Socialism – short overview
In light of the 2020 election season, the word socialism has come up numerous times, especially during the Republican National Convention. However, socialism as political philosophy has been present for centuries, and even though its roots can be traced way back, its influence on modern government policies is unavoidable. In this respect, America is no exception.
Still, what is socialism in this day and age and what do socialists of the modern day era want? Is it true that socialism is a threat to the American way of life? To answer that question, socialism does not work, and the following chapters will explain this belief.
So, what is socialism?
New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics offers the following definition: A society may be defined as socialist if the major part of the means of production of goods and services is in some sense socially owned and operated, by state, socialized or cooperative enterprises. The practical issues of socialism comprise the relationships between management and workforce within the enterprise, the interrelationships between production units (plan versus markets), and, if the state owns and operates any part of the economy, who controls it and how.”
On a similar note, Routledge’s Readers Guide to the Social Sciences, states that “just as private ownership defines capitalism, social ownership defines socialism. The essential characteristic of socialism in theory is that it destroys social hierarchies, and therefore leads to a politically and economically egalitarian society. Two closely related consequences follow. First, every individual is entitled to an equal ownership share that earns an aliquot part of the total social dividend…Second, in order to eliminate social hierarchy in the workplace, enterprises are run by those employed, and not by the representatives of private or state capital. Thus, the well-known historical tendency of the divorce between ownership and management is brought to an end. The society—i.e. every individual equally—owns capital and those who work are entitled to manage their own economic affairs.”
To put it in simpler terms, socialism states that the citizen’s should be responsible for some of the nation’s means of production. This is necessary for an economy to thrive. This also means that, under socialism, any surplus from sectors such as natural resources, infrastructure and similar will be used to benefit those same citizens. This, of course, isn’t the case with capitalism, where private owners are in control of the means of production and any surplus that appears, is kept by those same private owners.
In this respect, as well as many others, it is obvious that the two systems are polar opposites, and this is exactly how most Americans see them. Research shows that Republicans, for example, expressed a positive and even beneficial view of capitalism, at the same time shunning socialism as negative. Still, these two systems can and do function together in many countries, co-existing. Socialist policies are mixed with capitalism and leadership elected on a democratic basis.
When Joe Biden was asked what he would say to people who were worried about socialists, he replied: “I beat the socialists. That’s how I got elected. That’s how I got the nomination. Do I look like a socialist? Look at my career, my whole career. I am not a socialist.”
The Socialist Party USA had no members in any office, national or state, in the year 2020. Senator sanders refers to himself as a democratic socialist, but he is not connected with the Socialist Party.
Furthermore, the words socialism and socialists have often been used as an insult when referring to some progressive candidates, who were not associated with the Socialist Party.
Bottom line, socialism is based upon ideas, both economic and political, which promote the notion of collective thought and collective action. This allows for equality, but how good such equality really is, when there is no need for an individual to reach higher and do better? Man is competitive by nature, and this is partly what makes us strive towards improvement. If we expect others to hand us what we need, this desire to enhance is lost.
In a way, socialism takes away from this human desire to be successful, simply because there is no need for that. Everyone is the same. Why be better than others?
This is the first reason why socialism doesn’t work. When wealth is redistributed to make all people the same, it creates a lack of opportunity, and not only that, it creates a lack of desire. What we have is a nation of stagnant citizens, who have absolutely no desire nor will power to make a better life for themselves, simply because there is none. They can’t make it better than it is, because that would make them different from everyone else. It creates unproductivity not only among the people, but also in the economy as well.
Another reason socialism doesn’t work is the fact that taxes are higher. Why? It’s simple. More money is needed to cover all the social welfare that seems to be a given in a socialistic political and economic society. Even Marx stated that socialism is simply a transitional period between communism and capitalism.
In addition to this, true socialism is marked by no privately owned companies. They are all owned by the state. Private companies are beyond government control, so naturally that isn’t an option here. It’s all about equal opportunity for all. This means that the return from companies which function as cooperative efforts are aimed at benefiting all of society, and not just individuals. This, unfortunately, goes against the way Americans have been taught to handle things, as this creates a stagnant business economy.
True socialism upholds the belief that economic inequality is not good for the economy. This is why there is a perpetual urge to make all people equal, in every way possible. The belief here is as follows: if a certain individual finds himself with more property or material wealth than someone else (due to his or her hard work and determination), the government will have no problems taking from the rich individual and giving some of that wealth to the less fortunate individual, all in order to make them equal.
This is also responsible for creating unproductivity in the economy for the same reason. We are all taught that working hard and coming up with more productive ways of achieving things will get us where we want to go. It will help us obtain our goals, and that will occasionally mean that we might end up being more well off than our immediately family or friends. Socialism won’t stand for this. It fortifies the idea that you don’t really need to work all that hard. You don’t really need to come up with better and more creative ways of solving work related problems. And, finally, you don’t need higher education because why would you end up investing all that time, effort and money into getting educated, when you will not benefit from it in the long run.
It is generally believed that socialism creates a need for more government control. The efforts of people are aimed towards expanding the scope of government control, all so that the government could return more to the citizens.
Many Americans believe that nothing comes for free. Actually, much of the free world believes this, and knows this to be true. The more you give to the government, the more control they have over your life and what you do, the more they will keep taking from you. Bottom line is that capitalism functions better than socialism because most socialist countries play the stock market game in order to get more money.
However, in real socialism, the American stock market is non-existent. It won’t allow them to make more money, which is needed to support the socialist system, which in turn is responsible for creating a stagnant socialist economy that keeps paying for those help programs and handouts.
In his 1995 essay “Why Socialism Failed,” Mark J. Perry reminds us that:
“1. Socialism is the Big Lie of the twentieth century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.
In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may show early signs of success. But any accomplishments quickly fade as the fundamental deficiencies of central planning emerge. It is the initial illusion of success that gives government intervention its pernicious, seductive appeal. In the long run, socialism has always proven to be a formula for tyranny and misery.
A pyramid scheme is ultimately unsustainable because it is based on faulty principles. Likewise, collectivism is unsustainable in the long run because it is a flawed theory. Socialism does not work because it is not consistent with fundamental principles of human behavior. The failure of socialism in countries around the world can be traced to one critical defect: it is a system that ignores incentives.
In a capitalist economy, incentives are of the utmost importance. Market prices, the profit-and-loss system of accounting, and private property rights provide an efficient, interrelated system of incentives to guide and direct economic behavior. Capitalism is based on the theory that incentives matter!
Under socialism, incentives either play a minimal role or are ignored totally. A centrally planned economy without market prices or profits, where property is owned by the state, is a system without an effective incentive mechanism to direct economic activity. By failing to emphasize incentives, socialism is a theory inconsistent with human nature and is therefore doomed to fail. Socialism is based on the theory that incentives don’t matter!
2. The strength of capitalism can be attributed to an incentive structure based upon the three Ps: (1) prices determined by market forces, (2) a profit-and-loss system of accounting and (3) private property rights. The failure of socialism can be traced to its neglect of these three incentive-enhancing components.
3. By their failure to foster, promote, and nurture the potential of their people through incentive-enhancing institutions, centrally planned economies deprive the human spirit of full development. Socialism fails because it kills and destroys the human spirit–just ask the people leaving Cuba in homemade rafts and boats [and those waiting in long lines today in Venezuela struggling, and often failing, to buy food].
4. The temptress of socialism is constantly luring us with the offer: “give up a little of your freedom and I will give you a little more security.” As the experience of this century has demonstrated, the bargain is tempting but never pays off. We end up losing both our freedom and our security.
Socialism will remain a constant temptation. We must be vigilant in our fight against socialism not only around the globe but also here in the United States.
The failure of socialism inspired a worldwide renaissance of freedom and liberty. For the first time in the history of the world, the day is coming very soon when a majority of the people in the world will live in free societies or societies rapidly moving toward freedom.
Capitalism will play a major role in the global revival of liberty and prosperity because it nurtures the human spirit, inspires human creativity, and promotes the spirit of enterprise. By providing a powerful system of incentives that promote thrift, hard work, and efficiency, capitalism creates wealth.
The main difference between capitalism and socialism is this: Capitalism works.”
Lately, it has become obvious that the federal government has expanded its level and area of control of the people, and this is how they create more power. By accepting socialism, the citizens are allowing the government to take this power.
Jordan Peterson on Socialism
Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor at the University of Toronto, who started to voice his political and cultural opinions in the late 2010s, and gathered quite a following. His first book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, was published in 1999, and from that point on, he has based many of his lectures on his findings from this book, where he combined elements from different areas of research, such psychology, literature, philosophy, religion, mythology, and even neuroscience, which he used as a lens through which he endeavored to analyze systems of belief and meaning.
Lately, in 2016, he had taken up a new platform, namely YouTube and turned to videos, in which he criticized the Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, also known as Bill C-16, which was passed by the Parliament of Canada to introduce gender identity and expression as a prohibited grounds of discrimination. His argument was that the bill would use specific gender pronouns and turn them into compelled speech, and then, he linked this argument to a wide-ranging criticism of political correctness and identity politics.
His second book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, was published in 2018, which was also when he paused his clinical practice and teaching duties. The book became a bestseller in many countries.
Over the years, Peterson has been more and more vocal regarding his views on socialism, and one of the most infamous online debates touches upon this subject. Namely, on March 11, 2017 Richard Dawkins, quoted Bernie Sanders (speaking about Donald Trump): “Jordan tweeted: ‘We have a president who is a pathological liar (Bernie Sanders). And the more he lies the more they love him.”
Peterson responded to this with the following: “And good ole Bernie would have put the policies that ruined Venezuela into operation in the US.” Many took this as effort to defend the US president Donald Trump. Most people who are familiar with Jordan’s work and his views, understood his response during the Joe Rogan podcast in January of 2018: “they think most people here Marxism and they think socialism… yeah they think pooling all your money together you know making you know making things more like they are in Venezuela where everybody has an equal chance to starve to death.” He added: “Do you know how the Venezuelan government solved the problem of kids starving to deaths in hospitals? They made it illegal for the doctors to report starvation as the cause of death.” Despite the fact that it was a highly provocative claim, it did have the truth as its basis.
Thus, it is obvious that Peterson’s view is often based on many grounds, such as socialism, free speech and postmodernism. He was once asked if he thought that young people understood the idea behind socialism and its history, and his reply was as follows: “What young people know about 20th century history is non-existent, especially about the history of the radical left. I mean, how would they know? They’re never taught anything about it, so why would they be concerned about it? And then, for many of the people in the audience, you’re old enough so that the fall of the Berlin Wall was part of your life. That was really the end of the Second World War … and it was very meaningful. But that’s a long time ago. There’s been a lot of people born since then, and it’s ancient history.
We don’t have that many good bad examples left. There’s North Korea, there’s Venezuela, but we’re not locked tooth and nail in … in a proxy war and a cold war with the Soviet Union.
It’s easy to understand why people are emotionally drawn to the ideals of socialism, let’s say the left, because it draws its fundamental motivational source from a primary compassion. That is always there in human beings, and so that proclivity for sensitivity to that political message will never go away. It’s important to understand that. You have to give the devil his due, unfortunately.”
At the end of his interview speech at Heritage Foundation event in New York City, Peterson was asked if there was a question he hadn’t been asked regarding his views against socialism, something that he considered beneficial for everyone to know and this was his response:
“Well, you asked a little bit about these biblical lectures, and what was interesting was I rented a theater in Toronto. I rented it 15 times. It was theater of about 500 and sold out every time. And I lectured about Genesis. It was mostly young men who came. They weren’t all young, but they were mostly men, which was very surprising because that’s just not what happens.
The reason that the lectures worked was because I put together something that I don’t think liberals or conservatives have done a good job of putting together. The liberals are more on the happiness and freedom end of things, and the conservatives are more on the duty end of things. And those both have their place.
But I’ve been attempting to develop an argument that’s centered on meaning. And I believe that our most central religious symbols—like the symbol of the cross itself, for example, the bearing of the cross, is an embodiment or a symbolic representation of this idea that you have to have a meaning in life that sustains you. Life is a serious business. You’re all in.
It’s a fatal business, right? Everyone’s in it up to their neck, and it’s dreadful in some sense, in the classic sense. And you need a meaning that can sustain you through that, and that’s to be found in responsibility. And that’s something that we have not communicated, I don’t think, well to ourselves. But we certainly haven’t communicated it to young people. It’s like, “Well, you’re lost? There’s reasons that you could be lost, and they’re real.”
God only knows what terrible things happened to you in your life. It’s like, “How are you going to get out of that?” Well, not by pursuing impulsive happiness. That is not going to work. Not by thinking in the short term. Not by thinking in a narrowly selfish manner, either. But by taking on the heaviest load of responsibility that you can conceptualize and bear. That will do it. It’ll do it for you.
It’ll give you a reason to wake up in the morning. It’ll give you a balm for your conscience when you wake up at night and ask yourself what you’re doing with your life. It’ll make you a credit to yourself and to your family, and it’ll make you a boon to your community. And more than that. There’s more than that.
It’s said in Genesis that every person is made in the image of God. And there’s an idea in Genesis that God is that which confronts the chaos of potential with truth and courage. That’s the logos. If we’re made in the image of God, that’s us. That’s what we do, we confront the potential of chaos, the future, the unformed future.
We confront that consciously, and we decide with every ethical choice we make what kind of world we’re going to bring into being. We transform that potential into actuality. And we do that as a consequence of our ethical decisions.
So, it’s not only a matter of putting yourself together and putting your family together, putting your community together. It’s a matter of bringing the world in its proper shape into being.
I truly believe that that’s the case. I believe that we all believe that. We hold ourselves responsible. You know, that if you’ve made a mistake with your family because you were selfish or narrow-minded or blind in some manner that you regard yourself as culpable. You could have done otherwise. And now you’ve brought something into the world that should not be there. And it’s on you.
We hold ourselves responsible in that manner. So, what that indicates to me is that in a deep sense, we believe that we are the agents that transform the potential of being into reality. … If anything, [that] links us with divinity. It’s our capability to transform what is not yet into what is.
The other thing that happens … is that as God conducts himself through this enterprise of the transformation of potential into actuality, he stops repeatedly and says, “And it was good.” And that’s a mystery. Why is it good?
The answer is something like, “Well, if you conduct yourself with the courage that enables you to accept your vulnerability—which is no trivial matter—and if you’re truthful, then what you bring out of potential is what’s good.” And that sets the world right. And that’s up to us.
To me, that’s the great story of the West. That’s why we regard ourselves as sovereign individuals of value, is that’s what we are. And we need to know that to take ourselves seriously and to act properly in the world.
That’s what I said in the biblical lectures in many hours. And that’s what’s made them popular because people, at the level of the soul, people know these things to be true.”
Thus, it is no wonder that people are genuinely interested in what Peterson has to say, especially regarding his views on socialism. Seeing he is not a politician, but a psychologist and this means that he is privy to goings on inside the human mind which many others are not. From his answers which were quotes here, it is obvious that he believes that it is clear why young people aren’t drawn to these ideas of socialism.
He also doesn’t believe that socialism is so appealing to others because of jealousy over the rich. One of the main arguments in social science is the question of poverty and what is the true definition of it. At some point, the definition of poverty has been divided into two camps.
The first one is absolutely poverty, which is the amount of money one needs, accounting for variables such as location and cost of living, so that an individual could afford basic necessities. The second one is relative poverty, which incorporates those who are poor in comparison with the people within a defined population, such as local community, state, country, etc.
The World Bank data shows that “the percentage of people living in extreme poverty globally fell to a new low of 10 percent in 2015 – the latest number available – down from 11 percent in 2013, reflecting steady but slowing progress… the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day fell during this period by 68 million to 736 million.”
Thus, it is evident that the poor are getting richer at a very fast rate, and the greatest advances appear in African and Asian countries, which limited rather than expanded the role of their government, showing market advances and economic growth, which eventually led to individual success. However, that kind of good news is shadowed by the tragic events that take precedence in the news and mainstream media. The market of media coverage is all about profit and attracting attention, so it is no wonder then that when a school shooting takes place, the media is obsessed with covering every detail. However, at the same time, they neglect to focus on the fact that crime has generally plummeted in the last 50 years, according to Peterson, and that the US is actually safer now than it has been 60 years ago.
Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other socialist minded people are careful not to mention the general principles of Karl Marx, the father of socialism, such as complete abolition of private property and similar. According to Peterson, it is crucial to remember that socialism has never succeeded anywhere, not even in the Soviet Union. The ideal of the classless society has remained that – only an unattainable ideal.
In addition to this, socialism strips the human off of his most essential trait – the human nature. Marx made sure to fortify the idea that human nature was malleable, not constant, which is what Christian theology taught up to the Age of Enlightenment. Thus, the Soviet Man rose, only to be torn down, unfulfilled.
After he had visited the Soviet Union, the French writer Andre Gide noted: “I doubt where in any country in the world – not even Hitler’s Germany – have the mind and spirit ever been less free, more bent, more terrorized and indeed vassalized than in the Soviet Union.”
Nove, Alec. “Socialism”. New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, Second Edition (2008).
Robertson, Derek (8 April 2018). “The Canadian Psychologist Beating American Pundits at Their Own Game”“‘The Rise of Jordan Peterson’—A Review”. 14 October 2019. Archived from the original on 8 December 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
POLITICO Magazine. Archived from the original on 23 September 2020. Retrieved November 7, 2020.