Friday, October 8, 2010

Not The Socialism I Know

When I mention anything remotely socialist, I expect a chorus of “Stalin! Mao! Hitler!” It doesn’t make much sense, especially the third one, but what am I going to do? Americans have horrible backgrounds in studying history. If it’s not about Lewis and Clarke exploring the Louisiana Purchase so that America could recognize Manifest Destiny… it’s mostly blank stares.

Before I go further, I just want to point out that Hitler was vehemently against Marx and Communism, and preferred Mussolini’s corporatist Fascism. The fact that “Nazi” translates into English as “the National Socialist Party” confuses some people who are ignorant of the larger facts. Suffice to say, this is tantamount to saying China is a Republic, since after all, it’s “The People’s Republic of China.”

Stalin and Mao were not communists anymore than Somalia or the Democratic Republic of the Congo are anarchies (the DR of the Congo is also neither Democratic, nor a Republic). They may identify as such, and they may be identified as such by others, but calling yourself something and having others call you that as well does not make it so, otherwise I would literally be a donkey (see, cause I’m a jackass… no I’m not a Democrat).

Stalin and Mao did not practice communism, they practiced monarchial feudalism, and we called it “a socialist command economy,” when in fact it was nothing but a system of top-down managed fiefdoms. Marx was very clear that communism is a bottom-up structure.

Likewise, Somalia and DR Congo are not anarchies. Somalia is a system of clans and militant religious organizations (with heavy emphasis on radical Islamists), while DR Congo is a shattered state where the military has claimed and is continuing to expand on territory it controls while the police system has completely collapsed and sparse UN forces attempt to create pockets of civilization.

Both Communism and Anarchy, as dreamed up in the minds of ideologues, are unworkable pipe dreams. If people spontaneously and successfully worked together with great output without incident, we would have been doing it. The closest we come is with nomadic hunters, like the natives of the American Great Plains before settlement by Europeans, or aboriginal people in Australia.

If those are the working models… I am not impressed with their results. They have only succeeded in being out-competed by systems of government.

So now my question: why do people have to reach back to leaders who took power before the 1950’s in order to find monsters that represent government? {Mao took over in 1949, just barely made it in time for my arbitrary benchmark.] It’s not that there were no bad leaders from 1950 until today, but rather that the 1940’s seemed to produce a particularly bad crop of despots.

In fact, any decent student of history knows that the turn of the century was a chaotic time. The industrial revolution was in full swing, producing cars and light bulbs and economic windfalls for the rich. Anarchists were assassinating world leaders. Communists were massacring royal families. The Great War to End All Wars was fought and won by “the good guys,” forcing Germany and Austria to foot the bill (which Germans just this year paid off in full).

While the conventional wisdom (and current Republican policy) is that wars boost the economy, this didn’t happen. Most countries went into economic depressions. People were out of work because of the wars. As it turns out, spending a bunch of money to kill people only makes war profiteers rich. Sure, you have less young people who need jobs, but you also have that many less consumers.

By the time the next major war hit, most countries were implementing social welfare programs. Retirement security funds, public health care, unemployment insurance, public schools received more funding, etc. These empirically improved the well-being of a nation’s citizens. The rich were taxed heavily, and yet those who had the most still had more. Shocking…

The incentive to succeed was there, and the ability to take a risk was bolstered by social programs. More people were educated and qualified to do modern work, and even if you failed, you wouldn’t die in a gutter somewhere. You could pick yourself back up and try again.

But with these government hand-outs seem to come… well… rules. It was like living at your parent’s house: no porn, no drugs, no swearing, if you’re gay you can’t come out of the closet, women can’t have abortions…

The list of annoying little rules went on and on. Prohibition pretty much kicked off the era of nanny-state policies, where the government knew what was good for you, and good luck trying to get your hands on anything fun, I mean “bad.”

We had adopted the communist ideals of providing for those who have not, while never letting go of the overbearing fascist mentality of corporatism.

Some people observe this concurrence of events and decide to themselves, “Well, communists are just over-bearing.” Yet this isn’t the case. Communism is a system of economics. Communism has absolutely nothing to do with government or regulations, and it most certainly has nothing to do with morality or mass murder.

As I stated before, Stalin and Mao were never communist leaders, they were monarchs. They were not even democratically elected dictators like Hitler. And what’s more, I fail to see what’s “communist” about killing loads of people. That’s not communist, it’s part of the mentality of the time that people who are undesirable should be rounded up and killed, an idea generally agreed to be wrong these days.

The governmental style that most closely resembles the economic model of communism is anarchy or democracy, both of which are systems which empower the individual citizen with the governance of a nation. To me, anyway, the key to a successful system in any of these models is for power to flow from the bottom up. Those at the top should never be secure in their place of greatness, but they can be secure in knowing that even at rock bottom, they will not be hopeless.

Nations that have combined democracy and communism are arguably the most successful nations on Earth. Japan, Norway, Finland, Sweden, I guess Canada might count, and even the good old US of A have all melded communist economic ideas with democratic government for decades, with unprecedented success. The average income in these nations is enviable, and the life expectancy of their citizens continues to climb to new heights (except in the U S… for some odd reason…).

I measure a system based on the quantity and quality of life for the average citizen. It’s clear what models are blowing the others out of the water, and it’s not the ones practiced by Hitler, Mao or Stalin. To me, it’s not a choice between despots or anarchy, but I guess in a world where people can only keep two things in their head at once, dichotomies are all the rage.

Still, if I had to choose a side in the “government or no government” comparison, I’d rather be sided with the statist oppressors than the indigenous, free-living practitioners of de-centralized authority. Only one has a future. I know it’s heartlessly pragmatic, but then again it is a ridiculous dichotomy.

The truth is, we can have both. We can have socialized medicine and legal narcotics. We can have social security and legal prostitution. We can both improve our lives through the use of government while improving our lives by getting the government’s nose away from where it doesn’t belong. We can change our moralistic mentality, and we have been doing so gradually for the second half of the 20th century.

We can make the government work for us.

This is why people reach back so far, grasping for aged straws in the debate over Socialism. They promise a slippery slope, where a helping hand instead strangles us with rules. If you look too recently, you might see another reality.

In fact, if you look at today in America, you might be shocked to see that those who advocate socialistic policies also take a hard stance against government intervention in individual social dealings. It is liberals (and Ron Paul) who spearhead drug legalization. It’s liberals who say the government has no business dictating who can marry whom. And while they don’t say it publicly, it’s liberal politicians who are using prostitutes (or at least it’s the liberals who are frequenting female prostitutes).

It’s eery, really. Even the tried-and-true liberal battle over political correctness seems to have been adopted by Sarah Palin and the cry-babies in the Republican party.

I’ll stop here since it might start to sound like I’m advocating for the… I’m not even going to say their name. I don’t vote for… the non-Republicans, and I don’t care if you do or not. Plus, this rambling diatribe of elitist bullshit is in danger of going onto a 4th page, so… I’ll leave you with one sentence:

You don’t have to burn down your house and live outside just because there is a leak in the roof.


  1. I'll concede that this is a fair assessment of the ideal versus the practice of the ideal.

    Would it be fair for me to now state that Christians who burn witches aren't true Christians?

    And that no true Scotsman would ever murder someone.

  2. Wow Bret,

    Reasonable, and not condescending and toned down elitism, nicely done.

    It is not that I would even disagree it is the general overview that is different.

    This is where I think we diverge, I generally trust people and think that government is exceptionally dangerous, somehow I get the feeling that you generally trust government and distrust people.

    I could be wring on this but it often seems to be the crux of disagreement.

    And it's nice to see someone else understand that the USSR, Communist China, are not actually communism, and that the NSDAP was not actually socialist.

  3. swiftfoxmark2

    No I don't think this gives the "OK" to use the "no true scotsman" logical fallacy a run around the block.

    You would wonder "why not" that would be because ideas like "Marxism" were given a "religious like position" and that is when they become problematic. All religion is dangerous and in particular texts of any religious like veneration become dangerous.

    The Bible clearly contains commandments to violence, a true scotsman would support that violence, until Christians discard, reject, and shun with vigor the dangerous texts then they continue to venerate the entire document as holy and the contents speak for themselves.

    If a collectivist anarchist suports "propaganda of the deed" then they also are in the same position.

  4. I agree. Well done Bret.

    I disagree in parts (I too trust people like RB), but you presented your arguments fairly.

    We do confuse political labels.

  5. @SFM2: I'm not sure there's anything in the Bible expressly condemning the burning of witches.

    Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. (Exodus 22:18)

    I wouldn't say definitively that someone who burns witches is "not a true Christian," but they would be a bad person and certianly not a typical Christian, and you would be well within your right to view Christianity as being against such actions based on the non-violent, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" teachings in the New Testament.

    Frankly, it's tough getting a straight answer on any matter from the Bible, except of course that you gotta love God. That's about the only constant throughout.

    @ RB: I trust my wife and one of my two dogs, that's about it. I'm pretty sure my other dog, all three of my cats, and all other people would kill and eat me if it came down to it. Since "the government" is people, I'm not sure if I would say I "trust government."

  6. Well Bret,

    I would not kill you unless you were a threat directly and because I live in the west that is likely never to happen...

    And I certainly would not eat you, I was vegan for 15 years and continue to be vegetarian for 22 years now so eating meat and in particular long pig is out of the question.

    As for cats... those evil buggars most likely already have several back up plans to kill and eat you, your wife, and your dogs... Sleep tight...

  7. A stunning fact that is missed here is that Karl Marx never really brought anything new to the table except for one thing: that Socialism should be spread by force. This is actually why he called it Communism because Marx wanted a distinction where there was none in the past. Socialism itself was a term invented by Robert Owen, a man who established a couple of voluntary communes in the early 1800s that failed miserably. All Marx did was restate what many before him had already written about and added the conversion by force aspect to it.

    While the post was well written, I find that the logic is lost on me because it makes several fallacies that cannot be reconciled with reality. The practical application of Socialism or Communism, as they are called these days, has failed throughout history. Not just the past 2 centuries, but farther back. Look up the history of the Anabaptists in Germany in the 1400-1500s, for example.

    Both Socialism and Communism ultimately lead the oligarchy that the adherents are seeking to dismantle because they are the ones who lead the movements and therefore they believe they know how to bring it about. Every time it has been tried, this has been the end result. What makes this next time around any different?

    As the late Senator Ted Kennedy once shouted in the halls of Congress, "It [Socialism] hasn't worked in 6,000 years of recorded history because it didn't have me to run it." Can't we do better than that?

  8. Here is why I have sympathy with the anarchists, all government in history eventually end up as mercantilist oligarchies, even the "divine right of kings" style monarchies. Many have become horrid dictatorships over oligarchies.

    Even the US has (and I think by Hamiltonian design) become an oligarchy, we have some socialism and some fascism sprinkled in but that is just over the top of the ruling mercantilist oligarchy.

    The cults built over the top of the oligarchies, like communism, were and are very similar to religion, and the adherents venerate them in the same way as religionists venerate the unprovable supernatural.

    It is one of the reasons I also criticizes many atheists because they have simply replaced religion with political correctness, left or right politics (most of them leftist political religions) and a snarky elitism that is exactly like the self assured convictions of the religionists.


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