Why I can’t be a socialist

I’ve tried (over time) to explain my opposition to socialism in these terms:

1) Socialism’s ultimate disregard for the dignity and rights of the individual.

2) Socialism’s ultimate disregard for the economics of human nature.

3) The inevitable suffering and misery that results from 1 and 2.

First, because the root philosophy of socialism is Marxist (ergo, redistribution and leveling across economic tiers) socialism requires an authority capable of bending the knees of the people to the will of the state. There is no form of national socialism which has ever existed without very powerful governmental authority, and a police force capable of backing up that authority. This authority (and that police force) tend to show little (historical) regard for the individual, because socialism is focused (in the ideal) on benefit to the aggregate, not the welfare of the single person. If you’re going to have socialism, you have to be able to make people with “too much” give up things, so that people with “too little” receive those same things. This incredible power—however well-intended in its origins—invariably attracts the worst kind of bloody-handed leadership: psychopaths, sociopaths, and zealous devotees of various forms of social engineering.

Second, socialism is forever battling against the gravity field of human nature. Ergo, socialism is a state-sponsored moral remedy for the natural “selfish” virtue that individuals are entitled to the fruits of their creativity, intelligence, and labor. This warping—group or state “management” of the creation and exchange of intellectual and physical product, not to mention currency—undermines and devalues the very labor which socialism claims to venerate. Men who discover they don’t have to work to keep their bellies full, usually don’t work. Men who discover that working 50 hours a week, gets them no further ahead than working zero hours a week, also don’t work. Societies which bankrupt the incentives to work, always collapse. Fewer and fewer people carry more and more of the burden, until the whole thing crumbles. It happened in Soviet Russia. It is happening in Greece and Venezuela.

Third, the combination of intrusive and coercive state authority, with social engineering and terrible-minded leadership, and the grinding-down of incentives, has resulted in an overwhelmingly documented record of human woe, unlike anything ever seen in history. These facts are not a matter of rhetorical flourish. The Holodomor. The killing fields of Cambodia. China’s Cultural Revolution. The desolation of North Korea and Cuba. The destruction of national economies. Gulags. Poverty. Hunger. Death. So much death. Death unending. The snuffing out of well over a hundred million human lives, during the 20th century alone. That’s nine figures to the left of the decimal, if you want to write the number on a piece of paper and look at it. Men. Women. Children. Starved. Beaten. Jailed. Tortured. Mutilated. Mass graves. Erased from history—because they were deemed to be “in the way” of progress.

Of course, America’s fresh crop of socialists don’t see it like that. Like almost all socialists, the dream of making Utopia is simply too irresistible to them. It doesn’t matter what happened before—nor what will happen again, because we forget history (and repeat history, on this subject) with soul-destroying regularity. America’s socialists have been told (often from the cradle up) that socialism is not only sustainable, but an unalloyed good. Anyone who objects is deemed obstructionist, or even outright dangerous—we are merely “in the way” of progress.

I fear that the United States is the proverbial frog in the kettle. We’ve been gradually adding components of socialism to our national fabric since the early half of the prior century. In 2016, we seem to want to throw caution to the wind, and give the state unbridled ability to “improve” our lives, by making our decisions for us. We have corrupt political parties who thrive on a bread-and-circuses model; for selection of governing personalities. Sooner or later, that gradually warming water is going to be brought to a boil—and cook us. There is nothing magical about the United States that will prevent all the horrors of the 20th century, from happening here too.

The state that “takes care of” you in the ways you desire, can also “take care of you” in a very permanent, very undesirable fashion as well.

I wish more of my countrymen understood this. Alas . . . socialism is the irresistible flame to which the well-meaning, ever-hopeful moths are eternally drawn.

I try to see a positive future. But it’s mighty tough these days.

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106 thoughts on “Why I can’t be a socialist

  1. Sadly, we humans are not perfect. Any system organized on the principle that humans are perfectible, will eventually turn to coercion, as night follows day.

  2. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    Why nobody should be a Socialist. It’s important to remember that Socialist entities are created out of our lowest impulse. They tend to be creations of greed and envy. Just listen to Bernie Sanders about taking from people. Socialism can’t resonate with the best in us and works as hard as it can to destroy hard work, creativity and innovation. With terrible consequences for everybody caught up in it.

  3. Good points. People who favor socialism have the avuncular Bernie in mind leading a nation of Swedes; those who oppose are thinking Uncle Joe Stalin leading a nation of Kulaks: fantasy versus reality.

    Another point upon which I get hung up: All tyrants begin as friends of the people, as those pesky ancient Greeks pointed out. Will socialism respond to the will of the people? If the problem is that the little guy is getting steamrollered by those in power, what mechanism or reform, O Socialist, do you propose to ensure the people’s wishes get heard in the upcoming paradise? Of course, there is no answer to this, as Bernie and all his buddies through history believe that those who oppose them are simply wrong, obviously incapable (due to stupidity and evil) of being reasoned with, and we’ll just do the right thing no matter how much they don’t like it for their own good – up to and beyond what’s depicted in the picture you chose to accompany this post.

  4. Anyone who is an avowed socialist either doesn’t understand what the term means or doesn’t understand basic economics and the demonstrated failure of socialism worldwide. Central economic planning simply does not work.

    Bernie is quick to point to Scandinavia, and say that is his model, not Venezuela, but in reality his proposals have much more in common with Venezuela. For all Scandinavia’s reputation as a socialist utopia, its industry is in many ways freer than ours. They aren’t socialist states, they’re welfare states. I.e., they realized it is far preferable to socialistic central planning to let capitalism largely run and just skim as much off the top as possible. It has its own disadvantages, but it’s obviously better than socialism. But that’s not what Bernie is proposing.

    And, really, failure without mass murder is a best case scenario for socialism.

  5. Hmmm. That’s quite a caricature of socialism the way I understand the term. Granted, Stalinist or Maoist style Communism has led to unimaginable human suffering in USSR in the 30s, in Cambodia in the 70s, in China in the 50s and later during the Cultural revolution and so on, not to mention North Korea which is basically a Hell on Earth.

    Lumping them together with, for example, the social democracies of Scandinavia (which have implemented socialist ideas like free healthcare, (mostly) free education, high level of social security and high taxes) makes little sense. Much of Eurocommunism and modern Latin American socialism is pretty unrelated to the sins of Stalin, Mao and Khmer Rouge as well, and I do doubt your blanket statement that they disregard the dignity and rights of the individual or economics of human nature just because they’re “socialist”.

    And, well, who put an end to the genocidal rule of Khmer Rouge? It was USSR-backed Vietnamese communists, so they must be good for something, right? 😀

    Speaking of stripping human beings of their dignity and life, there’s plenty of blame to go around if we look at the history of 21st century. Millions of socialists, communists and possible sympathizers have been butchered and tortured as well, in Nazi Germany, in Indonesia in the 60s, in various US-sponsored dirty wars in Latin America and elsewhere. Imperial Russia and Kuomintang China were pretty nasty places for socialists as well, even though the later purges by Stalin and Mao after they took power were on an entirely different scale.

    OK, I get that most of this is debatable. You are completely mistaken about Greece, though. The Greek economy was not bankrupted by the radical leftists who are now in power — it was done by the principal pre-crash center-right and center-left parties, so you really shouldn’t compare it with Venezuela.

  6. Interesting. I don’t know you, Brad, but I ran across this through a friend’s reposting on Facebook, and it seems to merit a reply.

    FWIW, I agree with the first point here, but I think the second and third rest on faulty premises, and his development of all three rests on rebuttable logic.

    First, I completely agree with opposing “bending the knees of the people to the will of the state,” IOW basically to authoritarian rule. I am a dedicated defender of personal liberty, and consider it a fundamental ingredient of free, open, and democratic government. However, it’s important to note a couple of things up front. First, authoritarianism is a form of government that has taken root in a wide variety of historical contexts, completely independent of whatever economic system a given country happens to have had. Second, when discussing economic systems, we’re talking about a spectrum with many differences of degree, not some clear-cut binary opposition. Thus, it’s easy to point to plenty of countries that are social democracies, with far more egalitarian economies than the US, but no shortage of political freedom either (in fact, the majority of Western Europe and the rest of the OECD would qualify as examples). It’s equally easy to point to plenty of countries with unapologetically capitalist economies yet ruthlessly authoritarian governments (Singapore, anyone?).

    Second, there is simply no such thing as “the gravity field of human nature.” People are not inherently selfish (or competitive, or violent, or lazy), any more than they are inherently generous (or cooperative, or peaceful, or industrious). These qualities exist in combination in each of us, to varying degrees from person to person. In my experience, however (and in a good deal of psychological research), those who are more inclined to be selfish and competitive also tend mistakenly to project those qualities and motivations onto all others, and model the world accordingly. In reality, though, many of the incentives for various behaviors are not extrinsic (e.g., profit), but intrinsic (the inherent reward of doing something worthwhile). I would add, moreover, that if one really thinks it’s important for individuals to retain “the fruits of their creativity and labor,” that suggests rather more sympathy for socialistic than capitalistic economic theories, since the latter basically reject the labor theory of value.

    Third, there’s lots of history of human woe, more than enough to spread across the political spectrum. Trying to blame it on one ideology in particular is a fool’s errand.

    Putting it all together, then, what are the implications for modern American politics and economics? Not what this piece suggests. Unalloyed socialism isn’t on the table — the most that’s up for discussion today, even by Sanders, is basically New Deal-style Keynesianism, which is still several steps short of what you’ll find in many of our European allies — and as for authoritarianism, while there is an uncomfortable strain of it emerging among a fringe of social radicals preoccupied with identity politics, it’s far more widespread and open on the right (look at supporters of the Tea Party, and of Donald Trump).

    Fundamentally, though, left or right, government is the mechanism through which we deal with collective action problems… policy dilemmas that aren’t strictly private and can’t be resolved through market mechanisms, which frankly is most of them. Government is imperfect, of course, and needs to be kept accountable to the public… which is one reason that unfettered capitalism needs oversight, actually, as otherwise concentrated money will overwhelm politics, a trend that has increased ominously in recent years. But imperfect or not, it’s still essential… without it we have no social contract whatsoever… so thinking of it strictly in oppositional terms as “the state,” as if the state weren’t a representation of all of us, is a recipe for ruin.

  7. In my experience, however (and in a good deal of psychological research), those who are more inclined to be selfish and competitive also tend mistakenly to project those qualities and motivations onto all others, and model the world accordingly.

    While not everyone has negative qualities, any political system needs to be able to deal with people with negative qualities, especially when those people have political power. Furthermore, rewarding those qualities tends to encourage more of them. Decentralizing power means that individuals with negative traits can do less damage, and the greatest amount of decentralizing is when most power is at the individual level.

    I would add, moreover, that if one really thinks it’s important for individuals to retain “the fruits of their creativity and labor,” that suggests rather more sympathy for socialistic than capitalistic economic theories, since the latter basically reject the labor theory of value.

    The labor theory of value fails because it values the labor, not the product. For markets to work, I as the producer need to be able to freely assign a value to things I produce, and to be able to choose to sell based on that value. If the value of my product is arbitrarily assigned by the state, I can’t retain the ‘fruits of my creativity and labor’ if I’m forced to sell at a rate not of my choosing.

    look at supporters of the Tea Party

    I’m going to call this out as a bluff. I will admit one can find a certain authoritarianism in Trump’s rhetoric (though similar to that from the mainstream Democratic left), but from the Tea Party?

    Fundamentally, though, left or right, government is the mechanism through which we deal with collective action problems… policy dilemmas that aren’t strictly private and can’t be resolved through market mechanisms, which frankly is most of them.

    The problem comes in when we define individual choices as collective action problems for the people as a whole to deal with, and the most fundamental choices we make are how we exchange goods and services.

  8. Lumping them together with, for example, the social democracies of Scandinavia (which have implemented socialist ideas like free healthcare, (mostly) free education, high level of social security and high taxes) makes little sense.

    The US isn’t exactly a bastion of the free market these days, and most of the so-called socialist European states allow a surprising amount of economic freedom (for example, the rankings at http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking give a comparative formula).

    And, well, who put an end to the genocidal rule of Khmer Rouge? It was USSR-backed Vietnamese communists, so they must be good for something, right?

    Socialists butchering each other isn’t necessarily an advertising feature of socialism, and that’s largely what World War II was, the US included. About the only positive selling point of socialist economics is that it’s useful when you need the government military-industrial complex focused on a single cause regardless of how inefficient and corrupting it is, like national survival, something that was necessary during the age of industrial total warfare (which, fortunately, we’ve left behind). Focusing it on less necessary wars, like the ‘war on poverty’ or the ‘war on crime’, leads to corruption and wasted money and lives.

  9. And the apologists weigh in: It hasn’t been tried yet, that wasn’t real communism, our socialists are better . . . You know, I can at least sympathize with the early socialists who at least didn’t know it was going to be a disaster. But the ones today? They still want to jump off that cliff. Worst, they want to drag us over the edge with them. They keep sticking their hand in the fire, thinking that this time they won’t be burned.

    Whatever its flaws, the free market is a natural system that developed to meet human needs. Marxism is artificial, based on misunderstandings of human nature and will always fail in the end. Those who keep chasing the will-o’-the-wisp of utopianism would do well to heed the Gods of the Copybook Headings and stick to the devil they know.

  10. When are people going to get it through their heads that NOTHING is free. No part of it is Free. Just because you pay little to nothing does NOT make something Free. Someone has paid, is paying for it. In cases like the ones usually cited, healthcare and education, we are paying for it with our Taxes. Air is Free. Gravity is Free. Sunlight could be considered Free. Services and products are NEVER free.

    Call it what it is – State funded. Funded by tax payer’s dollars. But *stop* calling it Free.

    Those countries where they have state funded health care and state funded education have taxes that make our taxes look like a pittance. They also do not have the discretionary income that we we have to buy things like books,computers and smart phones.

  11. It’s interesting that you just posted these inarguable truths Brad. In the recent 2-17-16 Wall Street Journal, the following appears, entitled “The Victims of Socialism”:

    “From historian Alan Charles Kors’s “Can There Be an ‘After Socialism’?” for the Atlas Society, Sept. 27, 2003:

    No cause, ever, in the history of all mankind, has produced more cold-blooded tyrants, more slaughtered innocents, and more orphans than socialism with power. It surpassed, exponentially, all other systems of production in turning out the dead. The bodies are all around us. And here is the problem: No one talks about them. No one honors them. No one does penance for them. No one has committed suicide for having been an apologist for those who did this to them. No one pays for them. No one is hunted down to account for them. It is exactly what Solzhenitsyn foresaw in The Gulag Archipelago: “No, no one would have to answer. No one would be looked into.” . . .

    To be moral beings, we must acknowledge these awful things appropriately and bear witness to the responsibilities of these most murderous times. Until socialism—like Nazism or fascism confronted by the death camps and the slaughter of innocents—is confronted with its lived reality, the greatest atrocities of all recorded human life, we will not live “after socialism.”

    It will not happen. The pathology of Western intellectuals has committed them to an adversarial relationship with the culture—free markets and individual rights—that has produced the greatest alleviation of suffering; the greatest liberation from want, ignorance, and superstition; and the greatest increase of bounty and opportunity in the history of all human life.

    This pathology allows Western intellectuals to step around the Everest of bodies of the victims of Communism without a tear, a scruple, a regret, an act of contrition, or a reevaluation of self, soul, and mind.”

  12. Chupik:
    Whatever its flaws, the free market is a natural system that developed to meet human needs.

    Everybody, including socialists, can say that their system is “natural” and developed to meet human needs. Socialists may even have stronger claim to that one, given the circumstances in factories during the time when socialism came about.

    With strikes and other socialist nonsense they ended child labor and fought for 5-day working week, 8-hour working day and a pay that didn’t leave them dirt-poor. That sort of things obviously met the workers’ human needs, I think.

    Judging by this discussion, it seems that people in the US don’t see socialism as a labor movement but some sinister dictator cult.

  13. In casual US political discourse it seems bizarrely easy to run together one-party far-right national socialism with Soviet communism with welfare state social democracy.

    By welfare state social democracy I mean the broad system used by e.g. the USA, France, UK, Japan, Denmark, Finland, Norway, etc. It’s what I think a lot of Americans think of as “socialism.” Obviously there are hugely important differences between socialising say 30% of national income, which I think is roughly where you guys are, & 50% which is more like where the Nordic countries think the sweet spot is. & obviously how that wealth is created & distributed varies as well. But I do think distinctions between different types of social democracy often get aggrandized as if they were more fundamental philosophical, moral and anthropological distinctions.

    I’m sort of just trying to make a terminological point, more than a political one. From across the pond, it’s obvious you’re not quite speaking the same language as me. But it also often sounds like you’re not speaking the same language as each other.

  14. I disagree with trying to semi-justify the people’s desire for socialism by saying that most, or some, or even any, are well-meaning. I don’t think ANY are well-meaning. From Marx to Sanders, their rhetoric is always “us against them.” You don’t have to go very far Left to read hate-filled calls for eliminating the rich by taking their riches or sometimes, by taking their lives. Nor is it well-meaning to desire someone else’s money in order to pay for your college/medicine/health care/food/maserati tuneup. That’s simply greed on top of class envy.
    Nope, I’ve yet to see, hear, or read a socialist that was well-meaning.

  15. “Whatever its flaws, the free market is a natural system that developed to meet human needs. Marxism is artificial, based on misunderstandings of human nature and will always fail in the end.”
    Put another way by someone else, “Capitalism isn’t an ‘-ism’ at all. It’s what people do when you leave them alone”

  16. Thanks for concisely explaining why socialism is always doomed to failure. It always bothers me to hear that “socialism is a great theory, but it’s hard to put into practice.” No, it’s NOT a great theory; it’s a stupid theory because all of its initial assumptions are not true. NOBODY is more interested in the average well being of a hypothetical person over themselves or people they care about. NOBODY is able to figure out what people need when they don’t even know who’s out there. And NOBODY has the desire for just enough to keep themselves from not dying.

    All of these things, and more, are required for socialism to “work.” Socialism is nothing more than a childish wish that people were actually a form of life that exists nowhere in nature.

  17. “Nor is it well-meaning to desire someone else’s money in order to pay for your college/medicine/health care/food/maserati tuneup. That’s simply greed on top of envy”

    It seems to me that any system based on some vice (theft & envy) is likely to permit other vices. It’s moral foundation and its backers’ consciences are already compromised.

  18. spacefaringkitten: “Judging by this discussion, it seems that people in the US don’t see socialism as a labor movement but some sinister dictator cult.”

    One of the things socialism has done is killed everyone in my wife’s family on purpose. So, yes, some of us see socialism as a sinister dictator cult. Those deaths were real things that actually happened, and they happened because socialist dictators decided that’s what they wanted.

  19. Walmortan Jo: I’m sort of just trying to make a terminological point, more than a political one. From across the pond, it’s obvious you’re not quite speaking the same language as me. But it also often sounds like you’re not speaking the same language as each other.

    Part of the problem is that there are two different political spectrums that use the same terms to describe the endpoints (right and left), and individuals of all persuasions use both spectrums interchangeably in order to suit their particular rhetoric. The spectrum that’s of most use here is the one that has a theoretical endpoint at anarcho-capitalism and a real endpoint at totalitarian dictatorship.

    rjriediger: It seems to me that any system based on some vice (theft & envy) is likely to permit other vices. It’s moral foundation and its backers’ consciences are already compromised.

    There’s a difference between depriving others of rights (theft) and personal sins like envy. One of the reasons capitalism works is that it harnesses those personal sins towards providing value to others in the system. In a capitalist system, if you envy that beachfront house, you can have one by getting rich by producing something others value and trading that for money, then trading money for the house. In a socialist system, if you envy that riverfront dacha, you play the political games and rise in the party and you may eventually get the dacha if you play the political games right. In a system with elements of both (like most of the West today), you still need to get rich, but you can get rich by playing politics, and often playing politics is the easiest way to get rich.

    spacefaringkitten: Everybody, including socialists, can say that their system is “natural” and developed to meet human needs. Socialists may even have stronger claim to that one, given the circumstances in factories during the time when socialism came about.

    All those benefits of unionization are examples not of socialism, but of a changing market for labor, and we can see similar changes in places like Henry Ford’s small automobile company where management was smart enough to recognize those changes and adapt (most developed socialist economies also tend to clamp down on or even break unions as threats to the government). Furthermore, the problem with this logic is that we have evidence that markets form naturally: the existence of black markets anywhere the prices for goods are artificially set. Free market logic explains what we see in both capitalist and socialist economies, while most of what the great socialist thinkers have predicted has not come true.

  20. Or, as Kipling put it:

    “In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

  21. “There’s a difference between depriving others of rights (theft) and personal sins like envy. One of the reasons capitalism works is that it harnesses those personal sins towards providing value to others in the system. In a capitalist system, if you envy that beachfront house, you can have one by getting rich by producing something others value and trading that for money, then trading money for the house.”
    I was talking about “envy” in the sense of “covetousness” as in the Ten Commandments—wanting YOUR STUFF not wanting stuff like you have. Capitalism allows someone to want & go earn a good salary like me. Socialism just takes my salary.

  22. spacefaringkitten: Your post is a perfect example of what I call “virtue-hoarding”. Everything good came from the Left. It wasn’t just socialists who crusaded against factory conditions back in the 19th century, but they claim all the credit.

  23. I was talking about “envy” in the sense of “covetousness” as in the Ten Commandments—wanting YOUR STUFF not wanting stuff like you have. Capitalism allows someone to want & go earn a good salary like me. Socialism just takes my salary.

    I apologize for being pedantic; your general point is correct, but there is a lesson here for would-be socialists: you may want my house, not just one like mine, and if so, you have two ways to get it: via the market, you can offer me something I value more (and that value may not be monetary). Or, you can use the power of government (aka eminent domain) to take it against my will. One can argue that even in a minarchist libertarian society there will be places where eminent domain is appropriate, but when you define everything as a collective action policy and regard the government as ‘all of us acting together’ with the mandate to use that power, you get things like the Kelo vs New London decision (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelo_v._City_of_New_London). Note especially these quotes from the dissent: “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.” and “Allowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough, but extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities. Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful.

  24. Civilis:
    All those benefits of unionization are examples not of socialism, but of a changing market for labor, and we can see similar changes in places like Henry Ford’s small automobile company where management was smart enough to recognize those changes and adapt (most developed socialist economies also tend to clamp down on or even break unions as threats to the government).

    As far as I know, being a member of a union was actually compulsory in the USSR, although you can perhaps make the case that unions in a communist country are something different than under capitalism (where you have capitalists and conflicting class interests etc.). Social democracies tend to have extremely powerful trade unions, and all European left has close ties with unions. In Latin America and Asia the situation may be different, I don’t know.

    The theory behind socialism was developed well before Henry Ford’s time, and back then the working class didn’t have the same bargaining power as Ford’s workers (who had specialized skills etc.). During industrialization, life was dire for them and they had to fight for all changes and freedoms that the early factory-owners and aristocratic governments naturally didn’t want to grant them.

    Christopher M. Chupik:
    spacefaringkitten: Your post is a perfect example of what I call “virtue-hoarding”. Everything good came from the Left. It wasn’t just socialists who crusaded against factory conditions back in the 19th century, but they claim all the credit.

    Well, I’m not sure to whom you are referring to here, but the working class and the capitalists pretty obviously had conflicting class interests as far as the factory conditions are considered. Paying the workforce any more than is absolutely necessary is always bad for business, isn’t it? That’s the thinking behind early unions, and it’s kinda Socialism 101 as well. They wanted to organize in order to demand better wages and living conditions and more political power (like the right to vote, for starters) for the working class.

  25. Walmortan Jo, I think your argument deserves a more thorough reply than I gave earlier:

    By welfare state social democracy I mean the broad system used by e.g. the USA, France, UK, Japan, Denmark, Finland, Norway, etc. It’s what I think a lot of Americans think of as “socialism.” Obviously there are hugely important differences between socialising say 30% of national income, which I think is roughly where you guys are, & 50% which is more like where the Nordic countries think the sweet spot is. & obviously how that wealth is created & distributed varies as well. But I do think distinctions between different types of social democracy often get aggrandized as if they were more fundamental philosophical, moral and anthropological distinctions.

    What’s important are the trends as much as the current conditions. The American right, for the most part, is now at a point where the trend is to maximize individual rights (specifically, negative rights; positive rights aren’t rights, but that’s another discussion) as much as feasible; most restrictions proposed are couched in terms of the risk to others (drug legalization is opposed because people on drugs are viewed as a risk towards those around them, for example). From the right, once you start down the slippery slope of ‘the government knows what’s best for you better than you do’, you can justify anything. Right now, our economies are in a state where the governments can’t afford to do to much, so trends on increasing what the government does are potentially very bad. In this vein, a lot of the European Social Democracies are realizing they can’t afford everything, and are cutting back on how much they control.

  26. As far as I know, being a member of a union was actually compulsory in the USSR, although you can perhaps make the case that unions in a communist country are something different than under capitalism (where you have capitalists and conflicting class interests etc.). Social democracies tend to have extremely powerful trade unions, and all European left has close ties with unions. In Latin America and Asia the situation may be different, I don’t know.

    One could write a whole essay on the differences between European unions, which tie in very closely to the companies they work with and have a vested interest in their survival, the US unions for private industry, which have developed a reputation for being more concerned about the union leadership (and, to a lesser extent, the pension-earning retirees that make up a substantial portion of their membership), and the US public sector unions, which are a whole different problem. However, this all is begging the question. Socialism is a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. It says nothing about unions in there; unions aren’t the community. You said it yourself: in the USSR, the ‘community’ (as ‘represented’ by the people with the skills and ambition to climb in the party) controlled the unions; the unions were allowed when they benefited the party, and crushed when they didn’t.

    The theory behind socialism was developed well before Henry Ford’s time, and back then the working class didn’t have the same bargaining power as Ford’s workers (who had specialized skills etc.). During industrialization, life was dire for them and they had to fight for all changes and freedoms that the early factory-owners and aristocratic governments naturally didn’t want to grant them.

    We’re no longer in an industrializing economy. Socialist economics failed to predict the changes wrought by the passage of time, while the laws of supply and demand continue to be as applicable to the real world as when they were first put into writing.

    There will always be people with both ambition and skills necessary to succeed; they were the feudal lords and the robber barons, In every era, they take the path of least resistance to acquiring power. Under a free market, that means is by providing the people what they are willing to trade for. Under a controlled central economy, it’s by playing the political game.

  27. “Paying the workforce any more than is absolutely necessary is always bad for business, isn’t it?”

    No, it’s not. One historical example is Henry Ford’s offer of wages of $5 per day in his auto factories, which were considered wildly generous when they debuted. There are other examples, including today where people with specialized skills earn huge wages and bonuses (see “Silicon Valley”).

  28. No, it’s not. One historical example is Henry Ford’s offer of wages of $5 per day in his auto factories, which were considered wildly generous when they debuted. There are other examples, including today where people with specialized skills earn huge wages and bonuses (see “Silicon Valley”).

    Top-down control at the behest of the owners of capital is just as antithetical to the free market and a healthy economy as top-down control by the owners of labor. Henry Ford is an example of where the owner of capital was able to recognize that establishing a beneficial relationship with labor was in the best interest of both parties and to adapt without outside government compulsion, in other words, an example of the market in action.

    There’s nothing antithetical to the free market with workers organizing in a union for better wages, as long as the workers are free to choose whether or not join the union and the company is free to find non-union labor. The fact that unions have gone political to compel the power of the state in its favor is why prvate sector unions have suffered the setbacks in power that they have.

  29. Larry Correia answering a commenter on Brad’s original Facebook post:

    “One. Hundred. Million. Dead.

    Sure, capitalists have murdered people. But we’ve got nothing on those assholes. It takes a socialist to turn people into assets on a balance sheet to be managed. It takes a socialist to turn murder into an industrial threshing machine.

    And it takes an imbecile with no sense of scale to play the moral equivalence card between the two systems.

    Especially when all the grievances he lists to defend the state being too meddlesome, are all the results of the state being too meddlesome.

    I reserve my best rudeness for Stalin’s useful idiots.

    Oh? The government meddles too much and bails out MCI? I see you that bit of stupidity and raise you the killing fields, the gas chambers, the gulags, forced starvation, firing squads, and mass graves piled with corpses of bad assets that need to be liquidated.”

  30. ct236:
    “Paying the workforce any more than is absolutely necessary is always bad for business, isn’t it?”

    No, it’s not. One historical example is Henry Ford’s offer of wages of $5 per day in his auto factories, which were considered wildly generous when they debuted.

    Sure, paying for specialized labor can be a good decision in some circumstances, but you don’t see businesses like McDonald’s or Wal-Mart paying “wildly generous” wages.

    Civilis:
    We’re no longer in an industrializing economy. Socialist economics failed to predict the changes wrought by the passage of time…

    I don’t know about that. Poor people doing shitty jobs for shitty wages still don’t have much else to lose than their chains.

  31. “Sure, paying for specialized labor can be a good decision in some circumstances, but you don’t see businesses like McDonald’s or Wal-Mart paying ‘wildly generous’ wages.”

    So fucking what? Oh, you want people to be able to demand and force payment of wages that YOU think are “adequate and fair”, not what the market dictates. Let me put it this way, sugar: If you don’t have the skills and thus don’t add value to the enterprise, it isn’t going to pay you the generous “living wage” that you think you and your friends are worth. You yearn for the power of the State to be at your disposal and force people to bend to your will. And who knows? You may be successful…and thereby destroy that which you think you have a right to control. It’s ALWAYS been that way. Have at it.

  32. I don’t know about that. Poor people doing shitty jobs for shitty wages still don’t have much else to lose than their chains.

    The fact that people believe this is why we have so many problems in the world today. I’ve had an involuntary all-expenses-paid ‘vacation’ to an insignificant central-Asian former Soviet republic with a name like a Scrabble player’s nightmare where the peasants had luxuries that would have been right out of a Sci-Fi novel a couple decades earlier. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government, which is sitting on a resource gold mine in peacetime, can’t supply enough toilet paper.

    We’ve spent a lot of time listing what people can lose, with more than a hundred million having lost their lives this century because their government’s promised them a worker’s paradise on somebody else’s back.

    Sure, paying for specialized labor can be a good decision in some circumstances, but you don’t see businesses like McDonald’s or Wal-Mart paying “wildly generous” wages.

    They pay what the market will bear for the value produced by the labor provided. Meanwhile, that wage buys less and less because the “community regulation of production, distribution, and exchange” drives costs for goods and services up.

  33. Civilis on February 22, 2016 at 11:50 am said: “Meanwhile, that wage buys less and less ”

    And that is what those who cry for a “living wage” cannot seem to understand. Raise the minimum wage and you drive up costs.

    Meanwhile, the other jobs, like lower level officer workers do not see an increase in pay. People like my family, who get by right now and soemtimes have a few pennies left at the end of the month to do something, end up having less to spare because basic supplies cost half again what they did before the “living wage”.

  34. Note: the Nazis and the Bolsheviks are essentially two sides of the same coin. It’s one of the stranger (but totally understandable) fictions of history, that Western intellectuals have pretended the Nazis and Bolsheviks are somehow at opposites. They aren’t. They’re siblings. Each seeking to perfect the human condition. Each feeding millions of innocents to the buzzsaw of societal “improvement.” The NKVD and SS regarded Jews with roughly the same level of disdain, and each sent horrendous numbers of Jews to their deaths in the camps. If Hitler and Stalin had each been less ambitious, less paranoid, less narcissistic, and more practical, they would have splendidly carved Europe up between them, and stood a good chance of defeating outside attempts (by Britain or the U.S.) to interfere. They’d have been toasting each other — as they toasted each other in 1939. Molotov-Ribbentrop was an agreement the Bolsheviks were perfectly happy to live with, and they were not at all worried about Himmler’s plans for the üntermensch who’d be sent to the ovens. In fact, they aided and abetted the horror in Poland. Gotta break a few eggs, to make that Peoples Omelet.

  35. How convenient. I was just slamming some Bernie socialists with fun stuff from the German propaganda archives at Calvin University. Glauben’s “book of virtues” was especially useful.

    Socialism:
    Socialism means: “The common good before the individual good.”
    Socialism means: “Think not of yourself, but of the whole, of the people and the state.”
    Socialism means: “Not the same for everyone, but to each his own.”

    These sentences make clear what we call “German socialism.” No one is a socialist who does not live according to them….

    The section on property is also good.

    Property:
    In the National Socialist state, there is no longer property with which the individual can do with whatever he wishes. There is no unlimited right of property, only a right that has been earned to administer it for the good of the whole. §Property is a loan. One may certainly use it, but only to advance the interests of the whole.

    Maybe I should search their archives for some good slams of Wall Street to see if Bernie is lifting material unaccredited. ^_^

  36. ct236:
    “Sure, paying for specialized labor can be a good decision in some circumstances, but you don’t see businesses like McDonald’s or Wal-Mart paying ‘wildly generous’ wages.”

    So fucking what? Oh, you want people to be able to demand and force payment of wages that YOU think are “adequate and fair”, not what the market dictates. Let me put it this way, sugar: If you don’t have the skills and thus don’t add value to the enterprise, it isn’t going to pay you the generous “living wage” that you think you and your friends are worth.

    I’m sure that when the early socialists demanded a shorter than 18-hour workday or high enough wages that their children wouldn’t have to work in factories and mines in early 19th century, the capitalists who owned the factories and mines had an answer that was quite similar to this. Why should the employers pay their employees more than the market dictates? I’m pretty certain that early 19th century market didn’t dictate that wages should be raised, but the workers fought for more pay and they got it.

    The working class founded unions, organized strikes and managed to end child labor. They fought for the right to vote in many countries, and they got it after strikes and demonstrations. That’s how poor people got some political power in most of the world. I suppose things were somewhat different in US where there was no aristocracy holding all the power in the first place.

    From the marxist point of view, me and my friends should be paid a decent wage, not because we are worth it but because everybody is entitled to a decent standard of living.

    Civilis:
    “Sure, paying for specialized labor can be a good decision in some circumstances, but you don’t see businesses like McDonald’s or Wal-Mart paying “wildly generous” wages.”

    They pay what the market will bear for the value produced by the labor provided.

    No no, I think you skipped one very important step there. The company comes up with prices that make most profit, and then the business owners pay the workers as little as they can and keep the rest. That’s how companies work — their main goal is to make as much profit as possible. They can pay very little in case there’s a) no minimum wage laws and b) enough unemployed people willing to take the job if the workers get difficult.

    From the free market perspective, there’s nothing wrong with that. From the socialist perspective, the workers should (or at least they could) organize and collectively fight for better wages for the workers and (thus) smaller profits for the business owners.

  37. No no, I think you skipped one very important step there. The company comes up with prices that make most profit, and then the business owners pay the workers as little as they can and keep the rest. That’s how companies work — their main goal is to make as much profit as possible. They can pay very little in case there’s a) no minimum wage laws and b) enough unemployed people willing to take the job if the workers get difficult.

    I find it odd that someone so concerned about labor would deny the agency of the worker in the picture. Business owners and workers come to an agreement on a salary; in the case of a fast food restaurant, that may be part of a larger, standardized process, but it’s still the worker’s choice to accept the job. To the worker, the time spent working is worth less than the amount paid. To the company, the amount paid is worth less than the value of the work performed.

    From the free market perspective, there’s nothing wrong with that. From the socialist perspective, the workers should (or at least they could) organize and collectively fight for better wages for the workers and (thus) smaller profits for the business owners.

    They are free to do so, but if there’s an excess of supply of labor, they may be undercut, and the union takes a percentage of the profit and frequently makes the work harder.

    I’ve worked at a social services agency for people with disabilities. The consumers (the people we helped) arranged to make extra spending money for the program by hiring out to perform shredding operations for small local firms. The amount that was paid for the service probably amounted to less than minimum wage, but that’s because at minimum wage it would be cheaper for the firms paying for the service to buy a paper shredder. However, everyone won; the firms got both the paper shredded cheaper and the knowledge they were helping the community and the program got spending money.

  38. From the marxist point of view, me and my friends should be paid a decent wage, not because we are worth it but because everybody is entitled to a decent standard of living.

    If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. What exactly are you entitled to? Where does it come from? Who are you willing to enslave or kill to get it? I mentioned positive “rights” above, and I thank you for giving me an excellent example. We live in a world of scarcity; just because you say everyone is “entitled to a decent standard of living” or “has a right to free health care” or any other scarce good, you run into the problem that these goods are scarce; not everyone can have them. Oddly, even the original Marxists realized this, and you see the people that lost out on getting those goods in places like Ukraine during the Holodomor; the people that actually end up with the decent standards of living are the cronies of the people running the government, and the people that suffer are the same people that are victimized by the “common good” in cases like Kelo.

    Saying “everybody is entitled to a decent standard of living” is meaningless, because nobody can guarantee that standard or even agree upon what it means. Telling the slaves in Cuba that “everybody is entitled to a decent standard of living” does nothing to actually help them get any of Castro’s fortune or even a single inch towards freedom anywhere else. It’s ironic, but the places that promise the least end up providing the most people with a decent standard of living.

  39. It’s very telling that Marxists are always talking about “the People”, but ignoring what their policies end up doing to those same people.

  40. I agree with all of this. How do you begin to explain this to people that say “oh, but this is different, this is democratic socialism” (as if there’s a difference in the end result~total destruction). It’s downright scary that people are actually falling for the crap Bernie is spewing. I’m terrified.

  41. For the socialists/communists:
    1. How much of what you have are you willing to let the state take so someone else is better off?
    2. Didn’t your parents ever tell you that just because everyone else is doing it you don’t have to jump off the bridge as well?

  42. Communists vs. fascists isn’t good vs. evil, it’s two gangs fighting to control the drug trade.

  43. With capitalism, the individual controls the money and doesn’t care about the government.

    With socialism, government controls the money and doesn’t care about the individual.

  44. Two observations on spacefaringkitten’s outlook:

    1. Despite his or her enthusiasm for “socialism”, the fact is that the most explosive increase in human welfare and happiness in history has been caused by and occurred in capitalist societies. On the other hand, the most horrific mechanized mass murder of millions of human beings at the hands of “government” was engineered in socialist societies.

    2. Despite the undeniable reality of the above historical observations, people like this person persist in pushing an ideology that demonstrably results in mass murder. Truly, socialism (aka leftism, SJWism, statism, collectivism, etc.) is a type of mental illness held by millions of humans (before they are murdered and ground up in the teeth of that which they advocate). Such people must be regarded as extremely dangerous, bordering on mentally deranged, and treated as such. All that is necessary for a Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Castro, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, or any other of their ilk to triumph…is for good and clear-headed human beings to do nothing. Get ready. They’re gearing up to try it again, this time in the U.S.A.

  45. Civilis:
    it’s still the worker’s choice to accept the job. To the worker, the time spent working is worth less than the amount paid. To the company, the amount paid is worth less than the value of the work performed.

    I see your point. On the other hand, you may have to accept a shitty job to get your family fed, and that means you have absolutely zero negotiating power. You are completely at the mercy of your employer, and a minimum wage law would help you tremendously in that situation.

    Your paper shredding example makes sense, but you’re talking about people whose lives are not dependent on that money.

    We live in a world of scarcity; just because you say everyone is “entitled to a decent standard of living” or “has a right to free health care” or any other scarce good, you run into the problem that these goods are scarce; not everyone can have them.

    Sure, resources are scarce and we can’t all have fancy apartments, Ferraris and unicorns, but socialism is (in theory, if not always in practice) about distributing those resources more evenly than free market. There are countries where healthcare and/or education is practically free, so it’s not downright impossible. Of course, there’s a limit to how good services the state can provide for everybody, but I’m not convinced that a system where rich people with good health insurances can get better care is any more fair.

    Saying “everybody is entitled to a decent standard of living” is meaningless, because nobody can guarantee that standard or even agree upon what it means. Telling the slaves in Cuba that “everybody is entitled to a decent standard of living” does nothing to actually help them get any of Castro’s fortune or even a single inch towards freedom anywhere else.

    I’m not sure that Castro’s Cuba is a good example, because I’m fairly certain that there was much more poverty in pre-revolution Cuba (that’s why socialist revolutions are successful), and their heathcare services etc. are quite decent compared to other Latin American countries. It’s a poor country (due to the US embargo), of course, and there’s all sorts of political oppression.

    But yeah, who decides what “decent standard of living” means? In democracies, people who vote. Elsewhere, people with the biggest guns.

  46. ct236:
    Two observations on spacefaringkitten’s outlook:
    1. Despite his or her enthusiasm for “socialism”, the fact is that the most explosive increase in human welfare and happiness in history has been caused by and occurred in capitalist societies. On the other hand, the most horrific mechanized mass murder of millions of human beings at the hands of “government” was engineered in socialist societies.

    Well, depending on how you define “socialism”. Social demoracy and flavors of democratic socialism have improved human welfare a great deal as well, and one can argue that they have done a better job as far as income equality is considered.

    Then we have the communist dictatorships with mechanized mass murder of millions, as you said. Not to mention the greater number of people who were killed in China and USSR not because of mechanized mass murder but unbelievably bad management of resources, famines and the like. Obviously, it’s very hard to have any enthusiasm for that.

  47. I see your point. On the other hand, you may have to accept a shitty job to get your family fed, and that means you have absolutely zero negotiating power. You are completely at the mercy of your employer, and a minimum wage law would help you tremendously in that situation.

    You could always go into business for yourself or improve your skills to command a better wage. The real minimum wage is always zero; increasing the minimum wage will price some people out of a job.

    Sure, resources are scarce and we can’t all have fancy apartments, Ferraris and unicorns, but socialism is (in theory, if not always in practice) about distributing those resources more evenly than free market. There are countries where healthcare and/or education is practically free, so it’s not downright impossible. Of course, there’s a limit to how good services the state can provide for everybody, but I’m not convinced that a system where rich people with good health insurances can get better care is any more fair.

    Equally miserable is still equal. And for a system which is in theory about distributing resources evenly, the political leaders of socialist systems tend to be fabulously wealthy (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3192933/Hugo-Chavez-s-ambassador-daughter-Venezuela-s-richest-woman-according-new-report.html). Somebody above already pointed out how much ‘free healthcare’ and ‘free education’ actually cost, and what they actually provide may not be what is advertised.

    I’m not sure that Castro’s Cuba is a good example, because I’m fairly certain that there was much more poverty in pre-revolution Cuba (that’s why socialist revolutions are successful), and their heathcare services etc. are quite decent compared to other Latin American countries. It’s a poor country (due to the US embargo), of course, and there’s all sorts of political oppression.

    I think you have a slanted view of Cuba, both before and after the revolution. Cuba was lousy for the poor farmers before the revolution; now it’s lousy for everyone! Well, lousy for everyone except Castro. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3076006/Man-people-No-Castro-lived-like-king-Bodyguard-says-former-Cuban-leader-worth-hundreds-millions-private-island.html). Hey, he provides his slaves with free horrible-quality health care! He’s not all bad! Blaming the US embargo for the poverty is a laugh, as we’ve seen just about every socialist country run into the same problems. Venezuela is sitting on a veritable gold mine of oil, and still can’t provide enough food for its people, and we’ve watched the people in power get more repressive and do more things to destroy their economy as time goes on, and you can’t blame anyone else.

    Socialist revolutions are successful because people believe the promises, and successful revolutionaries are smart about keeping the people with the guns better off than the peasants. In practice, unless you have lottery-like luck (partially in the form of being skilled at being a ruthless asshole) and end up on top, your life ends up worse after the revolution.

    socialism is (in theory, if not always in practice) about distributing those resources more evenly than free market.

    This, right here, is where socialism fails. People don’t want things evenly. People value different things different amounts. On a simple level, take Sander’s ‘too may types of deodorant’ comment (http://reason.com/blog/2015/05/26/bernie-sanders-dont-need-23-choices-of-d): with one kind of deodorant, is it going to be the type you want, or the type the people in power want? On a meta level, some people want short term gratification, others prefer to work hard now for benefit later. Once those in power have promised them all long-term equality, why would anyone work hard?

  48. Socialism only equalizes what you receive, not what you contribute, so it is inherently unfair. It really only benefits the people who run it.

  49. Socialism destroys human potential by strangling necessity–the mother of invention. How many doctors, teachers, scientists, etc will never exist because we make it easier to give up? Socialism destroys the poor and demoralizes the ambitious.

  50. Teddy Roosevelt, Progressive:
    “We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.”

  51. Civilis:
    I think you have a slanted view of Cuba, both before and after the revolution. Cuba was lousy for the poor farmers before the revolution; now it’s lousy for everyone! Well, lousy for everyone except Castro.

    Well, there are no poor dictators, are there? The fact that Castro perhaps lives in luxury doesn’t mean that the socialist Cuba is bad deal for a lot of people. My understanding is that for a developing Latin American country, they’re not doing that bad if we look at statistics.

    Blaming the US embargo for the poverty is a laugh, as we’ve seen just about every socialist country run into the same problems. Venezuela is sitting on a veritable gold mine of oil, and still can’t provide enough food for its people…

    If I remember correctly, the effects of the embargo are estimated to be hundreds of millions per year for Cuba and more for US. Cuba is definitely not sitting on a gold mine of oil, so they depend on trade more than some other countries.

    In practice, unless you have lottery-like luck (partially in the form of being skilled at being a ruthless asshole) and end up on top, your life ends up worse after the revolution.

    I have a hard time believing that Cuba under Batista’s military dictatorship, Imperial Russia or Kuomingtang China were countries where average citizens would have been very happy either. It’s impossible to pull off a revolution without popular support, or keep a country going afterwards for very long, like we saw in USSR. Once people are upset enough, it will go down eventually.

  52. “It’s impossible to pull off a revolution without popular support, or keep a country going afterwards for very long, like we saw in USSR. Once people are upset enough, it will go down eventually.”

    The trick is not to get murdered while waiting for the Marxists to be overthrown.

  53. I have a hard time believing that Cuba under Batista’s military dictatorship, Imperial Russia or Kuomingtang China were countries where average citizens would have been very happy either. It’s impossible to pull off a revolution without popular support, or keep a country going afterwards for very long, like we saw in USSR. Once people are upset enough, it will go down eventually.

    Take a look at the numbers involved in the American Revolution… not a very large percentage of the population on either side was actually involved. Likewise, we’ve seen how few people it takes to suppress a (counter)revolution when the people suppressing are the ones with guns.

    “Cuba’s capital, Havana, was a glittering and dynamic city. In the early part of the century the country’s economy, fueled by the sale of sugar to the United States, had grown dynamically. Cuba ranked fifth in the hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in per capita ownership of automobiles and telephones, first in the number of television sets per inhabitant. The literacy rate, 76%, was the fourth highest in Latin America. Cuba ranked 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capita. Many private clinics and hospitals provided services for the poor. Cuba’s income distribution compared favorably with that of other Latin American societies. A thriving middle class held the promise of prosperity and social mobility.”
    (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/castro/peopleevents/e_precastro.html)

    Well, there are no poor dictators, are there? The fact that Castro perhaps lives in luxury doesn’t mean that the socialist Cuba is bad deal for a lot of people. My understanding is that for a developing Latin American country, they’re not doing that bad if we look at statistics.

    Do a quick self-check. Why are so many people desperate to leave Cuba? Why won’t the Cuban government let people leave? Also, when your selling point is equality, the fact that the people in charge end up being rich and having rights the rest of the population don’t have isn’t an argument in your favor.

    Wikipedia won’t guess at the GDP per capita of Cuba; the CIA says 135th in the world, definitely not fifth in the hemisphere in terms of per-capita income.

    “In April 2011, the government held the first Cuban Communist Party Congress in almost 13 years, during which leaders approved a plan for wide-ranging economic changes. Since then, the government has slowly and incrementally implemented limited economic reforms, including allowing Cubans to buy electronic appliances and cell phones, stay in hotels, and buy and sell used cars.”(https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cu.html)

    Wow! Amazing! They’re now allowed to buy cell phones!

    If I remember correctly, the effects of the embargo are estimated to be hundreds of millions per year for Cuba and more for US. Cuba is definitely not sitting on a gold mine of oil, so they depend on trade more than some other countries.

    Without getting in to the pluses and minuses of the embargo, the fact that a nation that depends on trade would go to such lengths to piss off the potential nearby trading partner is an example of people not thinking through long term consequences. Even Chavez wasn’t that stupid.

    I notice you haven’t addressed my point that just about every country that has gotten more socialist has had the same type of problems, from Venezuela to Zimbabwe (and in that I include the US; making medical insurance more socialized has led to worse, more expensive care). Meanwhile, the European social democracies are getting less socialist as they realize they can’t afford all the promises they’ve made over the years. Venezuela’s a great case, because we’ve watched it in real time, where the (rich, wealthy Western) socialists were all ‘this is awesome! Socialism can work!’ until the country started running out of basic staples, the government’s gotten more repressive in the name of keeping the socialist order going, and the people that were cheering it on have become suddenly silent…

  54. According the Human Development Index, Cuba is doing quite well — of Latin American countries (not counting the small islands), only Argentina, Chile, Panama and Uruguay are doing better. Paraguay, Colombia, Equador, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and others are below Cuba. If we look only at life expectancy (a good indicator of how the healthcare system works), only Chile does better.

    Things don’t look that bad for socialists, I suppose. 😀

  55. Things don’t look that bad for socialists, I suppose.

    Using the nebulous HDI as opposed to more relevant statistics is a nice dodge, because you can use that gameable ‘Education’ statistic, and pretend that it’s as important as GDP per capita in people’s lives. It’s like me pointing out that Cuba’s incredibly close to the bottom of any rankings of freedom. (see https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/cuba, or the rating of a whopping 177 out of 178 on Heritage’s list I linked above.)

    Also, it might help to link your sources. CIA factbook has Costa Rica and Panama with higher life expectancy as well, and much of Latin America incredibly close. Life expectancy is so vulnerable to cultural factors it’s not a good proxy for healthcare.

    I’m just surprised you’re defending Cuba, rather than the Scandinavian welfare states. Seriously, a state that’s so unfree only North Korea scored lower, and you’re saying it ‘doesn’t look bad’? A state where “illicit emigration is a continuing problem; Cubans attempt to depart the island and enter the US using homemade rafts, alien smugglers, direct flights, or falsified visas” (love that flat CIA prose) is your example you’re sticking to?

    I love the following quotes about the equality in Cuba from Freedom House: “While racial discrimination has long been outlawed as state policy, Cubans of African descent have reported widespread discrimination and profiling by law enforcement officials (many of them of African descent themselves). Many of these Cubans have only limited access to the dollar-earning sectors of the economy.” (especially ironic is that’s about identical to the problems that poor Cubans faced the Revolution was supposed to solve) and “Cuban workers do not have the right to strike or bargain collectively, and independent labor unions are illegal.” (so much for labor solidarity).

    Here’s a great illustration of the equality that Socialism has brought Cuba: “The Cuban government relies heavily on the military as well as on members of the Castro family for control of both business and politics. […] The president’s son-in-law, Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, is CEO of Gaesa, the sector of the military that controls all business operations.

    Here’s another one illustrating how important free education is to Cuba: Academic freedom is restricted in Cuba. Teaching materials commonly contain ideological content, and affiliation with PCC structures is generally needed to gain access and advancement in educational institutions. On numerous occasions, university students have been expelled for dissident behavior, a harsh punishment that effectively prevents them from pursuing higher education.

  56. I do have to say one thing for Cuba, according to Heritage, the top corporate tax rate is lower than the US’s. Make of that what you will.

  57. I’m just surprised you’re defending Cuba, rather than the Scandinavian welfare states. Seriously, a state that’s so unfree only North Korea scored lower, and you’re saying it ‘doesn’t look bad’?

    Looking at the welfare indicators, it doesn’t look bad. Of course any sane person would rather live in Scandinavia than in Cuba, there’s no question about that. But the point you are trying to make is that socialism makes everybody’s life miserable, when in fact I don’t think that can be proven, even in Cuba’s case where the socialism is pretty hardline Marxist-Leninist.

    Human development index is meant to measure people’s possibilities to “do desirable things in their life”, whereas GDP per capita only calculates economic performance, so it makes sense to me to be more interested in the former in this context. If you really want to look at GDP, you probably should focus on GDP at purchasing power parity per capita, because we are talking about living standards and people’s well-being. The sheer GDP figures (that you say are “more relevant”) don’t take into account the relative cost of living in different countries.

    And when we look at GDP at PPP statistics, Cuba is doing pretty well. Once again, only Argentina, Chile, Panama and Uruguay seem to be doing better. Cuba’s good performance here is not a result of gaming the statistics, it’s an ok country to live in (if you don’t mess with the authoritarian rulers, that is).

  58. One thing about Cuba — political prisons. Cuba has had them since Castro first took power. It’s never been a secret. If your utopia needs political prisons, you’re goddamned doing it wrong. Moreover, people who offer apologia for Cuba’s repressive, often brutal socialist government seem to either not care, or they are of the, “You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet,” variety of Walter Duranty useful idiot.

  59. Spacekitten said about Cuba: “Looking at the welfare indicators, it doesn’t look bad. Of course any sane person would rather live in Scandinavia than in Cuba, there’s no question about that. But the point you are trying to make is that socialism makes everybody’s life miserable, when in fact I don’t think that can be proven, even in Cuba’s case where the socialism is pretty hardline Marxist-Leninist.”

    Spacekitten, your entire argument—*all of it*—is rendered nugatory by these observations from Civlils: “I’m just surprised you’re defending Cuba…a state that’s so unfree only North Korea scored lower, and you’re saying it ‘doesn’t look bad’? A state where ‘illicit emigration is a continuing problem; Cubans attempt to depart the island and enter the US using homemade rafts, alien smugglers, direct flights, or falsified visas’…is the example you’re sticking to?”

    I said: Leftism is a mental dysfunction. ANY polity that generally and forcibly prevents its citizens from leaving is *ipso facto* a slave state. Yet we find Democrats and other socialists everywhere lauding how wonderful Cuba is for its human inhabitants. *Mental illness*.

  60. Looking at the welfare indicators, it doesn’t look bad. Of course any sane person would rather live in Scandinavia than in Cuba, there’s no question about that. But the point you are trying to make is that socialism makes everybody’s life miserable, when in fact I don’t think that can be proven, even in Cuba’s case where the socialism is pretty hardline Marxist-Leninist.

    If a country has people engaging in what the CIA so euphemistically refers to as “illicit emigration”, their lives are obviously miserable. More importantly, if it’s illicit, it means they’re not allowed to leave; they’re slaves of the government. Borderline totalitarian states with a degree of economic freedom (like Singapore) don’t have problems with people trying desperately to escape the country.

    And, of course, it doesn’t make everyone’s lives miserable. Some people are relatives of the dictator, or professional athletes that make the country look good, or enjoy marching in goosesteps and torturing dissidents.

    Human development index is meant to measure people’s possibilities to “do desirable things in their life”, whereas GDP per capita only calculates economic performance, so it makes sense to me to be more interested in the former in this context. If you really want to look at GDP, you probably should focus on GDP at purchasing power parity per capita, because we are talking about living standards and people’s well-being. The sheer GDP figures (that you say are “more relevant”) don’t take into account the relative cost of living in different countries.

    I looked up what HDI measures, and it gives you the answer you want, rather than the answer the evidence around you shows should be correct. Cubans are educated, if you call political indoctrination “education”, and if that fits something you’d like, I’ll pay your way to Liberty University and even generously offer to take away your stipend if you don’t toe the Conservative party line so you can get something like that “expelled for dissident behavior” thing you think is necessary for “doing desirable things in life”.

    I’ve been using GDP at purchasing power parity per capita (and have been too lazy to properly abbreviate) this entire debate. I’m getting my stats from the CIA World Factbook for my GDP per capita (PPP) estimates, which has a lot more Latin American countries with higher rates (Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Peru, etc.)

    Chile is interesting. It’s rated higher than the US on both freedom indexes I linked, and you’ve already pointed out how high it’s scored on a lot of the other statistics, with a GDP per capita (PPP) more than twice Cuba’s (as rated by the CIA). It’s an excellent example of what economic freedom can do, despite having some crappy recent history, and comparing it with Cuba makes an excellent and instructive comparison.

  61. Brad R. Torgersen:
    If your utopia needs political prisons, you’re goddamned doing it wrong. Moreover, people who offer apologia for Cuba’s repressive, often brutal socialist government…

    Oh, I don’t offer apologia of anything and I don’t see Cuba as any sort of utopia. But it’s not Kampuchea either.

    ct236:
    Spacekitten, your entire argument—*all of it*—is rendered nugatory by these observations from Civlils…

    I don’t think it is, frankly. My point is that materially, life in Cuba is not that bad, but there is political oppression.

    Civilis:
    If a country has people engaging in what the CIA so euphemistically refers to as “illicit emigration”, their lives are obviously miserable.

    We can agree on that a Marxist-Leninist goverment makes the lives of its political opponents miserable. Whether the masses are content or not is another matter. Would they like more free market elements in their society and possibilities for some people to get richer (and other poorer)? Maybe, maybe not. We don’t know.

    I’m getting my stats from the CIA World Factbook for my GDP per capita (PPP) estimates…

    Didn’t you write up there somewhere that the GDP is 135th in the world or something? That’s not CIA’s estimate of GDP PPP, I think. However, World Bank figures seemed like the better source.

    I looked up what HDI measures, and it gives you the answer you want, rather than the answer the evidence around you shows should be correct. Cubans are educated, if you call political indoctrination “education”…

    Come on, it’s an index by United Nations Development Programme. The best way to calculate these things would be the inequality-adjusted version of it, but seems like Cuba isn’t included in that at all.

  62. Forgot to add the last thing about education: you read somewhere that academic freedom is limited (which is surely a fact) and jumped to the conclusion that all education in Cuba is political indoctrination (which is hardly true).

  63. We can agree on that a Marxist-Leninist goverment makes the lives of its political opponents miserable. Whether the masses are content or not is another matter. Would they like more free market elements in their society and possibilities for some people to get richer (and other poorer)? Maybe, maybe not. We don’t know.

    Yes, and all those in North Korea’s prison camps are happy to be there. We don’t know they’re unhappy, so don’t assume anything. You’re the one that takes a ‘minimum wage work is miserable’ upthread, yet you’re willing to grant one of the most repressive states in the world the benefit of the doubt?

    Didn’t you write up there somewhere that the GDP is 135th in the world or something? That’s not CIA’s estimate of GDP PPP, I think. However, World Bank figures seemed like the better source.

    I also linked to the CIA World Factbook website, so you could see the numbers I saw. Unlike some, I don’t consider Wikipedia to be necessarily a bad source. It’s good for a quick self-check when things don’t look right. The ranking is different, but the GDP per capita (PPP) amount is the same.

    Come on, it’s an index by United Nations Development Programme. The best way to calculate these things would be the inequality-adjusted version of it, but seems like Cuba isn’t included in that at all.

    Just because the UNDP says something, doesn’t make it right, it means what the politicians at the UN want it to mean. I actually went and looked up the UNDP. “UNDP works in some 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion.” (UNDP website; http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/ourwork/overview.html). Does that sound like a neutral, unbiased source? It’s like asking the UN Human Rights Committee about Human Rights. “Hmm, what a Human Rights panel with Saudi Arabia and China as members consider important human rights?”

    Forgot to add the last thing about education: you read somewhere that academic freedom is limited (which is surely a fact) and jumped to the conclusion that all education in Cuba is political indoctrination (which is hardly true).

    Would you be content with a free education if if was contingent on not dissenting from the government? We could probably reduce our college expenses by a lot with just the First Amendment alone. “Don’t believe in Freedom of Speech? Out you go!”

  64. Just to make a complicated point simpler: You’re willing to speculate “I have a hard time believing that Cuba under Batista’s military dictatorship, Imperial Russia or Kuomingtang China were countries where average citizens would have been very happy either“, but fall back on “Would they like more free market elements in their society and possibilities for some people to get richer (and other poorer)? Maybe, maybe not. We don’t know.” when it comes to present day Cuba?

  65. Spacefaringkitten: Dude, I have been to Cuba. That country is NOT doing well. Ruined buildings, 50 year-old cars, empty lots, dogs starving in the street. And was in a tourist area.

  66. Civilis:
    I actually went and looked up the UNDP. “UNDP works in some 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion.” Does that sound like a neutral, unbiased source?

    You have written this question in a way that seems to suggest that the answer should be “no” but I can’t see anything objectionable in that quote. Quite the opposite. Seems like a way better source of information about human development than a spy agency, at the very least. 😀

    Just to make a complicated point simpler: You’re willing to speculate “I have a hard time believing that Cuba under Batista’s military dictatorship, Imperial Russia or Kuomingtang China were countries where average citizens would have been very happy either“, but fall back on “Would they like more free market elements in their society and possibilities for some people to get richer (and other poorer)? Maybe, maybe not. We don’t know.” when it comes to present day Cuba?

    Well, isn’t the fact that Batista’s dictatorship, Imperial Russia and Kuomingtang China were overthrown in popular revolutions an indication of something? They were overthrown in popular revolutions because the people had had enough. The same happened in USSR, eventually. I think there’s no significant push to that direction in Cuba at the moment. I do hope there will be democratization but we’ll see.

    Cuba is nothing like the North Korea, though. There are millions of tourists every year and people can generally live their lives like they want to. There’s political oppression, but it’s not one massive gulag.

    Christopher M. Chupik:
    Spacefaringkitten: Dude, I have been to Cuba. That country is NOT doing well. Ruined buildings, 50 year-old cars, empty lots, dogs starving in the street.

    Doing well is relative, of course, but Cuba is considered to have “high human development” (UNDP) and its income level is considered “upper middle” (World Bank). That’s not bad, when we look at Latin America.

    There are empty lots and ruined buildings all around US, and you don’t have to look very hard to find starving kids in South America, let alone dogs. Cuban cars are 50 years old mainly because of the embargo. Dude, if you were horrified by Cuba, I suggest you stay out of Africa and Asia. By western standards, life is extremely rough for the great majority of humans on this planet.

  67. Well, isn’t the fact that Batista’s dictatorship, Imperial Russia and Kuomingtang China were overthrown in popular revolutions an indication of something? They were overthrown in popular revolutions because the people had had enough. The same happened in USSR, eventually. I think there’s no significant push to that direction in Cuba at the moment. I do hope there will be democratization but we’ll see.

    You seem to have some mistaken idea that revolutions are necessarily popular, and that unpopular leaders are always easily overthrown. As long as a government has a monopoly on force, it can’t be removed by other internal state actors. Most ‘revolutions’ are civil wars with both sides armed, where the winner is the side that can win the war, not the side the people support. Most people are neutral; wanting to go about their lives.

    As an example of a recent revolution, take the Romanian Revolution: Nicolae Ceaușescu was a repressive dictator for a very long time, but he wasn’t removed from power until the Romanian military switched sides and supported his overthrow. As other examples, and ones in many ways against my own interest: just because Mosaddegh in Iran and Salvador Allende in Chile were overthrown doesn’t make their overthrow popular. Russia experienced a full scale Civil War after the Imperial government was overthrown, so while overthrowing the Imperial government may have been popular, the people that eventually won have no claim on that popularity. China was a three way war between a corrupt fascist government, the Japanese, and the Soviet-backed Communists (who were smart enough to let the other two fight), comparing that to an internal revolution, especially a popular one, is silly. (And even popular revolutions have no claim on being good for the people, witness the French Revolution.)

    Cuba is nothing like the North Korea, though. There are millions of tourists every year and people can generally live their lives like they want to. There’s political oppression, but it’s not one massive gulag.

    Gulag: a system of labor camps maintained in the former Soviet Union from 1930 to 1955 in which many people died. Can also be used to describe a political labor camp. Sure, if you use the literal definition, it’s not a gulag. Since they’re not free to leave (the whole ‘illicit emigration’ thing), it certainly is a massive political labor camp. Aside from denying people basic human rights, ruled by a political dynasty, mired in repression and poverty, steeped in socialist politics, and having a population willing to risk death to escape, it’s nothing like North Korea, because it allows gullible tourists to see the nice parts with a government minder and prop up the regime with their money! (There’s a nice little bit in one of the quotes I put above about “Many of these Cubans have only limited access to the dollar-earning sectors of the economy“, which should give you a clue about how bad the Cuban economy is for the average Cuban.)

    All this is immaterial to my main point: you are defending as an example of socialism, which you have defined as “socialism is (in theory, if not always in practice) about distributing those resources more evenly than free market“, a state where the Castro regime owns basically everything and is the only people in the country with any real rights? This is your example of successful even distribution or equality?

  68. Doing well is relative, of course, but Cuba is considered to have “high human development” (UNDP) and its income level is considered “upper middle” (World Bank). That’s not bad, when we look at Latin America.

    There are empty lots and ruined buildings all around US, and you don’t have to look very hard to find starving kids in South America, let alone dogs. Cuban cars are 50 years old mainly because of the embargo. Dude, if you were horrified by Cuba, I suggest you stay out of Africa and Asia. By western standards, life is extremely rough for the great majority of humans on this planet.

    Those empty lots and ruined buildings you see in the US? They’re often caused because the local ‘community’ (read: government) has decided to regulate the local housing and business markets. That regulation has led to the price controls that price people out of affordable housing and driven businesses that could otherwise employ people away. And what do we call it when “means of production, distribution, or exchange are regulated by the community”? Say it with me: Socialism!

    Likewise, a lot of Central and South American nations have toyed with socialist policies over the years, or have had to deal with ‘popular revolutions’ backed by other socialist countries. Take a look at Chile as an exception, by both our standards its doing pretty well (admittedly, Chile toyed with socialism for a while in the 70s, but they seem to have gotten over it).

    I’ve been to Central Asia. The country I was in (the above-mentioned Scrabble player’s nightmare) has a GDP per capita (PPP) one third of Cuba’s, yet the locals had cell phones and appliances, things which were at the time illegal for private citizens in Cuba. Despite having a bad freedom ranking (5), the locals had TVs which showed foreign shows and uncensored internet access and there was no rationing of goods. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, the locals had recent used cars.

    The problem you’re running into, and the problem with using HDI as a measurement, and, likewise, the problem with that UNDP statement that gives the game away, and the problem with socialist economics in general is that inequality isn’t a problem in and of itself. Anyone that says so is starting from a baseline which begs the question. The fact that socialist economies which are supposed to be equal all still end up being fantastically unequal only makes it worse.

  69. Additional ‘hilarity’ from the Cuban articles:

    Even though the first several hits were people trying to still tout the ‘oh, but it isn’t THAT bad’ in the article couldn’t avoid the reality without outright lying: they had to get their food on the black market. There is no free press. Political dissidents are thrown in prison. Buildings are crumbling from neglect. My favorite was the guy trying to spin Havan as being peaceful and serene as compared to the other Latin American cities–it didn’t have all these neon signs and shop lights and so on…and then had to admit that was because there were very few shops and those had very little to buy. (And this is the one who a couple of paragraphs down admitted that the government still throws anyone who disagrees with them into jail.)

  70. Presented without comment:
    The water crisis is the latest in a string of emergency shortages in the country, all attributed by many observers to government mismanagement. This month, the Venezuelan legislature declared a “nutritional emergency,” citing the severe lack of basic foodstuffs in the country, from flour and eggs to oil and milk. Venezuela has also completely run out of most medications, with 150 drugs – ranging from common painkillers to expensive cancer and AIDS medication – completely absent from the national supply.
    http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/02/22/venezuela-maintenance-leaves-millions-in-caracas-without-drinking-water/

    With rents jumping over 50 percent in the last four years, there are many horror stories about evictions across Silicon Valley — most recently, the story of a 97-year old woman who has lived in the same rental for 66 years.
    http://www.breitbart.com/california/2016/02/23/silicon-valley-eviction-season-gives-97-year-old-grandma-the-boot/

    In a speech entitled “Labour’s Share,” Haldane makes the case that “technology has made it easier and cheaper than ever before to substitute labor for capital, man for machine.” This prediction is to the tune of an estimated 80 million lost jobs in everything from skilled labor to sales and customer service.
    http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/02/23/white-house-predicts-massive-job-losses-to-robots/

  71. Why are you arguing results with ‘kitten? I don’t know if he’s in the “not real socialism” or “this time it’s different” school of thought, but results aren’t important. That’s his starting premise, the results, judged by what others will freely give, are secondary to what someone “deserves”, as judged by him.

    His argument isn’t about choice, productivity, or quality of life. He wants a system that must be enforced. Individual and community productivity aren’t particularly important. He doesn’t care that home sizes, ac, tv, transportation and so on are vastly available to the poorer members of non socialist countries. You won’t persuade him on these measures because they aren’t what he cares about.

    He has a vision of what is fair and just and it has little to do with what makes a productive and and advancing culture. If I believed that, rather than anyone have a private jet, it was better to take their wealth by force, launder it through a bureaucracy, and dispense it indescriminaty….arguments about destroying the jobs of aircraft mechanics and inovations of private aviation wouldn’t sway me one bit. You’re arguing results and effects, he’s arguing MORALITY.

  72. I’m not sure that I’d agree that kitten is arguing “morality”. While it is true that objective, reality-based arguments don’t sway such people (variously described as liberals, statists, collectivists, fascists, socialists, communists, social democrats, etc.), it’s not that they’re arguing “morality”. Rather, they are arguing from a sort of obsession or mania that is impervious to objective tests or argumentation. This is why I have referred to such people as having a form of mental illness, one that makes them extremely dangerous. This mental condition is very common among humans, and is the reason our history features mainly war, statism, slavery, torture, mass murder, mass psychosis, etc. It is also why we weren’t able to advance very much as a species prior to the establishment of Western Civilization and capitalism just a few hundred years ago.

  73. “There are empty lots and ruined buildings all around US, and you don’t have to look very hard to find starving kids in South America, let alone dogs. Cuban cars are 50 years old mainly because of the embargo. Dude, if you were horrified by Cuba, I suggest you stay out of Africa and Asia. By western standards, life is extremely rough for the great majority of humans on this planet.”

    It’s almost as if the West has a system which encourages individuals to raise their standard of living and work towards bettering themselves, or something. Whatever could that be?

  74. I’m not sure that I’d agree that kitten is arguing “morality”. While it is true that objective, reality-based arguments don’t sway such people (variously described as liberals, statists, collectivists, fascists, socialists, communists, social democrats, etc.), it’s not that they’re arguing “morality”. Rather, they are arguing from a sort of obsession or mania that is impervious to objective tests or argumentation. This is why I have referred to such people as having a form of mental illness, one that makes them extremely dangerous. This mental condition is very common among humans, and is the reason our history features mainly war, statism, slavery, torture, mass murder, mass psychosis, etc. It is also why we weren’t able to advance very much as a species prior to the establishment of Western Civilization and capitalism just a few hundred years ago.

    I don’t know if I’d put it that way.

    The problem is that socialism is theoretically capable of working on paper, where people are all mere numbers and abstractions, and you have perfect knowledge and perfect control. If everyone behaved perfectly, socialism would work, and it would be a better world than the one we live in. That’s where morality comes in: if you had a system that you believed would be better for everyone (and the flaw is choosing would rather than could, given an ideal set of circumstances), you’d be morally remiss not to advocate for it. If there’s a mental illness involved, it’s letting emotion overrule basic logic.

    The problems with this are obvious, once you look for them. People aren’t perfect sets of abstractions; they both make mistakes and suffer from vices (the seven deadly sins: ambition, sloth, envy, etc.), which makes the ideal state unobtainable, and the ideal socialist state magnifies the effects of the imperfections. A market-based state automatically corrects for these flaws and uses them to balance the system. Further, if you had the perfect people and perfect knowledge necessary for socialism to work, you’d be able to make any system of government work.

    Part of this is the hubris in believing that anyone can actually attain the state where everyone has an even distribution of things, because everyone values things differently. At some level, to be a socialist, you must believe that you can make that valuation better than the people themselves, and that the people that end up in charge will think pretty much like you. (That’s why I called out HDI as a measure of equality; how many people value education more than basic freedoms? Probably among the only people that do are the people socialist governments appoint to the UNDP.)

    I think that’s one of the reasons sci-fi attracts socialists, because you can write away the flaws preventing socialism from working. The problem is that it’s not easy even with the power of an author. Star Trek tried using a moneyless, post-scarcity future, and that eventually broke down when people looking at the worldbuilding pointed out the illogic that remained.

  75. Socialism only works theoretically with perfect knowledge. IRL, mandates for production result in major problems with surpluses and shortages because the signals don’t travel fast enough. Lots of people wave their hands and say “computers” as though it were a magical incantation, but it’s still not enough to manage the needs and desires of hundreds of millions of strangers on a moment to moment basis.

    Take a relatively simple subsidy for a basic hygiene product of the sort we’d like everyone to have, an essential if you will: toilet paper. You could probably figure out how much TP people need, and make sure they aren’t using more than their fair share of the essential product. You could probably make enough to go around, according to your charts, and, baring other shortages or surpluses, get it delivered. Yet, if you don’t, right now, know how many sheets I, personally, use when I hit the can, you’ve just made a black market for toilet paper. People who want more than their fair share will try to find it. People who want less will horde.

    Subsidies produce similar problems and distortions. Econ 101 tells us that the subsidy price is the floor. If TP is subsidized to 50 cents a roll, it will never cost less. Your business probably has a mandated profit cieling, so that pretty much freezes innovation in TP production (and all secondary benefits from that innovation). Demand will go up because of the subsidy, and prices will rise accordingly…until someone puts in price controls. People who want price controls and people who don’t remember the OPEC embargo (or various noted rent control schemes) are an overlapping set.

    These people don’t even know how much TP I want and they think they can run my healthcare.

  76. Civilis said: “If everyone behaved perfectly, socialism would work, and it would be a better world than the one we live in. That’s where morality comes in: if you had a system that you believed would be better for everyone (and the flaw is choosing would rather than could, given an ideal set of circumstances), you’d be morally remiss not to advocate for it. If there’s a mental illness involved, it’s letting emotion overrule basic logic.”

    I disagree strongly, but with great respect for both the arguments and observations of Civilis, who argues against my “mental illness” theory of advocates of socialism (apparently like the poor, it appears people who believe in socialism “will always be with us”). I believe Civilis ultimately contradicts himself in two places: First, in the quote above he states “If there’s a mental illness involved, it’s letting emotion overrule basic logic.” Well…YEAH. As I said, “mental illness.” With an emphasis on “basic logic”.

    Second, Civils states in the same post as the one with the above quote as follows: “At some level, to be a socialist, you must believe that you can make that valuation better than the people themselves, and that the people that end up in charge will think pretty much like you.” Just so: I agree, and rest my case. Such beliefs indicate a worldview so at odds with reality that they constitute actual mental illness.

    But I like your stuff, Civilis! Good points, good arguments, and good observations.

  77. I believe Civilis ultimately contradicts himself in two places: First, in the quote above he states “If there’s a mental illness involved, it’s letting emotion overrule basic logic.” Well…YEAH. As I said, “mental illness.” With an emphasis on “basic logic”.

    I don’t consider something present in such a wide chunk of humanity to be a mental illness. While I tend to consider Myers-Briggs personality typing to be relatively unscientific and merely good as a starting point for discussion, it’s worth noting that the typing suggests more people are ‘Feeling’ than ‘Thinking’.

    Second, Civils states in the same post as the one with the above quote as follows: “At some level, to be a socialist, you must believe that you can make that valuation better than the people themselves, and that the people that end up in charge will think pretty much like you.” Just so: I agree, and rest my case. Such beliefs indicate a worldview so at odds with reality that they constitute actual mental illness

    Again, if hubris was a mental illness, most of us would be locked away. Most if not all parents have to operate as if they know what is best for their children (and few give it up when their children reach adulthood), so in some cases, it’s a useful reaction.

  78. We may be talking a bit past each other, Civilis. You said: “I don’t consider something present in such a wide chunk of humanity [letting emotion overrule basic logic] to be a mental illness.” Advocating socialism isn’t “merely” letting emotion overrule basic logic; it’s setting up objective conditions for the starvation and murder of millions of fellow human beings, a result that is repeatedly verified by history. Thus, we’re not talking about how so many of us occasionally let our emotions overrule our logic (I AM voting for Trump, after all), we’re discussing people who want huge swathes of humanity to be overpowered by force and controlled with life-and-death decisions about their existence being made by a special group of people. There’s a big difference between the two.

    Similarly, you said, “[I]f hubris was a mental illness, most of us would be locked away. Most if not all parents have to operate as if they know what is best for their children (and few give it up when their children reach adulthood), so in some cases, it’s a useful reaction.”

    True, as far as your statement goes, but I emphasize again that we’re not talking about “normal human behavior hubris” that affects few people other than ourselves. And we’re not talking about parents deciding what’s best for their children (which I would argue isn’t a form of hubris at all). We’re talking about people who continue to argue for and agitate in favor of elite groups of people seizing physical power over millions if not billions of human beings, and making life-or-death decisions for them…where history has shown that the results are usually some form of mass despotism, up to and including mass murder through starvation and other means of extinguishing human lives.

    That’s what I mean by the suggestion that we’re “talking past each other.” My meme of “leftist agitators are mentally ill” has to do with the use of force regarding life-or-death decisions over large human populations…with historically proven results. Repeatedly.

  79. That’s what I mean by the suggestion that we’re “talking past each other.” My meme of “leftist agitators are mentally ill” has to do with the use of force regarding life-or-death decisions over large human populations…with historically proven results. Repeatedly.

    The problem may be that I’m thinking of this like a debater. I’m usually stuck in friendly discussions by a need to attempt to refine my own arguments by understanding my opponent’s arguments.

    The problem is that I’m worried that someone leaning to the left is going to look at the arguments here and tune us out because they are insulted at being referred to as mentally ill and have bought the opposing ‘motte’ arguments* such as the examples of the Scandinavian states and the early 20th century labor reforms. By narrowing it down to the worst examples, you both miss the damage done by small-scale socialist policies even in places like the US, and allow Socialists to win the debate by saying “we’re obviously not going down the North Korea / USSR / Cuba path; to even make that claim is ludicrous“.

    Farm subsidies in the US have not led to starvation, they’ve led to people getting fat off HFCS. Housing policy has led to a shortage of affordable homes. Scandanavian welfare states have stagnant economies and even now are running out of money. All of these are examples of failures brought out by people meddling in the markets in the name of ‘community regulation of the means of production, distribution, and exchange’, that is to say, failures of socialist policy, but on the other hand, they’re not mass murder.

    Messing in the market leads to inefficiency, corruption and waste. In a robust enough system, it won’t completely ruin the system, just place a drag on growth and prosperity. Pretending the end result is always ruin is not correct, and it makes those listening to your argument less likely to believe you.

    I’ve place an argument earlier in this thread that I wanted to see someone challenge, because I hope I’m wrong: “About the only positive selling point of socialist economics is that it’s useful when you need the government military-industrial complex focused on a single cause regardless of how inefficient and corrupting it is, like national survival, something that was necessary during the age of industrial total warfare (which, fortunately, we’ve left behind).” I certainly hope I’m wrong, though the changes in technology since the age of industrial warfare mean the problem is less than it was. Basically, my theory is that the only way that a nation could have survived, given another, comparable industrial nation bent on total war, is to build as powerful a military-industrial complex as powerful and hope yours and your allies beat his and his allies, and then hope you’re not so far down the slippery slope that you can’t force your way back after the war is over. My theory is that the only reason we (the US and the UK) won World War II is we went socialist, and I thank God for Oppenheimer and Eisenhower that we were able to walk it back afterwards.

    * For understanding Motte and Baily arguments, see http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/03/all-in-all-another-brick-in-the-motte/

  80. Hey Brad! So, this is WAAYYY off topic, and I’m sorry to be dragging this nonsense in here (in fact, if you’d rather it NOT be here, feel free to delete it/not let it through moderation/edit for content…not that you need my permission, obviously, *smile*) but I wrote this a while back (for the “Sad Puppies and the Future” post) but didn’t post it because I was on my phone and I thought it might need some editing, and then life got in the way…but I thought it needed saying nonetheless. If I’m derailing the thread too badly, I’m really sorry. You rock, BTW.
    So, this was written in response to this: https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/12/27/sad-puppies-and-the-future/#comment-17606 comment, by the ever-wonderful-and-brilliant-and-totally-not-a-disingenuous-jerk known as “Mark”. But it was in response to other people on that thread, as well.

    With regards to “first stones”…seriously? Does it hurt being so blatantly, shamelessly dishonest? In what universe does being called Cliquish, or Holier than Thou, or Reactionary justify saying that you suspect a man beats his wife? Or that you “wouldn’t feel safe” in the same room at a con as him (the always wonderful Mary Robinette Kowal, on what a scary-bad monster Larry is and was)? Or that he is a racist using his children and wife as “shields”? Jesus holy Christ (pardon the blasphemy) you modderpockers are sick! Brad “denied” Andy Weir a Campbell? He didn’t “deny” anyone anything! Does he have some ultimate power over the awards? Did he reach down from his throne and put a mighty glowing line through Andy’s name on all the ballots? No. He put up a list of suggestions, which he made the (admitted) mistake of titling a “slate” and asked his fans to read/research the things on the slate for consideration when it came time to propose nominations for the Hugos. And, shockingly, his fans had similar (but, as voting data has conclusively demonstrated *not identical*) tastes to himself. Also shockingly, his fans were sick and tired of being maligned by the Scalzi’s, Neilsen-Hayden’s, Gerrold’s, and MRK’s of the SF/F world and -as such- found the thought that they might irritate such folks by nominating their personal preferences to be a pleasant one. Despicably, these fans then voiced these pleasant, happy thoughts on Brad and Larry’s blogs. (Joking, obviously. Nothing despicable about it) Larry’s fans already knew they’d be maligned because of previous efforts where one aspect of the effort (to demonstrate the bias of the awards) had been twisted into being the whole point of the effort. (If Satan edited some excellent stories in the year of SP2, his nomination would have pissed of even more people than Vox’s, but it would’ve been equally valid. Just because nominating Vox had the added pleasant side effect of triggering the arsehats and bigots of SF/F and that that was a lovely side-benefit of nominating him does not mean that the triggering in question was the sole (or even a *central*) purpose of SP2. Larry was making the point that, no matter what people like Standlee, GRRM, MRK, Scalzi, and David Gerrold might say, some people, regardless of how (subjectively. there is no objective standard of quality, contrary to some folks’ delusions otherwise) good their work is/was, canNOT be nominated without the Hugo voting clique and their friends/fans going batshit insane. Eric Flint decided this meant that Larry was being “deliberately” inflammatory/malicious…missing the point entirely. The question is, are people winning because their work is good, or because their politics are sufficiently palatable to allow the voters to even consider the quality of their work? That is, if a persons politics are (believed to be) sufficiently distasteful, will the voters disregard the merits of their work, and simply vote them down because the politics mean the work is… -must be- …unworthy of Hugo recognition? The answer was clear. Disgustingly so. And the fact that “Guardians of The Galaxy” won, despite being on an eeeeeviiil “slate” just adds an especially distasteful kind of emphasis to the point. As does the despicable doubletalk and dishonesty about Toni Weisskopf not having “provided enough information” about what she had edited in 2015 and as such it being “her fault” that she simultaneously received more “top slot” votes in “Editor, Long Form” *and* more “No Award” votes than anyone else in the history of the Hugos. (Seriously? “Best Publisher”?! Even GRRM [more politely] thinks that’s a load of bullshit, you dishonest, duplicitous, self-congratulating, arrogant jerks!) Quod erat demonstrandum.

    (Again, Brad, sorry for inserting this rant here…I wasn’t sure where to put it, but I reeeally felt the need to say it. These people really piss me off.)

  81. ON topic (sorry! again!) I have to say I thought this was one of the most powerful statements in the post: “Men who discover they don’t have to work to keep their bellies full, usually don’t work. Men who discover that working 50 hours a week, gets them no further ahead than working zero hours a week, also don’t work.” Exactly. Not to mention that such a scenario is, by definition, oppressive and evil. If the man who works 50 hours a week sees a man who *can’t* work, and as such is starving, he might (often does) choose to offer some of his hard-earned money to help that man/feed him. Socialism is the practice of forcing the hard worker, at gunpoint, to give a “fair” portion of his honestly earned wages to the fellow who can’t work, the other fellow who could work, but doesn’t want to, and so on. I give you “equality”. Free men are not “equal”. “Equal” men are not free. It’s that simple.

  82. Bingo. You have nailed it, Civilis: You and I are addressing different audiences. You said, “The problem may be that I’m thinking of this like a debater. I’m usually stuck in friendly discussions by a need to attempt to refine my own arguments by understanding my opponent’s arguments.” I, by contrast, am talking directly to “our people”. I don’t care to attempt to convince leftists that their positions are untenable and dangerous because I don’t believe they are susceptible to reasoned argument. You recognize this by stating “they’re arguing morality”, not reason.

    While your efforts in debating the other side may be admirable, and may even sway uncommitted onlookers, I think we can agree that reasoned arguments simply don’t work with collectivist statists. My admittedly strident statements are meant to emphasize to both statists and to people who believe in liberty and freedom that the political left consists of people with a deadly dangerous disease of the mind. They can and will kill all of us if they get the chance…because *morality*! They own the Holocaust. They own the Terror. They own the starvation of the Kulaks. They own Mao’s repeated failures that caused scores of millions of deaths. They own China’s Cultural Revolution that killed millions more. In short, what they believe in is responsible for mountains of human corpses in the 20th century.

    But to them…so what? Can’t change things without breaking a few eggs, you know! And besides, a single death is a tragedy, a million dead is a mere statistic. Furthermore, you must understand…what are scores of millions of dead human bodies in the face of the leftist vision? Nothing! Because…*morality*!

    My point, and I seek to drive it home continuously in many forums, is that collectivist statists—leftists—are dangerous animals that can and will kill in the service of their dreams if given the chance. As such, they are extremely dangerous monsters who created mountains of human dead—MOUNTAINS—in the 20th century, all in the name of “getting it right”. Just one more time…THIS time we’ll show you what *real socialism” can do. They are lost to reason, and lost to the demonstrations of history. Those on the right—conservatives, libertarians, Constitutionalists, fusionists, Tea Partiers, anarchists, and everyone else—tend to scoff at the foolishness of the left. So misguided, you know. If only they would read some Mises and Hayek…despite their good intentions.

    Until Hitler. Until Lenin. Until Stalin. Until Mao. Until Pol Pot. Until Fidel Castro. Until Ho Chi Minh. Until Pol Pot. Until Hugo Chavez. Until the whole monstrous horde of them, throughout history. They are not “foolish”, they are not “misguided”, and they are not misunderstood agrarian reformers with good intentions. As the 20th century conclusively demonstrated, collectivist statism is a dangerous mental disorder, no matter how well-meaning they always proclaim themselves to be. As such, they must be treated with extreme circumspection, and should never be allowed to attain controlling power in any society. That is my message.

  83. Also OT:

    Bibliotheca Servare: Yeah, I’m noticing a return of the “Brad and Vox secretly conspired on SP3” conspiracy crap from the Puppy-kicker crowd. No proof, of course, but that never stopped them before, did it?

  84. @ct236: powerful point, well stated. No other ideology, whether political or religious, has the dubious, horrifying honor of having caused as many or more deaths as/than the worst diseases and plagues in the history of the human race have caused. Seriously. Compare the death toll of Spanish flu to the deaths caused by socialism and socialist, leftist ideologues in the 20th century. 50-100 million plus…and Stalin alone comes near, or by.some estimates surpasses that. Certainly Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, and Pol Pot match or exceed that quota. One is a terrible, terrifying disease. The other is a group of human beings who felt that they knew better how people should live their lives than those people themselves did. Individual human beings who felt they could create a “better world” if only people would listen and obey. Five men who, when their ideas were opposed, convinced millions to help them slaughter millions in pursuit of that “better world”. If that doesn’t make your blood run cold, I don’t know what would. Socialism is evil. Spanish flu was a disease…it doesn’t/didn’t have a conscience to ignore. The great socialist butchers of the 20th century…they were doing what their consciences told them was right and good. They were “helping people” and doing good for the sake of their people/the world. Let that sink in. Defend socialism, you’re defending the human equivalent of the Spanish flu. Good luck with that.

    @Christopher M.Chupik (OT): Yeah, dedication to truth and rejection of baseless, laughable allegations and innuendo were never tools in the Puppy-Kickers’ toolbox. Their repertoire is actually kind of limited to the opposite of those two things; they seem to adore lies, baseless innuendo, and moral-policing. It’d be cute if it weren’t so disgusting…on.second thought, no, it wouldn’t. It might be *amusing* if it weren’t so disgusting, but it could never be cute. Sad though. Definitely sad. 😉

  85. I’m a bit late to the party, but I saw the cat fight above and wanted to add my input:

    The working class founded unions, organized strikes and managed to end child labor.

    This is what you were taught, which serves a particular ideological viewpoint. From here: https://eh.net/encyclopedia/child-labor-in-the-united-states/

    Most economic historians conclude that this legislation was not the primary reason for the reduction and virtual elimination of child labor between 1880 and 1940. Instead they point out that industrialization and economic growth brought rising incomes, which allowed parents the luxury of keeping their children out of the work force.

    You see a similar pattern with the US work week: https://eh.net/encyclopedia/hours-of-work-in-u-s-history/

    These are examples of how the leftists, and particularly promoters of unions commit the post-hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy in attempting to justify their policies. Unions existed and child labor declined, therefore unions reduced child labor. Unions existed and the work week declined, therefore unions reduced the length of the work week.

    I could go on, but the evidence is out there if you are interested in researching it. It’s going to be a long, hard slog to the truth, spacefaringcat. Lots of ideological baggage to get rid of, and one challenge of falsely-held beliefs after another. I wish you well on your journey.

  86. Economic growth and industrialization helped eliminate child labor? Darn those evil capitalists . . . for stealing socialism’s achievements. 😉

  87. Like so many authors, this author conflates socialism, Marx-style communism, and authoritarian communism. The logic that the author uses, based on that conflation, makes some sort of sense, but describes the authors interpretation of what s/he thinks socialism is, rather than using a political definition and working from that starting point.

    I would argue that the United States is a Socialist Federal Republic that currently functions as an oligarchy. Many things are socialized (education, regulation, most infrastructure), and the market is mostly free (regulations do exist because in practice markets do not adjust for everything e.g. clean water). However, political and governing power is concentrated in the hands of the wealthy, either through the influence of a small number of private donors, or the wealth of corporations and their representatives as used to influence government.

    There is no single candidate with whom I totally agree, and as of this moment, I am not certain for whom I would or wouldn’t vote. However, I must say I do agree with Senator Sander’s strident and sometimes annoying call to limit the influence of corporations on electoral politics. Corporations have access to far more wealth than nearly all individuals. Very large publicly traded corporations and some very wealthy private corporations are adept at using that wealth to influence policy for the good of the corporation and their shareholders. This may or may not be to the detriment of others.

    Just my $0.02

  88. @ https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/why-i-cant-be-a-socialist/#comment-18207

    So, just to be clear, if you drive drunk, and have a terrible accident, it’s not because you drove drunk, but because you…had a terrible accident? “Marx-style communism” and “authoritarian communism” may not explicitly *be* socialism…but they are the inevitable end result of socialism. Terminal cancer is not death, no…but death is the inevitable endpoint of a diagnosis of “terminal cancer”. It’s really quite simple. Socialism inevitably, unavoidably, ends in mass graves. If you can’t see that, well…you’ll fit in well at most colleges these days. Good luck.

  89. I would argue that the United States is a Socialist Federal Republic that currently functions as an oligarchy. Many things are socialized (education, regulation, most infrastructure), and the market is mostly free (regulations do exist because in practice markets do not adjust for everything e.g. clean water).

    Even minarchist libertarians tend to consider government has some place in doing things where the sheer scale doesn’t allow any other option, such as infrastructure, and in preventing fraud or theft, which is one frequent place regulations are used (most economic regulations are billed as anti-fraud measures, even when the ultimate purpose is something else (example: occupational licensing regulations)). Still, they recognize that this is necessarily inefficient and wasteful.

    I’m going to necessarily answer this next bit out of order:

    However, I must say I do agree with Senator Sander’s strident and sometimes annoying call to limit the influence of corporations on electoral politics. Corporations have access to far more wealth than nearly all individuals. Very large publicly traded corporations and some very wealthy private corporations are adept at using that wealth to influence policy for the good of the corporation and their shareholders. This may or may not be to the detriment of others.

    Corporations are made up of individuals (workers, management, and investors) working together. Individuals that work together necessarily have more pull than those working individually, and that’s true whether an industrial corporation, a service company, a union, or a non-profit. All seek to influence policy for what they see as good reasons. More importantly, letting the government pick and choose which groups of individuals can work together is a massive invitation for corruption which will only serve to benefit those with political power. Which brings us to why I’m answering your arguments out of order:

    However, political and governing power is concentrated in the hands of the wealthy, either through the influence of a small number of private donors, or the wealth of corporations and their representatives as used to influence government.

    Political and governing power concentrated among a small group of influential people is the necessary outcome of socialism, specifically an outcome of giving the government the power to “regulate the means of production, distribution, or exchange” (see: definition of socialism). The connected will always be able to benefit from the government, and the more power you give the government, the more the connected will benefit. The socialist revolutions didn’t remove the power of the wealthy, they just made the socialist rulers wealthy (see Cuba, Venezuela, China) and made everyone else poor. It’s this concentration of power which can and often (but not always) does lead to falling further down the slope of tyranny, at the bottom of which lies the gulags and killing fields.

    The scariest thing (and the most fascist) to come out of the recent elections has been Clinton’s call to change the laws so she can prosecute groups of people (corporations) that criticize her. These sorts of laws will always eventually be used against the little people by the privileged, powerful few. The freedom of speech (including the corporations that make up the press) has to be as wide and all encompassing as possible, because any restrictions will eventually be unevenly applied to benefit those in power.

    All of this has been laid out, in detail, with examples, above.

  90. I haven’t had time to read through all the thread, so ignore if someone’s mentioned this before.

    I’ve got something of an interest in reading works by ‘sensible’ socialists from the early days of the movement, pre-Russian Revolution. I’m interested in listening to their reasoning and beliefs, particularly before they felt the need to apologize for and cover for the Soviets. There was a bit more honesty in their writings then.

    Trouble is, if socialists were honest, sensible and in touch with reality, they didn’t stay socialist for long.

    There’s Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier from his socialist days. While he agreed at the time that socialism was inevitable given what he saw as progress in the industrial world, and he saw socialism as the only workable defense against fascism, he still had a lot of criticism for the socialist of his day and their attempts at applying the system.

    Likewise, Jack London wrote The Iron Heel, which I’m reading now. It’s interesting in that while most of the socialists of the time seemed to take it for granted that this was some kind of inevitable progression that would just happen, London foresaw things like a pushback, the formation of oligarchs in opposition, and understood that instilling a socialist system would entail a brutal, bloody conflict where the socialists would have to be as ruthless as possible.

  91. Again, a bit late to the conversation so sorry if this has been gone over, but while I don’t dispute the flaws of socialism or any of Torgersen’s points, I personally always found it a fallacy to look at an ideology’s body count to determine which is the worst.

    Consider: the socialist movement and the Russian revolution happened after the Industrial Revolution. Technological advances meant there were more people to kill, and in closer proximity, and more efficient means of transportation and extermination to carry it out.

    A minor point and fully agree with the flaws of socialism, but as far as the body count goes, I can think of no end of people and groups throughout history who would have been every bit as bad if they’d had modern means at hand.

  92. @Bob

    Problem is…the starvation. It’s not that the socialists rounded up and systematically exterminated people, though it’s happened. The real problem is the starvation. Those same industrial means lead to greater farm efficiency and greater dietary plenty and diversity. In many socialist countries, they had bread lines and mass starvation. Places that used modern methods to produce more food than they ever had before, still had people die of famine in the USSR. China had similar problems.

    Some people will say that a system of democratic socialism prevents these abuses, because the policies are voted on and such. This ignores the experience of Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez was elected, and the socialist policies have, not surprisingly, lead to shortages, black markets, and rampant corruption.

  93. The points you bring up reminds me of the book “Road to Serfdom” which Used to be a very popular book in the United States. There is a free PDF Readers Digest condensed version that I recently recommended to my eldest son when he asked why I objected to Bernie Sanders here: https://mises.org/library/road-serfdom-0
    He was able to find copies of the full text in several libraries near where he lives in Kaysville Utah. There are 3 copies via inter-library loan here in Milledgeville GA.

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