Yes, We Have Tried “Real” Socialism
March 24, 2021
The statement “but real Socialism has never been tried” can be seen on forums across the internet. It really is quite fascinating how convinced many people are by this statement. The underlying implication is that these forum commenters think that they know what real socialism is and that they could make it work. Not only is this incredibly narcissistic, but it’s a fundamental untruth. Socialism has been tried again and again, and it just hasn’t succeeded. I think American economist Thomas Sowell says it best. “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it. Even countries that were once more prosperous than their neighbors have found themselves much poorer than their neighbors after just one generation of socialistic policies.”
Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it
— Thomas Sowell
This is not for lack of effort on the part of those that have tried to implement a socialist form of government, but because the ‘Father of Socialism’, Karl Marx’s theory is dependent on “a continuous transformation of human nature,” these attempts have taken many forms. Whilst cultural norms do slowly shift over time, the basic principles of human nature are static. For thousands of years, subsistence agriculture was the primary source of food for the majority of families. If a family had a little surplus, they didn’t hand it off to whoever owned their land for even distribution. They fed their own children a little more or stored it in case next year’s crop failed. A 21st century American would do the same with a little extra money. Given the choice between handing it over to the government in hopes they disperse it evenly or spending it on loved ones, pretty much everyone would spend it on their loved ones. A person putting their loved ones before strangers is human nature. Being wary of the people who hold power is also human nature. Even if the system in place to collect and distribute resources “from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs,” was miraculously one hundred percent free from corruption, human nature makes it unsustainable. It doesn’t matter how magnanimous you believe yourself to be.
Consider your grade point average. If it’s at or near a 4.0, you very likely had to put in a lot of work to earn it. That probably involved missing out on nights with your friends, putting a stop to Netflix binges, and dealing with a chronically high stress level for months on end. Seeing those high marks on your transcript though really makes it worth it. Now imagine that, after getting near perfect scores on every exam, you look at your transcript and realize you ended up with straight ‘Cs’. You ask the professor what your final percentage in the class was and are informed it was well within what is usually the ‘A’ range from that class. So why did you get a C? The professor tells you that new school policy is that grades have to be distributed evenly since some kids struggle in school or have other commitments that eat into their study time. They can’t prove that any given student was slacking off or if they truly were having trouble, so to be fair they just spread out all earned percentage points in the class evenly.
Can you honestly say that you would miss out on nights out with your friends the next semester to study for hours before an exam that you will get a ‘C’ on whether you study or not? A person that would is certainly too rare for a socialist grading system like this to work. Working for no incentive is against human nature, and thus that system would not be sustainable.
Some like to point out things that are government funded like K-12 schools, USPS and the DMV as a form of socialism. Even if someone believes that to be true, that’s not a good argument. A 2014 study conducted by the ACT found that homeschooled students had composite scores an average of 2.2 points higher than public school students. A package from the USPS takes an average of 4-5 days to arrive at its destination compared to Amazon’s average of 2-3 days. As for the DMV, it’s not uncommon to sit and wait around for 2 hours before it’s your turn to go up to the counter. People across the country will tell you most government services aren’t known for being efficient or easy to deal with.
People that call for less government intervention and socialism in the same breath seem to have missed the fact that a big government is necessary to oversee any socialist system. All four countries currently classified as socialist are unitary one-party states. Take that information as you will.