Commentators are not always clear and to the point which is pity if they have something worth saying. This offering from the Birdman is rather better. The original will be on his site at www.thebirdman.org
4th Message from the Birdman: The Great Errors of Socialism
(Birdman's Weekly Letter #383)
The first great error of socialism is the failure of its adherents to recognize that socialism does not work, and the second great error is their failure to understand why.
Actually, it is wrong to say socialism does not work, because it DOES work in small groups (as in the family or extended family) or under limited circumstances (as where the extent of the help given to participants is very restricted, or where idealism is pervasive, as in Christian churches or Hitler's National Socialism). We may even say that socialism works in large groups, such as the many countries of the West which possess socialist or nearly socialist governments -- it is just that it does not work WELL.
The reason why socialism does not work (or work well) is quite simple, in spite of the fact that this reason is apparently too complex for the simple-minded socialists to grasp. The reason is that people ordinarily work a lot more enthusiastically for their own benefit than they do for the benefit of others. Yes, they do often work for the benefit of others, but these others are usually their family or (occasionally) friends, but rarely others whom they do not know or know only slightly. And that means that people will hardly ever work enthusiastically for the 'community', the 'people', the 'country' or the 'state'. An exception might be claimed in time of war, where people will risk their lives fighting a common enemy; but this, if true, is only qualifiedly so, as we shall discuss shortly.
As noted above, people will sometimes work for others enthusiastically, and the reason for this is either love or obligation. For example, a man who loves his wife and children will work enthusiastically to support them; and a man who feels an obligation to his parents will also work for their benefit. Indeed, we may say that a man will work enthusiastically for his employer because he feels an obligation, but this obligation is primarily monetary, unlike the obligation he feels toward family or parents; and for this reason is categorized not as an artefact of socialism, but as one of CAPITALISM.
But if socialism works in certain circumstances because of love or obligation, this is precisely why it DOESN'T work in most circumstances, because one's connections of love and obligation do not normally extend to more than a few people. It is true, of course, that politicians say we must 'love our country', racialists say we must 'love our race', Christians say we must 'love everyone', and the like; but this kind of love, if not wholly ersatz, will in any event remain a weak bond that will never rival the feeling one has for spouse or children. Socialism, then, is a failure as a social or economic system because there is little feeling of love or obligation in most people for their 'community' or 'country' or 'race', as compared with the feeling of love or obligation for spouse or children; and thus there is little to induce most people to work for their community or country or race as compared with how they are induced to work for their family or friends.
Another way to put what we are saying is that capitalism harnesses what is called (approvingly) 'self-interest' or (pejoratively) 'selfishness' by using it as an inducement to get the world's work done; while socialism pretends that self-interest either does not exist, or else is the same as group interest, and ignores it rather than harnessing what is perhaps the most powerful force on the planet. We do not need a rocket scientist to tell us what a stupid strategy this is. But there is more to the matter than this, because those who supposedly devote themselves unselfishly to working for the good of this or that group are actually working for themselves, no matter how strenuously they may deny it: The fact is that being seen as a 'hero' or 'good guy' for doing such work provides significant ego satisfaction and good feeling with regard to the fulfilment of life's purpose. Accordingly, the presumably-socialistic-cum-altruistic motives of such persons are accepted without question as the individual basks in the glory that is generated from the belief that he is doing saintly and uncompensated good. Too bad such folks do not reflect more on Thoreau's remark to the effect that, if you see someone coming toward you who wants to do you a good turn, you ought to run for your life.
The underlying error of socialist thinking is undoubtedly the act of projecting onto large groups what works for small groups. I don't know whether this error has a name -- perhaps the Projection Error -- but it is a common one in real life: A grand generalization is made using just a small number of cases or information which is otherwise too meagre to justify the generalization. The typical projection error is to take a few points on a graph and draw a straight line thru the axis of cluster, making the assumption that this act of rectilinear projection will rough-sketch future points that will appear on the graph -- an assumption that sometimes works, but more often does not. In the case of capitalism versus socialism, however, the error is actually more serious than a mere straight-line projection; for as we have pointed out, there is a qualitative difference between a small group where everyone knows everyone else, and a large one where few of the group are acquainted.
We stated earlier that a possible exception to the rule that people were more inclined to work for themselves than for the group was during wartime, where people exhibit a willingness to 'give their lives for their country.' While it may seem excessively cynical to say so, it is my belief that sacrifice in time of war often has little to do with the good of the group, and much more to do with the personal benefit of those who fight. In particular, the young warrior is eager to be regarded as a hero, and to come home with a chestful of medals which will 'make his parents proud', and which -- above all else -- will serve to impress the girls. And even among those who have little prospect or interest in being heroes, participation in the war effort has the advantage of avoiding social condemnation for 'insufficient patriotism'. Indeed, it has only been since the Viet Nam war that people have become sophisticated enough to realize that wars are the harvests of rich men and assorted political interests which have little if anything to do with true patriotism, and which think nothing of sending young men -- and now women -- off into the jungles and deserts of the Turd World either to die a forlorn and painful death, or else to become maimed and crippled for what is all too often a starkly foreshortened life. Wars, then, may be the harvests of rich men, but they are equally the harvest of fools, whose vendange is hardly a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Lest it be lost on the reader, there is an important lesson to be gleaned from the above observations as they relate to the reforming of our government, the saving of our race and the preservation of Western civilization. That lesson is that we are going to do things a lot better as capitalists than as socialists. In particular, we need to give up visions of shooting our way into Washington and hanging all the pols, and replace it with a vision in which we, as warriors, fight for the joy of fighting, and select our battles from the array of the many things that need to be changed, all with the view that we may both strike a blow for freedom and Western civilization while at the same time having a damned good time of it. Similarly, while we may not be willing to fight the risky battles that some are willing to fight, we must encourage those who do so to pursue their fights by helping them with donations, encouragement, advice, or in whatever other way we can. My point here is that even if we do not have the stomach or ability to fight certain battles, we must encourage and make it profitable for those who fight such battles in order that they will continue to fight for their interests, and ultimately our own. And above all, we must realize that the battle for freedom and for our civilization will not be won or lost in some bloody Armageddon, as is so often thought, but is rather a continuing process of low-intensity warfare to keep at bay the forces of evil which will continue to nip at our heels, and will eventually overwhelm us if we do not remain vigilant. 'Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty' is no less true today than when Wendell Phillips said it; and if we are to stay on the winning side of the war, we need to make sure that the troops are well-cared for and, if at all possible, having a good time. To do otherwise would be to commit one of the great errors of socialism.
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