The question arises with increasing frequency and alarm:

What’s with this rekindled love for socialism?

Socialism’s variants killed over a hundred million people last century, kept billions in poverty, and destroyed liberty and human dignity around the globe. As an ideology, it is both morally and practically bankrupt. It has been tried, and has failed, under every conceivable combination of circumstances.

And, yet, it’s making a resurgence in a nation whose core governmental document stands in opposition to its premises and effects.

Why?

Since socialism doesn’t stand up to dispassionate scrutiny, we are left with delving into human passions. And, for guidance, we can look at the “seven traits of man,” also known as the capital vices or seven deadly sins. These are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. While we typically consider these “sins” from a religious context, they serve to inform us of poor behaviors that extend well outside the context of religiosity and redemption.

In this list, I find four that speak directly to the appeal of socialism, an appeal which, in practice, overwhelmingly involves benefit for its advocates, either directly or in proxy form. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” is a maxim of Marxism, from which spawn all the variants that have plagued the planet. Pay attention to those repeating this mantra or pressing its precepts, and you’ll almost always find that they are either on the “to” side themselves, or that the people on the “to” side are people whose votes and loyalty they wish to secure. The coercive power of a big, socialistic, redistributive government is a superb means for making the “to” part happen.

Why would they want to take what others, either for themselves or those who they’re trying to buy?

Start with envy. We see someone who has more than we do. We can admire them, and model ourselves after the methods they used to garner that “more,” if we think that they’ve done so in admirable and honorable ways. Envy can motivate in a positive way… but then it’s not really called envy, is it? Envy involves some sort of resentment, some belief that what another has was garnered unjustly. Right there all the motivation a socialist needs to take the fruit of another’s labor, to rationalize away the reality that it’s mere theft. Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke recently stated that “I don’t know that anybody deserves to have a billion dollars,” as if merely saying so warrants taking it away.

Next, consider greed. Socialists high and low deride those who have “too much,” calling them greedy, but we often find that they are the greediest of all. Obama once famously quipped that “at some point, you’ve made enough money,” but that hasn’t stopped him from raking in millions in speaking engagements, book sales, and television production deals. The Internet loves to mock Bernie Sanders’ three houses. It-girl freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, mere months into her first term, is already whining about the withdrawal of a Congressional pay raise from a bill.

Greed can’t be naked, not if the greedy person is to sell it to others, so like envy, it’s always couched in highfalutin language and faux-noble concepts. This takes us to the next one, pride.

It takes a certain sort of arrogance to believe that one, or one’s proxies, can run other people’s lives better than they themselves can. It takes that same arrogance to ignore the century-plus of failures in central planning around the world to believe that one can get it right, this time. This is pride. Not the sort of pride that comes from individual success, from achieving a goal, making something of value with one’s own hands, learning a subject well, or any of the other forms of satisfaction at the result of one’s own efforts. No, it’s the hubris of believing one is better than everyone else, and that this being “better” justifies imposing one’s will on others.

Finally, there’s sloth. Success relies on many factors, including things outside one’s control (aka “luck”). But, at the core of it all is individual effort. Put in the work, and your chances for success are much, MUCH greater. Work is what creates wealth, work is how we advance our lives, work is the source of the good sort of pride that I wrote of above. Louis Pasteur told us “fortune favors the prepared.” Thomas Edison told us “genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Pele told us “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Ralph Lauren told us “a lot of hard work is hidden behind nice things.” Look deeply at a successful person, and you will overwhelmingly find a strong work ethic and a history of effort. But, if you’ve got the power to do so, it’s far more lucrative to take the fruit of another’s labor than to mirror that labor to produce your own. Voting people who promise to do that on your behalf is how socialism finds its way into ascendance, and it’s what ruins cultures and nations.

I recently had a long discussion about the origins of morality, a discussion that will produce a blog post in the near future. One of the matters that discussion illuminated is the near-universality of certain basic moral elements. Among those is societal animus towards theft, an animus that is almost certainly evolutionary in origin, since theft is corrosive to the tribal structures that improved an individual’s chance for survival (and thus, gene propagation). This animus toward theft is why there’s always so much masking and deflecting rhetoric layered over the blatant armed robbery that redistributive taxation is: people need some excuse to close their eyes to reality, in order to avoid the discomforts of cognitive dissonance.

This is why socialism is always wrapped up in language about “justice” and “fairness” and “deservedness.” We instinctively shy away from the behaviors tallied under the “seven traits of man,” and are repulsed by basic moral violations, such as murder, theft/robbery, perjury (aka false witness), and similar transgressions against our fellow humans. Justice and fairness appeal to our wiring, so the envious, greedy, prideful, and lazy thieves and power-seekers who peddle socialism need to pervert those concepts for their sinful pursuits. Like the apple in Eden, these sins are incredibly tempting. And, like The Great Deceiver, today’s socialists wrap these sins in a veneer of virtue to lure the gullible into supporting an ideology that should by any rational measure be buried under a mountain of historical rubble.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

0

Like this post?