Spectrum of Socialism

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An interesting tactic I once used to argue someone out of a socialist idea went like this.

The basis was that he was advocating for a new government organization to distribute funds or buy services for people who couldn’t afford it. The idea was that by spending government funds, it would help people. My tactic was to outline various ways of getting help to the poor, and showing how involving government is a bad idea.

I told him that it’s very clear who that policy would help: government employees and politicians who take credit for all of the hard work done to actually provide services to the poor people. All the politicians did was put a few words on a piece of paper, why should they get all the credit? Additionally, do you even know how much government employees make, and how much money actually ends up helping the poor? We’re talking pennies on the dollar, according to programs we already have in effect.

Such a disaster could be avoided rather easily: Just write checks to the poor people, with little or no oversight.

He objected because of the possibility of fraud. Well, if poor people, who didn’t go to college and aren’t lawyers or accountants, are prone to commit fraud, how much more likely are government agents to commit fraud? Or do people become angels incapable of committing crimes once they become a part of government? If so, then President Trump must be a saint.

In today’s age, it’s not hard to find examples of fraud. Just lately, Representative Alexandria Orcasio-Cortez is challenged with allegations of using campaign funds to benefit her boyfriend. If someone with such pure motives as herself (at least in the typical socialist’s eyes) and hasn’t even served a year in government yet is already committing that sort of fraud, well, how much more so people who have made it their life’s mission to work for the government?

He then objected that the poor people wouldn’t spend the money well. I agreed; the reason, indeed, why they are poor is because they don’t manage money well. Rich people value money much more than poor people do, which is why they have a lot and poor people don’t. He disagreed with this, but said instead that they’d probably spend the money on drugs or alcohol or new shoes, rather than buying the medical care, food or whatnot that they need.

I agreed, that’s probably exactly what poor people would do with the government benefits. In fact, how many people today trade their food stamps (EIB cards of course) for money that they can use to buy drugs or whatnot? How many people today take their unemployment checks, and with little effort actually finding a job, waste their time binging Netflix or playing video games?

The problem with socialism, ultimately, is someone, somewhere, has to take the blame for bad moral actions. Someone who misappropriates money, someone who refuses to take responsibility for their actions has to pay. You cannot protect people from themselves and the consequences of their actions. If you try, you begin to shoulder some of the moral responsibility by attempting to hold nature at bay. The only moral action is to let nature run its course, to let people starve, to let people die of drug overdoses, etc…

This is the awful nature of reality, and it can’t be avoided. Either you adopt the person as a dependent child, and take full responsibility for every aspect of their lives, or you let them sink or swim in the consequences of their own choices. There is really no other way.

Maimonides famously outlined how you can actually help poor people. He had a grading system that roughly worked like this:

At the top, the most wise and charitable action is to treat the poor person like a human being, hiring them to do work that needs to be done at a fair wage. If they can’t do that job, maybe they lack tools or expertise, then giving them a loan to obtain the skills and equipment necessary is the next best thing. If not a loan, then just give them the money to do the same.

The next tier is to actually render temporary assistance. What is best is to give to an independent third party who will render the assistance without giver or receiver knowing what is done or how the money is to be spent. What is worst is to have the giver render direct assistance with their own money. By assistance, I don’t mean giving away money. This is giving food or clothing, or even shelter, to someone who lacks these things.

The lowest tier is just to give people money, with no expectations attached. The absolute worst thing to do is just to give a beggar money with no questions asked. It is so useless, in fact, that it is what you do when you can’t do anything else.

True charity doesn’t create dependence. Socialism is all about getting people to put their faith in government, to beg for a little of what they need each day.

When Marx proposed his ideas, he thought he was describing the natural evolution of economic systems. He thought that capitalism would eventually fall apart and socialism would replace it. Under socialism, eventually the entire system would collapse and people would just eliminate the middle man of government and build a utopic anarcho-communist society where people just shared with each other because that’s the best way to do things. Unfortunately, no one has been able to transition to such an idealist situation. And most unfortunately, socialist systems don’t naturally collapse. They end up in a steady state where a few very powerful people control all of society, and everyone else begs them each day for their daily bread.

It has never been the case in human history where government has been kind or charitable. Never have we ever seen a government where power-hungry and psychotic people were not attracted to fill offices in it. Never have they not been tempted to lie, cheat, steal and murder to get more power. If you gave me a choice to put my full trust in a businessman or a government official, I would trust the businessman. Even though I know he wants to get rich off of my labor, at least I know he is willing to pay for it.

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