Interesting times: North Korea has nuclear weapons and an ICBM; China is claiming the ocean; Europe appears to be committing cultural suicide; the Middle East – incredibly – seems to be getting worse; the US is buried under mountainous debt; and a leading Presidential candidate is an avowed socialist, who has never held a meaningful job outside of elected office, nor ever led or managed an organization of any size.
So? It’s a fair question: What’s wrong with socialism?
You might argue the US – and the rest of the world – moved towards socialism decades ago. Social Security, Medicare / Medicaid, Food Stamps, etc., are all programs that provide economic benefits to people, irrespective of whether they actually earned them. The CATO Institute estimates that those now living and all current and past recipients, have paid $71 trillion into Social Security. But they’ll draw out $93 trillion – the difference coming from general taxes.
But that’s the tip of the Socialist iceberg. Socialism really has three major facets: social programs; legal controls; and moral suasion.
Sen. Sanders socialist vision consists of universal social safety and welfare nets, payments like social security, medical coverage (expand Obamacare into universal, government controlled (‘single payer’) coverage), government funded college education), and a host of other wealth transfer programs. The Wall Street Journal estimates Sen. Sanders’ new programs would cost an additional $18 trillion over the first ten years. These programs would presumably, as with every other government program, increase in cost after that. This on top of his plans to cut DOD and Intelligence budgets by more than 50%, despite the ever-increasing dangers around us.
Then there’s the legal side, which is really about control. In a Socialist government, government is the first and final voice on all key decisions. Strictly speaking, Socialism requires that businesses (the ‘means of production’) be owned by the state. There’s a variation of Socialism in which the state controls major business, but allows for private ownership under controlled circumstances. Arguably, that’s where we now find ourselves. Under President Sanders, we would expect that system to spread and deepen, with de facto federal government control – via a host of regulatory agencies and tax policies – into every business, and via business, into every facet of the economy.
Which brings us to that third facet of Socialism: moral suasion. Senator Sanders asserts a democratic government has a moral responsibility to ensure that all citizens have adequate health care. This concept, that government has a moral responsibility to provide certain types of care, is central to the attraction of Socialism among a large number of people – across the globe.
There’s only one small problem: if government has a program that provides aid to unwed mothers, for example, it obtains money for that program via taxes and coercion. You pay taxes and the government uses that revenue to fund these programs. You, personally, receive zero moral benefit from that ‘giving,’ no matter how you might feel. You could overpay your taxes (the IRS will let you), and you could ask that the extra money be sent to a specific program. (You can ask, but it won’t, the system doesn’t work that way.) But for the vast majority, you paid your the taxes because it’s the law and you wanted to avoid trouble. You may think it’s a great program. Or you may not. But whether you paid willingly or unwillingly, you accrued the same moral benefit: zero.
Aiding those in need, providing food or shelter or care, is (assuming no ulterior motive) an act of charity, an act of love of neighbor. But under a government-mandated program, paying taxes isn’t an act of charity, it’s an act of obedience under threat of punishment. Perhaps those who drafted the law were motivated by a poorly understood love of neighbor. But ordering one group of people to provide aid to another group, whether directly or indirectly, is false morality; it’s really the exercise of power (and inevitably a certain degree of condescension). It’s not love of neighbor.
As for those in power, power corrupts. More power into the hands of government means, inevitably, more corruption. The Veterans Administration is a prime example.
When government transfers money from one group to another, morality in fact, has nothing to do with it. But power does. Consider the term for that variation of Socialism, the one with private ownership but government control of business:
It’s called Fascism.