“The startling truth is that nearly all of human progress has taken place in the last three hundred years (and for many of the billions of non-Westerners lifted out of crushing poverty thanks to capitalism, it’s happened in the last thirty years)….Capitalism is the most cooperative system ever created for the peaceful improvement of peoples’ lives. It has only a single fatal flaw: It doesn’t feel like it. The market system is so good at getting people—from all over the world—to work together that we barely notice how much we’re cooperating.” – Jonah Goldberg
“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” – Anonymous
In America, especially on the Left, socialism has begun to rehabilitate its well-deserved horrible reputation. In a poll last year, 37 percent of all Americans and 54 percent of liberals preferred socialism to capitalism. Another poll from last year had 44 percent of millennials saying they prefer to live in a socialist society while only 42 percent prefer to live in a capitalist society.
Given that America became the most successful economy in the world because of capitalism and because there are many horror stories about socialist countries, it may be hard for some people to understand why socialism would have any appeal. However, there are three factors you have to consider.
1. Socialism SOUNDS really good
Socialists promise all sorts of “free” things, but never discuss the true cost. Capitalism is Microsoft, Apple, and Exxon. Socialism is Santa Claus.
2. The successes of capitalism are taken for granted
We live in the richest, most successful, most prosperous society in human history and like the trust-fund kid who grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, we assume this is just HOW IT IS and assume that becoming a socialist nation wouldn’t change it. (Spoiler Alert: It would.)
3. There are no purely capitalist or socialist economies
This can confuse the issue because if you have a nation that already has a decent economy and make it increasingly socialistic, it will inevitably become weaker, but it doesn’t immediately die. This gives socialists an opportunity to point to some nations that aren’t smoking garbage heaps… yet. On the other hand, weaker economies that fully embrace socialism can completely implode.
Why? Well to get it, you need to understand which people benefit under which economies.
Socialism and its big brother communism are both Faustian bargains. You give up part of your freedom, a large part of your potential, and an enormous amount of money in return for unreliable promises of “free” stuff made by uncaring and incompetent government apparatchiks. Moochers, the lazy, and arguably people who will, for whatever reason, remain poor for their entire lives tend to benefit more under socialism/communism. Of course, even the permanently poor do worse in many socialist nations over the long haul not only because there are so many more of them than there are in more capitalistic countries, but because so much damage is often done to the economy that there’s little left over of other people’s money to give them.
Then there is capitalism. Capitalism IS NOT a panacea. The more capitalist the system, the more you are expected to take care of yourself and the less help you can expect from the government. So capitalism asks you to give up some “free” stuff in return for more freedom, much more money, and a much higher likelihood of becoming financially successful. Who benefits from capitalism? Everyone except the moochers, the lazy and arguably people who will, for whatever reason, remain poor for their entire lives.
In other words, socialism is for poor people who are content to stay poor. Capitalism is for everyone else, including poor people who want to make a better life for themselves.
Many proponents of socialism like to tell you that the top one percent in capitalist nations are doing great while everyone else does poorly. What they don’t tell you is one in nine Americans makes it into the top one percent for a period in his lifetime. If you widen the range just a bit, 73 percent of Americans make it into the top 20 percent of income earners at some point in their life.
That leads to the first way that socialism/communism ruins lives…
1. Socialism prevents you from ever reaching your full potential
The more socialistic the country, the higher the taxes, the weaker the economy, and the fewer opportunities there are to get ahead. High achievers are willing to put in high effort because of the potential for high levels of reward. Socialism takes those rewards away and gives them to people who don’t work as hard. Of course, there’s still never enough to go around because socialism kills economies. That means IF there’s less “income inequality,” it’s because EVERYONE is much poorer. However, socialist nations often have even more staggering income inequality than capitalist nations because you end up with a few people on top pilfering massive amounts of money and almost everyone else is at the bottom.
2. Socialism can destroy a nation’s economy
Socialism doesn’t immediately wreck every economy it comes in contact with, but it does produce some SPECTACULAR failures. Cuba is such a hellhole that people risk their lives trying to float to the United States on inner tubes just to get away. Zimbabwe used to be a food and tobacco exporter, but after it became a socialist nation under Robert Mugabe’s rule, it faced famine and, I kid you not, it had monthly inflation of 7.9 billion percent at one point. Greece? It was the first developed nation to default on an IMF loan. To give you the latest prominent example from South America, in Venezuela people are eating rats and pets to survive right now. You can go on and on and on with this because the failures of socialism are legion. Capitalism may not promise to send you someone to mow your lawn and tuck you in at night, but it will also make sure that you aren’t thinking about breaking into the zoo to eat the penguins. Socialism can make you no honest promises about that sort of thing over the long haul.
3. You have less freedom, fewer choices
Inevitably, socialist nations take a much bigger chunk of people’s paychecks in taxes than capitalist nations. For example, the tiny Scandinavian countries (all of them together are about 1/13th the size of the U.S.) that are often pointed to as examples of “successful socialist countries” have insane tax rates. Hitting the highlights: “Denmark’s top marginal effective income tax rate is 60.4 percent. Sweden’s is 56.4 percent.” The more money that people have to pay the government, the more control government has and the less freedom people have to choose the path of their own lives. Totalitarianism and socialism also go together like peanut butter and jelly, particularly in nations without economies that are strong enough to help fend off the corrosive effects of socialism. Free speech is very dangerous to people with bad ideas and socialism is one of the worst. If socialist nations would let people say anything they want, they’d complain about socialism and next thing you know, people would want a change.
Socialists like to frame the debate between capitalism and socialism as “Capitalism BAD! Free stuff GOOD!” Let me suggest another way to look at it.
Americans built the most successful economy in history by embracing capitalism. Before you suggest throwing all that away to bet on a losing horse that you think looks more comfortable, ask yourself what you really want.
Do you want more jobs (capitalism) or fewer jobs (socialism)? Do you want to pay lower taxes (capitalism) or higher taxes (socialism)? Do you want more freedom and choice (capitalism) or less freedom and fewer choices (socialism)? Do you want the government planning out less of your life (capitalism) or more of your life (socialism)? Do you want to go with an economic system that has been proven to work over and over again (capitalism) or one responsible for the worst economic failures of the last century (socialism)? Do you want to make more money (capitalism) or less money (socialism)?
Once you start asking questions besides “Which system gives me more ‘free’ stuff?” it’s not that hard a choice to make.