The appeal of socialism: part 1

Stephen W. Browne

'It's hard to believe that the United States, having resisted the siren song of socialism during its entire 20th century heyday, should suddenly succumb to its charms a generation after its intellectual demise.'

-Charles Krauthammer

Well it has come to pass. After years of taking umbrage at being called socialists a great many Democrats have now embraced the term and supported a man who wears the label proudly.

I hasten to add, not most Democrats but a significant minority. As high as 42 percent by some polls. And oddly there are some sources that say a lower but still significant number of Republicans think socialism is a good idea.

And that's 'think it's a good idea' not 'think it's part of the inevitable downfall of the United States.' I know of a prominent conservative former congressman who privately thinks America will have to endure a generation of socialism before we come to our senses. He does not however think it's a good idea.

Why should anyone think it's a good idea? Socialism arose as a utopian dream in the 19th century. During the 20th century regimes which called themselves socialist murdered more than 100 million people, and that's not counting military casualties. In the latter part of the century socialist economies collapsed, revealing that once advanced and cultured nations had fallen to the level of third-world slums.

Even more significantly, those countries recovered economically with breathtaking rapidity once they'd abandoned the socialist model of planned economies in favor of market-driven economies.

How in God's name do they deal with that?

That's what I've been asking a number of people who wear the label.

One answer is, 'Those countries really weren't socialist,' i.e. communists weren't socialists, Nazi didn't really mean 'National Socialist German Workers Party,' and the Italian Fascists were lying when they said they were socialists.

Sorry guys, you're outvoted. They said they were socialists, and there were millions of them, ruling at their height about a third of the world's surface.

Another answer is, 'That's not what we mean by socialism. We mean building roads, schools, libraries and taking care of people.'

You're still outvoted. Taking care of people who can't do it for themselves is what's called a welfare state or 'social safety net' and Ronald Reagan was perfectly fine with it. We can argue all day about how much responsibility the state should assume, at what level of government, and whether to means test " but it's still not socialism and the Prime Minister of Denmark recently told

Bernie Sanders that in no uncertain terms.

Infrastructure is what every government in the world does, and was listed by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations as one of the four duties of a sovereign. So unless you want to call Adam Smith the first socialist

'Socialism is the political expression of Christianity, to care for the poor and weak, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked.'

I am not the best exemplar of Christian virtues, but I know that though Jesus said to pay your taxes ('Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's') he enjoined his followers to dig into their own pockets to do good to their fellow-man.

Socialism, according to its major theoreticians is government ownership of the means of production. Or ownership by 'The People' which means the same thing because though 'The People' may be the name on the deed, the day-to-day running is going to be done by bureaucrats.

Is anybody in favor of that? Doesn't look like it to me. Even countries such as the UK and Sweden which went half-way towards socialism are backing off and re-privatizing nationalized industries.

So if they're not socialists, why are they wearing a label associated with misery and mass murder?

I don't know. But one reason could be they're lying about their long-range intentions and do favor a totalitarian dictatorship.

I don't believe that about my friends, or at least I don't want to.

Another reason might be that 'socialist' carries a kind of tough-guy cachet. A 'We mean business!' kind of image people fed up with a corrupt system like.

We'll return to this subject later.