Not Just Evil, but Wrong

A friend of mine who served in the military tells of a time when he and a man in his unit fell into a discussion of communism. For those of you not in the military, Communism, for the US serviceman, is not just the enemy, but the devil: from Boot Camp upward, the men are taught and told to hate it with a quasi-religious zeal.

My friend, on the other hand is a classmate of mine from Saint John’s College in Annapolis, home of the Great Books program, and consequently one of the few people blessed with a proper liberal arts education, where not only do we read Socrates and Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, De Tocqueville, and the Federalist Papers, but also Darwin, Freud, Marx, Nietzsche. He was able in short order to show the man in his unit why and how Marxism was self-contradictory nonsense and economically unsound, in addition to being productive of nothing by poverty, misery, and mass murder.

The man was dumbfounded. Eventually, he stammered out, “You mean Marxism is not just evil? It is also WRONG?”

And the answer, of course, is yes.

Putting aside all of the shameful, hideous, and blood-soaked history of socialism, and putting aside all talk of moral and immoral, vice and virtue, Socialism is also a set of simple logical errors a schoolboy could see through.

It behooves any observer of the public scene to remind himself of what those errors are. The principle errors of self contradiction on Socialism fall under four headings: axiomatic, epistemological, economic, and ontological.

First and foremost, Socialism rather than proposing a logical argument from known axioms to deduce firm truths, as real philosophers, jurists, and economists are wont to do, rely on ambiguity of language to silence criticism by confounding the roots of thought itself, that is, clear definitions of terms.

Ask a socialist what socialism is, and he will give a non-response.

He will insist socialism differs from communism so fundamentally that no criticism of one can be attributed to the other, and that communism differs from fascism to a like degree. He will say socialists are nice but communists are authoritarian, and that fascists are Christians of the Republican Party.

If he is younger than a certain age, he will say fascists are Christians of the Republican Party who are white, old, male and straight. He will in the next sentence denounce racism and all forms of bigotry.

This rests on the informal logical fallacy called ambiguity. Its purpose is to prevent the logical examination of the concepts involved.

For example, Marx coined the term “Capitalism” to refer to the institutions of the free market, including the sanctity of contracts, the right to private property, and laws protecting and regularizing the exchanges of good and services by barter or currency or money. But Marx used to the term to mean a conspiracy between government and big business to rig the legal institutions to create monopolies, to exploit and impoverish the working class, and to reduce them to slavery, which, of course are all the very things the institutions protecting the free market protect against.

Marx does not argue that the free market is a conspiracy by the rich to warp the laws to plunder and enslave the poor, he merely assumes it is, an invents the word “capitalism” to bear this meaning, and hopes his readers will be gullible enough to accept without question that the free market phenomena seem in daily life in a modern society,  are correctly described by this terms and all its sinister connotations.

The term itself is hence illogical on its face: “Capitalism” for the socialist refers to a conspiracy by one group not of people but of economic activities (the “capitalist” is anyone who uses money for investment, including a dirt farmer buying one share of stock) to abolish all economic activities, including its own (once all the masses are impoverished and enslaved, there is no capital to invest and no business opportunities in which to invest).

The definition is useful as a slander, or to create confusion in the listener, but it is worthless as a definition to define a word. Greedy men exist, and the free market exists, and whole genius of the free market is that the only way to win repeat customers and to maintain a skill workforce is to satisfy their wants. The free market marries a productive man’s self interest into an altruistic activity.

The Marxist boogieman called “Capitalist” does not exist. A greedy man who exploits his employees and cheats his customers operates against the incentives of his long term self interest in a free market. The more hindrances the governments or bad customs place in the way of the operation of the free market, the more likely it is that these incentives will be reversed. The creature Marx called Capitalist, a ruthless exploiter of the poor, does indeed exist: but he is only found in Socialist countries with state run economies.

Other terms like “Wage-slavery” and “material dialectic” and “ideological superstructure.” These are all simply word-fetishes and magical charms invoked by speaking, not terms with any meaning.

Second, socialism by claiming to be a scientific study of economics from which the path laid out of future history can be deduced, immediately contradicts itself. Science is the empirical study of contingent material reality via observation and experiment, dealing with measurable magnitudes. Economics is the abstract study of the universal categories of human action as it applies to the wages and exchanges of the free market. It rests on abstract deductions from fixed first principles, and hence can neither make predictions nor be disproved by observation or experiment.

The idea of the scientific study of economics is hence a contradiction in terms. To predict the future on the pretense of this basis, seeing the revolt of the proletarian as inevitable, that is, part of the material dialectic of history, is contradictory to the very nature of the subject matter, which is human action, that is, the deliberate manifestations of human free will as expressed in their collective decisions to buy or to save, to employ or to forego.

Third, not just Marxism but all forms of socialism rely on ignoring the subject matter of economics, which is the invariant relations always present in human actions in general and in the actions of buying, selling, saving, investing, bargaining, working or employing workers, and so on.

Real economists, while they are not bold enough to make predictions, do assume that men react to incentives, such that, everything else being equal, whatever you reward, you get more of; and what you deter, less.

Real economists point out that raising the minimum wage, for example, creates unemployment because the wage is hiked artificially above the natural point set by the law of supply and demand. The minimum wage law, regardless of its intent, discourages hiring workers.

Socialism in all its forms, including those who reject one or more of Marxists metaphysical assumptions, all rest on the same error of assuming that goods and services can be produced efficiently while at the same time deterring those things that lead to productive acts (such as higher monetary rewards or returns on investment).

Socialism in all its forms substitutes rationing for a price mechanism. Rationing creates shortages, and worsen whatever alleged problem the rationing was allegedly introduced to alleviate.

Socialism in all its forms therefore promises prosperity while delivering poverty. The vast majority of socialist writing consists of inventing ad hoc explanations blaming something other than the inevitable disincentives created by socialism for the resulting lack of wealth.

Without a price structure or incentive system, state control of economic activity, the rationing of goods and the expropriation of labor, becomes necessary. Investment flows away from industries that are nationalized or overregulation to those that are not, and, to prevent the hemorrhaging of capital away from unproductive and debt-riddled semi-socialized industries toward freer industries, additional rationing, regulation, expropriation and seizures become necessary.

Hence, even if socialism starts small, such as with nationalizing public education, public transport, or the student loan industry, automobile manufacturing industry, or medical insurance industry, it will create more of the very shortages it was allegedly meant to alleviate. The final result is nationalization and socialization of all major industries, and the regulation or prevention of any free economic activity.

Since no civil liberty is possible without economic liberty, the abolition of the one necessitates the abolition of the other. In a society where any essential good, such as schooling or health insurance, or any essential safeguard of freedom, such as a free press, is dependent upon a political decision, those politicians who do not abuse the power of the state to silence with opposition will eventually be opposed by those who do, and while the first might allow the second the free exercise of his liberty to voice opposition, the second will not allow the first. And once they are firmly in power, no voices preaching removing them from power will dare to be raised.

Socialism in all its forms hence promises freedom and delivers totalitarianism. Even leaving the political and moral questions aside, just as a matter of logic, state control of a man’s economic life cannot be combined with limits on the use of state power.

Finally, socialism is illogical because it is secular. Socialism recognizes no innate right to private property hence no innate rights at all.

Rights, for the socialist, do not come from God, but from some other source, perhaps blind nature, perhaps human fiat. But any right issued by blind nature is not a right at all, but a fact. Facts create no imperatives; one cannot deduce an “ought” from an “is”.

For example, it may be true that farmers in the Ukraine will starve to death if Stalin takes all their grain and gives it to his political supporters. but in the socialist philosophy, if neither farmers nor anyone has God-given natural rights, and if farmers as well as everyone else are merely pawns of blind historical forces evolving mankind toward the Socialist Utopia, why should the farmers not starve?

Hence socialism suffers from the same logical self contradiction as all secularism. If there is no power above human power, then there are no legal instructions, no legal rights, no civil rights, no civilized mores nor standard of behavior which a human lacks the authority to alter or abolish as he sees fit.

Socialism hence promotes utilitarianism, that is, the notion that the ends justify the means. Since the ends in this case are infinitely desirable — for by definition nothing is better than utopia — then any and all means necessary, no matter how openly wicked and stupidly dishonest, are justified.

Hence, Socialism in all its forms is a moral code that promotes evil over good.

And this is precisely why the arguments given by socialists in favor of their programs of proposed mass theft, mass expropriation, mass deception, mass propaganda, mass enslavement, and mass murder are openly wicked and insolently stupid arguments.

They know what they are saying is illogical. They don’t care. Without a belief in good and evil, one can have no belief in right and wrong, virtue and vice, fair and foul.

If there is no power above human power to decree that truth is better than falsehood, then why not decree that “political correctness” is better than truth? Why not decree various perversions and abominations are morally right, and those who indulge in them, morally courageous? Why not decree a toilet seat to be a work of art?

What is truth?

In sum, socialism is illogical first because it is a set of verbal fetishes and nonsense words with no meaning; second because it pretends to be a empirical study of abstract hence non-empirical reality; third because abolishes the very market phenomena it purports to study; it deters the very prosperity and liberty it pretends to seek; and finally because it is secular, hence has no justification aside from arbitrary fiat which could just as arbitrarily be reversed.