Socialism: An Education in the Obvious

August 19, 2020 Updated: August 26, 2020

The rise of socialism in the United States can only be explained by an abject failure of our public schools to educate our children on its manifest evils.

It isn’t merely an alternative system to organize society, but rather a system that is the antithesis of our founding principles—“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Why this is not a commonly held view reminds me of Oliver Wendell Holmes declaring, “At times like this, we need education in the obvious more than investigation of the obscure.”

With that, we’ll forgo the obscure, and take a much-needed look at the obvious.

Socialism rejects private ownership and enterprise, substituting in its place collective ownership and planning. That “collective” is dreamily envisioned as the compassionate egalitarian will of the people, which must not be confused with democracy’s sordid instrument of voting, but in actuality will be a self-anointed ruling elite—an oligarchy.

That oligarchy will decide everything for you and carry out its decrees at the point of a gun. Individuals will be stripped of their possessions and in return receive subsistence rations doled out as charity while they recite the mind-numbing mantra, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

The froms, the tos, and the needs are, of course, all sorted out by the wisdom of the oligarchy.

This institutionalized oppression will crush individual ambition and industry into a syrupy morass of apathy and idleness. And worst of all, any challenge to the oligarchy’s decrees will immediately be denounced as heresy and violently silenced so only congenial thoughts conforming to the party dogma remain.

It should be no surprise then that socialism, where tried, has been without exception a catastrophic failure. In the 20th century alone, state-sponsored murders, chaos, and famines in socialist countries have taken 100 million lives. The oligarchy, no matter how well-intentioned, though it seldom is, is simply incapable of making decisions that are better for the subjugated than the subjugated, if free, could have made for themselves. And stripping individuals of the fruits of their labors assures that there will be less fruit.

As Thomas Sowell summed up, “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”

Tragically, our universities are overrun with these “intellectuals” who have for at least the past two decades been poisoning the minds of our children. Consequently, the argument against socialism needs to go beyond it simply having failed, even if catastrophically. The argument needs to be not merely empirical but a principled one. Even if socialism brought unprecedented prosperity and world peace, we should still reject it for capitalism on the fundamental principle of liberty.

In capitalism, every transaction between two parties is completely voluntary. The parties freely engage only when both parties mutually benefit. Being able to benefit from one’s labors through trade is a self-reinforcing system that incentivizes a spirit of production to create what others need, and for others to create what you need. It engenders a mutual respect and camaraderie between neighbors. It is an economic system whose foundational principle rests at the very core of the Enlightenment: the passionate reverence for the individual and the rights of man.

In capitalism, the government only exists to protect human rights: police to protect one from domestic threats, a military to protect one from international threats, and a court system to settle disputes.

Contrast this with socialism where your work is assigned, your production seized, and transactions are involuntary. As such, only one party benefits, or more often, neither. The benefits accrue almost exclusively to the oligarchy. It shatters any incentive to produce, and fosters indolence and a contempt for your neighbor. It’s a system born not from liberty but from tyranny and servitude.

Here, the government has a much bigger role to play: orchestrating the labors for all of human activity, punishing those who refuse the yoke of the oligarchy, and rounding up those who dare to dissent for show trials and summary executions.

Rather than fighting to return the idea of socialism back to the bowels of bloody Hades, our intellectuals are glorifying it by preying on the worst impulses of human nature—the primal jealousy to destroy the successful.

As Alexis de Tocqueville observed, man has “a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to want to bring the strong down to their level, and which reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom.”

To further exploit this debased flaw in human nature, these socialist intellectuals point to the myth of unearned wealth accumulated by exploiting the masses when, in actuality, the successful in this country were good at doing something other people wanted and worked hard doing it. What they earned along the way pales in comparison to the benefits they brought society.

When these intellectuals are challenged, they launch false ad hominem attacks, and start petitions to have their challengers fired from their jobs, ostracized from society, and have their speech suppressed. If the challenger refuses to capitulate, there are always bricks.

Socialism is an abomination. Education in the obvious must, first and foremost, include exposing the false arguments and repeated failures of socialism.

Huck Davenport

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.