A Liberal Argument Against Socialism
In recent years, it seems as though socialism (the distribution of the means of production from the few to the many) has seen a surge of popularity, especially in the United States. Throughout the US, socialist figures such as Bernie Sanders have seen a lot of popularity from young people, and Americans have been looking to countries in Scandinavia like Sweden and Denmark, known for their massive social safety nets, as models the United States can look to.
Yet, for anyone with some idea of how economics works, you'll note that socialism generally doesn't work sometimes, as in most nations that apply the ideas of socialism usually see tyranny and poverty as a result.
However, in this article, I want to give the left the benefit of the doubt, in an effort to show how socialism can bite liberals in the butt, in the economic sense at least.
We all know the argument against socialism that it creates tyranny, something liberals ought to be against, but that's not the argument I want to make today, as everyone knows this one already. Instead, I want to make an argument conservatives like myself don't like making, but for the sake of bipartisanship, I want to share anyways. The main economic reason why liberals should be against socialism is this:
Socialism, in it's very nature, destroys the incentive for two things; unions and welfare.
Now, what exactly does this mean? Well it all comes down to supply and demand.
In the case of unions, when 'the revolution' has succeeded and the means of production are in the hands of 'the people' (usually meaning the state), it almost always means the later abolition of workers unions.
Why is that? Well for one thing, workers unions must impede production to carry their message, which is not suitable for the rest of the people who need the products they create. When the state sees a shortage in a product, people will not blame the union for that shortage, but rather the state, meaning the state must then protect the consumers over the producers.
Secondly, when the wealth of the few is distributed to the many, it give no reason for unions to exist anymore, as workers now have equality of outcome, and thereby no demands to make to their bourgeois boss. After all, what would you need to demand of your boss if you aren't working for your boss anymore?
This leads to a kind of paradox, as the worker's revolution must now suppress the workers to meet it's needs.
It is exactly what has happened in almost every socialist country in history, the most notable of these nations being Cuba. Cuba almost completely banned workers unions after Fidel Castro took control of the country. This is something that even former President Barack Obama stated was an endemic problem for Cuba, saying “We believe that Cuban workers should be free to form unions.” In fact, the only union permitted in Cuba is the Workers' Central Union of Cuba, a union with 4 million members (making for a 90% unionized rate) as a result fo the fact that conditions in Cuba are so miserable and a steady wage is hard to come by.
Next, we go on to social programs. Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the current centre-right Prime Minister of Denmark, has been famous for slamming Bernie Sanders on his idea of Denmark as a 'socialist' country. He said "I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy."
'Now, what does Lars mean by this?' you might ask. 'Denmark has such an extensive social safety net, so doesn't that make it socialist?'
While it is true that countries with safety nets aren't the most free-market societies in the world, that doesn't prevent them from being free market at all. Many of the most successful nations on Earth, including the United States, have some sort of safety net, while socialist countries are not very well known for their social programs. Cuba, China, the USSR and others, have all been lacking in their social safety nets, which is one of the many reasons people in socialist countries fare far less well off than in capitalist ones. Even socialist nations that do have safety nets like Venezuela usually fail in assuring that those safety nets are, well, safe.
The reason for this lies in two things. For one, giving the means of production onto the state mean no incentive for the state to actually distribute the wealth, which is why so many socialist states like Stalin's Russia or Mao's China gave lavish lifestyles to their leaders while leaving everyone else in the dark. However, more importantly, social safety nets require, above all else, the existence of wealth creation. In fact, in 1990, it was then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a champion against socialism around the world, who responded to a question by one of her Labour MPs on income inequality by saying to Parliament "What the honorable gentleman is saying is that he would rather the poor were poorer, provided the rich were less rich, that way you will never create the wealth for better social services as we [the Conservative Party] have."
Say what you will about Margaret Thatcher, but it is no doubt she was absolutely right in stating this fact. Of course, under capitalism, some people will be worse off than others, but in the end it is the rich who, by allowing for more innovation and thus more wealth, incentivize governments to make social programs to help the poor, assuring equality of opportunity for everyone. It is also important that a nation's economy has a wide range of places where wealth can be created, rather than just one source of wealth. This was the case for Venezuela, where it's former socialist president Hugo Chavez rigged the nation's oil market (it's sole export) and expropriated businesses large and small to create lavish social programs for the poor, which ultimately died as a result of the fall of Venezuelan oil prices, making the Venezuela we know today.
Well, before I jump to my conclusion, I know that those of you reading this will likely put me to the wall over the fact that conservatives, like Thatcher and Rasmussen, are against unions and welfare much like these socialist nations I describe. You are right in that conservatives like myself, especially American conservatives, criticize these things, but the reason we do is not because we hate the poor, or think they should just get off their asses. Quite the opposite in fact. The reason we criticize unions and welfare ourselves is because when we think of helping the poor, we put equality of opportunity in mind, and not equality of outcome as liberals who support these things do.
But going to my conclusion now, I would simply like to ask my companions on the left a favor, especially any socialists or Bernie supporters reading this. I ask you to recognize socialism for what it is, an economic theory that hurts all of us, rich and poor, and to remember not to support the tyrants knocking at our doorstep. I understand those of you who want socialism simply wish to see people better off than they are now, but I can assure you that there are many other ways of doing that other than socialism. So, please, keep this in mind.