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Saturday / March 25.

Arguing with a Socialist

Adam Alonzi

Arguing with socialists is one of life’s simple pleasures. Though only moderately less mature than extreme libertarianism, it is far more pernicious a meme for the individual and the society in which the individual lives. Like coffee or scotch, it is an acquired taste, and like these two wonderful beverages, it can be injurious if one cannot handle inordinate amounts of unjustified self-righteousness coupled with an unearned feeling of omnipotence. It is difficult, nay, impossible to gain the high ground against an opponent who dwells in the loftiest sand castle on earth. Socialism in modern America is not a populist movement spawned from injustice, but a psychological manifestation of envy and ennui supported by a naive trust in government, or, worse yet, a belief in one’s own infallibility.

Today’s rebels are tomorrow’s tyrants. This was Will Durant’s warning. When I had finished explaining the transition from feudalism to proto-capitalism following the Black Death my socialist interlocutor exclaimed, without even scratching the surface of my arguments: “capitalism has given the world billions of poor and starving people!” Prior to the advent of what can be called capitalism in the late 18th century, were people healthier than they are today? Inexperience in business, a lack of precise definitions (which paradoxically creates a compulsion to dissect semantics) and a vague disenchantment with the powers that be (the same powers that would be strengthened by socialism) are all risk factors associated with catching the red bug.

“No, they were not. There has never been a communist country, and likely never will be. People now claim that North Korea is “Communist” when it is about as opposite from communism as it (sic) could possibly get. There are no dictators in either socialism or communism.”

Capitalism is “evil” in his eyes, yet he admits communism has never worked. He complains, but offers no solutions. Like the arch demon Karl Marx, my less intelligent but nevertheless impish opponent advocates a form of an ineffective ideology out of spite, out of an intense and irrational hatred for the successes of others. The material dialectic is empirically unfounded; Marxian biology is Lamarckism; Marxist psychology is simplistic Behaviorism, yet the purported “secularism” of the red’s faith assures him of its truthfulness. Once again, instead of discussing any ideas in depth, the socialist wishes to accuse capitalism of every crime conceivable.

“Every human on the planet has the absolute right to all the basic necessities of life, food, clothes, housing, medical care, transportation, entertainment, etc.”

Another tangent. Another pitiful attempt to derail the debate. He has already admitted his ideas do not work. Why then should we suppose they would help with these problems or believe capitalism is responsible? The sheer number of factors that go into each one of these issues is mind-boggling. Yet socialists always believe they know what needs to be done. They never think their plans may fail or backfire. When one argues with socialists, however, one becomes accustomed to endless appeals to emotion.  One can ignore their temper tantrums and continue to demand solutions. This is pointless. They have none. They will either continue to avoid answering or scrawl a laughably childish plan with their favorite red Crayola. Seeing how the debate was going, another red ran to his comrade’s rescue.

“I gather Asdam(sic) simply doesnt(sic) get that capitalism, all by itself, is a market system, not an innovator. It takes innovation and markets it to make a profit, but to say that it *creates* innovation… I suppose the depends on what passes for innovation these days.”

I mistakenly assumed everyone understood what I meant by capitalism. Rather than intelligently rebutting my contentions he purposefully misconstrues the common usage of a term and then makes a sweeping generalization about a world he does not fully understand. Like a true socialist he believes he can simply say there is no innovation in the world or all innovation driven by the profit motive is worthless. He knows everything about every individual, endeavor, and corporation in the universe. My goodness! What a brilliant man! The bulk of human action is driven by self-interest. How progress unfolds is essentially unpredictable; the relationships between different discoveries are likewise impossible to ascertain. There is waste due to consumer spending, but who is to say what is needed and what is not? Who is to say what scientists should research and what they should not? Who is to decide what businesses ought to fail and which should succeed?

To quote Hayek: who plans for whom? We ought to beware of those who wish to plan for us. We ought to fight against those who claim to know what is best for others. This line of thinking has spawned feudalism, fascism and communism. It is puzzling that this way of thinking has not been recognized as inherently evil. Instead, it has been repackaged again and again for different times and places. Socialism will continue to appeal to those who refuse to take responsibility for themselves and for the condition of the planet. Maybe they will see their ideology is little more than a convenient means of projecting their own guilt onto an entirely blameless entity: the free market.

Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, futurist, inventor, investor and programmer. He has had a lifelong fascination with history, economics and policy making. He is currently pursuing a degree in biochemistry and is the author of two novels: A Plank in Reason and Praying for Death.