I want to be a socialist
August 9, 2002
Note: after writing this article last night (8/8) I was interested to see this column by Robert Samuelson in the 8/9 Greenville News.
I want to be a socialist. The idea of a society working together for the common good of the whole appeals to me. I would be willing to give up the risks and insecurities of making my own way. Society can have what I own so we can all share in the good things this world has to offer. That is, as long as everyone else is willing to do the same.
Actually, that is why I am a capitalist. It is the assessment of human nature that ultimately separates the liberal from the conservative. The ideas of socialism and capitalism spring from a basic understanding of man. Two divergent views of man’s nature leads to diametrically opposed economic and societal systems.
Liberals believe that man is basically good.
This is the premise of socialism. Mankind simply needs to work together to create a society where everyone is equal and no person is left behind. When the playing field is leveled and each person is given an opportunity to contribute equally, society is operating on all cylinders.
Each man freely gives up his selfish desires to the greater community. Knowing that the whole must rely on each unit of the society, each person contributes in whatever capacity needed. Each day the laborers go into common orchards, farms, ranches, and lakes to bring back what is needed to supply the community’s needs. Each man unselfishly fulfills his part to maintain the common good.
The theory is tantalizing. In a world where there are no selfish people seeking to take advantage of those unselfish contributors, it could actually work. The problem is it never has. Even the early church gave it a try and failed.
Invariably there is someone who won’t play by the rules. In every such society there arises a ruling class or in many cases a dictator. These people often set themselves up as the “guardians of the common good.” They deserve a better classification because they are the “upper management” of the society. Someone has to organize all these unselfish people.
Conservatives believe that man is basically selfish.
This is why capitalism works--not perfectly, but adequately. Capitalism works off of greed. Since man at his basic level is going to look out for himself, the free market allows for the needs of one to be met while meeting the needs of another.
One man has a garden of vegetables. Another man has an orchard of fruit. Man number one gets tired of eating greens all the time and decides he would like some fruit. Man number one also tires of fruit every meal. He decides he needs to add some greens to his diet. Man number one meets with man number two and they agree to share. It is a barter of one good for another—both serve each other by serving themselves.
Capitalism is not a perfect system and tends to only work in a society that is based on ethics and morals. Pure capitalism without these balances leads to cheating and abuse of power. The current Wall Street scandals are proof of this. The positive side is that because everyone is basically selfish, they don’t like being stiffed. So, the harmed bring down those who seek to take advantage of the weaknesses of the system.
Conservatives and liberals will never agree on a common ground.
The liberal says that capitalism never works. Why? Well, in this system not everyone is equal in how they receive the bounties. The husbandman of the orchard may have so much fruit that he is able to carry on trade with a number of fisherman, farmers and ranchers. The gardener may not have as much and will not be able to have so much variety in his diet. To the liberal, this is unfair and unacceptable. They do not like this natural byproduct of the capitalist system.
The conservative finds socialism unacceptable because it forces everyone to a common state. The conservative calls this the "lowest common denominator" because history shows that such a society eventually ends up with little production. Rather than lifting the society to a new level, it makes it stagnant.
I’ll grant to the liberals that capitalism does not lead to a perfect world. As a conservative, I don’t believe we ever will have a perfect world—at least not one created by following any societal theory. If I have to live in an imperfect world, give me capitalism any day. It gives me the opportunity to control my destiny. Sure, I have to live with risks and insecurities, but being willing to do so can lead to a better situation for me and my family. Yes, and for my society. It ain’t perfect, but it works.
By the way, I was serious about wanting to be a socialist. As a Christian, I believe the day will come when the world will be perfect and all in it will share in a common goal of adoring Jesus Christ. We will be perfect and selfishness will be no more. There will be no liberals or conservatives—we will all be one. There is no need to try to “get ahead” when you can’t imagine wanting anything more. As the apostle John wrote, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.”