The problem of modern socialism

This is lifted from one of many retyped responses to people who just want to engage in history-free, context-free thought experiments on whether socialism is any good. This particular one came in response to a person who was defending the USSR as a viable method of organizing society.

“The problem is, and likely will remain for the foreseeable future, that there are wannabee genocidaires who would like to be signing the death warrants for those who resist the advance of socialism. There is no reliable test to separate those evil people from those who haven’t figured out why socialism landed on the ash heap of history and genuinely want to run through what happened, what went wrong, and why so many people died in the pursuit of this idea of implementing the labor theory of value as government policy.”

If there is a reliable test, I certainly would love to know it. The ignorant are coming out of the US education system by the boatload. The malicious are far fewer than that, but so dangerous that they can’t be ignored.

15 thoughts on “The problem of modern socialism”

  1. The poor quality of US primary and secondary education is the cause of some of our worst problems. The current enthusiasm for socialism among people who should know better seems to be a direct result of educational malpractice. The sooner the educational system can be reformed, the better.

    A strong argument for representative govt is that it subjects political decisions to mass scrutiny and the possibility of timely reversal in cases of gross error. A strong argument for free markets, aside from their productivity, is that they create strong incentives for energetic, zealous or corrupt individuals to channel their energies into money making rather than the acquisition of political power.

  2. The same people who want Socialism are those who want the names and home addresses of the Manafort jurors.

    Long before the verdict, they want to be able to harass and intimidate them.

    I see scoffing at the judge’s comment that he has received death threats.

    After James Hodgkinson, all leftist death threats should be taken seriously.

  3. Centralized planning is an idea which exerts a strong attraction to many people, and not only those on the political Left…many businesses have harmed themselves by excessive centralization of activities: Hey, why not combine our 3 sales organizations?…we can save a lot of money that way. Why let a bunch of store managers make inventory planning and reordering decisions, surely they can be made better by our central Big Data system and its staff of Operations Oesearch PhDs.

    I’ve previously reviewed the memoir of Gennady Andreev-Khomiakov, who served as Deputy Manager of a Stalin-era Soviet factory. Observing the dismal state of the Soviet lumber industry, Gennady (whose father had been in the lumber trade before the Revolution) wrote:

    The free and “unplanned” and therefore ostensibly chaotic character of lumber production before the revolution in reality possessed a definite order. As the season approached, hundreds of thousands of forest workers gathered in small artels of loggers, rafters, and floaters, hired themselves out to entrepreneurs through their foremen, and got all the work done. The Bolsheviks, concerned with “putting order” into life and organizing it according to their single scheme, destroyed that order and introduced their own–and arrived at complete chaos in lumbering.

    As Gennady says:

    Such in the immutable law. The forceful subordination of life’s variety into a single mold will be avenged by that variety’s becoming nothing but chaos and disorder.

  4. When Americans say they want “socialism” what they mean is they want more government services. They don’t mean they want a command economy. They want a high-tax, high-service capitalism.

    It’s kind of a neat trick that the left plays, where they add more government control to the market economy and then when that causes problems, they blame the market and push for even more government control. See the last financial crisis caused by the housing situation as a perfect example. Chesterton and Belloc actually perfectly predicted and described the phenomenon a century ago.

    There’s really no other defense of the American system needed other than looking at population flows. No American moves anywhere else.

    As for true socialism, people are perfectly free to start their own communes, and yet no one does, and those that try inevitably die out after one generation. They can get back to us when they make a successful multi-generational voluntary socialistic society.

  5. All excellent points, Brian.

    I would say that the high tax rate they want or might support is on other people, especially successful, wealthy or high income people and future generations.

    We have certainly moved in that direction with income and business taxes and government debt, to the point of driving the creative people away from market productivity and innovation and increasingly into seeking political/regulatory gaining of subsidies, protection from nominal tax rates and restrictions of free competition.


  6. The American Socialists are about to lose their model.

    The communists are very unhappy at what is happening.

    “We are on track to win,” Jimmie Åkesson, leader of the radical right Sweden Democrats, told supporters at the party’s annual November congress. “In recent weeks we have seen how the other parties, and especially the Social Democrats and the Conservatives have approached our standpoints on immigration policy at a furious pace. Essential parts of our immigration policy are now being put in place by the Social Democratic government.”

    Four days earlier, the red-green coalition government had presented a new package of drastic measures to lower the number of refugees granted asylum in Sweden, in an effort to mitigate increasing popular support for the radical right. Perhaps the Sweden Democrats are not on track to victory, whatever that means, but there is little doubt they have now established themselves as the country’s third largest party, and wield enough power to scare social democrats into doing their work for them.

    “Radical Right” means non-Socialist.

  7. Joe Carter, the Acton Institute’s blogger presented an interesting theory yesterday for the odd inconsistencies between socialists’ words and actions. He called this phenomenon where they don’t feel anyone would act on their beliefs unless compelled by the government the Groupon theory.

    Individuals have a moral obligation to do X. However, unless a certain number of people are forced to do X, then no particular individual should be expected to comply with this moral obligation.

    It makes sense. If government experts are the ultimate authority on all matters of your life, then logically you shouldn’t even do anything without their sanction. Don’t even bother to think for yourself.

  8. Socialism is a death cult. Sure, it puts on a caring face for the gullible, but it structurally cannot work, and those with power will inevitably stoop to tyranny as the real world slips outside of their control.

    NN Taleb and his latest book “skin in the game” – though it is not the books focus – do a great job of explaining why larger, centralized systems like socialism inevitably fail. In part, because socialism systematically disconnects authority from consequences, offloads the risks to others, even over things as simple as health care.

  9. The Scandinavians in general have ebbed and flowed in their socialism. Sweden went mildly socialist from 1930-1970, but because of a strong work ethic, not paying for a war, having a large portion of their poor people move to North America just before that time, and everyone looking like second cousins, it was successful. They went full-bore socialist 1970-1990, then decided that didn’t work very well and moved fitfully in free market directions after that. Immigration of people who do not look like second cousins and do not have the same work ethic has strained their social contract. Interesting to watch.

  10. Was Gennady also the one who wrote (I paraphrase): “It’s useless to fight the forms, we must kill those producing the forms.”

  11. Eris…I don’t recognize him as the author of the quote. He wasn’t a terribly political man, at least as he comes across in the memoir, just a guy trying to do his job and finding it almost impossible.

  12. You call your piece the ‘problem with modern socialism’ then pan ancient communism. Make up your mind. They are not the same.

    Most modern societies are socialist, certainly my country could be called that.

  13. ” There is no reliable test to separate those evil people from those who haven’t figured out why socialism landed on the ash heap of history ..”

    The “history-free but sincere” don’t make it to high office, unless they get there as puppets/tools of the “evil people” funding them. Barrack was surely escorted there from his youth, through the Chicago commie machine, a path still shrouded in obscurity.

    The best “socialist” country (modern socialism as PenGun noted) … is (probably) America, because it keeps the workers motivated with the hope and a taste of capitalist rewards, and our society still lives with at least the residue of a past Biblical ethos. Loyally work harder/smarter, advance to a higher class. Yet we have promised to care for everyone womb to tomb, and welfare for poor or corporate welfare is a reality. Best of both worlds, except for the pesky unsustainable massive debt, and “capital” based in unlimited leverage of “currency” (held by some oligarchs that meet secretly).

    But capitalism is not a government system, it is economic theory, which (in theory) functions “best” with the fewest government restraints/interventions. China puts the capitalist theories to work, but allows humans to be treated as raw (disposable)capital, ignores rights to pollution free environment, uses (communist) government to ensure production advantages. But we invited them into our “capitalist” based markets, and they used trillions in trade surplus as capital improvements (not reciprocal trade).

    The “free trade” of the 80’s decided only profit mattered, which gave us globalism, and even our government came to serve the profit margins of the conglomerates above liberty of the people. But they floated our currency so trillions could be injected out of thin air, and a couple hundred trillion could be promised in future pension/retirement “socialist” safety nets. That was the perversion of what “we” considered capitalism (Wall Street murdered Main Street), and it promised glorious socialist government retirement for all at the same time.

    Too Big To Fail/Jail became a real thing. And now the instant billionaires (via rigged easy money markets) of the social media giants are acting like a fascist government in censorship. Is that capitalism or socialism? imo it is neither … it is some oligarchs pushing a globalist agenda. But they used what “we” think of as capitalism to get there. But how much of the markets are rigged by the bribery of government officials, or the theft of intellectual material, or even wars and black market cartels?

    But yes, we must get back to teaching the fundamentals of American Civics in our schools, which is just one of the institutions through which those old Soviets marched.

  14. Mike K – I would not assume that the parties being labelled alt-right blossoming in countries being swamped by Muslim refugees are also anti-socialist. Given the general characterization of nationalism as right-wing and the historic mislabelling of the Nazis as right-wing, it’s more likely a dog-whistle that these are the guys you are supposed to dislike.

  15. PenGun – Ancient communism and modern socialism are interesting propaganda terms, but can you define when humanity made the transition from one to the other? Maybe if you could, they wouldn’t be propaganda terms.

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