges the ends they serve in their daily toil. Eventually, they turn on their newfound system, either for sport or upon finally recognizing the value of their former traditions.
As the German philosopher Frederic Nietzsche wrote in his 1901 work The Will to Power, “nihilism represents the ultimate logical conclusion of our great values and ideals — because we must experience nihilism before we can find out what value these ‘values’ really had.”
Socialism, or any collectivism for that matter, must first endeavor to denigrate and then destroy the existing power structure and every authority ruling over it. Whether a god or a set of traditions, the new order must abolish the old. For the purposes of socialism, this means the disintegration of the family and erasure of the individual. Karl Marx writes plainly of this in Fundamentals of a Critique of Political Economy: "Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand."
According to Marx, the individual is nothing more than a member of an economic class, basically irrelevant without his society or the relations within which he stands. According to Marx, society is not a macrocosm of the individual or the sum of individual decisions, but rather the expressed purpose of the individual, insofar as he is regarded as having any independent purpose or value at all.
According to Marx, or broadly any collectivist, it is the interest of society, however defined, which ought to limit the purpose and thence the labors of the individual. After all, it is the individual who poses the greatest threat to this kind of system. As H. L. Mencken once wrote, “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.”
It is not by accident or incident, but by deliberate design, that the individual is marginalized under socialism. Contrary to the interests of the individual or the family, it is the society that decides what is just and good. From this and upon the dissolution of the family, the individual and the doctrine of their faith, Marx premises his notions on the following: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Here, Marx makes no mention of free associations, ambitions, wants or desires; he makes no mention of any plausible method for determining ability or need. With this, and without any assessment of or regard to the purpose of life, Marx plainly surmises that society can plausibly be restructured in accordance with these subjective abilities and needs. In their rush to reject free enterprise and assume control over society, Marx and his fellow collectivists appoint themselves or their representatives to replace the knowledge of business and industry, as well as the calculated wisdom of the price system. This introduces the final two defects of socialism: the knowledge problem and the absence of prices. This brings us to the next and final point: the remedy.
Finally, in freedom and capitalism we find the remedy to the contagion. Capitalism, the economic arrangement whereby people own their property and the product of their labor, resolves the defects suffered under socialism.
Socialism advocates to place the means of production in the hands of the public, whereby it tends to land in the hands of self-serving bureaucrats and politicians. Capitalism, on the other hand, advocates to place the means of production in the hands of their rightful owners, whereby it tends to land in the hands of those who are most productive.
Under capitalism, the individual and his liberty are restored, as well as his ownership over his land, labor and capital. In this, we find that self-ownership is also restored. After all, can one claim to truly own himself where he doesn’t even own his land or the product of his labor?
Through the ownership of his land, labor and capital, incentive is also restored for the individual to work for himself and his family, precisely where that incentive naturally exists and belongs. As economist Milton Friedman put it, "Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property."
Capitalism harnesses the greed and the natural drive of the individual to succeed. Unlike socialism, which intends to change the reasons that people work, capitalism accepts their nature and the wisdom of the market. Through this, capitalism resolves the knowledge and calculation problems, all through the price system, as well as the inputs and decisions of countless numbers of businessmen and industries that no politician could even dream of replacing.
The beauty of capitalism is that the price system functions automatically, without any central authority requiring the knowledge or the wherewithal to coordinate land, labor and capital. Beyond the efficient coordination of resources, capitalism has expanded the reach and commerce of virtually all the countries of the world. Through prices and profits, it has succeeded in diminishing the influence of irrelevant factors and alerting business of failures in order to motivate change and redirect resources to more efficient and profitable uses.
Whether it’s rising prices during an emergency or natural disaster, alerting industry of some desperate need, or it’s a failing, irrelevant or oversaturated industry, prices, profits and losses will afford workers and investors invaluable insight into the value and efficiency of their work. Under socialism, devoid of this benefit, the workers can only await judgment by the ruling class, who can’t possibly ever know enough about the changes that need to be made.
On balance, the major differences between capitalism and socialism revolve around the role of the government and the nature of economics, which is to say the nature of man. Capitalism affords economic freedom, consumer choice, and economic growth. Socialism, which is an economy centrally planned and controlled by the state, advertises social welfare and strict controls over social, personal and business activity.
The advantages of capitalism include consumer choice and economic mobility, which afford individuals choice in consumption and occupation, and this choice leads to more competition and better, more affordable products and services. Capitalism also affords workers the opportunity to save and invest, to hold a stake in life as in business, leaving them responsible for themselves and to enjoy the fruits and costs of their labor, as well as their risks.
This contrasts with socialism, which dictates to subjects what will be produced and consumed, regardless of consumer wants and needs, and the very purpose of their existence. The biggest disadvantage of socialism is that it relies on the cooperative nature of humans to work for the benefit of other people whom they don’t even know. This ignores the true reason that people work, save and invest the fruits of their labor: not for the many, but for the few who comprise their homes and their families.
Socialism, often concealed by grandiose designs of "equality" and "general welfare", ignores that people within society are naturally competitive and focused on personal gain, not on any of the generic principles or nebulous abstractions desired by the socialist.
Capitalism, on the other hand, harnesses the greed inherent in all of us for the betterment of society, while socialism pretends it doesn't, or shouldn’t, exist. In rejecting greed, self-ownership, and self-determination, the socialist supports yet another form of oppression aptly termed slavery, granting the benefits of greed exclusively to a select elite. The modifying distinction between this form of slavery and the more familiar form is that socialism is shrouded by intellectual justifications and popular intentions. As a result, socialism enslaves the public to the “common good”; it eliminates choice, and with it quality; it fails to reward people for being entrepreneurial; and it denies people the unalienable rights with which Americans have long assumed that they are endowed. It struggles to innovate, as its subjects soon discover as they, like their counterparts of East Germany, inevitably flee to enjoy the enviable fruits of the freer and more innovative capitalistic society.
Simply put, the freest society will always be the most desirable, and the capitalist economy is not merely the only form compatible with that society, but they are mutual preconditions to one another: freedom is a necessary condition to capitalism, just as capitalism is a necessary condition to freedom.
As Henry Grady Weaver wrote in The Mainspring of Human Progress, “It is important to notice that trade — the exchange of material goods — is always an exercise of individual freedom. Production and trade are possible only to the extent that restraints upon personal freedom are absent.”
Incidentally, whereas socialism not only seeks to limit freedom, it must succeed in limiting freedom in order to endure; capitalism, on the other hand, operates exclusively from the protections of freedom, where one is free to enjoy freedom or otherwise free to leave. History shows that socialism, on the other hand, is a roach motel: once you've checked in, there's no checking out.
In this, the risk of socialism is found not only in the threats posed to freedom, but in the risk of having no alternative. The debate, then, is hardly academic, but rather one about whether any people anywhere should be free on this earth; not free from want or need, as the sophists might frame it, but free from government and oppression, free to choose, to associate, to enjoy the fruits of one’s own labor, and to define the terms of one’s own life.