I’m having a very strange experience as I watch some of my libertarian friends get sucked into the siren song of socialism. I think the comparison with sirens from Greek mythology is highly relevant here. For those who don’t know, the sirens would sing so beautifully that the sailors who dared travel their waters would be tempted to veer off course and into the rocks and certain death. I think this is what is happening here. People are tempted to listen to the socialist here in question because he sounds so good and resonates so well with their feelings.
What to do? Really, I don’t know if there’s much that can be done other than to stop up their ears with the wax of truth.
First, the socialist points out all the problems in society, particularly in relation to government. In this sort of sob story session, they build empathy and compassion, and pull on the heart strings of the listeners. In pointing out the problems in society, the socialist often points to a scapegoat, an individual or group of individuals who can be blamed for everyone else’s problems. This sort of narrative is tempting, and it is easy for anyone to fall in the trap. Once you see the trap, and understand how it works, it’s easy to disarm though.
The fact of the matter is the vast majority of the problems everyone experiences are mostly due to their own actions. For those problems which are caused by outside factors, it is the individual’s choice in how to deal with it. For instance, take two people facing terminal illness like cancer or some other incurable disease. One person will face their doom with fear and anger. The other will accept it and live the last days of their life with compassion and understanding for the pain of others. We can choose to be the latter, rather than the former.
It’s also useful to point out that making people out to be the bad guys means you have to do something about it. If the “rich” or whatever are to blame for everyone’s problems, then perhaps we should kill them all, right? Faced with the horrible conclusion of such conversation, people might realize the error of their ways. Humanize humans, objectify objects. Bill Gates is a person just like you and I, and rich people are really not much different than any of us. When we treat them like the Nazis treated Jews, then we should realize the end result of that.
That’s not to say we excuse crime. We punish crime, but only after a crime has been committed and the person given a chance to defend themselves in a court of law. The court of public opinion leads to mob action, and while that may feel good for a while, wait until it’s your turn to be the target of mob action and then let’s see how you feel about it.
The socialists proposals to solve life’s ills fall in two categories: Punish the successful, and reward the unsuccessful. But let’s peek a little bit under the covers to see what happens in real life. They punish the successful with higher taxes and more regulations. To what end? Is it really a good idea to take those people who create the greatest value in our economy and shackle them in bonds similar to slavery? And who are we kidding anyway — they are the rich and powerful, and they are going to be calling the shots when it comes time to mete out the punishment. They won’t punish themselves, they will punish those who threaten them, and that means they will punish the up-and-coming rich and powerful. We’ve seen this pattern repeat time and again throughout history. Give someone the power of the sword, and next thing you know they are cutting the weak and powerless.
The idea to level the playing field by rewarding failure is also tempting. But let’s look at what goes on here. On the one hand, you can just write a check to all the poor people. What happens, though, is you’re only “feeding the bears”. Rather than learn to forage for food naturally, the bears will keep coming back to the humans who feed them, exactly where you don’t want them to be. That’s why you don’t feed wild animals. Well, unless your goal is to tame those wild animals. Is that what the socialist really wants — a population of people who are basically at their beck and call?
Or perhaps you want to give them in-kind support, things like medical care or food. What happens here is you setup a massive bureaucracy to distribute the food or medical care, only to find out it’s not what they need and it’s extremely inefficient at meeting their needs. Perhaps you want to crack down on all the waste and fraud, so you hire even more bureaucrats to watch the bureaucrats. When things get very bad, you hire even more bureaucrats to make sure the bureaucrats are performing properly. It’s a never-ending circle of life for the bureaucrats, and circle of death for those they are supposed to be helping.
Throughout history, socialism has never worked. Our medical system today is a direct result of socialist tinkering with our previously free-market system. The free market is the only thing that is keeping it more or less functional, but even there, it is rapidly losing power and we’re watching the end result of socialism in practice. We’ve had it in our schools for a long time, and look at how our kids are outpacing the rest of the world! Or rather, they’re not. You don’t have to look very hard to find signs of socialist failure throughout the world, and trust me, you’ll never find a place where it works.
Don’t listen to the siren songs of the socialist. Instead, listen to the hard truth of how human nature and the natural world really works.