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Socialism is the Answer

What Would You Say?

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Socialism is the Answer


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You’re in a conversation and someone says, “Socialism ensures a just and equal society. The only way to guarantee a basic standard of living for everyone is by adopting a socialist system.” What would you say?  At some point, we all look around at the problems in our society and wonder if there’s a better option. We should be asking if there’s something we can do better, and we should be looking out for the weak or oppressed. People who advocate for socialism think that they’re doing just that. But socialism doesn’t deliver on what it promises. So, the next time you’re in a conversation and someone says that socialism ensures society is more just, here are three things to remember:  Number 1: Socialism doesn’t mean what most people think it means.  When most people think of socialism, they often have mental pictures of picturesque Norwegian villages, farmers’ markets, and a lot of smiling people working together for a common cause. Some people think that socialism means a guarantee that everyone has their needs met and can live a prosperous life. Who wouldn’t want that? However, if you look up socialism in the dictionary – let’s use Merriam-Webster – here’s what you’ll find: Socialism is any of the various economic or political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; it’s a system in which there’s no private property; or a stage of society in Marxist theory that ends in communism. Whew - that’s a lot of words. Basically, in its pure form, it means the government owns and controls all industry, markets, stores, and property. You don’t decide what you buy or sell. The government decides what people can do. It decides who should have what. The truth is, few people want to abolish private property and hand everything over to the government, especially if they like certain clothes, food, décor, music, movies, or coffee. But they don’t realize that socialism calls for this.  They also don’t know that whenever socialism has been tried, markets collapse, shortages appear everywhere, and in the worst cases, a lot of people die. In other words, it would be more accurate for people to imagine Venezuela or Cuba rather than Norway. This leads to our second point.  Number 2: Socialism has been tried many times, and we even have very recent examples of how badly it went.  When Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, they said that socialism, the stage before the communist utopia, would come about by revolutions led by the working class. But workers never were the ones who led the revolutions. In fact, worker wages were going up when the Communist Manifesto was written. Instead of workers, writers and intellectuals led most of the Marxist revolutions. Wherever they tried to usher in Marx’s vision, millions of people died. For instance, when the Khmer Rouge attempted to turn Cambodia into a communist paradise in the 1970’s, they instead killed at least a fourth of the country’s population in just a few years. Similar nightmares occurred in places like China, the Soviet Union, or Venezuela. One hundred million people died at the hands of their own socialist governments just in the twentieth century. We don’t just have to guess at what the consequences of socialism are, and we shouldn’t rely on our fantasies of what we hope it will bring. We know the real results. Abolishing private property and giving control of the whole economy to a few powerful people in government is a really dangerous idea.  It’s so dangerous, that people risk their lives to flee these countries for free ones. People vote with their feet. And real people who have experienced the consequences are voting for free enterprise, not socialism.  Which leads us to our third point. Number 3: Socialism doesn’t lead to utopia and pretending that it does hurts real people.  We should always be working towards a more just society, but we have to resist the temptation to compare real options with an impossible ideal we can’t bring about. Any political movement that promises utopia is doomed to fail. When people act on that unrealistic ideal, they can end up killing and oppressing millions of people. Ideals are not enough, we also have to look at the outcomes - and never has there been a greater gap between ideals and outcomes than in twentieth century socialism.  It’s not a question of whether a society like the US is perfect - it’s not. The question is whether there is a better alternative this side of the kingdom of God in its fullness. Socialism played out in real life is catastrophic. It’s not enough to pretend that if we tried socialism it would somehow be different than every other time it’s been tried. The steps that modern socialists propose now have already been taken several times, and we can see the real consequences of those steps. We have to stay focused on reality rather than romantic ideals that turn into nightmares. So the next time someone proposes socialism as a way to improve society, remember these three things: Number 1: Socialism doesn’t mean what most people think it means. Number 2: Socialism has already been tried, and we even have very recent examples of how badly it went.  Number 3: Socialism doesn’t lead to utopia and pretending that it does hurts real people. 


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