To quote Barack Obama:
“Let me be clear”:
I do not like socialists. I have a hard time trying to keep myself from using stronger language to describe my dislike. I feel nothing but contempt for socialist ideas. I consider them dishonest, stupid and immoral. My dislike of actual socialists is in direct proportion with their level of embrace of the socialist ideals; with the degree of their willingness to advocate coercion implementing them.
Now, this may be clear, but it isn’t exactly true. Unfortunately, the majority of my friends, family, neighbours and acquaintances are some sort of socialists. My relationships with them is far from being as simple as I wish it was, but trying to make sense of that should be a different topic.
You can read it here.
I use the word ‘socialist’ as shorthand for all left-wingers from social democrats to Stalinists. This would also include American democrats, Canadian Liberals and progressives of all kinds.
A socialist is someone/anyone who thinks that some people who are smarter and better than others should have the right to force their will on those who disagree with them.
Socialists are those who don’t just think that they are smarter than the rest of us, but also believe that being smarter; knowing better entitles them to control the rest of us.
Socialists are those who think that the will of the collective should trump that of the individual; socialists are those who think that individual freedom should be limited and subjugated to the will of the collective, which, of course THEY must articulate on behalf of the collective.
Socialist are those who think that what matters most is their goodwill, their good intentions, not the results of their policies. They and their ideas should be in fact excused from any scrutiny, because all of their action and policies are guided by the noblest of intentions.
Once you examine them, socialist ideas cannot pass a single test of logic, morality or reality. Let me use just one example to illustrate: Equality. As explained in a Hayek quote below, it has a logical contradiction that cannot possibly be resolved. Any place, any time where forced equality was tried ended up as an Animal Farm world where some animals were more equal than others. Any time, any place it was tried, deeply immoral atrocities were committed in the name of and excused by the noble goal that was never achieved.
But how can we know, you may ask, who is right? You are dissing the leftists, the leftists are dissing you; how can we judge who is right?
Well, look at the evidence, look at the arguments. When the left wingers attack libertarians, there is no shortage of answers. Not so the other way. I have many questions that I would truly like to get proper answers to. The following questions are not the kind of gotcha questions that socialists like Wolf Blitzer, Michael Lind or Jon Stewart like to throw at libertarians. They are foundational question of the socialist world view. While I do not believe that satisfactory answers can be given to them, I hope that there will be some people who will try. I want to ask for your help with this. Once you read the questions, share them with your leftist friends in whatever way you can think of. I am not trying to stomp my opponents, I want to see answers. If you are a libertarian, the questions may open some doors for communication. If you are leftist, they may open your mind. It’s a long shot, but it may happen.
1. What should be the limit of democracy?
Benjamin Franklin said that “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner”
Democracy is the dictatorship of the majority. Shouldn’t we put some limits to it? If yes, how much?
What kind? What should be the extent of the positive demands the majority should be able to place on the minority? Should the 99% have the right to exterminate the 1%? How about just dispossessing them completely? How about the 51% doing it to the 49%?
2. If socialism is such a great idea, why do you need guns to make it happen?
Why does every socialist policy have to be implemented by force or the threat of it? Why can’t you win hearts by showing a good example? Why can’t you just demonstrate the superiority by allowing comparison with alternatives? Do you consider coercion and the threat of violence a good principle to base a good society on?
Collective decision making will inevitably leave some individuals disagreeing with the decision. Those individuals will have to be compelled to comply. In an ideal situation this is a minority and you could say that oppressing them can be justified in the name of the greater good. In practice, however, in the existing world of politics collective decision making is happening through elected representatives whose view maybe at odds with the majority of the people they represent. In any such situation, it is a minority that forces its will (its view of the greater good) on the majority.
But in either case, how can you call something a good idea if only force can make it prevail?
3. Communism has killed millions of innocent people. How many more millions do you have to see dead before you can agree that it has been tried enough?
Every socialist policy is a failure. How many times do we need to try them before we can all agree that they just don’t work?
According to the left wingers, communism has not failed because it has never been tried. The real communism is always the one that is in the future. If it fails, it was not communism. If a socialist policy fails, the explanation is always the same: we did not spend enough money on it. The failure never counts, the future, provided that there is more money, is always bright. Can you name a social program that was dropped because it proved to be a failure? (…..and dropping it was an initiative of the political left?)
4. Does the end justify the means? Any means?
Every communist experience starts with the brutal elimination of its opponents. Every one of those experiences will still fail, but let’s suppose for the sake of the argument that we could create heaven on earth if we killed 10% of our population. Would you go for it? Now scale it back to more modest aims. How far would you be willing to go hurting some for the benefit of others?
5. Should good intentions excuse failure?
Socialist policies have a tendency to fail, but the failure never seems to stop its proponents from sticking with the same policy. They rationalize it by emphasizing the nobility and the importance of the goal. It appears that not only does the end justify the means, but also, the intention excuses failure. Is there anything that could possibly make the leftists to honestly face the bad effects of their ideas?
6. Who should decide what the greater good is and how can it be defined?
Is it Security? Standard of living? Material equality? Overall happiness? Spiritual fulfillment?
Now what if it is different to different people? Who should decide which one should be forced on the dissenters? Can you call it a greater good if it is a compromise? If it does not even have the majority? Isn’t the notion of the greater good in conflict with the idea of diversity?
7. Is equality possible?
I can never be as smart as you, you can never be as pretty as I am and neither of us can run as fast as Joe. How can anyone make us equal?
“From the fact that people are different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time.” Hayek
What is more important to you: equal treatment or equal outcomes?
8. If discrimination is bad, what makes reverse discrimination good?
Aren’t we just keeping discrimination alive by not wanting to let it go? How long should reverse discrimination go on?
9. Is it moral to rob Peter to pay Paul?
Let’s suppose that Paul is really hungry and Peter has lots of food. Is it justifiable to force Peter to give some to Paul? What if I tell you that Paul is really hungry? What if I also tell you that Paul is hungry because he gambled away all his money, then instead of buying food with his last few dollars, he spent it on booze to get drunk? Under these circumstances, is it still moral to rob Peter to pay Paul? How can we possibly have universal arbitration of particular cases?
10. If ‘goodness’ must be enforced by the threat of violence, can it still be called goodness?
Dinesh D’Souza presents a very compelling argument in this debate to show that compulsion kills morality “……whenever the government is involved, there is an element of compulsion and the effect of compulsion is to strip the virtue out of a transaction.” Can we create a better world through depriving people from the possibility of exercising their individual benevolence? By antagonizing formerly moral cooperators?
11. Is collective morality possible? Isn’t collective morality a sum of individual moral decisions?
If you are not allowed to exercise your morality, if you are not allowed to do good as an individual because all the social good-doing is taken care of by the government, then how can you learn to be good?
Morality is an evolutionary concept. It developed over time to govern the interactions of individual members of social groups. They involve a balance of expectations and judgements; they have nothing to do with rights and privileges. A function of society is to guide the evolution if individual morality by approving or disapproving the particular actions of the individual. The state isn’t particularly good at making nuanced decisions. If we take ‘moral socializing’ from society and hand it to the state, how can we expect it to function?
12. If you do not practice your individual morality, how can you have any at all?
…and if your morality consists of complying with the ‘general will’ then can we still call it morality?
Is conformity moral? If you grow up in a world where social morality belongs to the collective and its representative, when morality is NOT individual, how can you learn it? How can you differentiate morality from compliance and submission? In other words, how can you possibly develop the morality that will lead you to the conclusion that collective morality is superior to the morality of individuals?
13. You say that we collectively have to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. How can we determine who needs care and how much care is adequate?
It is a truism, that people on welfare in the developed world have higher living standards than most of the middle class in the third world or what our great grandparents had in ours. Again, where do we draw the line? How much is enough? Absolute terms are arbitrary, while by definition, we can never get rid of relative poverty, so in a way, poverty can never be eliminated.
What are the limits of care? Who should decide? The class of people making a comfortable living providing for the poor at the expense of the rest of us? They do now…….
14. Should the government be in the business of running businesses?
Redistribution and control over our personal life is one question, the economy is another. It has been proven beyond any doubt by now that government run enterprises are less efficient than private ones.
The only time government enterprises have and ‘advantage’ is when they operate as a monopoly or when the financial backing of the government allows them to ‘compete’ unfairly. No government owned and run business can compete on a truly free market. Why should we have any?
15. 100 years ago, Government’s share of the GDP was 7%, today it is over 40%. Where should it stop?
We had our rich CINO (Conservative In Name Only) friends for dinner the other week. I asked him what the optimal size of a government is. He said: whatever we have right now. I’m afraid he would say the same whether it was 20% more or 20% less, whether we were in the 1960s or the 2060s.
This chart shows the way government is taking over our lives as an ever increasing percentage of our lives is becoming the responsibility of the government. Where should it stop?
How much socialism is enough for a socialist?
16. If we do not let people learn from their own mistakes, how can they possibly ever learn?
Socialists claim that they have a higher degree of compassion and caring than their individualist, conservative or libertarian opponents. They claim that collective morality is superior to individualist morality and if we wish to live in a good society, we should not allow anybody to ‘fall through the cracks.’ I am told by socialists that one of the reason we have social problems is that some people are not smart enough to make good decisions and they need the help,
BUT: If we do not let people to learn from their own mistakes, how can they possibly ever learn? If we always catch them, how will they ever learn not to fall?
17. Just because some people are irresponsible, stupid or immoral, why do we need to treat everybody as if we all had the same shortcomings?
Fine, let’s take care of the losers, but why should we all be treated as one?
Fine, let’s find a school for the kids whose parents are too stupid to find a good one, but why should we be all deprived the right to choose?
18. How can the collective be smart if its members are stupid?
If people are as bad as you seem to think that they are, if they cannot be trusted with the responsibilities of the decisions concerning their own lives, what turns them into wise and benevolent decision makers the moment they get elected or get a government job?
This questions is not new, Bastiat is exploring it at length in his book “The Law” published in 1850
“Since the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to allow them liberty, how comes it to pass that the tendencies of organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their agents form a part of the human race?”
160 years was apparently not enough to find the answer. Can you try to answer it now?
19. If you cannot be trusted with decisions about your own life, how can you be trusted with the decisions about the lives of others?
What changes when a member of the general public who is by definition not competent enough to make decisions about his own life gets elected to public office?
20. Aren’t public service unions incestuous?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote in 1937 that “Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government….The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”
F.D.R. believed that “[a] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable.”
FDR was the most socialist president before BHO, yet he clearly saw the conflict of interest.
How can YOU not?
The questions I asked above are simple ones. I did not want to touch the complicated ones such as dealing with the perverse incentives of the political process, the issues of moral hazards, or the particular question that are important to conservatives and socialists.
As I said in my introduction, I do not believe that these questions can be answered in a way that vindicates the idea, but I would love to see anybody trying and I am asking you again, please propagate these questions to anybody with the intellectual capacity to take up the challenge.
After I had given enough time for answers (3-4 weeks), I will provide some of my own.