Why the Left is Wrong

Socialism is contrary to human nature.

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

- Karl Marx

This most famous statement by Karl Marx tells us of the most fair, just and equitable political and economic system on the earth: Communism.

Yes.  I said it.  Communism is the best political, economic and social system on the earth - on paper only.

Communism isn't a new idea, or maybe we should say communal Utopian societies aren't a modern idea.  Early Christians practiced a form of it when they held "all things [in] common" (Acts 2:34).

Thomas More wrote of a land that didn't exist, but was perfect in its social, political and economic systems.  The Pilgrims, when they landed in the New World, practiced a form of communism.  Brookfarm, Fruitland, the Shakers, Oneida, the Mormon "United Order," and the Equity Colony are all examples of trying to live socialist, communal lives.  All failed.

Not only have those attempts failed to deliver decent lives to their participants, but so has the Soviet model of communism, as has the North Korean, Cuban, Venezuelan and others that continue to limp along in dictatorship and poverty.  It doesn't take much to see that socialist and communist states do not last very long and ruin the lives of those unfortunates trapped within.  This isn't theory, this is just plain old history.

So why do these types of government and social systems fail?  Aren't they supposed to be more fair, more just, more equitable?  Isn't everyone supposed to be working towards the common good?  If we're all working together, how can we fail?

Because we're human beings.  It's where theory conflicts with practice.  Combine communist (or socialist) theory with actual human behavior and you have failure.  We've written about this in Scragged before in the Confucian Cycle series.

It's so easy to see why the systems fail:  Just observe children on a playground.  Observe humans in a group.

Some children follow, others lead.  Some bully, some will be clowns. Some just sit by themselves.  Some want to play, but don't have the ability to play well, so they're ignored.  Some are obsessed with winning.  Some just want to have fun.  A few strange children won't go out to play at all.

That is, each child is different.  Each one is motivated by different things.  No two are alike.  And we don't change when we're adults.

Of course, I'm stating the obvious, but it's this very obvious point that we all miss.  Some people want power.  Some people are bullies.  Some people have desire and drive, others are just plain lazy.  Some are content with a little and others are never content.  Some like blue and some like green.

As a result, each individual is going to go after his or her own self-interest.  This is human nature.  Self-interests can sometimes conflict.  Sometimes they can be mutually beneficial.  But they will always be there.

That's why communist societies fail: human nature.  There will always be those who want power.  There will always be those who are lazy.  There will always be those who want more than others.  There will always be those who try to exploit others.  There are always those who would rather take than give.  Communism and socialism encourage self-centered types of behaviors because there are no natural mechanisms to correct them.

Some people are greedy.  Greedy for power, for wealth, for all sorts of things.  Greedy people with the authority of government behind them are dangerous.

Again, not theory, but lessons learned from history.  The Bolsheviks, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, Kim Jong Ill, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Saddam Hussein populate a short list of modern horrors.  Let us remember the stark contrast between partially socialist West Germany and wholly communist East Germany when the Wall fell.  As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10:

Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.

A democracy cannot permanently be any better than the desires of a majority of its voters, either:

That the desires of the majority of the people are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority, is demonstrated by every page of the history of the whole world.

- John Adams

What about peaceful socialist Europe?  Violent communism draws strength from physical power.  Peaceful socialism loses strength through moral decay.

Slowly, and over time, people come to expect "government" to provide more and more.  As the pool of those who are willing to work grows ever smaller the pool of those who are eager to live off someone else's labor grows ever larger.  As the fiscal load increases taxes increase sucking capital out of the system until the economy grinds to a halt.

Europe has had decades of high unemployment because too many would rather take out than put in.

Not only does socialism destroy the fiscal health of a nation, but it destroys its moral health.  All things become equal.  All cultural aspects must be treated equally - since all things are "held common."  This allows, no, requires, that a nation accept Islamic law and traditions of immigrants: the postmodernists of Europe lack moral authority to say that all cultural traditions are not equally valid.

If a man can marry a man, why cannot a man marry a woman and another woman, or a horse?  If it's OK to create, publish and celebrate pornography, then why is not equally valid to celebrate the various teachings of the Koran?  When you lose the ability to say one thing is wrong for society you lose the ability to say anything is wrong.

Property rights must be destroyed in a socialist society.  Your labor is not yours, but properly to be shared with fellow citizens.  A noble idea, but what happens when fellow citizens wish to appropriate your labor for that which you disagree?

There's a joke told about democracy being three foxes and a chicken voting about lunch.  Socialism institutionalizes the power of the foxes to eat the chickens.  Government decides where and what you should do to benefit society.

History teaches us that in these systems resources are the most inefficiently allocated.  Some, at the top, live in luxury and have what they want.  The rest slowly descend into poverty.

The primary difference between religious attempts at communal societies where all is "held common" is that the religious societies recognize that human nature is the fundamental problem, not the social-political system: people need individual reformation.  Individuals needed to change their own hearts and minds to look to others.

These religious systems were voluntary, and they failed, too.  It is very difficult to change fundamental human behavior.  It is even difficult to change it when you want to change yourself.

That is where our Constitution shines.  The Founding Fathers understood human behavior and created a system of government that exploited it.

We have a federal government of three separate but equal branches.  The system was designed to check itself.  It was designed to limit power, not increase it.

The Constitution was written in such a way as to not grant government more power than absolutely necessary.  It was designed to accommodate not only self-interest, but selfishness, ambition and other such traits as a way of limiting government's infringements upon our freedom.

Federalist Paper No. 51 discusses this idea at length, it's worth reading in detail.

Over the course of the last 100 years, with the last 80 years in particular, we've seen the Constitution disregarded.  We've seen it changed to allow government to have power it shouldn't (the 16th and 17th amendments are the most egregious examples of this).  We've seen the Supreme Court disregard it when ruling from the bench (Wickard v. Filburn, Roe v. Wade, Kelo v. New London to name a few).

We've seen the executive branch create law with neither the courts or Congress objecting.  We've seen Congress abdicate their lawmaking responsibility to executive branch departments.  We've seen government grow as the various branches have colluded to increase their power and authority.

Worse, we've seen them make promises of largess from the public coffers to the people in order to stay in power.  Incrementally, our country has gone from the independent man to the man with his hand out.  Not only with his hand out but with the audacity to feel he is owed the fruit of someone else's labor simply because he perceives that he desires it.  The poor are attempting to make slaves of the rich.

John Adams said "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."  Communism and socialism destroy the morality and religiousness of a society.  When the morality of a society is destroyed, so is the society.

Adams also said "Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either [aristocracy or monarchy].  Remember, democracy never lasts long.  It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.  There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide."

Today we have a choice.  To go against our natural tendency to do as little as possible for as much as possible and restore the government to functioning under the Constitution, or we can stand by, even participating in our democracy's suicidal spiral.

Fennoman is a guest writer for Scragged.com.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Fennoman or other articles on Economics.
Reader Comments
Thomas More wrote of a land that didn't exist...
maybe it's something true at this
March 25, 2010 10:08 AM
I bookmarked this so I can email it to my idiot friends when they say we should give socialism a try. After all, "Obama's only been in office a little bit."
March 25, 2010 10:22 AM
indeed the "Left" is wrong. but in my opinion it's very similar to our so called "democracy"
March 25, 2010 11:07 AM
Yeah, it's similar to democracy. I live in a democratic country, but the "Left" is rarely spoken
March 26, 2010 4:27 AM
The 'Left' view was never brought in to run Governments, it was for the power hungry people who always wanted to overthrow running governments. Democracy is a lot better, unlike in communism, where dictatorship is set to step in sooner or later.
March 26, 2010 7:17 AM
Most families operate as communistic groups. Small groups with close ties can successfully operate communistic groups as well. I would happily work to give my brother or parents a hand up. I will not work to give man in Detroit a hand up. But then I can see my brother or parents working or not. I can decide whether or not its a worthwhile investment. Not for financial gains but if they'll ever be able to support themselves. The guy in Detroit I have no way of knowing.
March 27, 2010 12:53 AM
Two wrongs make wornger?
''Yes. I said it. Communism is the best political, economic and social system on the earth - on paper only.''
yeah..right.. who decides what is ability or need?
That precept has caused a great suffering, and the truth is, it is NOT the best.. not even close: and this illustrates the problem with these moral Conservatives, whose morality is based on the unrealistic expectations that we serve our brothers rather than a moral coded based logically on rational self-interest, whose shining example is the Republicans feeble attack on the health care proposal, whose shifting bankrupt ideology cannot even counter a simple subversion of our liberty...
Good luck with that: no wonder Republicans suck: they are no different than Democrats, just a different master to whom we should bow, and forget the principles of life liberty justice, property, happiness and just wanting to get up in the morning to face new challenges..
yeah we're in trouble, alright~!
March 27, 2010 11:11 AM
@irvnx Did you read any of the article beyond the first line? The article in no way supported communism. As for who would decide ability and need, in a true Marxist society there would be no deciding everyone would simply take what they need and leave the rest for others who need it. No hierarchy, no government simply everyone doing what they do and taking care of everyone else.

There is of course the problem that it is impossible, hence the best system on paper. Since it fails to accurately take human nature into account. Communist/socialist people tend to believe that people simply need to be raised correctly and they will be selfless and willingly take care of one another. Capitalists believe of course that people are generally selfish regardless of how one is raised and want more for themselves then for other people. Which I believe is more realistic.
March 27, 2010 4:58 PM
http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/ideas-and-consequences/anti-force-is-the-common-denominator/ says it well, too.

And, yes irvinx, you completely missed the point. The point is that Communism is a failed system for two reasons: 1) Is sells itself as being better for everyone on paper, and 2) hides the fact that people are people and that Communist systems will eventually have to deal with human nature and it's attendant weaknesses.

Free market democracy is at least honest about human behavior.
March 27, 2010 5:42 PM
Capitalism tries to harness human greed to drive human good. Capitalism tries to harness human altruism to drive human good. The fact that capitalism succeeds better suggests that there is more greed available to harness than altruism.
March 27, 2010 9:58 PM
One other thing: Since we can see from history that communism/socialism doesn't work then those who advocate it do for either 1) personal power, or 2) personal laziness because they'll benefit (for a time) from the system.

Either way, the end result is not good for society.
March 28, 2010 9:33 PM
@jony- elementary logic suggests that once contradiction is introduced, the remaining discussion is fallacious- perhaps the author is being facetious, but even Euclid would agree; your own training in reason is certainly missing some key points, thus no.. i did not read the remaining absurdities, as nothing rational would follow.
Thus it is with so-called defenders of Capitalism.. by using morals based on divine revelation or terms like "greed" they undermine their own argument. and their logic is flawless.. flawlessly absurd.
So it is with politicians: reelection is their only priority, not Reality, and so the ppl be damned~!
and so are issues, sense, and our freedom....
March 29, 2010 12:43 AM
irvnx: The initial statements were a setup, like what happens in a joke. A hook, something to get liberals to read and think about what's being said. Sheesh...

Here's something more high-brow for you:
March 29, 2010 9:38 AM
@irvnx rhetoric is not logic. An argument can be evaluated for whether or not it is sound based upon the premises that the speaker/writer uses which is of course a use of logic. However rhetoric often makes use of objects that are neither premises nor logical statements (in the sense of symbolic logic as a method to determine if an argument is sound.)

One important element in rhetoric is to acknowledge and show to be false opposing ideas. Which is why it is things that are incorrect must be referenced within an argument (in the non-symbolic logic sense).

You reject that communism is the best system on paper as a premise. However that premise is not used any where within the argument itself. Thus the even though you reject a premise you may still find the argument to be true, assuming of course that it is sound.

Further a premise can not be a contradiction. You can believe that a premise is false but a contradiction is when using the premises given you get a A and not A. Which is of course impossible. Whether you agree with the argument above I do believe it is logically sound. Which is the only thing that logic is capable of telling us.
March 29, 2010 1:54 PM
not too many when ppl are dying because of a bad joke.. even a Marxist knows the logic.. he just hopes no one will notice, which seems to be true: politicians are horrible logicians, and so it seems are the ppl here.,: thus we all pay for the contradictions in others.
"from each.. to each.." has so many refutable premises that it can never be the best in anything other than absurdity, though proofs of God's existence come close: perhaps the author should stick with children's fantasy.
March 29, 2010 10:58 PM
A single premise can not be refuted using logic. Now given a set of premises it may be possible to show that one of the premises is wrong but the single premise "from each.. to each.." can not be logically shown to be false.

You are saying that you disagree with a premise and therefore the argument is not sound. However that is not how it works. If a premise is not correct then the argument may be false but it can still be sound.

You are conflating soundness and truth. These are separate concepts. Logic is incapable of determining truth, only soundness.

Essentially what that means for anyone who either didn't take or doesn't remember a symbolic logic class: Logic is capable of determining if the internal structure of an argument makes sense. Logic is incapable of determining if the internal structure of an argument relates accurately to the real world.

A simplistic example of this would be as follows:
Anything that flies and produces fire is a dragon.
Airplanes fly
Airplanes produce fire

Airplanes fly and produce fire
Therefore airplanes are dragons

The argument is sound, it is also false because the premise "Anything that flies and produces fire is a dragon" is false. For those that do remember symbolic logic I am aware that I skipped some steps, I did this for brevity.

If you want to debate the premise itself do so, but do not attempt to claim logic refutes the premise because logic is incapable of doing so.

And either way this is irrelevant to the rest of the article which you believe you can pass judgement upon without reading.
March 30, 2010 1:14 PM
The Times frets that liberalism may be running out of time

The Agony of the Liberals
American liberalism has always been frantically self-critical. But even by those standards, the anguish over the Obama presidency seems bizarrely disproportionate.
June 21, 2010 4:39 AM

If only there were more good-hearted hard-working people and no president that even his own "side" hates now, lazy fat-asses and environmentalists then this nation will once again be known as that bright gleaming light to other other nations instead of a hate beacon, then we will rise above our past mistakes and show the world we are the best country in the world that we already are.

March 20, 2011 8:38 PM

before quoting the constitution , read this. learn something. the fuonding fathers were very clear in their views on public services.


May 14, 2011 1:55 PM

Ed is right, there are services which government provides most efficiently, those which it provides wastefully, and those it can't provide effectively at all. Unfortunately, in our system, services are provided based on which model most benefits members of Congress and the Senate. That's why we're in trouble

May 14, 2011 3:08 PM

Communism/socialism fail on basic justice and morality, not because of human psychology. "From each according to his ability" turns your assets into a liability. Because you are smart, or because you are diligent and responsible you owe more of your work to communist society for the consumption of others. If you are stupid, irresponsible or lazy, not only do you owe less, but you are entitled to more of the things you didn't produce. Failure and ineptitude become the coin of the realm. When people- at least productive people- rebel against this it's because it's an injustice that harms them. When non-productive people cheer, it's an injustice nevertheless.

May 15, 2011 8:46 AM

This article is one big mess:

The first half is something only a few people would disagree with: That history has taught us that socialist/communist systems probably don't work. The problem here is that is has nothing to do with 'the left'.

The left is incredible far away from transforming the US into a socialist or communist country. What they wish for is the US shifting towards a social capitalist system how it is common in almost every other western country. All those countries are doing o.k. with a few exceptions and the people of those countries are happy to give up a little of economical efficiency to increase fairness, equal chances and overall well-being.

The article gets even weirder when the author adds gay marriage to the topic...

May 15, 2011 12:44 PM

Both the left and the right are wrong, and in very different ways.

The right is bunch of tightwads who don't want to part with a few extra dollars so that some poor person can eat today (food stamps). They would have you believe that THEY have more right to have their mansion home, than 1000 other people have the right to eat dinner everyday. They actually believe than a single individual's freedom for money trumps the needs of countless others who actually NEED a helping hand.

The left is wrong because not only do they want to help the needy, they want to cater and pamper the lazy, unproductive people. Welfare does more harm than good, I'm afraid. People typically don't bother getting a job because they don't have to in order to have a roof over their heads. Meanwhile, the honest hard-working folks are getting taxed to death so that some lazy welfare mother can have 8 children and no job.

I say, find some middle ground. We should help the needy with what is reasonable to accommodate for. There out to be tougher checks and balances for this sort of thing. It SHOULD to be VERY TEDIOUS for anyone to get free money (in whatever form it comes in). There should be an extensive application and interview process, with a team of experts to determine CASE BY CASE whether or not a particular person deserves welfare, and how much based on their needs.

Right now, free money is painstakingly easy to acquire and to take advantage of when it's not necessarily needed.

Forget about this "left VS right" BS, and realize that you are both very, very wrong.

July 19, 2013 1:04 PM
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