Socialism is Selfish
One of the most often repeated arguments against free market capitalism is that is makes selfish, greedy monsters out of all of us. That a system based on one’s self-interest instead of the interests of the “collective” is evil on its very face. It is almost accepted as a fact that if it wasn’t for government enforcing our charity through the social safety net, poor people would starve, old people would die penniless in the streets, the infirm would be on the street corners begging for spare change and children wouldn’t be educated while a few rich individuals would spend their time rolling around in their money like Scrooge McDuck.
In fact, history has demonstrated the exact opposite. The more the government exercises control over the economy and the people that make it up, the less freedom the people have and the poorer they are. In the 1920’s millions of people were dying of starvation in Communist Russia while America, experiencing a resurgence of freedom after the tyranny of Woodrow Wilson, was prospering like no other place on earth. Before we allowed the government to control the economy through the Federal Reserve and New Deal programs, we never had a recession that lasted more than a few years. Up until the Roosevelt era, the history of the United States was one of prosperity, innovation and upward mobility. Only in America could a bobbin changer or desk clerk amass some of the largest fortunes on earth within their lifetimes. It was these men, acting in their self-interest, attempting to satisfy the self-interest of consumers free from government direction, regulation, taxes and control that created the standard of living we enjoy, a standard of living that is still the envy of the world.
That being the case, why is socialism selfish while a system based in individual self interest is not? The reason is that a system of socialism removes all meaningful interaction and responsibility among individuals within the society. The primary relationship in an individual’s life is with the state, not his or her neighbor or even his or her family. The government takes care of our children. With pre-K and Head Start, we place them in the care of unionized government employees from the time they are three until they are eighteen. The government is now also responsible for their higher education as well. If they choose not to try to make anything of themselves, we are not responsible for them then either. The government confiscates our money through taxes to pay for the basic sustenance of those who are either too lazy to work or have made bad choices that have placed them in poverty. When our neighbor or family member gets sick, the government will now determine their care. Once our parents get old, the government takes care of their needs and medical care until they die. Then the government confiscates their remaining wealth and sticks us with the bill for burying them.
Before government stepped in, people relied on their families and neighbors for all these things. If the government is going to take care of us, what do we need family for? We have seen this play out in Europe. The socialist countries of Europe have extremely low birth rates. Why? Who needs children? They are a pain when they are young and they don’t need them when they are old so why not just remain an eternal adolescent, enjoying whatever the government lets them keep on their extended vacations and abundant weekly leisure time. Not considering the next generation, getting the goodies even at the expense of the future, living only for yourself with no regard for the needs of others is the most selfish lifestyle possible.
Pure capitalism, on the other hand, encourages us to be considerate of others. In a truly free, capitalist society where government stays completely out of the economic and social spheres, confining itself to the role of protector of rights, selfishness results is very negative consequences. If one tried to live as an ‘island’, giving no thought for the needs or wishes of others, you would quickly be reduced to living in a hovel as a hunter gatherer. Why? Because you would not be able to get a job. Employment in such a society requires that your labor meet the needs of an employer who is, in turn, trying to meet the needs of his customers. If you did not care about the needs of the employer you would not have a job very long. Compare the products of communist countries with those of free ones. Workers under communism cannot be fired for lack of efficiency or quality, in free countries they can be. Continuing, if you didn’t care about your neighbors and you fell on hard times, charity would be hard to come by. If you don’t make yourself valuable to others, they find it hard to put any value on you. Consider the value free counties place on individual life as opposed to counties based on the “collective”. In a free country, any life lost is a tragedy. In a communist country, twenty million lives lost is a footnote. In a “collective”, it is the group that matters and those at the top decide what is best for the group, the individual life is only worth something if it serves the needs of the collective. In a free county, every individual is valued as an individual, every individual has rights simply because they exist as a man or woman and government’s only role is to ensure that each individual’s rights are respected by all the other individuals in a society. Finally, if you do not have children or choose to be a bad parent, there will be no one to take care of you when you’re old. The point of all these examples is to show that in a free, capitalist society it is in everyone’s self interest to be considerate of the self interest of everyone else. In a socialist society, the opposite is true. As long as the individual maintains good relations with the state, other relationships are superfluous and have little value. This does not apply simply to economics but to our societal relationships as well.
For the last hundred years America has been turning its back on all the things that made us great, embracing the very philosophies that have not only demonstrated their utter failure everywhere they are tried but are the complete antithesis of the system we were founded upon. Today, with our government taking a greater role in controlling our lives and the economic and social systems we inhabit, the family is disintegrating, we have created a permanent and growing underclass, we have seen the devaluation of individual life at both ends, and a stifled economy and for all our efforts we have stuck our great-grandchildren with a bill even they will not be able to pay. So who’s selfish now?
Candidate for Wicomico County Council