Opinion | Liddick: Socialism is not the new black
On Your Right
One runs into the most obtuse stuff sometimes. And yes, I know that the internet can be a font of ten sorts of weirdness Salvador Dali couldn’t even imagine, but still: an argument about whether socialism or corruption is the real cause of Venezuela’s collapse? Stop, you’re killing me, here.
Most people who will take a few minutes to think about the question will get it. The answer isn’t “either/or.” It’s “both/and.” Utter, complete, corrosive venality and corruption pervades each and every state that holds itself out as a proud example of “socialism in our time.” This has been true from the days of the Paris Commune. It is true today. It will be true in the future. Consider that the former Workers’ Paradise struggled for more than 70 years to create the “New Soviet Man” and failed utterly. So did the social toilers of Mao’s anthill, who almost destroyed China in the bargain. The latter’s return to the world stage is a product of a unique mixture of controlled capitalism, an enormous and vastly expensive welfare state, a neo-Confucianist approach to social relations and absolute control over every aspect of a citizen’s existence. It is ethnic nationalism — a refutation, not a confirmation, of socialist doctrine.
As an aside, realize that “socialist” does not describe the states of Scandinavia, often used as examples of “Social Democracy.” These four all have very robust capitalist economies which fund expansive welfare systems enjoyed by small populations and defined by a thousand years of shared cultural identity. To insist that their unique experiment could be duplicated in a larger, more diverse state is something that even the French now question.
In contrast, between the former USSR and the present communist China we see all the major features of real socialism: unimaginable inefficiencies coupled with brutal authoritarianism and rampant corruption. Indeed, socialism is impossible without these, and corruption plays a prominent role from the beginning.
Ironically, today’s socialist promise seduces with a near-sociopathic self-interest. “Put me in power,” the socialist says, “I will take from those you despise and give you your heart’s desire.” Free college. Free health care. Free housing, free money, free everything. Which is a lie. In this world, no material good provided by another is “free.” A teacher will not teach for nothing, nor a doctor cure. They must either be paid to do so, or forced.
The simplistic formula always is take money from the wealthy and give it to the rest. The latter have done nothing to earn it but they want it, so the unstated calculation is that they will confer power on those who make that promise. This is bribery, plain and simple; and it is the foundational premise of every socialist dream from Bernie Sanders to Robert Francis O’Rourke.
After a socialist state is established there is perennial conflict both within the leadership and among the hangers-on, who engage in every corrupt practice known to make certain the state takes less from them than it gives. The leaders meanwhile squabble over control of the society’s resources for their own benefit, as extensively analyzed in Milovan Djilas’ “The New Class.”
In these circumstances, human initiative, inventiveness, trust, resilience, even hope, are ground to dust; in the former Soviet Union they were replaced by vodka, as men with advanced degrees sought jobs as loading-dock workers and truck drivers — not out of altruism, but because those positions offered the most opportunities for pilferage and thus, more than mere survival.
Eventually these societies fail; some in an orgy of self-mutilation and nihilistic destruction like one saw in Ceausescu’s Romania or at present in Maduro’s Venezuela. Others simply evaporate before one’s eyes, revealing the feudal power structure beneath the trappings of the modern state, as was the case in the USSR’s Russia. But they all fail, because they are built on lies.
Nothing is really “free,” because only a saint will work harder for others than for him or herself. Altruism is rare in humans, and utterly absent from the political class. Force is the first resort of most states, and the secret desire of every politician who maintains he or she is only trying to make things better for everyone by making changes that “everyone wants.” Most of us with the sense to breathe regularly know these things, or should. Examples are everywhere around us, and have been manifest throughout human history. So those who advocate for “socialism” today are arguing in the face of simple, but ample, evidence. They speak either out of willful ignorance, or are knowingly lying. One does not need to divine their motivation to understand they are wrong — but it might be illuminating.
Especially these days, when simple hatred might be driving the car off the cliff.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.
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