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Why Socialism Is Doomed To Fail

In The Consolation of Philosophy, the 5th century Greek scholar and Roman Consul Boethius wrote: “Compare the length of a moment with the period of ten thousand years; the first, however miniscule, does exist as a fraction of a second. But that number of years, or any multiple of it that you may name, cannot even be compared with a limitless extent of time, the reason being that comparisons can be drawn between finite things, but not between finite and infinite.”

Boethius’ insight into the nature of asymmetrical comparison is perennially valid, whether with respect to philosophical and theological speculation, mathematical equations involving infinities, or ideological aspects of political thought. It explains why communist, anarchist or socialist experiments in the life of peoples and nations are bound to fail, for as Boethius might have said, they do not treat of corresponding finite entities. In other words, these adventures in social perfectibility flow from the refusal to ground a vision of the future in historical and political reality.

In order to achieve the possible, it is necessary to acknowledge the real, that is, the limits set by the actual parameters of historical existence and the constraints of human nature. Otherwise we are on the way to creating a dystopian nightmare. One cannot validly compare the imperfect social and political structures of the past and present with a utopian construction that has never come to pass and which exists only in myth, dream and mere desire. No sound conclusion can emerge from such dissonant correlations. To strive, for example, to build an ideal society in which “equality of results” or “outcomes” -- what is called “social justice” -- is guaranteed can only produce a levelled-down caricature of human struggle and accomplishment. We have seen it happen time and again, and the consequences are never pretty.

The infatuation with “outcomes” in the sense of compelled equality persists wherever we may look, significantly in education, where equality of result is enforced under the tired mantra of “diversity and inclusion” -- standards are lowered, everyone is admitted, everyone graduates, everyone gets a trophy or a degree regardless of input, so that no one gets left behind. Mastering the curriculum, however, is a highly competitive venture, meant to sieve winners from losers; we recall the word derives from the Latin for “race course.” The “equality” compulsion is especially paramount in “social justice” legislation which ensures that unmotivated non-contributors to civil order, prosperity and disciplined excellence in any field of endeavor are treated as at least equal to and often favored over successful practitioners and genuine achievers.

There is another, perhaps more clinical, way of regarding the issue, known as the Pareto Principle, deriving from the work of Italian econo-sociologist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923.) The “equality” or “outcomes” obsession, as Jordan Peterson has pointed out with reference to Pareto, is a noxious delusion. The Pareto Principle specifies a scalene relationship between causes and effects in human endeavor. Also known as the 80/20 Rule, the principle postulates, as a matter of discernible fact, that 80% of a nation’s wealth is typically controlled by 20% of the population. It has almost always been so. (The Pareto calculus, it should be mentioned, has nothing to do with the urban legend of the greedy “one percent.” The wealthy already contribute disproportionately in terms of employment and taxes to the social leviathan.)