Socialism, Liberty, and the Real Definition of Fascism
No Compassionate Person Is Comfortable With the Knowledge That Others Are Suffering
Personally, I can't even stand to see an insect suffer, let alone an animal or human being. I literally cried the other day when I accidentally stepped on a snail. So, as you can imagine, the idea of other people suffering is something that is very difficult for me. And because of that, I have considered many possibilities for what the best ways to lessen this are. Somewhere along the way, I began to wonder if there was a system of government that could do this. Because if I found one, I would wholeheartedly support it.
As with myself, many compassionate people have at least considered, or researched, the ideas of socialism and communism. It pains us to see others suffer or even just struggle. Perhaps it seems, at times, that a system like this is only way to ensure that everyone is taken care of.
However, there are many reasons why the forced redistribution of resources and government owned means of production would not work. While the literal definition of socialism is to have these things owned and controlled by the community, in practice (unless the entire community is choosing to take part), these things can only be done by a very powerful, centralized authority. There are many in examples in history of how attempts at this have not worked. One is of an attempt by Robert Owens which is often touted to be a success. After his successful (but obviously capitalist) experiment with New Lanark in Scotland, Owens came to the New World and attempted to establish a socialist Utopian society in 1824 in Indiana which he called New Harmony (McCollom).
However, after the experiment, there are many quotes from Owens describing the problems with this system. Owens is quoted as saying that he found, among those in his community, no "noble desire to work for the common good when there was no way to personally profit (Edge of Wonder)." Finally, he was quoted as saying "No societies with common property and equality could prosper, if composed of persons unfit for their peculiar duties. In order to succeed, it was needful to exclude the intemperate, the idle, the careless, the quarrelsome, the avaricious, the selfish... (Edge of Wonder)"
So, basically, he is saying a society like this could only succeed if it is comprised only of people with no flaws. This is only one especially famous example, but trust me (or maybe do some of your own research) when I say there were many experiments like this in the last couple of hundred years.
But Compassion Cannot Be Forced
Compassion is something that grows naturally in a healthy society. While some people are, and will always be, just naturally selfish, in general a cut throat mentality is encouraged by a difficult life and a sense that there is just not enough resources to go around.
Regardless of any of our current social and political problems, life in the west is more comfortable, for more people, than ever before in history. This encourages the natural evolution of more compassion. There is much evidence that as this has become the case, people have become far more concerned with the well being of others than in ages past. If you look at any of the most difficult points in history, people were most focused on themselves at those times. Now, many people are comfortable and thus the idea of forced financial and social equality for those who are not has become more attractive.
But the concern for the social and financial well-being of others (as well as the actual social and financial well-being of more people) must come about naturally and evolve over time. Unfortunately, at this point in our socio-political evolution, Socialism and Communism would require the forced implementation of "equality," at least among those who weren't in power. Many people rebel against anything forced, especially something that would require the repossession of much or all of their resources without their consent. This forced change would also discourage their natural tendency for compassion by choice, thus compounding their desire for rebellion.
Loss of Motivation Will Only Cause More Suffering and a Failed Society
Unfortunate as it is, the fact of the matter is that a lack of private ownership or the ability to "get ahead" in any meaningful way completely squashes most people's motivation.
Now, this is a two-sided issue. The first problem would apply to the majority of people who have limited desire or expectation to really excel. This majority is motivated (and honestly, also satisfied by the fulfillment of) the basic desire to survive and live comfortably enough. Once these individuals realize that the current system purports to ensure that they and their families are taken care of with minimal effort from them, they will start to lose this motivation. Even if they are required by law, with the threat of punishment, to continue to work if able, (as I am sure they would be in the type of authoritarian government that this type of system would require) forced work that one doesn't directly benefit from is hardly going to be of the caliber it would be otherwise. There will certainly be some who work hard and act as kind of "tent-poles" for those who do not. But many average people are just not naturally motivated to excel when they do not have to. These people will do the bare minimum to get by and avoid punishment.
Obviously, there are many problems with this outcome. Aside from the fact that this will lower the production of society (production of resources and items that are necessary to keep the economy of the society running...as well as to keep those in the society fed and clothed), this will also mean less satisfaction at a job well done. Even the most idle-natured person usually feels some kind of pleasure at the completion of a necessary task. When life becomes a monotony of basic jobs that you do not need to excel at to eat, and that excellence at will likely not have any affect on your life, then that pleasure ceases to exist. While some people genuinely do need to be (and should be) helped, completely averaging society's wealth and production through redistribution only leads to negative outcomes, as we have seen in so many failed socialist and communist experiments. I probably don't need to tell you guys about Venezuela right? But maybe that wasn't "real socialism."
Next, we have the individuals who naturally dream big. The inventors, intellectuals, leaders, and creators. These people are rarely satisfied with a basic life. Again though, in this type of society these people can never expect to shine. Any profits or advancements that they make will no longer be theirs. According to Chairman Mao, "seeking the limelight [is, among other things] most contemptible (Chu et. al)."
Without the possibility for vast success or even public acknowledgement, these individuals will be much less motivated. This would hurt society at large as there would be less chance of technological and other advancements. While some may desire to altruistically advance society with no hope of reward, the majority of people would not.
The Required Authoritarian Government Would Become Impossible to Control
Finally, even if you could make such a system work, it would require an almost all-powerful authority to create and maintain. As it is, more than half (or nearly all) of the population in the west would be against someone else taking their resources and deciding how to use it. Even the most philanthropic person generally prefers to choose how to allocate their charitable funds. And so, someone would have to be given the power to implement and then enforce this new system.
So, who will we choose to make these vital decisions and enforce them? Is there any person or group of people that we can completely trust to not ever abuse this much power or take actions to keep it once they have it? Do you personally trust any politician to be absolutely above misusing almost total political power? Those seeking such power are often corrupt already. But, if we were lucky enough to find leaders who were not, they would eventually turn over their power to others and the system and precedent would now be set for others who may not be so benevolent.
With all forms of government, there are citizens who disagree. However, when a government is very powerful, they must be vigilant and take regular action to keep that power. So here is a little scenario for you...one that is, unfortunately all too possible.
Loss of Freedom and Tyranny
People (especially those who are used to freedom as most of us are in the west) will, of course, want to question or even criticize those chosen for such a gargantuan task. And as I said, people often question any strong authority over their lives. But such criticism could undermine leaders' power and the system that put them there. So those in power would, over time, find ways to limit this and any other threat to their station. Soon, our rights as we know them would slowly be removed.
First, as is happening now already, especially in the UK and other parts of Europe, it will be more basic liberties such as freedom of speech. This would happen insidiously through the passing of laws under the guise of protection from hate speech. It would seem innocent enough when against statements and opinions that the majority of us don't really want to say or hear anyway. What's the harm in that? We would still have free speech right? Just as long as you don't say these words or terms because they are dangerous. People would get behind this, maybe even fight for it.
But...now the precedent would be set to control and limit other speech. Next, it would be speech that you find a little less offensive. Maybe you were all for it when it was speech you personally didn't like...but now it might become a little more grey. Although maybe you wouldn't even notice this transition as it happened so slowly. Regardless, now that hate speech has become a punishable offence, people are being accused of hate speech against the government for questioning the "perfect" system in place. Everyone is happy, right? So of course only a criminal would disturb that by disagreeing. Anyone who questions openly could now be arrested for things like "inciting dissent."
During all of this, the right to bear arms would be taken, just in case anyone wanted to fight back. We have to protect people from themselves, they would say, while maximizing media coverage on isolated incidents and not reporting on the hundreds of others where criminals with illegal weapons are stopped by those with legal ones. But you must only be exposed to things which support "the narrative." Oh wait...that last part is all already happening.
Regardless of how or why, only the government can have the monopoly on force, right? And eventually, there will be no more option to disagree...let alone rebel.
Once this happened, there would be no chance to stop those in power from doing whatever they see fit. If they became more corrupt, or if the system failed, then it would be far too late to make changes because those in power would not wish to change the system in which they have this power. There would be no going back!
Now, I know that a lot of people these days like to call anyone who disagrees with them a "fascist." But ironically, the real definition of fascism is a social and political atmosphere where people are not free to express themselves. In a truly fascist society, any opposition to the current government, or even to mainstream society is suppressed through not only fear of punishment but fear of social backlash. Take the extremist, left-wing group Antifa, for example. While many of its members really believe that they are standing for "freedom" to be who one is, the truth is that they intimidate those who, when being who they are, do not fit into their definition of who people should be. Again, ironically, I saw a video of a popular transgendered YouTuber who is somewhat conservative being physically attacked by a member of Antifa. This kind of tactic...the tactic of using fear to intimidate those with whom you do not agree with, is not about freedom. In fact, since they like to call people Nazis so much, I actually can't think of a modern American group more like the Nazis than Antifa. If the government goes in this same direction of forcibly silencing individuals, we would a truly fascist country.
A government should fear its citizens, not the other way around. As John Basil Barnhill (not Thomas Jefferson as people often think) put it during a debate on socialism, "Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty (Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia)."
While I am pretty socially liberal in almost all of my moral beliefs, I am, politically, a libertarian, and I unfortunately find that, lately, it is often the far political left who are aiming for the removal of our most basic freedoms. For example, freedom of speech must be absolute to mean anything and we must have the freedom to offend others, lest it be our own points of view that become offensive. While I personally prefer to do my best not to offend others, it absolutely must be my right to do so if I wish. As George Orwell put it, "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
As I pointed out in my previous scenario, and against much of the current sentiment, it is vital that we also maintain the right to bear arms. Not only are there many statistics showing that violent crime is lower in countries where this right is respected, but most importantly we need this as a last resort to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government. I could go on for each of the freedoms in the American Bill of Rights...but that is another article entirely!
Ultimately, if we hand this much power to anyone, then there would soon be no chance to take it back. We must value the freedoms that we have and not take them for granted. While things could be better for many of us currently, and as a student with limited money this certainly includes me, there is no government enforced, quick fix. We must gradually evolve our society and educate our children to make compassionate choices. This is the only realistic way to end suffering.
I have been studying social and political issues for the last 15 years. I have recently started a YouTube Channel to discuss various personal and social issues such as this. I wanted to write an article to explain to people who are compassionate like myself why communal societies aren't as easy to create and maintain as they might hope.