What I learned from my presentation on socialism

Quite interesting discussion today on what’s wrong with socialism and why don’t we teach what’s wrong with socialism. The consensus at the end – which I might add I am not part of – was that we do teach what is wrong with socialism but not in the way that I think it should be taught. OK, maybe. But on this there was complete agreement – this was my last slide.

Each of these will kill an economy stone cold dead – from I, Mechanical Pencil:

  1. If economic decisions are made from the centre and not by entrepreneurs
  2. If finance and national savings are allocated by the government
  3. If prices are administered by the government
  4. If guiding an economy according to profitability is sharply restricted, if not actually eliminated
  5. If heavy-handed and inappropriate regulations are issued by governments
  6. If property rights are abolished or else strictly curtailed.

If there is consensus on this, then this should be taught to every student who goes through an economics course, and to everyone else as well.

Meanwhile the socialist trope travels farther and wider with not all that much getting in its way. Some recent examples.

There is a phenomenal amount of ignorance in what she says, but at the end, with her statement that it is the workers who create the wealth [to much applause] we are dealing with a quasi-Marxist conception if not actually full-on Marxist since the entrepreneur has no explicit function.

The problem in dealing with “socialism” is that it has a range of meanings, from a very light-on forms of the welfare state all the way to central planning and the complete nationalisation of the means of production. Whatever else it might mean, however, is that it is a desire to have something different from the present. Two items to help think about things. First this, which is from a comment from a post at Powerline.

And before I get to it, I will just note that he leaves out, and indeed seems not to know, anything about the Socialist Calculation Debate, which states categorically that an economy without a price mechanism determined within the market by entrepreneurs who respond to the world as they find it and prices as they are generated in the market, is doomed to fail. That of itself will ensure the economy cannot function.

Most commonly, “socialism” is being applied to a vision rather than an ideology or methodology, a vision where the great wealth created by an economy is distributed more widely so that the people with the least money get more benefit from the economy. In the wealthier countries of Europe and Asia, that vision is carried out with a welfare state and high level of command in an economy that is still based on private ownership and on free exchange. People in the UK or in Japan may still choose their occupations and their businesses are privately owned. There’s a large range of salaries among those who work for wages or salaries. Those who have somewhat larger incomes pay much higher taxes to subsidize welfare-state subsidies of those who make less money. You also have the panoply of labor laws that stifle economic development but do not kill it outright and you have a lot of petty laws, almost tyrannical laws, passed by the duly elected representatives of the very people who carp about high unemployment, high taxes, stagnant economic development, and the wickedness of the wealthy. But this system is not socialism as an economic system; it does less harm and it does it more slowly.

A near-command economy with the ownership and much of the profits of economic activity still in private hands is the fascist model. Since the owners connect closely with the political powers and since the owners still want profits, this brand of command economy will make efforts to keep up profits but those efforts will be misguided because command economies are inherently limited in their responsiveness. Beyond the inherent limits of attempting to run an economy by committee, every command economy has also wound up listening to the loudest and most influential voices but those voices rarely know or care about the broadest benefit for their societies….

Most of our soi-disant “socialists” are actually welfare-state nanny-bullies. Their policies and theories are not geared to collective ownership but to collective pillaging. In terms of discussion and dealing with the special brand of s-word that is socialism, it matters that that is not what is on the floor. We need to address the s-word of welfare-state nanny-bullyism because that is what is actually on the floor.

And then this: Young Americans are embracing socialism.

61% of Americans aged between 18 and 24 have a positive reaction to the word “socialism” — beating out “capitalism” at 58%. Overall, 39% of Americans are well-disposed toward socialism, but the gulf remains wide for men and those aged over 55.

It’s only a word. At the moment across the whole of society there are still 61% who react positively to the word “capitalism”. But that is if you are older and male.

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27 Responses to What I learned from my presentation on socialism

  1. stackja

    People who have lived through real socialism, such as Russia, East Europe know there is a problem. Western people don’t know the misery. MSM/leftists dream about socialism. The gullible believe the dream,

  2. Bruce of Newcastle

    I would add:

    7. Failure to uphold justice and the rule of law.

    When you have cronies with impunity you have an economic problem as well, since honest business cannot compete. We are in that situation now, especially in Victoria, as one set of rules applies to ordinary people and a completely different set of rules applies to favoured people of the Left.

    Corrupt economies do badly – like Greece.

  3. HGS

    The way to teach about socialism may be better via history (even old fashioned commerce) rather than economics. Although the history teachers I know are closet socialist marxist.

    The Powerline quote is wrong. Western Europe is socialist. Call it collective pillaging or collective ownership, there really is no difference. Call is light on fascist or light handed socialism, it is still socialism.

  4. Dr Faustus

    Each of these will kill an economy stone cold dead…

    Oh dear.
    All six of these characteristics are strongly evident in the Australian energy sector.

    How vibrant.

  5. Nob

    You’re onto something Steve.

    Your six points will cut through to young people far better than any waffle about ideology.

  6. Squirrel

    A practical example for ‘Straya’s army of latte socialists – would you like the Guv’mint to run (not just regulate to the nth degree) cafes, restaurants, delis etc………? No, didn’t think so.

  7. min

    As I couldn’t make your lecture, I listened to Niall Ferguson with John Anderson talk about this very subject on video of his talk given the other day. He had some interesting things to say about AOC , Corbyn ,the young’s lack of knowledge of history . He is married to Ayan Hirsy Ali whom he said has come up with a new word to describe today as an emoc racy no longer democracy that is no longer based on rational thinking but emotions.
    More interesting was politicians’ folly of not doing anything about defence when we are vast country with enormous resources all there for the taking , we are not using them .

  8. Buccaneer

    There’s a massive disconnect between the idea of socialism being better than capitalism and the actuality of how well people trust government to look after their affairs. When you point out that the same muppets that run the government today would take more control of every part of your life under socialism and connect that to how well the government provides services today the allure subsides quickly.

    Perversely or perhaps precisely, the Banking Royal Commission highlights that governments role should be one of making rules and enforcing them, not delivering services. Why? Well imagine the government calling a royal commission on the banking sector if it was exclusively run by government, would never happen. It’s also the reason why the Child Sex RC didn’t investigate state schools.

  9. One ScoMo doesn’t make a Spring

    I came through the 70s and 80s school and Uni system as a raging socialist. All the rock n roll stars contributed as well. 10 years in the workforce , seeing up close and personal how much gubmint can screw up business, economy and life …and all of a sudden I’m agreeing with Reagan.

    My dear papa was a communist in his early days and a trade unionist his whole life. I’ll never forget the day I told him I had gone over to the dark side. His response was surprising. He was very proud. Said it showed I had a brain, could think for myself and did not have to follow the mob. I always felt his was hugely dissappointed in communism. It promised so much but delivered death, thugs in charge, low living standards.

  10. Empire 5:5

    He is married to Ayan Hirsy Ali whom he said has come up with a new word to describe today as an emoc racy no longer democracy that is no longer based on rational thinking but emotions.

    Man has logic embedded in his DNA. An emocracy is only possible when state mind control is near universal and the truth is throttled and/or concealed to the advantage of the few.

    The medium that delivered the present state of affairs is broadcast radio and television, followed by subscription broadcasting. That model, as a venture of profit, is dead. Social media and the www have replaced broadcast as the message. By design, both are multicast, offering mass customisation of information. The audience have become individual consumers.

    Those who have effectively wielded power since the Industrial Revolution (cemented post WWII) failed to account for the new media. Despite the censorship on FB and Twitter, the scrubbing/forging of data, the SAPs on private servers and the secret comms via tech giants pm apps and game rooms; they have lost control.

    Big lies have no future. Socialism is terminal. It’s all over, bar the shouting.

  11. Iampeter

    Steve, as someone who supports regulating trade, immigration, tech companies, presumably any other private enterprise that gets “too big” or “censors” you, because you don’t know what censorship means, or how property rights work, why do you think you are not a socialist?

    I mean, going by your posts at the Cat alone, you’re clearly a nationalist socialist.

    Why do you think you’re fighting socialism?

  12. Petros

    Although I agree with your six points, Steve, they will not resonate with the younger generations in my opinion. Foreboding is not their forte when it comes to these topics. Maybe with some really simple examples it might sink in. Use a small vocabulary.

  13. Empire 5:5

    I mean, going by your posts at the Cat alone, you’re clearly a nationalist socialist.

    Wow. You just called your cyberhost a nazi.

    Let’s talk about Kates’ property rights.

  14. Done Deal

    Their ALPBC must be getting worried about Clive Palmer, running a hatchet job on him tonight

  15. Boambee John

    Empire at 1908

    Big lies have no future. Socialism is terminal. It’s all over, bar the shouting.

    Or bar the shooting?

  16. Boambee John:

    Big lies have no future. Socialism is terminal. It’s all over, bar the shouting.

    Or bar the shooting?

    The purge – socialists never remember the purge after the Revolution.
    “Oh! If only Stalin knew about this!

  17. Overburdened

    For simplicity l would refer back to my comment on the thread leading up to the event.
    Reading this article l get a sense that the tide is trying to be held back by arguments that aren’t working.

  18. Mak Siccar

    Watch your back Steve (and Sinc). Facts and truth don’t matter!

    https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2019/03/sarah_lawrence_activists_demand_resignation_of_conservative_prof_for_being_conservative.html

    March 13, 2019
    Sarah Lawrence College activists demand resignation of conservative prof for being conservative
    By Rick Moran
    A conservative professor at Sarah Lawrence College is being targeted by radical activists who don’t much like the fact that he’s conservative.

    Usually, when we’ve covered cases like this, the activists and liberal faculty will take something the professor said, exaggerate it all out of proportion, and accuse the prof of being racist, homophobic, misogynistic, etc.

    But in this case, the offending professor, Samuel Abrams, penned an op-ed in the New York Times that simply advocated for political diversity on campus. Abrams said nothing remotely controversial, and he offered empirical evidence for massive liberal bias among college administrators.

    The activists, calling themselves the “Diaspora Coalition,” couldn’t take it.

    One of these demands concerns Samuel Abrams, a tenured professor of politics. Abrams is conservative-leaning, and has complained about the ideological bias of leftist administrators in a New York Times op-ed. Last November, his office door was vandalized by unknown persons who wanted him to apologize to marginalized students and quit the college.

    Now the Diaspora Coalition is demanding that Sarah Lawrence review Abrams’ tenure. The review should be conducted by a panel consisting of members of — you guessed it — the Diaspora Coalition, as well as faculty members of color.

    “In addition, the College must issue a statement condemning the harm that Abrams has caused to the college community, specifically queer, Black, and female students,” the demands continue. The college must also apologize “for its refusal to protect marginalized students wounded by his op-ed and the ignorant dialogue that followed. Abrams must issue a public apology to the broader SLC community and cease to target Black people, queer people, and women.”

    What monstrous, racist, anti-gay, anti-female ideas did the professor publish?

    I soon learned that the Office of Student Affairs, which oversees a wide array of issues including student diversity and residence life, was organizing many overtly progressive events — programs with names like “Stay Healthy, Stay Woke,” “Microaggressions” and “Understanding White Privilege” — without offering any programming that offered a meaningful ideological alternative. These events were conducted outside the classroom, in the students’ social and recreational spaces.

    The problem is not limited to my college. While considerable focus has been placed in recent decades on the impact of the ideological bent of college professors, when it comes to collegiate life — living in dorms, participating in extracurricular organizations — the ever growing ranks of administrators have the biggest influence on students and campus life across the country. …

    Intrigued by this phenomenon, I recently surveyed a nationally representative sample of roughly 900 “student-facing” administrators — those whose work concerns the quality and character of a student’s experience on campus. I found that liberal staff members outnumber their conservative counterparts by the astonishing ratio of 12-to-one. Only 6 percent of campus administrators identified as conservative to some degree, while 71 percent classified themselves as liberal or very liberal. It’s no wonder so much of the nonacademic programming on college campuses is politically one-sided.

    Abrams carefully lays out a devastating case for ideological conformity at elite institutions — all to no avail. Apparently, Abrams is being targeted not for what he says, but for what he believes. And the people who are charged with defending his academic freedom are, themselves, hopelessly biased.

    I’ve covered a lot of these free speech controversies, and it’s rare where a professor did not say something at least mildly controversial to get himself in hot water with students and faculty. In this case, it’s hard to imagine an academic being any less confrontational than Abrams. In other cases, the activists use what a professor says as an excuse to go after them because he is conservative. In this case, there was no attempt to hide their Stalinism. Activists want Abrams fired because he expressed a conservative viewpoint about college administrators backed by solid data, and they didn’t like it.

    A conservative professor at Sarah Lawrence College is being targeted by radical activists who don’t much like the fact that he’s conservative.

    Usually, when we’ve covered cases like this, the activists and liberal faculty will take something the professor said, exaggerate it all out of proportion, and accuse the prof of being racist, homophobic, misogynistic, etc.

    But in this case, the offending professor, Samuel Abrams, penned an op-ed in the New York Times that simply advocated for political diversity on campus. Abrams said nothing remotely controversial, and he offered empirical evidence for massive liberal bias among college administrators.

    The activists, calling themselves the “Diaspora Coalition,” couldn’t take it.

    One of these demands concerns Samuel Abrams, a tenured professor of politics. Abrams is conservative-leaning, and has complained about the ideological bias of leftist administrators in a New York Times op-ed. Last November, his office door was vandalized by unknown persons who wanted him to apologize to marginalized students and quit the college.

    Now the Diaspora Coalition is demanding that Sarah Lawrence review Abrams’ tenure. The review should be conducted by a panel consisting of members of — you guessed it — the Diaspora Coalition, as well as faculty members of color.

    “In addition, the College must issue a statement condemning the harm that Abrams has caused to the college community, specifically queer, Black, and female students,” the demands continue. The college must also apologize “for its refusal to protect marginalized students wounded by his op-ed and the ignorant dialogue that followed. Abrams must issue a public apology to the broader SLC community and cease to target Black people, queer people, and women.”

    What monstrous, racist, anti-gay, anti-female ideas did the professor publish?

    I soon learned that the Office of Student Affairs, which oversees a wide array of issues including student diversity and residence life, was organizing many overtly progressive events — programs with names like “Stay Healthy, Stay Woke,” “Microaggressions” and “Understanding White Privilege” — without offering any programming that offered a meaningful ideological alternative. These events were conducted outside the classroom, in the students’ social and recreational spaces.

    The problem is not limited to my college. While considerable focus has been placed in recent decades on the impact of the ideological bent of college professors, when it comes to collegiate life — living in dorms, participating in extracurricular organizations — the ever growing ranks of administrators have the biggest influence on students and campus life across the country. …

    Intrigued by this phenomenon, I recently surveyed a nationally representative sample of roughly 900 “student-facing” administrators — those whose work concerns the quality and character of a student’s experience on campus. I found that liberal staff members outnumber their conservative counterparts by the astonishing ratio of 12-to-one. Only 6 percent of campus administrators identified as conservative to some degree, while 71 percent classified themselves as liberal or very liberal. It’s no wonder so much of the nonacademic programming on college campuses is politically one-sided.

    Abrams carefully lays out a devastating case for ideological conformity at elite institutions — all to no avail. Apparently, Abrams is being targeted not for what he says, but for what he believes. And the people who are charged with defending his academic freedom are, themselves, hopelessly biased.

    I’ve covered a lot of these free speech controversies, and it’s rare where a professor did not say something at least mildly controversial to get himself in hot water with students and faculty. In this case, it’s hard to imagine an academic being any less confrontational than Abrams. In other cases, the activists use what a professor says as an excuse to go after them because he is conservative. In this case, there was no attempt to hide their Stalinism. Activists want Abrams fired because he expressed a conservative viewpoint about college administrators backed by solid data, and they didn’t like it.

  19. Iampeter

    Reading this article l get a sense that the tide is trying to be held back by arguments that aren’t working.

    Yep, that’s because Steve and co, are only making economic arguments, and arguments they themselves don’t believe, as we see from the leftist policies they end up proudly supporting.
    Or we’ll get emotional arguments about “Stalin” or “purges” as if those are the issue with socialism, but they are just consequences of the issue.
    The actual issue with socialism is the ethics of altruism. The idea that selflessness is moral. That individuals should be sacrificed for something greater than themselves.
    That’s what needs to be challenged and defeated, to finally end socialism.
    But that means going against two thousand years of evil Christian morality. Even atheists today aren’t prepared to do that.
    Steve, conservatives and other cargo cultists, are certainly not going to challenge this moral code.

    And if you can’t challenge the morality of socialism, you can’t challenge socialism.
    Which is why Steve and conservatives have more in common with nationalist socialists than they do with capitalists, in practice.

  20. Petros

    You should meet some Christians, Iampeter, who can explain the basics of the bible to you.

  21. Iampeter

    You should meet some Christians, Iampeter, who can explain the basics of the bible to you.

    That’s what socialists often say too.
    If only someone could explain the basics of socialism.

    Until you can connect the obvious dots between Christianity and socialism and why both have to be opposed for the exact same reasons, you can’t challenge socialism.

  22. Rob MW

    6.If property rights are abolished or else strictly curtailed.

    That should be number 1 by any measure of fundamentals. Without that there is no free enterprise/entrepreneurship and most importantly no initiative. Abolition of private property and the disarmament of its citizenry was Marx’s number one and number 2 priorities without which, socialism/communism cannot exist in the first instance.

  23. Empire 5:5

    That individuals should be sacrificed for something greater than themselves

    How many kids do you have?

  24. Iampeter

    If you’re kids are a sacrifice, I hope you don’t have any.
    Not that this even begins to address the bigger point I was making, which I don’t think you’ve gotten.

  25. @Iampeter, I’m definitely onboard with respect to Steve’s interventionist policies. I just don’t get it. I’m not all that thrilled about Christianity, either.

  26. Empire 5:5

    Quit obfuscating and answer the question.

  27. Iampeter

    Quit obfuscating and answer the question.

    He says as he obfuscates.
    Do you understand the point that’s being made here?
    If you want to suggest that having children is a sacrifice, therefore sacrificing is moral, you are both a bad parent AND on the side of socialists, along with everyone else who thinks sacrifice is moral.

    No amount of children I have will change this fact.

    Now either put forward an actual position or concede. But don’t post another tangential question because you don’t understand anything, but want to pretend you’re debating me or something. That would be both classic cat AND actual obfuscation of the fact that you have no clue here.

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