I have been sent an article from a friend in New Zealand – Why Call it “Socialism”? – which opens in the following way.
I’ve been coming around to the belief that most modern arguments over “socialism” are a waste of time, because the content of the term has become so nebulous. When you drill down a bit, a lot of “socialists” are really just saying that they would like to have government play a more active role in providing various benefits to workers and the poor, along with additional environmental protection.
Socialism is thus a desire for better social welfare and a more egalitarian society. Well, maybe. This was my reply.
Thank you for that. Very interesting, and yet, and yet…. Socialism is a personal belief system that has no specific definition. Everyone makes up their own version so whenever some actually existing socialist economy is set up and then inevitably fails, everyone else can say that what they did was not what they had meant by socialism, that what was done was not what they had had in mind.
No one any longer describes what they believe in as “socialism” but I know it when I see it. It is ever and always a means to supplant the market through some kind of government direction in which individuals are not made responsible for their own personal welfare. Instead, governments manage and direct major economic entities; there are huge burdens placed on enterprises, through the taxes that are levied, the wages and benefits they are made to provide, and the regulations that they are made to follow; and there are huge amounts of public expenditures, almost inevitably more costly than the economic benefits they provide, that shape the direction in which an economy is made to follow. There are then large efforts to equalise incomes between those who provide more value than they are paid and those who either do not work or who are allowed to receive incomes well above the value added they have personally created. There are other features too, but you get the picture. The incentive structure is completely warped so that economic returns are very badly correlated with economic contribution.
And with every turn of the electoral cycle, we move further in a socialist direction. Scott Morrison is hardly a free-market capitalist, but he is well ahead of anyone on the Labor side. Your own PM is a complete economic dunce who will do you in if she is given half a chance. Everyone wants to be Mr, Miss, Ms and Mrs Niceperson. I only wish they had some prior understanding of how economies work before they bought in on it.
There you are. Interesting article, but economists turn out to have no political or philosophical sense whatsoever.
I would be placated to some extent if everyone before they waded in on the need for more regulation and re-distribution first explicitly stated that of course, free market capitalism is the only way to manage an economy so these suggestions are only intended to slightly alter the way we go about things. But no one ever says that. Replacing capitalism with something else is the underlying aim, or so it seems to me. There are so many gadgets around, from computers to widescreen television, that everyone will be easily lulled into disaster as in Venezuela with no way out at the end. And none of it will be mentioned by our media who are more into an apathetic torpor than anyone in Orwell’s time could ever possibly have imagined.