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How to argue against Socialism.

Someone once wrote to ask a question jarring in its directness: How should we argue against Socialism? It is commonly supposed, of course, that the question of Socialism is a somewhat antique one. We’re past all that, you know; it’s so Eighties. But then one reads or hears something striking enough in its implications, that one is reminded that the issue is very far from settled. It is quite pressing — a menace, even, though it wears new disguises. So perhaps the reader will forgive me my presumption as I endeavor to advise my correspondent on the question of how to argue against Socialism.

To my mind, this is more an undertaking more suitable to the art of Rhetoric than to social science dialectic. It is not a matter of forensics applied to sociology and economics by the purely rational faculties of the mind. It is true enough that reason applied to evidence, in a social-scientific method, has demonstrated the falsity of the architecture of Socialism. Professors Hayek and von Mises did much of that work. But it seems to me that we are not going to repel this menace by statistics alone. Technical reason will not be enough.

Rhetoric — I must confess I am a great admirer of that noble discipline; a greater admirer still because it has fallen of late into such undeserved disrepute. But good rhetoric is always true rhetoric: it is sentiment inspired to vindicate a just cause. Indeed, I think that precisely the problem under examination here — the problem of Socialism — has a great deal do to with the discredit of Rhetoric as an art; and it must be a very real problem indeed if it has cast under suspicion the art whose champions go by names like Cicero, Burke and Lincoln. But the art of Rhetoric has fallen into disrepute because we have forgotten the principle propounded by Aristotle: that what makes a sophist is not his faculty but his moral purpose.

Our task is one for the true rhetorician, who, sensitive at all times that man is a dualistic creature, one that both reasons and feels, may discern paths by which persuasion can be effected. His target will not be man’s reason alone but his sentiment, not merely his head but his gut. His task of persuasion will be directed at the “chest,” as C. S. Lewis put it, the seat of magnanimity, the union of head and gut, “of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiment.” Head and heart in union, reason commanding the persuasive resources of emotion: this is a man in full. Richard Weaver wrote that Rhetoric is, indeed, one of the few arts that speaks to the whole man.

Thus we must aim by means of a true rhetoric to expose Socialism as an ideal, to remove from it the appeal to the emotions of idealism, the nobility of purpose which can so easily overawe the old earthy questions of practice, implementation, unintended consequence. We must expose the false rhetoric behind it, the conceit of the Socialists.

The urgency of this task should be clear to readers here. One of our national parties preaches Socialism, almost nakedly, and the other party can manage only a tepid resistance to it. We have one party which at all times tends, when faced with challenge or opportunity, to augment and enlarge the instruments of the State. That this party has made concessions and compromises with Capitalism does not diminish its essence, for indeed nothing is so certain as that Capitalist enterprises, individually or in groups, may combine with the State, may connive together with it at Socialism in certain sectors, industries, projects. It is an error, to my way of thinking, to suppose that Capitalism cannot coexist with Socialism: often there are strong alliances between firms and the State. In any case, America has a Socialist party and a Capitalist party, the latter of which is partially hamstrung by its acquiescence in the agenda of the former.

All this is merely to establish why I think Socialism is a real menace. We have one party that wants it, and another that can’t really get up the nerve to say no. So: How to argue against Socialism?


We must abolish the ideal of Socialism. Deprive it of the aura of Noble Ideal, which our intellectuals, in their folly, granted it, and it will whither. The power of the Socialist is his deceitful appeal to the assumed nobility of his ideal.

It will hardly matter to the Socialist Rhetorician that Socialism “doesn’t work,” for his concern is not with what works and what does not; rather, his concern to conjure ideals, sweet, intoxicating ideals, and project them onto a blank screen as it were, isolated from concrete history and daily life. His purpose is to summon castles in the sky, and from these deduce a grand sweeping, unreal critique, now implicit, now explicit, of reality. In this glow of unreality the critique appears unanswerable. Therefore he will point to those who go hungry, or those whose sickness could be but is not alleviated, or to any number of vivid privations — all with pressing implication that his system, Socialism, can end the privations. This is a cunning rhetorical device. He is not engaging in dialectics, in a learned discourse, a sober weighing of means and ends on the question of which philosophy ought to guide our political economy. He aims rather at stimulating our passionate but unguided sentiment; guilt, mostly. For him what is important is that our emotions are troubled, that we feel the bite of personal mortification in perceiving our own comfort and plenty in contrast to what other lack. And, since he is still, as yet, a merely hypothetical character, I feel no qualms about imputing to him motives of a baser sort. I say, then, that he aims to mislead our sentiment, and thereby subvert our reason.

The method of the Socialist Rhetorician, in fine, is to subtly force a decisive comparison between ideal and practice, namely, between the ideal of Socialism and the practice of Capitalism. He is the quintessential sophist of Aristotle’s dictum. His moral purpose is dubious because his rhetoric hinges on a deceit. He will not play fair; he is a cheat. He has put everything at the service of his politics, including any sense of honorable argumentation. Or maybe he no longer remembers what that is.

Anyway, the state of rhetoric in our day can be pretty well suggested by the fact that this simple principle of discrepancy must be repeated unceasingly. Actual Capitalism is confronted by a bright shiny imaginary ideal. The Inquisitor of Unreality approaches. The tangled mess of actual contemporary American medicine must compete with Free Health Care for All. The ever-human recklessness and greed of speculators is set against the image of the Perfectly Regulated Financial Sector. That a sophist can get away quite easily with an unaccountable shift or elision from ideal to reality, and back again, as often as is needful to his designs, tells us that men are not trained properly. Stable sentiment has not been cultivated in them sufficient enough to recognize and call out a dirty trick when it appears. Our Rhetoric is insufficient to the challenge of the promoters of a system with means our servility.

What I should like to recommend to my correspondent, who so boldly demanded how to argue against the Servile State which is Socialism, is this.

He should forget attacking Socialism because it doesn’t work (the politics of it), and begin attacking it on its own principles (the philosophy guiding it). Admittedly this is a greater burden on the intellect, but I believe my correspondent is up to the challenge. What he must demonstrate is that Socialism is evil even if it does what it says it will do; that to destroy the principle of private property is to amputate an irreplaceable part of what it means to be human, what it means to labor and create and be fruitful; in religious terms, that it is a heresy, an innovation that will annihilate, a revolt against the nature of man and the natural order of the world; in short, that it fails not because it doesn’t work, but rather it doesn’t work because it fails — fails utterly to reflect in any meaningful way the truth about Man and Society.

Comments (32)

One of our national parties preaches Socialism, almost nakedly, and the other party can manage only a tepid resistance to it.

Really? Really? You think Gramsci or Lukacs or Althusser would agree with this?

I find it utterly mindboggling that anyone would suggest the Democrats are "socialists." Our entire culture is utterly pervaded by consummerism; our entire globe is being bought up by corporations. The United States is, or at least Americans citizens are, at the forefront of this. The government of the United States is thoroughly status quo, which is to say, it is thoroughly immersed in the culture of late capitalism. And this includes the Democrats.

I suggest that one place to start that challenge in the context of health care (which seems to be hovering in the background of this excellent post) is to press a loud buzzer every time someone says "our dollars." "How can we most efficiently spend our health care dollars?" Buzz! Foul! This type of talk assumes that everything is already collectively owned, and that they, the Anointed, should have the apportioning of it according to what they consider a "rational" set of criteria. Which is *at least* as horrifying a prospect in the area of health care as in any other area of life. (Should we allow the Anointed to apportion "our" clothing dollars, "our" food dollars?)

I very much appreciate the act of calling a spade a grub hoe in this post. Good job, Paul!

[The Socialist's] purpose is to summon castles in the sky, and from these deduce a grand sweeping, unreal critique, now implicit, now explicit, of reality. In this glow of unreality the critique appears unanswerable.

The fact is that both parties in the United States condone some mixture of Capitalism and Socialism (the Republicans are not merely being dragged along), as do most parties in virtually every country, industrialized and developing.

At this point, to argue against Socialism is to argue against all successful economies. Or at the very least, to make a grand sweeping, unreal assessments while dreaming of some non-existent laissez-fair economy.

What A-gu is referring to is Globalist Corporate Capitalism. The Democrats love big government, the Republicans big business and finance. When they cooperate we get what we now have.

Fair enough gentlemen; but despite this convergence, Capitalism and Socialism are, in fact, different things; the one, moreover, immeasurably saner and more decent than the other.

Many thanks, Lydia. I had hoped you would like this one. And yes indeed: "universal" health care, being clearly in the offing, looms pretty large here. It is a menace.

And to my more romantic friends, whose loss of patience with Capitalism is quite understandable: The Socializing of medicine, the extinguishing of Free Enterprise in that field, over virtually all the Western world, would probably amount to the largest single advance for Socialism in many decades.

"We have one party which at all times tends, when faced with challenge or opportunity, to augment and enlarge the instruments of the State."

Actually the real difference seems to be a matter of priority. The ostensibly, pro-capitalist party prefers a military-industrial Leviathan over the social Welfare State, but will accommodate the latter to ensure the growth of the former.

Implicit in this post is that it easier to argue against Socialism, than for Capitalism. Private property is vital to human freedom and tilts any argument in capitalism's favor, but shouldn't we worry about the capitalist tendency, as least as America experiences it, to concentrate so much property in the hands of so few? Chesterton said it best;
"Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists."

"Our entire culture is utterly pervaded by consumerism; our entire globe is being bought up by corporations."

Socialist are just as materialistic as capitalists. Each regards economics as the alpha and omega of human existence. And each needs it commodity consumers, corporate entities and state-services clients to exist. The Servile State is a bi-partisan enterprise.

Implicit in this post is that it easier to argue against Socialism, than for Capitalism.

Not so; or at least I didn't intend any such implication.

I think you overstate things, Kevin. To me it is obvious that Socialism owes far more than Capitalism to gaunt materialism. The essential quality of Capitalism, human enterprise, is not materialistic simply. J R R Tolkien generated enormous capital, far beyond his wildest dreams, by the work of his creative mind. We even have, in attenuated form, his masterpiece to watch, in one prominent example of modern Capitalistic enterprise.

Paul, if I overstate, I think you too quick to claim Tolkien's achievement exclusive to capitalism. He might object since was a bit of a Romantic critic of the impersonal forces that emerge from capitalism and loathed it's power to trample smaller, local institutions and customs.

In fact, human enterprise of the artistic kind is not exactly flourishing under our current economic arrangement. Could it be that art has been so commodified that the artist is rendered infertile by the marketplace?

The problem in extolling the virtues of capitalism is the severe clash between theory and reality. Perhaps it doesn't work in a post-Christian society.

Poverty, ignorance, and bondage are not the exception in human history, they are the norm. Only rarely and with great difficulty have we ever extricated ourselves from their vice-like grip. When we do escape, it behooves us to ponder carefully how that escape was orchestrated, and how it might be reproduced for the sake of our fellows. By means of such careful reflection, we discover that the secret to sustained economic prosperity is nothing else but what Michael Novak labelled “democratic capitalism,” that happy combination of self-government under law coupled with an extensively unencumbered marketplace. No other political and economic system has been able to deliver political freedom and economic prosperity in anything like the lavish way democratic capitalism has produced them.

The proof is not hard to find. One need only look as far back as World War II to discern that the free market greatly outperforms the command economy in any and all of its partial or plenary manifestations. Japan, for example, was on the losing side the war effort and suffered nuclear destruction — twice. Its land area and population are both comparatively small. Its natural resources are significantly limited. Nevertheless, Japan’s economy and its standard of living far outstrip those of the now defunct Soviet Union, which, like Japan, suffered extensive damage during the war, but which, unlike Japan, did not rise from the ashes like a phoenix, despite the fact that it was on the winning side of the conflict, despite the fact that it was given all of Eastern Europe as a gift (a gift which its primitive economic system could neither sustain nor retain), and despite the fact that it has more people, more land and more natural resources than Japan.

A similar comparison could be made between North and South Korea, mainland China and either Hong Kong or Taiwan, East and West Germany (while they were divided), and India and South Africa (the largest and second largest examples of apartheid in the world). Both the production performance and the standard of living of First World free market economies consistently dwarf those of Second World socialist systems.

Even if one were to focus only on countries of the Third World, where the problem of poverty is most acute, the evidence is unambiguous: those nations that place greater reliance on the market process, such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, and South Korea, embarrass those nations that rely on state-directed production and consumption, such as India, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

One cannot attribute the unmatched Third World prosperity of free market nations to the foreign aid they have allegedly received from the West. Nor can one blame the backwardness of those nations that do not flourish on the lingering effects of colonialism. Some of the most well developed nations of the Third World are former colonies, like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, while some of the very poorest nations of the Third World, like Ethiopia, Nepal, Tibet, and Afghanistan, were never Western colonies at all. In fact, some of the wealthiest nations in the world, the United States, Canada, and Australia among them, are themselves former colonies. Furthermore, massive amounts of Western aid have been poured into countries that remain resolutely poor, like Kampuchea, Uganda, Pakistan, and Nigeria. They remain poor because most of the reasons for national poverty are domestic and systemic. Until the underdeveloped nations unleash the productive forces of the marketplace, they and the millions of poor whose wretched lot it is to live within their borders will continue in unrelenting want.

So, don't tell me socialism is to be credited with human prosperity. Socialism, and its big brother, communism, are the mortal enemy of human prosperity.

Or, if you think visually, not historically, simply go to Google Images and search for "Korea at night." See who lives in darkness -- of all sorts.

Michael,
The material advantages of capitalism are fairly evident. Beneath the surfcae, though lies real trouble. Like, the way the system acts as solvent against those human goods conservatives normally cherish. For instance, how do "traditional values" fare under a system that rewards and encourages consumption, mobility, novelty and a dangerous belief in the inevitable march of progress? Moral wisdom stresses limitations, not the multiplication of wants and needs. Conservatives often seem struck mute by this contradiction and unable to address it's other undesirable features. Such as the trend towards consolidation and centralization that marks it as much as it does the "command economy".

What is needed, is a honest, conservative critique of capitalism so it can be re-shaped by a Christian ethos and made more human in it's practice. As things now stand, capitalism appears more the adversary, than an ally to a sane social order. Neon is a poor substitute for Light.

Kevin,
I think you mischaracterize capitalism and its effects. My argument for saying so is made at length in George Gilder's book Wealth and Poverty, which, in my view, demonstrates the ways in which capitalist values are Christian values. Rather than repeat a book-length argument on a blog, I'd simply point to the book itself. By doing so I do not mean to sound dismissive of your point -- not at all. I'm simply deferring to the man who made the case first, best, and in detail.

Michael,
It's far easier to work up an enthusiam for capitalism, if one sees it in isolation from other aspects of society and daily life. A more integrated view is bound to reveal the market's corrosive effects. Thanks for the book tip. I expect Gilder to deny any cause and effect between our economic and cultural states, other than the assertion that the culture subverts the proper working of capitalism. I hope he knows the Invisible Hand is not the Holy Spirit!

He should forget attacking Socialism because it doesn’t work...

That person would be abandoning the best line of attack against socialism, when it is true, which is only some of the time.

At the end of the day, the American public is remarkably pragmatic about everything, but most especially economic issues. They want the marketplace to work, work safely, and provide tangible benefits for producers, consumers and stockholders. I don't believe the multitude of problems with health insurance coverage have currently reached the point of being a broken system, but it is trending hard in that direction. If the industry doesn't want to make itself obsolete, they should look towards providing practical solutions, like making all health insurance policies mobile, so employees could move to a new job without fear of losing their life savings. It would require more accounting on the part of employers and insurance agencies, but given the alternative it is a small price to pay.

For those who either aren't blogoholics or simply missed it, this entry is revised from one on Redstate.

Still, it's a great post on a great topic.

Socialism is a world view. Its adherents maintain a template which includes at least the following tenets:

  • The primacy of community over self results in increased average happiness
  • Government and society should be considered the same thing
  • Justice means 'social justice', the furtherance of which is the highest virtue
  • Equality means equality of outcome, not of opportunity
  • When there is inequality, there is injustice
  • When there is injustice, the government should act to fix it
  • Government action may not be able to fix every problem, but it must try
  • Virtue inheres to individuals urging government action if the goal of the action would be virtuous for an individual

The thing we must realize is that socialists don't see themselves as idealists, in the sense that they believe they are taking the dreamy but impractical ideas of Marx and transforming them into practical, efficient, and wise policies for today.

There is a certain overlap between the division of people into Preservers (lovers of order, tradition, stability) and Changers (challengers of status quo, aggrandizers and fixers of small wrongs), and the division of people into Individualists and Collectivists. The Changers want to change every institution that doesn't have perfect results. They assume that their new institution, or lack thereof, will be better for the change. Preservers would rather keep the old institution, for all its supposed faults, rather than introduce new, and probably even bigger faults, as well as losing the benefits of the old system.

I think I'll stop there.

I do believe that Thomas Sowell's _Vision of the Anointed_ is excellent here. And his term "the Anointed" is good rhetoric as well as an accurate description of the way such folks see themselves. He's right on the money when he talks about the fact that the Anointed see good intentions as sufficient excuse for a policy proposal. How often have we heard, "But we have to do _something_!" The idea being that "we" (which always means "government") is not only justified but required to find some policy that will "fix" a perceived "problem." Sowell talks about all of this extremely well. He contrasts the Vision of the Anointed with the Tragic Vision in a way that makes it impossible to miss seeing the Vision of the Anointed coming up again. As in the case of healthcare.

What astonishes me sometimes is the foolishness people will condone in the name of "doing something" to "fix" a system that is "broken." Do they honestly believe it makes sense to buy into whatever is proposed just because the people proposing it _say_ it is a "solution" to a perceived problem?

I appreciate the fact that I gave a practical, common sense solution the insurers themselves should be able to deduce. The insurance industry, by its own definition, is about pooling risk. Yet it is terribly afraid to risk its short term profit margin for the benefit of long term stability.

To respond to Loren's charges, very briefly:
A. That is a dilemma, since other conservatives around here are convinced the problem boils down to the autonomous individualism of liberals.
B. It is much more complicated than that. Government can be a driving force in social change, but more often than not public attitudes are changed first and become reflected by government.
C. Even if it is not the highest virtue, it is still a virtue.
D. Opportunity is partially related to outcome, unless it was a false opportunity. There has to be some way to gauge whether or not it was a legitimate opportunity being offered.
E. To the reasonable limits of individual talent, yes.
F. Only when the marketplace has failed to provide for the general welfare of the people, which is part of the American creed.
G. See above.
H. So when a conservative urges government action, it means what exactly?

Actually, Loren, it is a straight cross-post.

I think you too quick to claim Tolkien's achievement exclusive to capitalism.

Kevin: I hardly claim that Tolkien's achievement is "exclusive to capitalism." Indeed, profit motive or the accumulation of capital was probably among the farthest things from his mind in composing his great work. My point is more narrowly that we must account to Capitalism much of the credit for generating from this great work a truly enormous wealth.

It is interesting that Mr. Bauman mentions George Gilder. I would recommend his Wealth and Poverty as well. It certainly gives us a far more powerful image of the ideals of Capitalism; the ideal, for instance, of the creative man (Tolkien would say the sub-creative man), the inventor, the entrepreneur, as a true and good instance of human nature.

Socialists are always giving us their castles in the sky. Gilder gave us an alternative one, by the lights of which we may learn much about what it means to Be Fruitful.

Before going through the list, I must apologize, because it appears that my description of the socialist philosophy drew blood. I meant only to describe it, not vilify the individual components and those who ascribe to them. It is only evil, and a great evil it is, taken together. Also, I feel something is missing, but can't say exactly what. That said:

A. That is a dilemma, since other conservatives around here are convinced the problem boils down to the autonomous individualism of liberals.

But I'm not a conservative. Still, I see your point, which if I may restate it, is that the enforcment of societal mores on individuals (as social conservatives advocate) is much the same as enforcing economic equality as socialists do. Is that right? It's an ad hominem tu quoque, but deserves attention anyway.

There is a fundamental difference between enforcing morality and enforcing socialist economics. The first is saying that you *must not* kill someone, rape them, steal from them, or say things that harm their reputation, which are moral restraints put in to law. The second is mandating that some person *must* pay confiscatory taxes, or otherwise carry a greater burden because they have greater ability to pay, or they *must* enter a certain career (or sub-career, such as pediatrics over oncology).

One restricts the freedom to harm, the other enslaves.

As a moralizing libertarian myself, I would never argue that even wicked things consenting, sane adults do with one another should be illegal. But my beliefs are not at issue here, nor are those of social conservatives; it is socialism which is the topic.

B. It is much more complicated than that. Government can be a driving force in social change, but more often than not public attitudes are changed first and become reflected by government.

The socialists I've talked to argue that the government is society, and society government. We all are responsible for each other, and each action of one affects the other (they say).

C. Even if [the furtherance of social justice] is not the highest virtue, it is still a virtue.

You say. No two people being born alike, should we enforce equality by shortening all tall people or by lengthening the short ones? How about forced weight loss or weight gain, and so on through the list of human differences? We must all be equal, or there is injustice.

"But that is absurd", comes the reply. Is it? Where does sensible leveling of playing field stop and absurdity begin?

D. Opportunity is partially related to outcome, unless it was a false opportunity. There has to be some way to gauge whether or not it was a legitimate opportunity being offered.

You'll have to explain that one better. If one team loses, then the contest was rigged? I'm starting to understand Al Gore in 2000 a little better.

E. To the reasonable limits of individual talent, yes.

Justice is seeing that the same action taken by two individuals should have the same results. Effect must follow cause. It doesn't mean that if two individuals attempt the same action, they should achieve the same results, or I would become a pro golfer. (And I hate golf, because I fail at it.)

F. Only when the marketplace has failed to provide for the general welfare of the people, which is part of the American creed.

Oh, the creed. Promoting the "General Welfare" is GENERAL welfare, not universal welfare and not the welfare of this group or that. It is either a statement of generality, saying that the document it introduces aims to do something, or it is a tool by which any action having any goal which purports to embetter the country may be justified. There is no logical middle ground.

G. See above.

See above, then, too :-).

H. So when a conservative urges government action, it means what exactly?

Government action does not cause virtue to redound upon anyone. Robbing from the rich to give to the poor is not virtuous, though to hear the Barack Obamas of the world describe it, one might forget that no matter how much the poor are given by the government action, it is first and foremost stealing.

Now, I don't like the answer I just gave, but I'll leave it in place and try again. Individual virtues, such as honesty, integrity, liberality, and charity, don't map perfectly to government. In particular, earning money to buy your family bread is virtuous; voting to get it is not. All virtue requires giving up something of value to receive something of greater value, often risking both. With the government as middleman, there is no giving up of anything.

Sorry to take so much bandwidth, but even so, I was more brief than I would have liked.

Paul,
I think Tolkien, God bless his reactionary soul, would dissent from associating his art with capitalism. He might quip that while Alexander Solzynitzen's body of work arose in the U.S.S.R., it is not evidence of Marxism's creative energies.

You're right about the socialist's castle in the sky, but the capitalist vision of the acquisitive consumer dueling with his insatiable appetite is one that has lead to tragedy, often on a large scale.

I think the best way to repel the socialist threat is to lift economics from it's materialist plane by re-integrating it with the other disciplines of history, philosophy and theology. Merely circling the wagons around the status quo will only leave us defending a hideous hybrid called state capitalism or market socialism. Analyze capitalism and undertake those reforms that conform it as much as possible to the Christian understanding of man's fallen nature.

A site that takes it's name from Chesterton should do nothing less.

There is a fundamental difference between enforcing morality and enforcing socialist economics. Not really. Maximos has covered that ground fairly well, namely against free trade and open borders advocates.

One restricts the freedom to harm, the other enslaves. I know this was a post about rhetoric, but let's try not to water down the meaning of slavery too much.

We must all be equal, or there is injustice. No, it really is about equality of opportunity.

If one team loses, then the contest was rigged? If one team has players of similar talent and consistently loses by wide margins, it obviously is a rigged game.

Promoting the "General Welfare" is GENERAL welfare, not universal welfare and not the welfare of this group or that.
http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2006/10/tim_duy_in_defe.html

All virtue requires giving up something of value to receive something of greater value, often risking both. That is actually an interesting point. I think it places too much emphasis on virtue as a type of transaction, but it does have some merit to it.

Lydia:

To bandy analogies with you is a game I have lost before. I will try again today.

As in the case of healthcare.

Suppose that I propose that I will fix your car using nothing but my kitchen knives. Surely you will ignore me and go to your mechanic, instead. Suppose however that the mechanic replaces a whole assembly in your car and bills you 500 dollars, after which you find that your car is worse than before. So you take it to a second mechanic, who can find nothing wrong with the car. The third mechanic, instead of fixing the car, presses you to trade it in for a new model. The fourth keeps your car in the shop for a week, after which again the car does not work.

After enough of this abuse from the mechanics, sooner or later, you just might decide to try your luck on me and my kitchen knives.

What astonishes me sometimes is the foolishness people will condone in the name of "doing something" to "fix" a system that is "broken." Do they honestly believe it makes sense to buy into whatever is proposed just because the people proposing it _say_ it is a "solution" to a perceived problem?

The Democratic Congress brandishes the knives. The "car" is health care. If the Republican party has never seen the urgency to address the health care mess, then at what point are Americans justified in turning at last to the Democrats for answers?

HJH: If the Republican party has never seen the urgency to address the health care mess, then at what point are Americans justified in turning at last to the Democrats for answers?

Never.

HJH, it's more like the Democrats are brandishing several gallons of ice cream, which they propose to pour into my gas tank. _Something_ has to be done, right?

(I could get even more dramatic--dynamite, which they propose to blow up under my car. But the ice cream seems to me better rhetorically.)

I don't think I'll try that no matter how annoyed I get with the local mechanics.

"If the Republican party has never seen the urgency to address the health care mess..."

The Republican Party will accept nationalized medicine for three reasons;
1) many of it's non-pharmaceutical corporate donors would love to be relieved of the burden of providing healthcare coverage to their employees.
2) the moral high-ground is hard to hold when you're defending the scandalous executive compensation ruse that developed in the last 20 years, or the out-sourcing of jobs as the natural "workings of the marketplace".
3) the conservative movement has accepted many of the premises of the Managerial State and is intellectually and spiritually exhausted from the experience. It can only offer up a "cure is worse than the ailment" bromide that will not resonate with a public raised on the notion that every problem has a solution.

Without a vision the party will perish. Or, at least get thumped in the voting booth. Sometime in the wilderness might be good for it.

Q: If one team loses, then the contest was rigged?
A: If one team has players of similar talent and consistently loses by wide margins, it obviously is a rigged game.

Alternatively, if two teams play and one consistently loses, then either the game is rigged or the losing team is just not as good.

You may choose to apply that as a metaphor; I state it only as a logical inference.

I just found this site, and had to point out a few things.

Public education is one of the ten steps to Communism in the COmmunist Manifesto. So is centralized banking (the Federal Reserve).

I don't hear either side knocking these two systems. Socialized Health Care seems to be evil evil evil... yet two things right in the 10 steps to creating a Communist state... no one utters one word about them. Democrat or Republican.

Subsidies. They are NOT Free Market Capitalism. $280 Billion is going to farm subsidies and they are JUST AS SOCIALIST as government health care is. The next time you eat a steak, remember that the price of meat would be triple what it is today if we didn't subsidize farming. Most of the subsidies go to corn, soy, meat, wheat, and a few others. Coincidentally, if subsidies were removed, meat would skyrocket, but the price of grapes would not. Fruits and vegetables are not subsidized. So if we allowed the Market to run its course... poor people would eat healthier, and only the upper middle class and above would eat steaks every week. Which of course would cause a lot of class warfare and strife... which is exactly why both parties don't vote to end farm subsidies.

I don't see Bush talking about getting rid of farm subsidies, do you?

I don't see either side talking about how the government subsidizes the airline industry. Next time you take a trip on a plane, remember you are riding a 'Socialized' plane, not a Free Market or Capitalist plane. The price to ride a plane would triple of the government didn't intervene... and the US would have had bullet trains decades ago. This IS the reason that socialism doesn't work, and Free Markets do. Again though... think of this the next time you ride on a plane.

Price caps? The government capped insurance rates in Florida and other dangerous areas. If they did not, there would be no huge developments in areas like Miami... because insurance rates would be very high due to hurricane dangers. Do you own a house in a safe area? Your rates are higher than they should be - to cover the loss of what they cannot charge in dangerous areas. You are subsidizing those areas. If you own a house in Miami or some other similar area, think of your house as a Socialized House.

I could go on and on. America IS Socialized, we are NOT Free Market at all - other than removing import tariffs so that our big corporations can abuse slave labor in other countries. Myself, I wish we were a truly Free Market economy... but I wonder when I run into threads like this one: do people realize how different our lives would be if we were not Socialized? You would most likely not eat meat every day, or ride in a plane often, or own a house on the Florida coast...But then again, my taxes would be lower, my insurance rates would be lower, and I would have more money. That is a 'Fair Trade' in my book.

To Kevin: What would it take to prove you wrong about your view on socialism? Is it possible?

Socialism is the building block for communism. A real, communism has never emerged in human society. If China, Venezula, the Soviet Union etc didnt work, whats to say that a "real communism" will ever emerge? Down with Mao Zedong and Karl Marx.

A very interesting blog, and when taking the comments into account, there is a few very good points here. But as a Norwegian and a social democrat, I highly disagree with the statement that one party in the US has socialistic tendencies. The conservative parties in Norway, both the liberal parties and the most right wing parties all are considered to be far left of any american political party.

And I also highly appose the claim that a welfare state needs to be a socialist state. Norway is one of the best countries to live in, we have the highest life expectancy, highest income pr capita, have a highly educated population, one of the highest consumption power levels in the world and at the same time enjoy a high degree of freedom. At the same time, we have public health care, a public school system, public education, public elder care and public social security. Most people retire at 67 years old, with stately payed pension, Norway is also considered to be a very safe place to invest, and to be among the top 10 developed nations in the world. In addition, we currently have the highest employment rate in the world, with undeployment being under 2% of the able work force.

By the standards set in this article, we would be characterized as a socialist state. While I strongly agree that we are far from it, It also makes alot of the arguments to be pointless. The key factor is that private property is considered important in Norway, but taxes are considered a contribution. It is true that the state is viewed as a part of the community. My point is, Norway is factually not a communist state, but by the standards of this article it could be considered as one. At the same time: it WORKS. It's one of the best, if not the best place to live in terms of both quality of life and in terms of what opportunities you have. And no, the point is not to get everybody to be equal. The point is exactly to give everybody the same opportunity. The point is, the fact that your parents are rich doesn't grant you any better opportunity than the son or daughter of the poor folks down the street. You go to the same schools, universities and you both have the same doctors and hospitals. Basic human rights are provided to you, so that you can do what you are able to do with your life. As a result, we have a highly educated population. But even though are markeds are somewhat regulated, they are still very good to invest in.

There is a huge difference between a state economy, a free economy and a mixed economy. A mixed economy are far from a state economy, and that fact doesn't seem to be considered at all in this article.

And again, it doesn't address the core problem with the capitalist system and the free marked. The idea behind the free marked relies on competition, and that usually works out quite well. The problem however, is that someone is going to get ahead in the competition, and start buying out the others. The tenancy for a new marked is always to move from a lot of small companies, towards large corporations. And every time that happens, it goes out of hand. You rarely end up with monopolies, but it's not unusual for a handful of corporations to control an entire marked, resulting in stagnation of development. This issue is hardly addressed at all.

Another thing this article doesn't address, is that money is power. When schools, hospitals, social security funds and so forth are privatized, the power over them is given to the owners. Ideally, this power is regulated by consumption power (and it's important to remind the reader about the fact that consumption power is highly unevenly distributed), and that doesn't really matter at all when all you get to choose from are equally corrupted. Often, there is only one school in the area, you do not have a choice. You do not have any power over the decisions made at that school either, since the decisions are made for financial reasons.

The answer to all the problems in the world is not profit. It doesn't matter if the institution is owned by the state or by private hands as long as the goal is to maximize profits. Profit stagnates progress, as commercial interests often conflict with progress. Just ask yourself how many small firms with smarter ways of doing stuff have been bought and scrapped by larger corporations, loads.


As an American who has been living in highly corrupt and classist Chile for the last 3 years, I have found myself supporting socialism more and more. Or at least that's what I thought. The way you guys portray socialism is like a dictator communist state.

I believe that capitalism and socialism can exist at the same time... maybe not absolutely pure capitalism, because yes it does have the inherent flaw of one guy getting ahead and buying up everything else, causing stagnation in innovation.

Socialism, at least in my understanding of the word, is not giving out free stuff to people, and passing the tab to the rich, that's communism. Socialism, as I understand it is giving out free opportunity to everyone, and passing the tab to the rich people the also had opportunity. This assumes that if you take an opportunity, you will become rich, and have the money and gratitude to pass along the favor to the next generation.

When people demand equality, they're demanding what they want as a result, but not the means by which to achieve that result. To give poor people money just because they're poor is absurd. To give poor people the same chances that rich people have, the same tools for success as rich people, to reap every bit of brainpower from our society to advance ourselves doesn't seem so bad to me.

If you don't support the fact that everyone should have the same opportunity, you are effectively classing people into those who deserve, and those who dont deserve. Elitism, classism.

I really like the way that Fredrik describes the socialism of Norway. The socialism that most other people are bashing here is made by them to be more evil, in order for it to be easier to bash.

I have an open mind, and would love to hear logical, non-heated responses to my comment. I actually searched "the case against socialism" on google to hear REASON from its opponents, to make sure socialism is really what I believe it is, and really what I believe in.


P.S. You conservative oldies getting all ruffled about your pensions..... that's totally socialism. To be conservative with things that affect middle aged and younger people, but be liberal with things that affect you... that's just selfish. I totally do not believe in pension at all. Who says you deserve anything when you're old? By then you should have some savings to live on, if decide to stop contributing to the advancement of society through a typical job.

K Graz --

You are all over the place in your comment, but I'll try to compose a serviceable reply.

First, when you say "The way you guys portray socialism is like a dictator communist state. . . . I believe that capitalism and socialism can exist at the same time," I can only suppose you have referred to the comments more than the main post. For in the latter I myself wrote,

nothing is so certain as that Capitalist enterprises, individually or in groups, may combine with the State, may connive together with it at Socialism in certain sectors, industries, projects. It is an error, to my way of thinking, to suppose that Capitalism cannot coexist with Socialism: often there are strong alliances between firms and the State.

Your next comment falls precisely into the error which I have identified and analyzed in the main post:

Socialism, as I understand it is giving out free opportunity to everyone, and passing the tab to the rich people the also had opportunity. This assumes that if you take an opportunity, you will become rich, and have the money and gratitude to pass along the favor to the next generation.

Well isn't that nice. Socialism is just fairplay, generosity and sweet neighborliness. Opponents of Socialism are opponents of the best and nicest things. The old lullabies.

A moment later you supply a rather sharp rebuke, precisely, to the working-out of the system your pretty ideals defend: "To give poor people money just because they're poor is absurd." No, it's pretty much socialism. Are you at all aware of the very real corruption and lassitude and hauteur American welfare systems are cultivating?

Yet in the very next moment you're back to the pretty-shinys again: "To give poor people the same chances that rich people have, the same tools for success as rich people, to reap every bit of brainpower from our society to advance ourselves doesn't seem so bad to me."

Ah yes, it's all just that simple and sweet. Don't give them money; give them opportunity and chances and other abstractions. How it is even possible for two people, of any class, any town, any state, any country, to be "given" the "same chances," as if every life were not attended by irreducible peculiarities of fortune and circumstance, is the real absurdity.

I'll leave it at that for now. The questions of socialism in Norway, socialism in Chile, class structures and demographics and pensions I set aside in the expectation that a continuing conversation is unlikely.

Well, reading through these comments, it seems that there are may people who feel strongly about this, as they should. Now, I am not the smartest person around, but I am a thinker. My thoughts simply go like this,who is better, the government, or the individual? This seems to be the core at every issue. Can people effectively manage health care by themselves, or do they need a governmental agency to do it for them? Can people be trusted with firearms, or do they need a government to protect them? You can do that with virtually any issue. I believe though, if you would simply take a look at history, all societies collapse when their government gets too big for the people to support. Look at spain. Look at Rome. They all followed the same path, large government, higher taxes to pay for that, debt, and collapse. Now lets look at socialism, in every socialist society you have high taxes, high debt, and a huge draconian government. Now, before you start jumping up and down saying "The U.S. has a high government, high debt, and high taxes and it is supposed to be the epiphany of capitalism!" Let me tell you that the united states system is arguably closer to socialism now than capitalism, and is far, far removed from what the founders intended. Now if we look at socialism as a whole, we can conclude that it has never worked before, so it likely will never work again. Even if we narrow it down and look at basic socialist tenements (e.g. free healthcare) we can see that capitalism could serve the purpose far better. I would urge you simply to read history, and decide whether government is smarter than the individual, and if it is, why has big government never been truly effective before?

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