Socialism and what’s wrong with it

Margaret Thatcher. Kerry Ludka should think about what she said about other people's money.
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The collapse of Obamacare has begun. None could have predicted it would collapse so soon. Yet collapse it is. Why is it collapsing? Because it is a form of socialism. And socialism always collapses. Many people in America today do one of two things: deny that fact, or lament it. They should do neither. The only lamentable fact about the collapse of socialism is that socialism ever existed.

What is socialism?

Merriam-Webster defines socialism as:

a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies.

The problem: Merriam-Webster defines socialism imprecisely. What makes an industry major or minor? Who decides that? In fact, no one has.

Another problem: Merriam-Webster defines socialism incompletely. The reason: they ignore the roots of the word.

Socialism comes from the Latin socius. Which means: “pal.” The notion behind socialism is: no one should have to rely only one oneself. We’re all pals. We’re all in this together. Pals look out for each other. So socialism also includes any system of forced charity from some for the unearned, unpaid benefit of others.

One cannot in fact define socialism without referring to communism and capitalism:

  • Communism is a way of organizing a society in which the government runs everything, employs everyone, and doles out a ration according to its own rules.
  • Capitalism is a way of not organizing a society (except to manage force to protect people’s rights), but to let people run their own affairs and make their own voluntary arrangements.
  • Socialism is any way of organizing a society, between communism and capitalism.

Why does socialism collapse?

Margaret Thatcher understood the evil, and the unworkability, of socialism

Baroness Margaret Thatcher touring the Kennedy Space Center. Photo: NASA

Socialism collapses for the reason Margaret Thatcher gave to Llew Gardner of Thames TV in 1976:

Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.

Why “other people’s”? Because socialism always asks “the other guy” to pay for something. It never asks those who get the benefit to pay for it.

Margaret Thatcher inherited more than a society in which the government ran the railroads, owned “flats” (as they call them in Britain), and ran the hospitals. She also inherited a dole that removed any incentive by anyone to improve his lot.

And what of those who did have to pay for all this? They did the only sensible thing: they left. Economists express this in two ways. To be technical, they call it “human capital flight.” To be pithy, as Bill O’Reilly might appreciate, they call it “brain drain.”

That’s why socialist governments run out of other people’s money. Because the other guy always takes his money and runs while he still has any money left.

Those who want socialism always complain about such people. “Spoilsports!” they cry. “They take their marbles and go home!” But of course. Who, losing the game many times over, wouldn’t quit the game?

For that is what socialism becomes: a zero-sum game. Maybe nine people win, and one loses. Until that one loser quits the game. Then eight people win, and one loses, until he quits.

Eventually the last moocher has no one to mooch from. And so he starves. Because no one dared correct his behavior or his attitude. Socialism caters to it. And that’s why socialism must always collapse, sooner or later.

Why should socialism collapse?

But what, say some, is wrong with socialism?

A commenter on another site, where I also published an earlier article, complained thus:

I would really like to hear some kind of response to my statement about those who are determined to destroy critically important programs or initiatives that help so many millions of Americans. I want to know why so many want to destroy instead of wanting to fix; to destroy instead of addressing problems and coming up with better ways and solutions ; to destroy instead of coming up with new, more effective ways to address the problem or issue at hand. Why is there so much of an obsession for wanting to destroy. I understand the frustration with this current dysfunctional, wasteful, bloated government but this is not the way to fix the situation. It’s only going to make things worse.

Destroy, destroy, destroy, he says. Well, hey: why should not a slave in revolt seek to destroy the system that enslaved him?

Slave? Yes. For a slave is any person who, against his will, must give his labor, or any part of it, for the benefit of another, because someone forced him to.

Yes, indeed. We must destroy socialism if we are to be free. For socialism is a form of theft.

When socialism becomes “critically important,” some must also be slaves to others. Who decides that?

When socialism collapses, repairing it is like repairing a broken chain. You don’t repair a broken chain. You destroy it.

To destroy socialism is to address both the problem it purports to address, and the problem it creates.

And the only new, more effective way to address the problem or issue at hand, is to let human beings deliver goods or services by voluntary consent.

Civilization began with socialism and its extreme form, communism. Will Durant (The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage) put it this way:

Communism, though it could help men cope with poverty, could never get men out of that poverty.

Will Durant recognized: as Jesus says, we always have the poor with us. But we have fewer of them under capitalism than under socialism. Capitalism is a recent invention, that necessarily came with liberty. Who knew that men could deliver goods and services without a government administrator to order them about? Adam Smith knew.

And those who want to be free, are obsessed (and compelled, a related condition) to live free and stay free. If that means destroying that which enslaves them, so be it.

Because socialism cannot accommodate the most basic right of any rational being: to exist. One having a right to exist, is not obliged to help others as a condition of existing. That one thing, no socialist will understand.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

22 Responses to Socialism and what’s wrong with it

  1. Fergus Mason says:

    “Margaret Thatcher inherited more than a society in which the government ran the railroads, owned “flats” (as they call them in Britain), and ran the hospitals.”

    You know that Baroness Thatcher massively increased spending on the National Health Service, right? She didn’t regard proper health care as socialism. Outside a small sector of the American Right nobody else does either.

  2. Fergus Mason says:

    “Socialism is any way of organizing a society, between communism and capitalism.”

    No. It isn’t.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Some people like to define socialism very narrowly. As I illustrated. But I do not.

  3. Fergus Mason says:

    “Some people like to define socialism very narrowly.”

    Yes. That’s because it has a narrow definition. It doesn’t mean “anything I don’t like.”

  4. Fergus Mason says:

    “She compromised.”

    Erm no. She wasn’t actually well known for compromising. She just invested in the health service. All governments do that.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      All the governments you know, do that. That doesn’t make that investment sound.

  5. Fergus Mason says:

    “All the governments you know, do that. That doesn’t make that investment sound.”

    If your aim is to invest in health insurance companies then no, it doesn’t. Most of the civilised world sees health care spending as a way to improve health outcomes though – an area in which the USA lags badly behind – and not as a way to transfer cash to greedy insurers, overcharging drug companies and overpaid doctors.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      You could as easily say that if one’s aim is to invest in automobile manufacturers, then the founding, by Adolf Hitler, of what would become Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesselschaft as a government enterprise was a similarly unsound move.

  6. Fergus Mason says:

    “You could as easily say that if one’s aim is to invest in automobile manufacturers, then the founding, by Adolf Hitler, of what would become Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesselschaft as a government enterprise was a similarly unsound move.”

    Well no. VW produces cars, so if you want to invest in car manufacture it’s actually a very good option. If you want to invest in health care, on the other hand, the US health system is an extremely poor option. It costs more, and delivers less, than happens in any other western country.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      The reasons are twofold: decades of government interference in the market (for almost as long as I have lived), and the American diet and lifestyle, which only a few alternative practitioners are now beginning to address properly. More government interference is not the option.

  7. Fergus Mason says:

    “The reasons are twofold”

    Good so far.

    “decades of government interference in the market”

    Er no. The first reason is the interference of insurance and pharma companies in the market. The second is profiteering by those same companies. Every other country has more government interference and much lower prices. Of course it’s possible that every US government since 1945 is just doing it wrong, but your health insurance companies are complete scumsuckers; they seem more likely culprits.

    “the American diet and lifestyle”

    That’s a fair comment. Most US food is truly terrible. Bland, over-processed and delivered in whale-sized dollops.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      I don’t seek to do any special favors for any particular companies. But I don’t seek to disband them, either. Which is what Barack Obama seeks to do. That’s the equivalent of a summary execution without a trial.

      Anyway, this is going to be a moot point.

      One hundred million households will lose insurance. And that will happen in the month before the mid-term elections.

      That might be enough for America to wake up with a bicameral conservative-controlled Congress.

  8. Fergus Mason says:

    “One hundred million households will lose insurance.”

    As I understand it (which is quite well – I asked my girlfriend for a detailed explanation) the only policies that are being cancelled by Obamacare itself are “junk” ones – policies that cost money and meet the bare minimum requirements to be called an insurance policy, but don’t actually provide adequate cover. I suspect that any companies who’re cancelling their employee schemes will turn out to have been offering that sort of non-cover, too. In Germany there is a minimum standard of cover that any policy has to offer. I don’t mind; it means I’ll never get charged more than €280 for a hospital stay no matter how long it is.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      That is a matter of opinion. Those who are losing their coverage, you should know, feel otherwise, and are saying so. Loudly. Incessantly. Dare you call them deluded?

  9. Fergus Mason says:

    “That is a matter of opinion.”

    Well no, it’s not. The only plans that are being affected are those that don’t provide a worthwhile level of cover. Frankly, even “good” US health insurance plans would be illegal here, but what’s happening is that insurers are being prevented from ripping off customers for plans that don’t provide any real cover.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      “Worthwhile” is a normative term and therefore a term of opinion.

      Precisely because you are accustomed, and approvingly, too, to such Draconian regulation of what is legally worthwhile and not worthwhile, you and I can never agree on the proper role or scope of government.

  10. Fergus Mason says:

    “Draconian regulation of what is legally worthwhile and not worthwhile”

    The law says that if somebody takes my money in exchange for a health insurance policy they pay the bills when I get sick. I don’t actually think that’s draconian. I think it’s common sense.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Not unless it’s done by voluntary consent on both sides. When the government does it, that’s not the case. Government = force. That’s why the only three approriate government services are the police, the military, and the courts.

      And in this case, the government forces some to overpay so that it can curry the voting favor of others who underpay.

  11. Fergus Mason says:

    “the government forces some to overpay so that it can curry the voting favor of others who underpay”

    Er no. In the US system you ALL overpay. Not only do you have the most expensive health insurance in the developed world; you pay more per capita for public health care than anyone else does, too. You pay more for Medicare and Medicaid (which you can’t use) than you would pay for the NHS if you lived in the UK. As for me I don’t pay anything at all for public health care. The US health care system is fundamentally broken, and it’s greedy insurers and drug companies who’ve broken it. Obamacare is a long way from perfect, but it really can’t be worse than what you have now.

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