The Answer to Socialism
posted at 3:43 am on February 7, 2010 by Doctor Zero
American socialism has long functioned under the principle that a strong central government, lavishly funded by the middle and upper classes, should influence the economy in the name of “social justice,” and provide benefits to the lower class. The power and cost of the government have steadily increased – surging under the previous two Presidents, and exploding under the current one. Its financing has shifted to deficit spending and direct control through mandates and regulation, since endless tax increases became politically painful.
I believe this system is very close to total collapse. If nothing else triggers it, the explosive bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare will. The half-life of American socialism may now be measured in years, rather than decades. If we let it run its course and crash, its death throes will be unspeakably painful.
I don’t think our fate is sealed. Several quarters of weak economic performance have not erased the incredible potential of American industry. Technological development will bring new markets. The populace may seem lethargic now, but I think we’ll be surprised how fast the private sector leaps to its feet, once the government boot has been taken off its neck. What can we do, to begin turning things around?
Our challenge is not merely to win a few elections, or pass a bill here and there. We have to change the direction of a culture that has trended leftward, toward collectivism, through several generations. We have to move the center back to the center. This will require leadership, which we should seek out in the elections to come… but it also demands our involvement as individuals. A recent poll showed 36% of Americans, and 53% of Democrats, had a positive opinion of socialism. Our task is to understand why. This moment demands more than a critique of socialism, which is nothing less than a challenge to freedom, and requires an answer. Only by expressing the philosophy of conservatism, in powerful and memorable terms, can we win the popular support necessary to implement concrete proposals. This is a foundation to be laid in countless conversations, both online and around water coolers.
The appeal of socialism comes from more than just using money taken from the wealthy to buy the votes of the poor. It is also an expression of rage, from those who believe capitalism has treated them unfairly. Too many people seem quite willing to put up with a reduction in their modest standard of living, as long as they believe some faceless “fat cats” are getting soaked. Those who follow the bitter politics of envy should understand that every system of ordering human affairs produces both the rich and the poor. In our current situation, what cats are fatter than the political elite? As of 2008, two-thirds of our Senators were millionaires, and all of them enjoy lavish perks, incredible benefits, and gold-plated retirements, including plush lobbying and consulting jobs… when they’re unlucky enough to fall through the few holes in a 90% incumbent re-election safety net. Many of our representatives, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, live like royalty by abusing their power. Every nickel of a politician’s fortune comes directly from your pocket, without your willing consent to purchase products or services.
The lens of socialist envy is rather selective about which targets to focus upon. Its political allies are never presented to the public as object of hatred. Neither are those with enough popularity to insulate them from criticism, such as entertainers and professional athletes. Anyone who supports the Left out of hatred for the evil rich would benefit from considering a list of the fabulously wealthy people they have not been instructed to hate.
If there will always be people who grow rich and powerful through their ambitions, it’s much more sensible to embrace a free-market system, where ambition produces value. Government pursues its ambitions at the expense of its duties. Look at the miserable performance of the Obama Administration on national defense. It has no energy to spare for thankless tasks which promise no rewards of increased power and control. The more our President and Congress pursue their desires, the worse they become at meeting the simple obligations required of them by the Constitution.
Socialism is an object of romance from its devotees. It invites them to join an epic tale of mighty statesmen solving the problems of society with noble laws, and encourages them to turn their back on the small-minded pursuit of filthy money. The Left loves to talk about the pursuit of dreams as the highest human aspiration… and since everything it proposes is presented as a dream, how can any high-minded person raise grubby practical objections? In matters affecting the millions of lives, and the disposition of trillions of dollars, we cannot afford romantic notions. Only hard, cold logic is acceptable.
The truth is that money is not an evil toxic sludge, whose stain the Left works to scour from our souls. Money is the mechanism that allows you to spend your time doing what you’re best at – which produces wealth, the same way a lever amplifies muscle to move great weights. You spend the money you earn each day on a range of products you couldn’t possibly create for yourself. You probably couldn’t create a decent pair of shoes in the hours it takes you to earn enough money to purchase them. You definitely couldn’t cobble a computer system together from nothing but raw materials, in the time it takes you to earn a thousand dollars and buy one. This is the genesis of wealth: the freedom enjoyed by people when the value of their time can be measured and traded through currency.
Through the combination of progressive taxation and payroll withholding, socialism established the principle that government has the right to set the value of your time, along with first claim on it, taking your income before you even see it… and refunding the excess without interest, when it takes too much. Of course this reduces wealth and prosperity. Capitalism is the right to design your own dreams, and you’re much better at it than a gang of politicians scribbling incomprehensible legislation in a distant capitol. The behavioral freedoms socialists like to tout as indulgences are matters of the fleeting moment. The freedom to control your labor and property allow you to build your future. True prosperity is measured in things to come. Nothing is growing in a still photograph of a flower.
The orgy of deficit spending we’ve witnessed over the past year is an explicit judgment that America doesn’t have a future. Its unborn children will be handed the bill for the needs of today, plus a back-breaking load of interest. Allowing the national debt to equal our annual gross domestic product, as in President Obama’s staggering 2010 budget, means accepting the insult that America is too weak to stand without support from its grandchildren.
Follow the premise of socialism to its conclusion, and ask yourself why the government shouldn’t achieve 100% employment by conscripting every single citizen, and eliminate “social injustice” by providing for all of their needs. Why shouldn’t your income be paid in coupons, earmarked by the wise and benevolent State for food, medicine, housing, and leisure? The answer is that a command economy can’t produce value, allocate resources, or nourish the ambitions of its people with a fraction of capitalism’s vigor or efficiency. The value of government scrip could never equal the value of a dollar. Instead of helping its people realize their potential, a socialist government must invest an increasing amount of its energy into compelling their obedience. What capitalism hails as innovation, socialism punishes as impertinence.
To put this philosophy into action, we must return what government has taken to the private sector. We can begin by cracking down on outright fraud and waste. Citizens Against Government Waste has sniffed out over $19 billion in pure pork – money seized from some citizens to buy the votes of others. Medicare oozes $60 billion in fraud and waste. The Cato Institute recently created a web site dedicated to downsizing the government, which lists many more examples of redundant government programs and expensive incompetence. We should also insist, in a unified voice that shakes every seat in the House and Senate, that not one more dime of American taxpayer money will be sacrificed to the “climate change” fraud, and demand its domestic accomplices be prosecuted. The money recovered from cracking down on government waste should be immediately returned to the taxpayers, since it was seized under false pretenses.
We have to do more than just whip Big Government into fighting shape. We must begin devolving the functions of the federal government to the states. We don’t need rivers of tax money pouring into Washington, then trickling back to the states, polluted with frozen chunks of mandate. Let the states handle the financing for these functions… and let state politicians directly face those whose taxes pay for them. The national Congress places too much money in the hands of representatives most taxpayers will never have a chance to vote against.
Government-controlled industries should be privatized, beginning with education, which wastes a staggering amount of money on tragically poor performance… empowering a massive, politically-active union with interests hostile to most of the Americans who involuntarily supply its funding. Industries the government has painfully failed at running, such as Amtrak, should be handed off to private-sector businessmen who can make them work – or put them out of their misery. Ridiculous extravagances like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, whose services were already privatized years ago, should be eliminated at once. Sorry, liberals, but if we need to rack up a $14 trillion national debt, we certainly can’t afford to fund NPR and PBS any more. A government characterized by uncontrolled deficit spending has lost all moral and reasoned claims to run any business that could be tackled by the private sector. It shouldn’t be allowed to pour tax dollars into statist live-action role playing games like Americorps, either. Privatization is the only way to prevent the collapse of the unsustainable Social Security and Medicare entitlements.
Expensive corporate welfare programs should be eliminated, especially after the odious concept of tax-nourished companies becoming “too big to fail” has deformed our economy. An example of such a program is the $90 billion Advanced Technology Program, a sad attempt to emulate the Japanese model of government-sponsored corporate development, which already crashed and burned a decade ago. There’s no point in talking about privatizing industries when so many companies are stumbling around on the end of umbilical cords that lead back to the federal treasury.
In the longer term, we should scrap the bloated tax code shackling our productivity with thousands of incentives and penalties, and move to a flat tax – collected openly with regular tax statements, instead of allowing the IRS to pick workers’ pockets with payroll deductions. Taxing people at different rates based on their income level is immoral, as Constitutional rights should not dissipate with wealth. It also puts far too much money in the hands of politicians, and allows them to collect it with a club.
Are these radical ideas? They’re far more consistent with Hope and Change than anything proposed by the man who has no ideas beyond giving us more of the same, at triple the price. It’s long past time to try something truly different from the wheezy old machine we’ve been fueling with tax money for the past hundred years. Liberty is a radical concept… but it’s also a very old and traditional one for Americans. It has also defeated collectivism every single time they have been matched against each other. The answer to socialism is that government cannot solve any of the problems our society faces. Only free people have the strength and creativity to find those solutions.
Cross-posted at www.doczero.org.