Socialist logic: Recipe for disaster

Socialism is like ice cream: Everybody wants some, but a steady diet of ice cream will kill you. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, DC, January 14, 2013 ― How can socialism, a word whose root also gives us “society” and “social,” a system based on the needs of the many and not on the selfish desires of the one, be a disaster?

Socialists think only of what’s best for everyone, whether the victims appreciate it or not. They think in terms of the “common good.” They like to be thought of as selfless do-gooders, looking for ways to have government provide for everyone. Unable to believe that people will do what’s best for all on their own, that selfish behavior can be socially useful, or that people can be relied on to understand even their own best long-term interests, they believe that government should make the most important decisions for us.

There’s always been a sense of paternalism to socialism, the idea that socialist leaders are in the vanguard of humanity, that they are the Napoleons in a world of timid, passive sheep. Good shepherds that they are, they guide the sheep to their full potential, and why should the sheep be less than grateful if in return they eat a lamb or two? 

Socialists tend to see policy in terms of the ends, not the means. They see the benefits and write off the human costs as the broken eggs required to make the omelette. Money costs, since they are borne by “the government,” are inconsequential. The poor man receiving a dollar from the government is the only fact they see. The cost of that dollar is invisible - the person it was taken from, the wages of the people who did the taking, the bureaucracy that supported the takers, the productivity lost so that resources could be used to find that dollar and give it to the poor man. 

That dollar might have cost tens or hundreds of dollars. Total welfare spending in the United States is $168 per household in poverty – per day. Over $5,000 per month. That we have any poverty at all with that kind of largesse is almost unthinkable, until we think again and remember that it isn’t all largesse. Remember the costs of maintaining the enforcement mechanisms: the IRS, the accountants on both the government and private payrolls; and the police, public and private lawyers, courts, judges, prison guards, and politicians who all live on, or take money because of, the system. The socialist sees the “free” dollar, and it is good.

Why people support socialism, even though it’s destructive: an example

It’s easy think like a socialist. Suppose your child has an illness that can’t be cured, except through application of magic. You – you alone – have the power to invoke this magic. No one will know, so it will be “legal.” And you can extend your child’s life indefinitely, by using the magic. 

Here’s how the magic works: For every extra minute of life your child will be allowed to have, every other person in the rest of the world would lose a thousandth of a second. No one could possibly notice losing a thousandth of a second; no one could even measure it. No one would know, and no one would care – and your child could live another 70 years! Would you do it?

The problem, as always for socialists, is in the math. To add 70 years (36,792,000 minutes) to your child’s life, the roughly 6 billion of us others would have to give up 2,207,520,000,000 seconds (4,200,000 years) of life, a thousandth of a second at a time. About 6 hours, 8 minutes each. We’d never know. Now that you know the cost, would you still do it? It’s your child, and she could live another 70 years. It’s your call.

You’d need a heart of stone to deny her those years of life! Of course you’d do it.

We’ve all heard of “Mom’s Rule”: What would happen if everyone did it? So, what if everyone did it? Here’s what happens when we apply Mom’s Rule: if an extra minute of life for one person costs 6 billion people a thousandth of a second, the costs are a hundred thousand to one. Sixty thousand people who made your decision could wipe out the lives of the rest of the entire population of the Earth. Now, would you do it? Even if you wouldn’t, do you think there are 60,000 people in the entire world who would? Of course!

And that’s why socialism is a bad idea at its core: It isn’t a system that serves the needs of the many, but rather the desires of the few. It benefits small groups at the expense of the rest, but if its benefits were extended to most, it would destroy society. That’s why it’s so popular among the dependent classes, the lazy, and those with a “mom” complex who can’t stand to see others in need, who think they have the right to run everything. That’s why it is so easy to sell – concrete benefits to a few are balanced against anonymous, hard-to-measure damages to the rest.

And that’s why constitutions are necessary: to limit the power of government to do what the people want, permitting it to do only what they cannot do individually and what they need. This is a much-smaller thing, so requires a much-smaller government.

Restraining government from helping the poor - that is, restraining people from helping the poor at the expense of other people, thus creating an ever expanding pool of the poor - is difficult and perceived by socialists as “selfish.” Helping them with our own resources is also difficult, though honest, moral, and even sometimes effective; but helping them with the resources of others is always dishonest, and ultimately disastrous.


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Tim Kern

Tim Kern taught economics for fifteen years, and discovered that understanding life is easy; it’s recognizing reality that takes practice. He holds a music degree, and later earned an MBA in finance from Northwestern University. He has lived across the US, and now makes his home in Anderson, Indiana.

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