Why Do People Continue to Believe in Socialism?
It is not really a rhetorical question, but a practical one. Why, with so much evidence for the absolute and repeated failure of socialism, communism, and even European-style “socialism light,” which took Greece into virtual bankruptcy? Why, with a body count that is matched by none in the hands of Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Hitler? For more on the trail of blood left by communism you may wish to consider the Black Book of Communism.
While often considered a far right ideology, the Nazis were, in fact, National Socialists. While interbreeding with some right wing beliefs, National Socialism at its core was about central planning and public ownership of resources, which by definition is socialism.
The USSR and its satellites, Cuba, Venezuela, and China — in the face of capitalism — are also all examples of the perpetual failings of this terrible system. The great irony in all of this is that capitalism is once again proving itself in the heart of communism. China’s meteoric rise follows its decision to loosen control on the economy and allow private ownership and private profits, while retaining its communist political control. Its move to quickly becoming the world’s largest economy naturally follows the amazing power of capitalism to create new wealth.
So with such incredible and overwhelming evidence, why would anyone continue to support socialism or its full development, communism?
There are only three answers I have been able to come up with, the first of which is the way capitalism has been utilized in Latin America. While capitalism creates new wealth, that new wealth never made it to the general population in many parts of Central and South America. While capitalism’s success can be readily seen in the United States (although now in decline, due in part to socialist policies) and Canada, at least to the degree to which it has existed there, the average rural resident of Nicaragua and Venezuela may have never been exposed to the kinds of success seen in North America.
Crony capitalism and corruption have played a significant role in this. A friend from Latin America (I won’t mention the country to avoid offending anyone) once told me a joke about an US businessman who befriends a businessman from his country. Upon visiting the US American’s home, the South American commented on how nice of a home he had. The US American in response said, “See that road? See that School? 50 percent of that is in my pocket. I build those with my company.”
The South American man invites the US American to visit his home, who upon entering the palatial estate, remarks about how amazing the home is to his new friend. The South American business man says, “thank you. You see that road and that school?”
“No,” says the US American.
“That’s right,” says the South American, “that’s because 100 percent of that money is in my pocket.”
The second reason socialism continues to thrive is because of disinformation. When selling the idea of socialism, like any good salesmen, its proponents focus only on the fantasy world of the workers’ paradise. Given the first example, selling the idea of fair distribution of wealth to poor farmers or laborers is not hard to do.
Proponents of this system — those at the top of the power tree — have no intention of pointing out the perpetual failure or bloody nature of socialism/communism. Nor do they plan to point out that, as a general rule, poverty gets worse under communism despite some short term gains for the poor.
The truth, the facts, does not matter. The socialist salesmen have done an extraordinary job of obtaining positions of influence in media, politics, and, most importantly, education.
This has resulted in a constant reinforcement of socialist ideals, to the point that even opponents of socialism find themselves strongly supporting socialist ideals like Social Security, Medicare (centrally planned and owned retirement and medical insurance), strong environmental regulations, and other government programs and interventions — as if we could not live without them.
For example, despite 40 intervening years since the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act, the EPA, and hundreds of thousands of pages of government regulations at all levels, environmentalists and climate scientists will tell you that the earth is on the verge of calamity due to environmental degradation. Apparently, the United States, which has spent more on environmental issues than most other countries in the world combined, must always do more, starting with more regulations and more restrictions.
The third and perhaps most difficult to understand is the religious nature of socialism. It is based on emotion, not rational thought. The adherents to socialism react angrily to any suggestion that it is a failed and murderous system. Their dedication to the failed ideas draw an immediate comparison to a religious fanatic of any organized religion who, despite all of evidence to the contrary, continues to espouse and act upon beliefs that continue to harm others and the world at large.
Winning the battle against socialism will require libertarians and free thinkers to find a way to communicate both accurately and emotionally to socialists. We don’t need them to just agree with us, we need them to convert from the religion of oppression to the practicality of liberty.