Socialism, newly obfuscated by some as Democratic Socialism, is all the rage on the American left again, making yet another comeback after universal global failures during the past century of attempts.
The fact that so many young people are warm to it is nothing more than an indictment of our public and post-secondary education system. If they were aware of what socialism really is, and the fatally failed experiments of the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, Venezuela, Angola and so on — with death tolls topping 100 million in the 20th century — they would probably not be so warm to it. But they are not, because they are poorly educated but well indoctrinated.
Socialism has not failed in all those places because it was done wrong, or bad people were running it, or some other marginal excuse. Socialism is in itself a defiance of human nature, of economic laws and of the natural desire to live purposeful lives. It also ends up depriving real and effective charities of the fuel they need — fuel that capitalism provides in abundance.
Giving, helping others, being charitable is part of what makes for decent human beings. And importantly to this discussion, it is central to practicing the Christian faith. The teachings of Christ and of the apostles always go straight to the heart of man, to willing sacrifice for others, to caring and providing for needs of the less fortunate. Christian organizations, churches and charities provide the vast amount of charity in the world today. The Catholic Church operates more than 10,000 orphanages, 5,000 hospitals and some 16,000 other health clinics, plus thousands of schools in Third World countries. And that’s just part of Christianity, and aside from what individual Christians do outside of organized structures.
And virtually all of it is fueled by capitalism. Socialist countries provide very little aid to those in need around the world and even in their country, because they don’t generate much capital. Very high welfare, high-tax capitalist countries, such as we find in Western Europe, provide more than socialist countries, but still nothing like relatively lower tax capitalist countries such as the United States, which is the worldwide monster in giving — per capita and by GDP.
Just a cursory look at charitable contributions by country show the overwhelming truth of this.
According to the Charities Aid Foundation, and measured as a percentage of GDP combined with percent of citizens who donate, the United States is the top giver followed by New Zealand, Canada, the U.K., South Korea, Singapore, India, Russia, Italy and the Netherlands. The commonality here is that all of these are capitalist countries (with an asterisk next to Russia for having capitalistic markets as a base but also offering restricted freedoms in its oligarchic setup) and all are either majority Christian or have a strong Christian heritage. (Again, bit of an asterisk for Russia as it was official atheist for more than half of the 20th century. But today, more than 50% of the population identifies as Christian.)
It is worth noting that the United States donates at almost twice the rate of the second country on the list — again, as a percentage of GDP, not raw numbers — and that high rate is on, by far, the largest economy in the world. Bottom line: the capitalistic country with the strong Christian influence and freest peoples is the runaway winner in global charity, helping people in need.
Socialist countries don’t even make an entrance on the list.
So the fuel for charitable giving around the world — from famine to earthquakes to tsunamis to war refugees — comes almost entirely from capitalist countries, not socialist countries.
But there is an even more important detriment to socialism as a concept: It destroys the inner person.
Socialism operates under the rubric “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” That was from Karl Marx, the father of socialism, writing to the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany. Social Democrat — for the record, the very term being used today by the American political left most represented in soon-to-be U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“From each” of course means the government taking money from some, while “to each” means the government giving it others. This is not a voluntary transaction, such as charitable giving is in the United States.
Socialism in the end teaches — indirectly but via immutable human nature — that you don’t have to work hard, you don’t have to take responsibility for your own actions and you sure don’t have to help others.
Let’s take each one.
Hard work. Immutable human nature makes clear that if I work hard and it will be taken from me and given to someone who is not working hard, then I will most definitely not work harder. And neither will the other guy. The economy rising from that dynamic will be terrible. This, of course, has been the result in every socialist experiment as our natures trumped the dreamy-eyed Marxian concept.
Taking responsibility. Socialism allows that part of our nature that wants to blame others and never take personal responsibility for our own actions to thrive. Regardless of my crummy personal choices, I will always be bailed out according to my need. The greater my irresponsibility, the greater will be my need. Naturally enough, this breeds more irresponsibility.
Charitable giving. If I live in a socialist country, then I inherently have zero responsibility to help my neighbor, to give to those in need, to lend a helping hand, because Marx told us that would be done by taking from those who had more money — “ability” was his word, but you can’t take and give ability, so he is really talking about money.
These three characteristics of socialism are destructive to the soul. Socialism takes away the self-discipline of hard work, the self-worth of personal responsibility and the joyful rewards of being able to help others in need. The government does it all by force.
On the flip side, a capitalistic society — which really must go hand in hand with personal freedoms and choices to really create vibrant markets — reinforces all three of those good characteristics in people, providing purpose and self-worth; nurturing the soul. Plus, the charitable transfers are voluntary. If a capitalist country takes some amount of money from the earners to redistribute, that does not make it socialist or change the underlying nature of the capitalism. It merely creates welfare.
Combining both points here, that free capitalist countries are by far the biggest givers to those in need and that capitalist countries reinforce strong character traits in people, it’s clear that if the American left really wants to help the poor, they should be running from socialism and urging the formation of capitalistic markets and free peoples.
U2 lead singer Bono has learned this reality through his experience with charitable organizations. Bono used to meet with government leaders and call on them to provide more spending on foreign aid. No longer, he now realizes: “Aid is just a stopgap. Commerce, entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty.”
Yes, while nourishing the soul.
Rod Thomson is an author, TV talking head and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act. Rod is co-host of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod on the Salem Radio Network.
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