In spite of the mass murder perpetrated by the governments of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and many other “revolutionary” societies, socialism continues to have many real world adherents. So deep is the faith that even India’s former finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, in an interview with TIME magazine in 2005, professed that “Socialist goals remain valid. What we are trying to do is devise and invent better means to achieve those goals”.
For socialists, the standard retort is that none of the societies that we traditionally consider as socialist were socialist. Rather, they were “state-capitalism”.
Even if that were true, the dictionary definition of socialism doesn’t inspire much confidence either.
Would you be in favour of an economic system in which it’s assumed that the government owns everything, including your body? Because that’s what socialism is – “government ownership and control of the means of production”. The “means of production” are land, labour and capital. Under socialism, individuals (labour) are mere cogs in the government’s machine; their sole function is to obey dictates from the central authorities.
Socialism is merely a variant of what used to be called feudalism. Before the advent of democracy, kings would demand complete obedience from their subjects, usually by appealing to superstition and religion. In this way, the elites cemented their power and exploited the population.
Of course, eventually the people decided to revolt: the French and the American revolutions ushered in the idea that all human beings have a right to their life, liberty and property without interference from the government. After these revolutions, the intellectual climate changed, and the lies of the monarchy no longer worked to the same extent. Thus, the rulers were forced to give up some of their power – and the end result was democracy, in which citizens freely elect their representatives.
But unfortunately, the constant struggle between those who wish to wield power and those who are victimized by it (ordinary folk like you and me) hasn’t ended. Democracy may allow us to choose our leaders, but it doesn’t guarantee that they won’t abuse private property rights while they’re in office. The lies of the elites are still being propagated, although it’s a lot more subtle.
One of the biggest lies is that we “need” government to commit theft against productive citizens in order to provide services such as healthcare, education and defense. Convincing the public to believe this has been a primary objective throughout history. Government, according to the parasites that live off taxpayer money, simply must exist.
Nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to education and health, there is ample evidence that the private sector could provide these services cheaper and at higher quality. But what about defence? Do we need a government to provide security? Two brilliant theorists – Murray Rothbard and Hans Hermann Hoppe – have argued that we do not, and I tend to agree with them.
Whether Rothbard and Hoppe are right or wrong is a debate for another day. My point is simply this: socialism is an historical regression towards feudalism, under which we are all slaves of the government. The soft-socialists of today – social democrats – would do well to take note.