Defining socialism in the modern world

Here is the original story: Socialism is losing its stigma thanks to Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez as a MAJORITY of American women age 18-54 would prefer living in a socialist country to living in a capitalist country. That story was replied to here: 55% Of Women Prefer Socialism To Capitalism. Here’s Why They’re Wrong. But what is of particular interest is the list of attributes being sought in the socialist system these women are seeking to have introduced, in descending order of approval, from 76% for the first through to 52% for the tenth.

  1. Universal healthcare (76 percent)
  2. Tuition-free education (72 percent)
  3. Living wage (68 percent)
  4. State-controlled economy (66 percent)
  5. State control and regulation of private property (61 percent)
  6. High taxes for the rich (60 percent)
  7. State-controlled media and communication (57 percent)
  8. Strong environmental regulations (56 percent)
  9. High public spending (55 percent)
  10. Government “democratizes” private businesses—that is, gives workers control over them—to the greatest extent possible (52 percent)

“State-controlled economy” pretty well defines socialism with 66 percent signing up for whatever it might mean in practice. Goes very neatly with “State-controlled media and communication”. The full socialist box and dice.

Socialism may not be the answer but do socialists know that?

The reality is that you have to be kidding yourself if you think your standard issue modern leftist knows that. The video is taken from here. Watch it for yourself. If you understand why socialism is not the answer, then it is hard to fathom that people in bulk numbers can really be this insane, but they are.

So let me continue with this. 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, as he sees it, nothing more than an unfocused desire for better social welfare and a more egalitarian society. Well, maybe, but pay attention to the video. It is beyond ignorance and beyond stupidity. We are truly looking at a cult of some kind, but it is a cult that encompasses near half of the population. This was my reply to my friend.

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.

The aim is to replace capitalism with something else

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.

You cannot trust a party of the left with the management of an economy

From New Data Shows Absolute Economic Destruction During Obama Years. And these figures are not from some ratbag bunch of observers. This is where they are from:

The Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis just released this single snapshot of economic performance over the Obama years.

And what do the figures show:

Federal debt went through the roof as we added more debt than all other previous periods combined.
We printed lots of money to paper over the monetary effects.
Health costs went way up when we were told they would drop. Obama care was a flop.
Labor force participation went down as unemployment increased and many just dropped out of the workplace altogether.
Inequality went up and up, as the rich got richer and the middle class shrank.
Median income dropped.
Home ownership also fell way down.
Overall, Americans were far worse off than before and we were told there was NO hope.
The country was losing to China and our children and grandchildren would not live as well as their parents and grandparents had.
Jobs would never return.

Venezuela is all that parties of the left know since they know nothing about allowing a market economy to work. Politically totalitarians and economically socialists. Yet they are the almost-governments everywhere and are only stopped because the damage they create causes a backlash before they can go much farther. But eventually they return and carry their projects a little further along.

Nazis were socialists

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What amazes me more than anything is that I have never seen this picture before. You can easily understand that our modern socialists do not wish anyone to recall their ancestry but it is undeniable. The following text is from the introduction to Arnold Lunn’s 1939 Communism and Socialism: A Study in the Technique of Revolution. Here again we see that there was a time when it was perfectly well understood that Nazis and socialists shared the same ideology.

We are indebted to Soviet Russia not only for the horrors of Russian Communism, but for the example which Russia set and for the consequences of that example in other countries. The Nazi Gestapo is modelled on the Ogpu and the atrocities of Dachau rival the brutalities of the Russian penal camps. Socialism, which necessarily involves compulsion, cannot be imposed on a State without tyranny and terrorism, but neither tyranny nor terrorism are peculiar to Russia. Nazi Germany has not only adopted the incidental features of revolutionary Socialism, in Russia and elsewhere, but is approximating more and more in its economic structure to the Socialism of Soviet Russia. “While Germany has retained the outward forms of capitalism,” writes the well-known economist, Paul Einzig, “for all practical purposes her economic system is that of Bolshevism – the nationalistic brand of Bolshevism, it is true, but not the less Bolshevik for that.

“The owners of property,” Dr. Einzig insists, “are little more than paid managers of their own factories and landed estates. Their profits are strictly limited by the fixing of a maximum rate of dividends, by heavy taxation which is likely to increase, and by the ‘voluntary’ contributions to Winterhilfe. Their activities are surrounded by innumerable regulations and are subject to interference by various organs of the Government, by petty local party officials, and by workmen’s committees. They are ordered to sell their products at a fixed price, irrespective of whether it allows them a margin of profit. They are ordered to export at a loss, irrespective of whether they can recoup themselves by selling in the home market at a profit….

“One of the characteristics of the Communist system is that production is not dependent upon the working of the financial system, but on the amount of labour, raw material and industrial capacity available. This fundamental principle has been taken over in full by the German brand of Bolshevism.” (Lunn 1939: x-xi)

From Lunn, Arnold. 1939 Communism and Socialism: A Study in the Technique of Revolution. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.

I will also add this which was posted by some anonymous commenter on a different thread, but captures to perfection why every socialist denies that every single actual existing form of socialism is not real socialism.

The reason why Socialist ideology convinces impressionable people it would work is that it preys upon the narcissism of everyone by tricking them into believing their own personal vision of what socialism would look like is the vision that will in fact happen.

Since only one overall plan can be enforced however, each socialist sees something different happen in socialist experiments than what their own personal visions looked like.

Hence every socialist can then claim every past socialist experiment is not real socialism, which doubles as an excuse for them all to keep rabble rousing for more socialist experiments…

Until they each see their respective personal visions realized…

Which requires each of them to be the dictator to enforce their vision…

But only one plan can be implemented…

One party or one person “wins”.

Then every other socialist begins to hate that socialist and claim not real socialism because it wasn’t their personal vision for socialism…

So socialism naturally becomes a fight to the death for whose plan is to be enforced…

Which is why all socialist experiments have been totalitarian nightmares of socialists killing other socialists…

And at the same time they all keep thinking real socialism never existed…

There is a lesson there but only if you can understand it

The analogy is not perfect. Socialists do not want to kill you, it just sometimes happens that they do. It is often the only way to keep the power they were given by offering free things to people who, based on these promises, allow them to take the reins of government.

People’s lives are then plunged into darkness because they took the word of political leaders who offered them what cannot possibly be afforded, who had no means to deliver on their promises.

No socialist will ever solve a single one of your economic problems. They will inevitably make the ones you have worse than they were before while adding new ones onto the old.

Are there degrees of ‘socialism’?

I had a brief query from a friend the other day:

This is probably a red-herring but I did wonder if there are degrees of ‘socialism’ in which some degree of government ownership and control of the means of production is acceptable but with private sector ownership and incentives the dominant force. I’m thinking of the so-called ‘mixed’ economy concept.

Here in NZ we are having a debate about how we should frame objectives for the economy, with a shift away from a predominant focus on growth (in GDP) towards a ‘well-being’ framework (currently being developed by the NZ Treasury. I don’t think most economists are persuaded by this but it’s politically appealing because it appears to offer more emphasis on distributional fairness and the environment.

Well, I do go on a bit, but the question is an interesting one and important. My reply, off the top of my head, but more consideration still needed.

Interesting issue since everyone who now declares themselves a socialist doesn’t define socialism in the same way. There are plenty of “socialists” who think socialism is a heavy duty form of the welfare state. It’s fantastically costly, and in rich economies like ours, we typically allow plenty of free riding which will eventually have to be paid for one way or another. We are ruining ourselves because we think we are richer than we are, to subsidise plenty of people who ought to be contributing to their own upkeep. But once you get into the various forms of attempting to create greater equality, you are in an endless spiral since you can never create enough of it since there are always going to be income differences, many of which have no cosmic justification but just are what they are.

We already do an incredible amount of redistribution from those with high incomes to those with lower incomes. But if you take from some who earn high incomes they will provide less output to the common pool. And funny enough, if you give to people with lower incomes, they too will provide less to the common pool. Very destructive of an economy based on personal incomes related to one’s own contribution to the total. In a bygone era, most individuals felt a responsibility to remain as productive as possible for as long as possible, so we invented a system of welfare to assist those who fell by the wayside. Now there are so many who sit by the wayside picking up whatever they can, and this is now made much much worse by the increasing numbers who never intend to contribute anything but intend to be subsidised merely for existing. You can call that socialism if you like. It is immensely destructive, but since we have so much productive capital to run through it may take a while before we really notice. By then, alas, it will be too late. An inbred lack of industriousness in the midst of a crumbling economic structure is what you have right now in California which has more people on welfare proportionately than any other American state. And as rich as they are, it will not survive another decade before some kind of collapse overtakes them. Already the productive are escaping to other states. Unfortunately they are taking their welfare mentality with them.

As for the more traditional forms of socialism, virtually no government now seeks to take over the commanding heights of the economy, other than idiots like in Venezuela. There it took around a decade for the full horror to manifest itself, but now that it has, everyone has backed off from that version, at least for the time being. The version we are in the midst of is what I think of as the “crony capitalist” version, which is based on governments squeezing the last dollar of tax revenue, plus whatever they can extort from their central bank money creation process, to direct spending in a politically advantageous direction. Australia is at the start of a fall in living standards that is in large part based on the notion that all public spending adds to demand and therefore is positive. Which is augmented here by a superstitious belief that bringing in many many migrants makes the economy rich because we have to build infrastructure and housing for them to live in. Quite insane, but if you really think economies are driven by C+I+G, you cannot see the problem until the economy finally does fall apart and even then won’t understand the problem although it will be right before their eyes. The RBA and Treasury keep expecting the economy to turn around, and are ever-amazed when it does not.

Socialist anti-semites

Racist anti-semitic socialists. Lots of people once thought being a Nazi was the height of political sense. Now they are often just called Democrats. That cover was published by Rolling Stone which is designed to appeal to those who are in and with it.

Just so you know who we are dealing with:

1) Rep. Ilhan Omar: Anti-Semitic to the Bone.

Rep. Ilhan Omar is once again under fire for using an anti-Semitic trope about the “dual loyalty” of supporters of Israel.

It’s beginning to look like her anti-Semitism is embedded so deeply that she has no conscious thought about Israel and Jews that doesn’t drip with Jew-hatred.

2) After years of infighting, the Democrats may finally have found an environmental consensus in the Green New Deal. From The Atlantic in an article that supports AOC and details her green agenda. Every bit of what they support requires total control of not just the economy but the whole of society.

I have no idea whether the Green New Deal will result in a federal climate law two or five or 10 years from now. The proposal clearly has momentum on the left. Since early November, I’ve seen the Green New Deal talked about as a story of Democrats in disarray, or as another example of the party’s turn toward socialism. Both analyses miss the mark. The Green New Deal is one of the most interesting—and strategic—left-wing policy interventions from the Democratic Party in years.

3) Rep. Tlaib Blows Up Cohen Hearing: It Was a ‘Racist Act’ for a Republican to Bring a Black ‘Prop’. Vile from head to toe, Tlaib goes beyond merely anti-semitic.

During today’s House Oversight Committee’s interrogation of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, Tlaib suggested that Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is a racist for bringing a black “prop” to the hearing [that is, she described Meadows’ black advisor as tokenism and only there to provide cover for the Republicans].

There is also a rundown here: Pelosi/Schumer Protect Jew Haters in Congress.

You think such sickening mindsets and policies cannot gather a majority? Nazis and socialists don’t get to take over because they promise to ruin the countries they are governing. They do, of course, and that is inevitable with socialism, but in the meantime there are a lot of lessons that get to be learned the hard way. Look at the picture from the cover of Rolling Stone and then compare them with this video of all the young, idealistic Nazis of the 1930s.

Socialism: promising prosperity but delivering poverty

“Need to put pencil to paper to tell what it will do to the economy.”

More here: Larry Kudlow: ‘We Have to Put Socialism on Trial’. But the point made is that no matter how good things are no one is fully satisfied. There is always a struggle and there are always others doing better than we are. Envy and dissatisfaction are everywhere and universal.

If logic worked, there would no longer be a single socialist in the world. So why are they still there and growing in number? Irrationality is rife, and there are many in the world who to advance themselves see leading the masses as their only way to power and wealth.

At the centre are the entrepreneurs who guide the individual units of a capitalist economy through their moment-by-moment attendance to the businesses they run. This is a passage about Tolstoy in an article on the novel that has great relevance:

In one essay, he retold a story about the Russian painter Bryullov, who corrected a student’s sketch. “Why you only touched it a tiny bit,” the student exclaimed, “but it is a completely different thing.” Bryullov replied, “Art begins where that ‘tiny bit’ begins.” Tolstoy elaborates:

That saying is strikingly true not only of art but of all life. One may say that true life begins where the tiny bit begins—where what seem to us minute and infinitely small alterations take place. True life is not lived where great external changes take place—where people move about, clash, fight, and slay one another—it is lived only where these tiny, tiny, infinitesimally small changes occur.

“All of life” includes the lives of those who run a business. Socialists argue that a central plan can replace the individual attendance of those who own, run, manage and earn an income from running a firm. But there, too, each of those “tiny bits” affects the whole. That is also part of why socialism must fail.

What is capitalism?

There is an interesting thread at Powerline on the question What is socialism? The central aim of socialism has always been to rid ourselves of the capitalist system. And what, exactly, do these socialists wish to get rid of? Certainly not the phenomenal flow of goods and services that a capitalist economy provides. If socialists promise anything, they promise that there will be even more for everyone, so it’s not getting rid of the bounty that a properly managed economy brings that they seek.

What the actual aim of socialists has always been is to get rid of the capitalists. But why the wish to rid ourselves of the capitalists who open, own and run the businesses that create the goods and services we consume? Why the resentment against the very people who make this abundance possible? That is the issue, and it is at the heart of the divide between the socialists on the one side and those who support the market mechanism and free enterprise on the other.

Why do socialists see no role for the entrepreneurial class? This is a true puzzle since no socialist has any idea how to run an economy from which capitalists have been removed. No socialist economy, in which its capitalists have been discarded, has ever succeeded. Every such economy has been immediately plunged into poverty. Every economy without an entrepreneurial class of independent individuals to run its businesses, to produce and sell inputs to each other, and to sell consumer goods to everyone, has become impoverished. All this is known with a perfect certainty, yet socialism retains an allure that large proportions in every market economy are unable to resist. Against all the evidence of more than a century of socialist experimentation, there is still somehow the belief that you can replace capitalism with a socialist system and maintain living standards. Some people really do not learn from history.

As a first approximation, the problem that capitalism leads to is the wealth earned by those who have no obvious merit and desert to those who wish to see the market system replaced. Why can’t the government do exactly what the owner of a business does, and without having to receive such a large amount of money.

The owner of a business will typically make far less than any number of star athletes. But those athletes have a demonstrable skill that most people do not have, allowing them to excel at whatever particular sport they play. Everyone can see it, few others can do the same, so there is no resentment at the millions athletes are paid.

Same again for rock stars and actors. Everyone can see what they do, and admire their ability, fame and celebrity. The same in a way goes for doctors, who may be neither famous nor celebrated, but have a skill set everyone depends on and are willing to see rewarded for what they do.

Let us look even more closely at these categories. Whether one becomes a sports star or entertainer, there is an apprenticeship through which their in-born talents are developed. But whatever talent these people have cannot be distributed to others. A football player’s stock in trade is playing football. An actor’s skill is in acting. The skill that has made them wealthy and famous cannot be spread through the entire population. They are just what they are and are unique to the individual.

But those who own, run and manage businesses have no obvious talent visible to the vast bulk of the population who understand little of what is required to run a successful business. Few appreciate it. Many think they could have done the same had they made the effort. And anyway, why should someone own and control millions of dollars worth of assets, even if they did accumulate all of it themselves by building a profitable enterprise?

But there is even more to this resentment than just this. It is the “intellectual” classes – the media, public sector and academia – who are peopled by individuals who had done best in school, who had graduated at the top of their class. Here they are, the smartest people in the country, yet earn ordinary incomes. Meanwhile, these business morons, who couldn’t finish a sudoku, or have no idea who Foucault was or what he wrote, here they are earning large incomes running a factory making bricks or producing shoes.

Capitalism is an ingrained feature of a political system that prizes freedom, in which each of us makes decisions for ourselves about many things in our own lives, which includes how we will earn our incomes. Some individuals will decide to earn those incomes by running a business.

Socialism in contrast is a system where the people who got the highest marks at school think they will make those business decisions instead, even though they are often the first to be put up against the wall.

Capitalism is a system in which those who run businesses have to go through the same process in getting to the top as do athletes, by overcoming the enormous competition of others to achieve their goals by being the best at what they do.

Socialism is instead a system in which the non-talented, without any of the necessary gifts for management, get to run our economies because so many others resent the incomes received by the people who are able to run profitable businesses.

Capitalism is how an economy runs if no one is running it. People just get on and produce, sell and buy.

This is what socialism is: replacing the owners of businesses, either with managers employed by the state, or with government-appointed overseers who direct what the business should do.

In all of the different variants on a socialist system, there is a central plan that each of the state managers must follow. No one in an enterprise reacts to the market, that is, to the demands of people who wish to buy the product, or to changes in the structure of supply. They just follow the plan as best they can.

The people who formulate these plans have no means to make the system work, although they think they do. But by the time everyone, including themselves find out how useless they are at running an economy, they are entrenched behind a row of guns and cannot be removed.

Here is an observation from the Powerline comments thread that captures important parts of these issues.

In its most basic sense, “socialism” is CONTROL. Control of the economy, control of society, control of YOU. This is the basic nature of all modern “socialisms” – communism, fascism, progressivism, liberalism. Socialism is the enemy not of “capitalism” – that’s just a Marxist label – but of free markets, a free society, a free people. But it’s worse than just control; it’s invariably very poor control. It doesn’t work. Nobody’s smart enough to dictate every aspect of an efficient economy, and nobody’s honest enough to be trusted to even try. But, poor quality or not, the surveillance and control/police state are vital components of any socialist system; it can’t even theoretically work without control.

Socialists will be our ruin.