Over a wonderful dinner recently a dear friend and lifelong socialist asked me, “What do you have against socialism? Don’t you want to help people?” My objection to socialism, I said, is that it is immoral and coercive. I want to help people as much as anyone but I prefer to use my own money rather than what I can swipe from my neighbors.
My friend insisted that socialists didn’t force people to do anything they didn’t want to. He pointed to the accomplishments of labor unions as proof.
I asked, “If socialists aren’t coercive why is it so dangerous to cross a picket line?”
“Well, those people… they’re just SCABS,” he said. He said the word “scabs” as if naming a vile subspecies in need of immediate extermination.
“So it’s OK to beat up scabs?” I asked, thinking that one man’s scab is another man’s low bidder.
“Well, why wouldn’t they want to join the union?” he replied, ignoring the question… assuming scabs would be welcome in the union’s big tent.
Why indeed, I thought, as I let the subject drop in the interest of fellowship and good digestion. I know my friend is a kind and generous man. I know he would see that substituting the word, “niggers” or “Jews” or “queers” for the word “scabs” in his remark would shine light into the fetid maw of bigotry. But it was a light best left unlit during a friendly dinner party.
My friend is an optimist. He is able to see the benefits of socialism without seeing its costs. At one point he said government had to do all that it did because only government had enough money to undertake such huge charitable endeavors. He never considered how government comes by its vast treasure.
The heart of socialism is transferring control of property from private individuals to public employees. These public officials are theoretically devoted to “the people.” But in fact they are no less subject to corruption by power than the money-grubbing capitalists they replace. Except that the public officials didn’t have to work to get the property and have no interest in its condition, so are the worst landlords you ever had.
In its simplest form socialism consists of taking money from some people and giving it to others. When you or I do that they call it theft no matter what we do with the loot. When governments do it we use terms like, “income redistribution” and “transfer payments” and “price supports.” We call it “compassion.” We call those who oppose it “mean-spirited.” They call those who oppose it in places like Cuba “el prisionero.”
Because politicians can be sure of support from those who receive the spoils they can safely take larger amounts from a working minority and pass out the booty, a little more thinly, to a voting majority, all the while taking a generous cut for expenses. That’s the secret of a successful career in modern politics.
As socialist systems mature however people must be controlled as well as their property. The working minority begins to chafe under the yoke. Marx believed socialism was a transition phase between capitalism and communism, a stop along the way to having everything run by crack outfits like the KGB, BATF or the IRS. On the evidence in the U.S., so far he’s right.
There was once a real difference between Democrats and Republicans over socialism, but no longer. Now the only difference is who gets the loot and how to steal it. Democrats clip us with higher taxes and inflation. They give our hard earned pay to the poor, minorities, teachers, artists, and Marxist professors. Republicans shear us with inflation and borrowing. They give the plunder to farmers, airlines, failing industries and camo-clad “freedom fighters” in faraway lands. Two thirds of the federal budget is transfers from one group to another.
Socialism raises the question of slavery. A slave is one who is forced to act for the benefit of another. When we force taxpayers to pay for someone else’s drugs, retirement, food or shelter or when we force taxpayers to subsidize airlines or farmers we are forcing them to serve someone else. Forcing someone to work for another is immoral. A little bit of slavery is still slavery.
Congressional representatives do not use their own money to do their good works. They raise money the only way government can; they take it from working Americans either by threats and intimidation with taxes or by deception with borrowing and inflation.
All this cross subsidy is democracy in action, you might say. It’s all perfectly legal. It’s the will of the people. But because something is legal doesn’t make it right. Slavery was legal. Apartheid was legal. Stalin’s gulag was legal. China’s mass murder in Tiananmen Square was legal. Using legality as a moral beacon will lure us onto treacherous moral shores.
Morality by majority decision would bring back lynching. Socialism is bringing back slavery. Slavery Lite. You can hardly feel the chains.
Don’t take my arguments against legalized theft as arguments against helping those in need. Human kindness and charity are the noblest of instincts. Selfless giving of what you rightfully own is the essence of charity, the heart of the Christian paradox that tells us we must give in order to receive.
Boosting your neighbor’s paycheck even to pay for good deeds is still just theft. There is no moral argument for taking property from one citizen and giving it to another. Neither is there a moral argument for accepting the stolen goods.
Using socialist principles to aid those in need is like pushing the guy next to you off a pier to save a man drowning in the water below. Hollering, “HANG ON, I’M SENDING HELP,” and getting the other guys on the pier to nod in agreement won’t make it work or make it right.