By Mike Cronin
No doubt you’ve heard the word socialism being bandied about a lot lately. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is an avowed socialist. A recent poll shows that 36% of millenials favor socialism. And whys shouldn’t they? Free education! Free healthcare! Subsidized housing, food, & utilities! Socialism sounds really good. But it isn’t.
It might help if we have a common understanding of what socialism really is.
Simply, socialism is a political/economic theory where all property is owned “by the people.” What could be better than a place where all property is shared and nothing is owned? That’s the theory. In practice, It results in the state asserting primacy in all aspects of life and individuals having few, if any, rights. It is a form of collectivism – which means the group, or collective, is prioritized over the individual. Bee hives, ant colonies, and human “communes” are collectives. Under any form of collectivism, the majority can do away with the rights (and often lives) of the minority (of which the individual is the most basic element).
Collectivism/socialism comes in various forms, such as communism, which the Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics (USSR) subscribed to, and “Nationalsozialismus” (the German term for National SOCIALISM, from which the term “Nazi” is derived). Some might argue that the Nazis were in fact fascist, not socialist. Fascism was also the system of socialism that Mussolini oversaw in Italy. (The term fascism derives from the Latin term “fasces,” a bundle of sticks with an axe protruding from it. Fasces was the Roman symbol of power.)
Some political scientists argue that communism is on the political left, while fascism is on the right, as depicted in this graphic:
I argue that the only practical difference between communist variety of socialism practiced in Soviet Russia and the fascist-flavored socialism animating Nazi Germany and Italy was that the fascists gave lip service to the idea of private property rights – as long as the property was used at the direction of the state. There were no private property rights at all in the Soviet Union.
Whether people have no property rights at all, or have the “right” to own property in service to the state, is a distinction without a difference. Both systems had charismatic, murderous dictators in charge. Both systems had secret police, concentration camps, and mass murders. Both systems failed to create wealth; they could only steal it or destroy it. There was no freedom in either system.
Thus, a more accurate depiction of communism and fascism on the right-left political model would be to put them both on the left under socialism, with freedom and capitalism on the right. The diagram below is closer to the truth:
Consider that every country that has adopted any form of socialism has been degraded or destroyed in direct proportion to the degree of socialism it enacted. Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union. North Korea. Cuba. Venezuela.
China and Vietnam were once in the same boat, but both have attained some limited reversal from the crushing oppression the others experienced through adoption of limited free-market economic reforms. But make no mistake, the Chinese and Vietnamese people are not free.
Consider Karl Marx’s famous aphorism: “From each, according to his ability; to each according to his needs.” It sound so wonderful, but it glosses over the essential question: Who decides what your gifts and needs are? (Newsflash – it sure isn’t going to be you!) “From each, according to his ability” means that the state will extract every bit of use out of you that it can, and your desires are irrelevant. “To each, according to his needs” means that the state, not you, will determine what you need, and you will be lucky to get it.
So how bad is socialism? At it’s best, socialism creates resentment and dependency; at its worst the people living under socialist governments are slaves – the ones who survived mass murder.