How Socialism Works
The Rule of Law
The Rule of Law is what distinguishes a free country. Every law restricts individual freedom to a certain degree by altering the means people may use in the pursuit of their aims, but within these rules the individual should be free to pursue his personal desires.
In a free country, the Rule of Law does not apply only to particular persons. It is intended only to be instrumental to the pursuit of various individual ends. It is intended for long periods of time, so it is impossible to know if it will assist some people more than others. It helps people predict the behavior of those with whom they must collaborate, but it does not aid the effort of particular persons.
In other words, the Rule of Law is blind. It does not know in advance which individual it will assist; it does not choose between particular persons or particular ends. It serves to create new opportunities for all, but the precise results remain unseen. This is what it means for legislation to be impartial.
Socialism is the opposite of this, as it requires collectivist planning, which is not confined to providing opportunities for unknown people. On the contrary, Socialism aims to serve the needs of particular persons, and as such must choose between them whom to benefit through the use of laws or regulations. It must decide whose needs have the most merit. It is socially and politically difficult to arbitrarily decide who gets what share of the national income. Inequality will always exist that will appear unjust to those who suffer from it.
The central political problem of Socialism is that in planning the entire economic life of a state, politicians or bureaucrats must decide the due station of individuals and groups. If the coercive power of the state decides the outcomes of persons, the only power worth having will be the power of the state. Under Socialism, the ruling elite will have complete control over the stations and outcomes of each individual in society.
No Socialist movement that admitted its goal was equal outcomes for all citizens has ever gained legitimate support, because even the uneducated can usually see that absolute equality for all, will require the government to have massive control over everybody’s lives. Therefore Socialists have attenuated their message to “greater equality” or “let’s take from the rich and give to the poor.”
A Socialist planner must decide how much of each product is to be produced, how much it is worth, and how much the workers are worth. But what are just prices and just wages, and who decides? Such a planner must decide the relative importance of different groups and persons.
When a government directly aims toward the advancement of some people over others, it is no longer impartial. It takes sides, imposes its evaluations upon the citizenry, and instead of assisting all people in the pursuit of their chosen ends, it chooses their ends for them. It ceases to be instrumental, and it becomes an instrument used by the government upon people, by imposing its views in regard to moral questions.
How Socialism Works
Socialism aims to have the government decide how many pigs will be bred and raised; it determines how many buses will be run, which coalmines to operate, and what the price of shoes will be. As these types of decisions cannot be made from formal principles and settled for long periods of time; they will depend on temporary circumstances.
These decisions will invariably favor or disfavor the interests of one group or another. In the end somebody will have to decide whose interests are most important, and as those decisions become the law of the land, a new distinction of rank is imposed on the people by the coercive apparatus of the government.
Socialism aims to decide the wages of doctors and nurses, who gets what health care, which crops are planted, what diet people can have, what land may or may not be used for, who can hunt and who can fish, who you may hire for employment and the working conditions and wages you will provide—nothing short of a complete system of values in which the wants of every person or group is assigned a value from above. Of course this will be couched in the word “fairness.
The Rule of Law safeguards equality before the law, which is the opposite of the use of the law by Socialists. Any activity by governments deliberately aimed at material equality of different people, and any policy aimed at redistribution or Social Justice, leads to the destruction of the Rule of Law.
To produce the same result for different people is necessarily to treat them differently, because blind justice never produces equality in the outcomes of people’s lives.
It makes no matter if the law says we must all drive on the right or left side of the road. What matters is that the law applies the same to everybody and enables us to predict the behavior of others.
There is no doubt that Central Planning involves deliberate discrimination between the particular needs of different people.
Socialism is not above circumventing the law by granting legislative powers to various agencies and boards that make their own laws outside the legislative process; laws that are then renamed “regulations.” These agencies are endowed with almost unlimited discretion in regulating this or that activity of the people. This was exactly the situation in Germany when Hitler came to power and he completed its advancement to totalitarianism.
Totalitarian regimes are preceded by the suppression of Democracy, in response to the demand for quick and determined government action. In times of trouble, it is the man or party who seems strong and resolute enough to get things done who has the greatest appeal. A potential dictator knows that he can easily sway and arouse the passions of the gullible and the docile by using the lowest common denominator to unite the greatest number of people. This dictator must be a skillful demagogue, who can tap into envy of those better off than others.
The actual practice of true Socialism is everywhere totalitarian. But still there are those who dream of dividing all the wealth in the world equally among all persons. If the state is independent and superior to the individual, only those individuals who share the same beliefs and work toward the same ends will be considered part of the community.
The Power of the State
Individuals who identify with groups do so because of feelings of inferiority. Reinhold Niebuhr said, “There is an increasing tendency among modern men to imagine themselves ethical because they have delegated their vices to larger and larger groups.”
Success under Socialism depends on access to political power, as individuals are deprived of the powers they naturally possess under Capitalism, which have been transferred to the state. A Socialist planning board member possesses far more power than the most successful member of a Capitalist society.
The separation of economic and political power that is the essential guarantee of freedom is eliminated by Socialism. Socialism creates a degree of dependence barely distinguishable from slavery. Socialism denies all morals through its supreme principle that the ends justify the means.
In the eyes of the Socialist there is nothing prohibited by conscience if it serves the good of the state. Cruelty may become a duty; the killing of the old, sick, or unborn should be treated as mere matters of expediency. There is a greater goal these acts serve, which justifies them.
Thus the positions of power in a Socialist society hold little attraction for those with moral beliefs such as those that have guided Western peoples in the past. But while it is unlikely that the morally upright will aspire to lead a Socialist movement, there are special opportunities for the unscrupulous and ruthless. There will be the need for bad actions, such as cruelty, intimidation, deception, and spying, which those who are moral will be reluctant to perform. The readiness to do these bad things will be the path to promotion.
It Depends on What the Meaning of Is Is
Socialism is directed toward a single system of ends, and for it to succeed everybody must serve this system. People must accept and believe in the official values of the state. Beliefs will be chosen for people and imposed upon them by various forms of propaganda. Respect for human life, for the weak, and for the individual, must be abolished. Socialism requires the destruction of all morals in order to undermine the foundation of all morals: the truth.
In order to subvert the truth, Socialism must first pervert the language—change the meaning of words, in particular the meaning of the words “justice” “equality” and “rights.” This change in the meaning of words confuses people. It is sometimes known as “baffle them with bullshit.”
Gradually words become empty shells deprived of any definite meaning, often denoting the opposite of traditional meanings, chosen solely for the emotional associations people have of them. The whole apparatus for disseminating information—schools, the press, television, motion pictures, games, amusements—will be used to spread those views that will strengthen Socialist authority.
Information that may cause doubt will be suppressed. The search for truth will not be allowed. The authorities will decide what ought to be published or taught—even about subjects that appear to have no political significance.
The word “truth” itself must be cast doubt upon. It will no longer represent something to be discovered, but something decided upon by authority, and believed in for the sake of unity.
The loss of the meaning of truth, the abolition of the spirit of inquiry, and contempt for intellectual liberty, will make every branch of knowledge fall under political authority. Socialism claims the right for a group of elites to determine what people ought to think or believe. It deprecates the value of intellectual freedom. In a totalitarian state, the state and society are identical.
My research sources for this article are Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy by Joseph Schumpeter; The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek; and Communism by Richard Pipes.