Against God and Socialism (repeat) 14

This is a repeat of an essay by Jillian Becker, first posted on April 29, 2011.

The rise of enthusiasm for Socialism in America, demonstrated by the great numbers of enthusiasts flocking to hear Bernie Sanders, the Democratic candidate for the presidency, preaching it, prompts us to post the essay again.

*

It is human nature to be selfish. If we weren’t selfish we wouldn’t survive. If we didn’t eat when we were hungry, warm ourselves when we were cold, seek cures for our illnesses, defend ourselves (and our children and our life-sustaining property), we’d die out pretty damn quick. Or rather, we would never have come into existence as a species at all.

We are most of us capable of sympathy with others, and we often willingly give away a thing we own to another person. Some are altruistic. A few will even give up their lives to save the lives of others. Nevertheless, we are all naturally and necessarily selfish.

Christianity and Communism require human nature to change. As it can’t, Christianity’s commandments to love our enemies and forgive those who do us harm turn many a person of good will and high aspiration into a hypocrite if not a corpse. Communist theorists have never settled the question of whether human nature must change so that the Revolution can take place, or whether the Revolution must take place in order for human nature to change. Of course it will never change, but there’s no stopping the collectivist dolts arguing about it.

Capitalism works well because it is in tune with our nature. Adam Smith called it “the natural order of liberty”. Everyone selfishly desires to provide for his needs. To pay for what he wants from others – services and goods – he has to provide something that others will pay him for. Millions do it, and the result is prosperity. Capitalism is an abstract machine most beautiful to behold in the wonder of its workings. When individuals have the incentive to achieve, acquire, and enjoy something for themselves, they’ll go to great lengths to afford it. They’ll compete with each other to provide what others want, toil to make it the better product, and set the price of it lower. The best is made available at the least cost. Everyone is both a taker and a giver, and everyone benefits. True, not everyone’s effort always succeeds, but nothing stops anyone from trying again.

Of course capitalism isn’t a remedy for every ill and discontent. But a capitalist society offers the best chance to an individual to make the best of his condition – being alive – which presents him with a tough challenge – to stay alive for a few score years, and make those years as good as his energy, cunning, and adaptability to conditions outside of his control (plus his statistically likely share of luck), can help them to be.

In a capitalist society no one has a fixed place, whether below, in the middle, or on top. A person can rise, sink, or stay. A truly capitalist society is necessarily a free society in which no one is prevented, by some ruler or ruling clique, from bettering his lot, striving, succeeding, or failing.

Capitalism is the enemy of that God of whom all the children in the British Empire used to sing at morning prayers in school assemblies before the Second World War:

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small;

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,

Each little bird that sings,

He made their glowing colors,

He made their tiny wings.

The rich man in his castle,

The poor man at his gate,

He made them high and lowly,

He ordered their estate.

The children were being taught to be content with everything as it was, trusting that God the ruler up there, all wise, permanent and unchallengeable had ordained how everyone had his fixed place and should stay in it, and because He had ordained it, it must be perfect. The recognition that such a God was an indefensible authoritarian, a whim-driven cosmic dictator, an unjust and arrogant tyrant, came – perhaps unconsciously – to the choosers of Anglican hymns only after a few of the earth’s dictators had been trounced in a prolonged and terrible blood-letting.

But then Socialists took over from God. They decided what was best for humanity. They established the Welfare State. No rich men in castles, no poor men at gates. The State would provide every citizen with depressing accommodation, dull food, health care if he were judged worthy of being kept alive, indoctrination in schools. Though the Socialist State is a slave society, the citizens are not called slaves but Social Security Recipients, National Health Patients, Students, Workers. The belief of their rulers is that they’ll be content because the State provides them with “everything”; they’ll be grateful for the food however poor, the unit in the tower block however depressing, the bed in the hospital however filthy, the indoctrination however boring. The great thing about it, to the collectivist mind, is they won’t have to strive to keep alive. And no one will have cause to pity or envy anyone else, since no one will have less or worse, or more or better – except of course the rulers up there, all wise, permanent and unchallengeable who ordain that everyone else has his fixed place. They reserve plenty, choice, comfort, luxury, information, and power to themselves.

The recognition that such a State is counter to the human instinct for freedom – call it “selfishness “ if you will – should have come to every sane adult the world over when the Soviet Empire crashed. The idea of Socialism should have died then. But if it did, it was only for a short time. Like the Christian God, it rose again, and lives now in the White House, an administration indefensibly authoritarian, whim-driven, unjust, and arrogant.

Selfish human nature with its instinct for liberty, its impelling desire to possess what is good for it materially and mentally, is the force that can and must defeat it.

  • Rick Owen

    Hi guys. I discovered this site from a google search about Walter E. Williams, and was fascinated. I’m an Evangelical Christian, but I’m not here to argue against atheism. It’s partly for intelligent discussion, and partly to “represent” what I believe–as I don’t really recognize the Christianity described in the article as “mere Christianity,” but rather Protestantism, which has a tendency towards intellectualism, nationalism/statism, and when the Bible is “debunked,” even socialism. George MacDonald, a Scottish pastor and friend of Mark Twain, made it a point to object to the unofficial caste system that the state-run church justified with its Calvinism.

    From high to low, there are misunderstandings of what “happiness” and “prosperity” are. As I like to tell my fellow believers, “happiness” is doing what you’re made to do, and doing it well–so not even God can make you happy. Nor can God make a person prosperous. Not even the lottery can do that. Winning the lottery, or being blessed by God, isn’t prosperity–though it is a fortunate windfall. What a person does with that money and blessing will make them prosperous or not. It is good for a Christian to pray for open doors of opportunity, but nobody can go through such a door for another person. The same is true for learning the skills necessary to succeed. A teacher can teach, but he can’t learn on behalf of the student.

    The alleged benevolence of socialism falls apart precisely because the consequences of failure are taken away, along with the opportunities to succeed or fail. This is no different than an aristocracy or oligarchy in which royal persons, guilds, churches and corporations dictate the lives of “lesser men” for their benefit.

    Anyways, good article.

    • Thank you, Rick Owen, for your interesting comment. I have no quibble with it. And it is good to hear opinions from other points of view. I particularly like your third paragraph.

  • The word “socialism” is tossed about so often these days that it has lost any real meaning except “a horrible economic system that I don’t like and that will take away your freedom”. It’s become the new version of calling someone “Hitler” – a kind of shorthand that forestalls questioning and thinking. Which I find odd, because this blog rightly promotes freedom of thought and also rightly states that questioning and doubt are the tools necessary for attainment of new knowledge.

    So I’m exasperated to see this cartoon of “socialism” paraded around once again and I think it’s a shame to yield to this prejudice “without questioning it and doubting”. What socialism are we talking about? The totalitarian states of the USSR and DDR, for example? I don’t really think anyone is recommending those as shining examples of anything. But how about – Canada, which enjoys universal health care? Are we “socialist”?

    It would be ludicrous to say that we were; we’re just as capitalist a society as the U.S., with the difference being that we don’t think that the profit motive works very well in terms of providing health care; we believe that health care is a right; and we also believe that *it is an investment in our citizens who are then better off and better able to contribute to society*. It’s win-win.

    In other words, let’s educate, house, provide a minimum level of subsistence, and healthy citizens – and then they can go out and work their capitalist wonders.

    I’m as liberal as they come – and a card-carrying atheist btw – , but I don’t unquestioningly agree with every liberal point of view, nor do I ‘hate capitalism’. I think it’s a pretty good system that has brought lots of prosperity to society – but it’s not perfect and there’s no reason not to adjust its workings in order to make sure that the less fortunate have a chance. You know? Everything doesn’t have to be so black and white.

    Let me ask you this: What solutions do you propose for, say, the existence of extreme poverty in our cities? What do you propose about the homeless? How should cities address problems such as fossil-fuel pollution? Let’s hear some conservative solutions for a change rather than fear-mongering diatribes against this quasi–mythical beast of socialism, and let’s question ALL received wisdom.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

    • Thank you for your comments, your credo, and your questions. Your credo requires no exegesis. You know where we agree – for instance on the value of skepticism. But I’ll answer your questions.

      My answer for poverty is a free market economy. It has been called “the incredible bread machine”. Nothing else has poured out goods upon us all, or has CREATED wealth as it has done, and continues to do when it is not hampered by government interference. In freedom, people can become very rich; not at the expense of “the poor” (as Bernie Sanders imagines), but to the advantage of the poor. Wherever – in a free society – the rich are richest, the poor are least poor. A poor person can become a rich person. And a rich person – yes – can become a poor person! Freedom and enterprise and industry do not guarantee success, but they very often result in it. Yes, there will always be a small number of people who cannot support themselves and have no one to support them. Far better they should be supported by charity (a use for the churches, for instance?) than by the state with its power to expropriate by force. Absurd that states should redesign entire economic systems, and government vastly expand into unwieldy and extremely costly bureaucracies, just so the needs of the few can be met. At present, welfare keeps many of the poor from rising, in a variety of ways that I’m sure you’re aware of.

      Obviously, as I am proposing a market economy as the best way to prosperity, and indicating that government should be small and not interfere in the economy, I am by implication rejecting socialism. I do not sympathize with the mentality that constructs elaborate solutions for “society”, the minds of people who think they know what’s best for everybody. I call that a socialist mind-set whose solutions are always collectivist, though needs are always individual, and require individual solutions – and are not always soluble at all.

      Individualism, far from seeing things in black and white, recognizes infinite shadings.

      Conservatives have been saying all this, in essence, for centuries. They have not devoted themselves to thundering against the central planners of national life, but they have fought wars against them.

      Some received wisdom is received because it is wisdom. But times change, and the ways of dealing with perils of thought and policy change too.

      I recognize no general problem of fossil-fuel pollution.

      • David Roddis

        Thanks for your response. It’s interesting to have an exchange of ideas on the Internet that’s 1. not “polluted” by religion, and 2. not simply a series of ad hominem attacks and expletives, so I do appreciate this rather unique experience!

        As I said in my original comments, I’m well aware of the benefits of capitalism, and I have no desire to live in a concrete wasteland (I visited Poland in the late ’70s and it did nothing to convince me that the choice of one car (Polski Fiat, and they were not pretty) and line-ups overnight for food were worth the switch-over.

        I make a distinction between entrepreneurial businessmen and faceless corporations. Someone like Richard Branson shows the absolute best face of free enterprise; a company like Monsanto? maybe not so much. The profit motive needs ethics to guide it. Without that, we have some companies producing rampant pollution and some sectors with workers trapped – yes, trapped – in full-time jobs that still don’t provide them with the means to live. It seems to me that these situations need some kind of intervention for the good of the planet and to have productive and engaged citizens.

        You didn’t address the health care question. I love the U.S. and travel there frequently – but I am still glad that we have had health care in Canada for decades. Going bankrupt from the misfortune of needing medical treatment is a freedom I gladly leave to my friends to the south. Call our system “capitalism with a bit of bleeding heart”, if you will.

        Regards

        David Roddis
        Toronto

        • About health care. Everything government does it does badly. A government-run health service inevitably means rationing, death panels, long waits, much doctors’ and nurses’ time taken up with paperwork, enormous administration costs, and far too high taxes. The British National Health Service nearly killed me (I saved myself because I knew specialists and pulled strings – things most people are not able to do), and has killed people I know, through (respectively) incompetence, neglect, uncleanness, and bureaucratic mismanagement. My doctor friends have left it, driven to exasperation. I have met Canadians in the US who came here for medical treatment, rather than wait for “urgent” treatment in “free health care” Canada. Private insurance with competing insurance companies would work very much better.

    • liz

      Socialism has already been proven to be an utter failure that paves the way to communism, an utter disaster. It became a “cartoon” because it deserves to be. Maybe you should be questioning socialism and those who glorify its “virtues” instead of those who reject it.
      Do we need to “rethink” Hitler and Stalin? Go ahead – it won’t make them any less evil, unless you accept their own propaganda.

      • OMG. You completely miss my point, mainly because you can’t even read the word “socialism” without your head exploding. But what I’m saying is, the word socialism has lost its usefulness as a term because it has just become a generic insult. You should really be sure you’ve read and comprehended posts before responding.

        The many benefits enjoyed by most civilized countries EXCEPT the US such as paid maternity leave, subsidised day care, universal health care and even 100% free university do not constitute “socialism”. In fact, they are generally regarded as rights, not benefits; and the U.N. actually has a Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights which many countries, including Canada, have ratified. The United States is way behind the rest of the world in this regard.

        • I have just accidentally answered a comment you made 2 months ago, meaning to answer your latest. You say the same thing again, I say the same thing again. I am copying my latest answer here, because it answers this comment of yours just as well as it answers that comment of yours:

          First, thank you for visiting our site and commenting. And for telling us about your views. We duly note that you take pride in being a skeptic.

          Next, on whether health care is a “right”, please follow this link to an article by Professor Walter Williams who blows the idea away very thoroughly:

          http://www.frontpagemag.com/fp

          Next: We do not toss the word “socialism” about in the manner you describe. We know exactly what we mean by it. We mean the theory that government should be in loco parentis: it should provide for the “needs” of the people, and therefore necessarily grow huge in size and very powerful. It will extend its power far into private lives in the case of the welfare state; take total control of every life in the case of states like the USSR, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Kim’s North Korea, Castro’s Cuba. If you do not fear what tyranny can do, maybe you should reconsider some received wisdom learnt from many a bitter history.

          Solution for poverty? The free market. Capitalism. Every adult human being in a free society holding himself responsible for his own living (and of course the living of his genuine dependents). And before you say there are some people who cannot look after themselves and have no one to look after them – by all means go to their aid, but to plan an entire economy to meet the needs of that small minority is an absurdity and a recipe for ruin. Self-reliance has been a conservative solution in America for a very long time – and in the West in general until after WWII. No need to ask for it “for a change”.

          I do not recognize fossil-fuel pollution as a problem outside of small city areas.

    • Rick Owen

      My main objection to liberalism on the point of healthcare is foundational. It IS expensive, but your liberal cohorts ask the wrong question in response to the reality of that expense: “who is going to pay for it?” The proper question is “why does it cost so much?” I don’t know the answer, but it wouldn’t surprise me if government regulations and cronyism had something to do with it.

      A proper solution to the chronic problems of homelessness, poverty and crime in our society, I believe, has to do with families, which is the proper domain for socialism, rather than government policy. I have lived in San Francisco, and in East Jerusalem. I saw no homeless Arabs, nor any homeless Chinese. The families help out every member with their needs, and every member contributes to the family, and is held accountable to the family. The family demands some level of responsibility and education. Families are able to recognize both individual inclinations and shortcomings, and are better able to deal with individuals. The “Palestinians” are as crazy as bed bugs, and the Chinese sanity is as tight as a drum, but both look after their own.

      • David Roddis

        Hi Rick,

        I think of universal health care as we have in Canada as simply an insurance-type system. You pool your money and claims are covered when you need. No one with auto insurance says, “Why should I pay for Fred’s brake pads??”, because when theirs go, they will also be covered. Also, I need to point out that Canadians were not coerced by the state into having healthcare – it was, and is, universally popular and I don’t think you would find anyone who would want to give it up. Mostly we are mystified as to why Americans are so divided about this benefit, when it clearly benefits both “society” and free-enterprise. And is being tied to a job for fear of losing health care real freedom?

        Families are important, I agree – depending also on how you define the term – but your examples are of societies and economic systems quite different from North America. So is your solution to become more like those societies? I don’t see that happening any time soon, and in the meantime I think “let the free market sort itself out” /”that’s the way it goes, winners and losers” / “just throw them in jail” have proven to be clearly inadequate solutions.

        DR

        • Rick Owen

          I think that any group of people could benefit from adapting the “family method,” but it’s not something that can be imposed on anyone.

          We don’t really have a free market right now. There’s literally several Encyclopedia Britannica sets worth of regulations on the books, even apart from the voluminous ACA.

          Here’s an example: within walking distance from my apartment, I’ve got eight different places to buy a wide selection of bread: Circle K, Speedway, Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, Dollar General, Rose’s, CVS and Rite-Aid. The town isn’t even that big–it’s about 5000 people. So notice the problem? No local bakeries. No bread from local farms. Why? Regulation and taxation. Things large corporations and corporate farms love because they kill their smaller competitors.

          But yes–prior to big government, immigrants and citizens survived here. Families didn’t have social security–they took care of their elderly. They didn’t have welfare or food stamps. They all went through rough patches, but prior generations did all right for themselves. Even the former slaves, between 1865 and 1895, did EXTREMELY well, within one generation, until the GOVERNMENT in the Southern states crushed them. By the time civil rights legislation passed, the Demorlocks smacked them with a poisoned apple–the war against poverty. The Indian Reservation system for inner city blacks. Has done about as well for them as it did for Native Americans. Which is not.

    • First, thank you for visiting our site and commenting. And for telling us about your views. We duly note that you take pride in being a skeptic.

      Next, on whether health care is a “right”, please follow this link to an article by Professor Walter Williams who blows the idea away very thoroughly:

      http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/262556/rights-versus-wishes-walter-williams

      Next: We do not toss the word “socialism” about in the manner you describe. We know exactly what we mean by it. We mean the theory that government should be in loco parentis: it should provide for the “needs” of the people, and therefore necessarily grow huge in size and very powerful. It will extend its power far into private lives in the case of the welfare state; take total control of every life in the case of states like the USSR, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Kim’s North Korea, Castro’s Cuba. If you do not fear what tyranny can do, maybe you should reconsider some received wisdom learnt from many a bitter history.

      Solution for poverty? The free market. Capitalism. Every adult human being in a free society holding himself responsible for his own living (and of course the living of his genuine dependents). And before you say there are some people who cannot look after themselves and have no one to look after them – by all means go to their aid, but to plan an entire economy to meet the needs of that small minority is an absurdity and a recipe for ruin. Self-reliance has been a conservative solution in America for a very long time – and in the West in general until after WWII. No need to ask for it “for a change”.

      I do not recognize fossil-fuel pollution as a problem outside of small city areas.

  • liz

    Great essay! Glad you reposted it. It’s a shame we have a whole generation of new voters who have never been taught anything like this, and are blindly embracing the return of totalitarianism. Their “human instinct for freedom” has been stifled and suppressed through brainwashing, and thus “the natural order of liberty” is destroyed.