Just as a man with a sledgehammer sees every problem as a wall to be smashed down, a socialist sees every problem in society as just another issue to pound with a big government program. Ironically, that includes problems CREATED by the government.
For example, have you noticed that the left-wing “fix” for the cataclysmic damage Obamacare has done to America’s health care is getting government even more involved with “Medicare for all”? According to liberals, Medicare for all will provide better care than the current system at a cheaper price. Of course, that’s exactly what they said about Obamacare and it wasn’t true.
This is the problem socialists run into incessantly. What they promise is NEVER what they deliver. Why? A lot of it has to do with the fact that they either are fundamentally incapable of understanding the limitations of what can be done with government or, alternately, they are so hungry for power and self-aggrandizement that they simply don’t care if what they suggest works or not.
However, the reality that has been proven over and over again is that government is an unwieldy, costly, inefficient, and difficult tool to use under the best of circumstances. Under the worst of circumstances, an over-reliance on government is capable of destroying a society. This is not something that gets taught in our schools like it should, so let’s break it down. Why will government never work the way socialists believe it should?
1. Unintended consequences abound
“There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.” — Thomas Sowell
Government action is often portrayed as the “solution” to some problem or another. However, there is ALWAYS a cost and at times, it can be very steep. At best, we’re adding to the size of the national debt that our children will owe. At worst, the government may create a whole new set of unexpected problems. Rent control in big cities led to exploding housing costs and shortages. Government rules designed to encourage banks to give high-risk mortgages to help poorer Americans get homes were the underlying cause of the housing crisis that sunk the economy. Increases in the minimum wage have caused some small businesses to shut down, fire workers and pursue automation, all of which cause the low-income Americans targeted by the policy to lose jobs. No matter how sweet the promises, there is never a free lunch.
2. Paradoxically, the more powerful government gets, the more susceptible it becomes to outside influences
“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” – P.J. O’Rourke
In every society, there are powerful people outside of government: large corporations, politically connected families, deep-pocketed billionaires, and representatives of influential groups of blocs of voters. When government is small and has limited power, there are few ways these people and groups can use it to further their own interests. However, the larger government gets and the more it inserts itself into every nook and cranny of a nation, the more opportunities these interests have to use it for their own ends. Next thing you know, campaign contributions are changing hands, fat government contracts are getting handed out, and new regulations are being put in place. If you can’t win in the marketplace, why not use government to get you ahead of your competition?
3. Government does almost nothing well
“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.” – Milton Friedman
One of the great mysteries of life is why so many people advocate giving more power to the government when it already does so little well. In fact, arguably, the only thing the government does well is the military. However, the cost is astronomical, politicians often undermine the gains made on the battlefield, and the military goes up against other government-run militaries or private forces so outspent that it’s impossible for them to compete. It’s arguable whether even the military can be said to be well run. How does anyone spend hours waiting in a DMV, listen to the endless complaints about FEMA after a hurricane, live under the threat of the IRS, and read endless stories about the government losing track of billions of dollars while still believing that we need more government in our lives?
4. Government just doesn’t care about your life as much as you do
“This impulse toward the state as über-parent is based on a profound fallacy and a profound truth. The fallacy is that anyone can care about someone else’s children as much as his own. The former Texas Republican senator Phil Gramm liked to illustrate the hollowness of professions to the contrary with a story. He told a woman, ‘My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.’ She said, ‘No, you don’t.’ Gramm replied, ‘Okay: What are their names?'” – Rich Lowry
Getting a terrible disease is a life-changing event for you and a “Gosh, that’s awful” comment from a politician before he goes back to his lunch. Politicians and bureaucrats don’t care about you, your kids, your family, or anything else in your life the way you do. If you screw up your life, you pay a terrible price for it. If a politician or bureaucrat makes a decision that screws up your life, he pays no price for being wrong. Socialists believe you can’t be trusted with your own freedom or money because they can make better decisions. How can that possibly be when they can never come close to knowing your life, your hopes and your dreams as well as you do?
5. It goes against human nature
“Socialism is the ideal state, but it can never be achieved while man is so selfish.” — Annie Besant
In some people’s version of a perfect world, you should care just as much about a random person five states over as you do your own child. However, this is not how the world works. Why do you start a business, create a new product, or just bust your butt working day in and day out? For 99.9 percent of people, it’s certainly not for the good of humanity, the good of society, or the good of some random stranger. The reasons are more likely to be to provide for your family, because you hate working for other people, or just because you want a nicer house. When you tell people that you are going to take many of the rewards they’ve earned and give them to other people, you take away their motivation and they work less. Similarly, if you take people who aren’t succeeding and give them things that they haven’t earned and are paid for by other people, not only do you steal their motivation to work as well, but you make them dependent upon government. Contrary to what you often hear from apologists, the more perfectly you execute socialism, the less likely it is to work.