Thursday, March 5, 2009

An Observation Regarding Free Markets And Socialism

Have you ever noticed that every noble goal desired by socialists is achievable with a free market economy? Think about it: welfare, disability, care for the elderly and orphans, health care, shoring up of financial institutions, etc., can all be done in a free market system.

The reverse is not true: In a socialist government, the fundamental problem is that the state takes up most of the capital. Even if we can imagine a free-market socialist state that simply drained most of the money out of the system but otherwise left the world unregulated, there'd be no capital to do anything with.

(This, by the way, is why taxation is so, so bad. Even the tiniest bit of it reduces the amount of potential in the system. Raising taxes--or spending in such a way as to necessitate raising taxes--should be viewed as anathema.)

But, of course, the state can't just take all our money, they have to squash the competition. So it is that the state of New York must sue the doctor offering people a year's worth of service for $100 plus a $10 co-pay, and the President seeks to limit charitable contributions. The presence of any competing service at all shows up the state's incompetence and thereby threatens its security. The Canadians who set up their medical system understood that perfectly when they made non-government-sponsored medical treatment illegal. (A situation which is finally reversed, I believe.)

So, that's the secondary barrier.

The socialists are fond of telling us that they are the wave of the future: Progressivism carries the concept in its very name. If that were true--if the socialists actually believed their own rhetoric--they would welcome a free market. With history and the population so overwhelmingly on their side, they'd hardly need the government to force anyone to do anything. And, sort of amusingly, the great enemies of the people, the stovepipe-hat capitalists, do seem to be on the side of Big Government these days.

So, why don't they just set up these systems on their own? Get the population that agrees with them to contribute to their social programs. If the government pared down on its demands--something that it could easily do if it weren't expected to run its own programs--all that extra money could go into things that people really believed in.

Not only that, there'd be a chance--a good chance--that those programs could work, and far better than government programs. In fact, there's plenty of historical evidence that such programs have worked in the past, despite far worse income disparities than we face today. With modern communication systems, they could be set up very effectively to minister to poorer areas with money from richer ones.

And, you could set up a membership system to keep out the free riders. I mean, the free riders that weren't the ones you were trying to help.

So what does it mean that socialists don't take this approach? A poor opinion of humanity (i.e., "people won't contribute")? But if so, how does their system--which depends on people being hard working, honest and integrity-ful for no apparent gain--work at all?

Or is it perhaps because the not-so-noble goals of socialism--that the socialist's sense of fairness is never violated, that people be made to do the right thing, whether it be helping others or not endangering themselves, and that the state be the final arbiter of all issues of morality--are actually more important to some than feeding the poor and helping the weak and so on?

I don't actually think there are many people walking around with that notion. Unfortunately, I'm left to believe that a whole lot of people think they can shunt things off to the government without any attendant loss of freedom. Unfortunately, if Europe is any indication, the point at which people learn that lesson is somewhere in between the soft fascism of Western Europe, and the hard fascism of Eastern Europe.


  1. Or is it perhaps because the not-so-noble goals of socialism... are actually more important to some than feeding the poor and helping the weak and so on?

    Unfortunately, most of the hard-core leftist friends I have known in the past definitely feel this way. Spend much time talking politics with them, and it is quickly apparent that they are much more passionate about taking away from the rich than helping the poor.

    They also seemed to treasure the notion that the rich in America were some sort of aristocracy; that they are simply people who have inherited wealth and are privileged and lazy. And most considered the average "business man" no less than evil.

  2. "Punitive Communitarianism" is a phrase I coined after reading an article about Norway's tax burden.

    I think if we started describing the Obama administration as having "Punitarian" philosophy and goals, more people might realize that the destruction of our economy isn't a flaw in their plan, but a feature (from their point of view).

  3. XWL, I think that's a very good point.I think it would be very effective to start framing the argument in that way. Unfortunately, there is a deficit of communication skills on the republican side.

  4. Unfortunately, there is a deficit of communication skills on the republican side.

    And that is being kind.


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