Mr. Spherical Model has collected, over time, old talks to listen to during workouts or long commutes. We were listening to some of those during a road trip last month, and one of those I knew I’d want to come back to, to share here. It has me thinking about socialism, what that is, and how that contrasts with what we want as free human beings.
We’ll start with a few portions of this speech. It’s Marion G. Romney, in March 1966, in a speech at Brigham Young University. He was at that time one of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [Yes, he is related to Mitt Romney, but I’m not sure of the exact relationship, probably cousins.]
|Marion G. Romney|
The title of the speech is “Socialism and the United Order.” We’ll mostly deal with the definition of socialism here. But, simply, the United Order is a way of caring for the poor, the way it was done in the days of Enoch. In today’s terms, it will suffice to understand that in our Church, we pay a tithe (a tenth), plus fast offerings (approximately the cost of meals we miss while fasting), plus welfare activities.
I’ve said before, sometimes it helps to use definitions from older dictionaries, and that’s what he provides for us, along with a few other references giving us background and history:
Webster defines socialism as a political and economic theory of social organization based on collective or governmental ownership, and democratic management of the essential means for the production and distribution of goods. Also a policy or practice based on this theory.
George Bernard Shaw, the noted Fabian socialist, said that socialism, reduced to its simplest legal and practical expression, means the complete discarding of the institution of private property by transforming it into public property, and the division of the resultant income equally and indiscriminately among the entire population.
George Douglas Howard Cole, noted author and university reader in Economics at Oxford, defining socialism for the Encyclopedia Britannica, says that “because of the shifting sense in which the word has been used, a short and comprehensive definition of socialism is impossible. We can only say,” he concludes, “that socialism is essentially a doctrine and a movement aiming at the collective organization of the community in the interests of the mass of the people by means of the common ownership and collective control of the means of production and exchange.”
Socialism arose out of the economic division in society. During the 19th Century, its growth was accelerated as a protest against the appalling conditions prevailing in the workshops and factories, and the unchristian spirit of the spreading industrial system.
The Communist Manifesto, drafted by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels for the Communist League in 1848, is generally regarded as the starting point of modern socialism. The distinction between socialism, as represented by the various socialist and labor parties of Europe and the New World, and communism, as represented by the Russians, is one of tactics and strategy, rather than of objective. Communism is only socialism pursued by revolutionary means and making its revolutionary method a canon of faith.
Communists, like other socialists, believe in the collective control and ownership of the vital means of production and seek to achieve, through state action, the coordinated control of the economic forces of society. They differ from other socialists in believing that this control can be secured and its use in the interests of the workers insured only by revolutionary action, leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat and the creation of a new proletarian state as the instrument of change.
A major rift between so-called orthodox socialism and communist socialism occurred in 1875 when the German Social Democratic Party set forth its objective of winning power by taking over control of the Bourgeois state, rather than by overthrowing it. In effect, the German Social Democratic Party became a parliamentary party, aiming at the assumption of political power by constitutional means.
In the 1880s, a small group of intellectuals set up in England the Fabian Society, which has had a major influence on the development of modern orthodox socialism. Fabianism stands for the evolutionary concept of socialism, endeavoring by progressive reforms and the nationalization of industries to turn the existing state into a welfare state. Somewhat on the order of the Social Democrats in Germany, Fabians aim at permeating the existing parties with socialistic ideas, rather than by creating a definitely socialistic party. They appeal to the electorate, not as revolutionaries, but as constitutional reformers seeking a peaceful transformation of the system.
The difference in forms and policies of socialism occur principally in the manner in which they seek to implement their theories. They all advocate the same things, in this respect at least. First, that private ownership of the vital means of production be abolished, and that all such property pass under some form of coordinated public control. Second, that the power of the state be used to achieve their aims. And third, they all claim that with the change in the control of industry will go to a change in the motives which operate in the industrial system.
I highlighted the summary there at the end. Let’s put them in bullet points, to see them clearer:
1. Private ownership abolished, all property under public control.
2. State coercive power used to accomplish its aims.
3. The change in control of industry will bring about a change in motives for productivity.
What are the aims and intentions? The purported aim is to even things out, to do away with poverty. The way they're going about it will never hit that target. But, should we, as a good people, want to do away with poverty? Yes. In the Spherical Model, the economic goal is prosperity—the polar opposite of poverty. But you don’t get north by going south, or east.
I came across a quote from economist Walter Williams yesterday:
Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man.
Capitalism is essentially never evil; it is about using the fruits of your own labor. Capitalism requires private property. It comes down to the contrast between freedom and slavery. A free man lives his life, and pursues his goals without coercion. What he accumulates, his wealth—the surplus beyond what he needs to get by right now—is the fruit of his life. To take that takes away that part of his life he spent accumulating that wealth. To force a person to work to accumulate someone else’s wealth is slavery.
We need clearer ways to say things. Bernie Sanders appealed to many young voters this year by telling them they deserve things like free college tuition, free health care, much high minimum wages, and less difference between them and the rich. Donald Trump this week is promising six weeks of paid maternity leave.
So let’s translate these a little more accurately:
· If government gives you free college tuition, government enslaves some other worker(s) to pay for your tuition.
· If government gives you free health care, government enslaves some other worker(s) to pay for your health care.
· If government guarantees you a minimum wage, government outlaws jobs worth less than that minimum amount. If a business owner is forced to pay more for a worker than the worker provides to the business, the business owner is enslaved to work without his due income—he is enslaved.
· If government promises you six weeks of paid maternity leave, government either outlaws jobs that don’t bring in to the business enough surplus to pay for the leave, or government enslaves the business owner to provide that leave, even if it causes the bankruptcy of the business.
· As Margaret Thatcher so aptly put it, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.” She also said,
People want to live in peace…real, lasting peace…the peace that comes from independence of the state and being able to run your own life, spend your own money, and make your own choices (1925—April 8, 2013).
Marion G. Romney acknowledges that, even in 1966, America had already gone a long way toward socialism. He says,
We have also gone a long way on the road to public ownership and management of the vital means of production. In both of these areas the free agency of Americans has been greatly abridged. Some argue that we have voluntarily surrendered this power to the government. Well, be this as it may, the fact remains that the loss of freedom with the consent of the enslaved, or even at their request, is nonetheless slavery.
Socialism claims to be for equality, and for freedom from poverty. But socialism is really about slavery: coercing some people to work for the benefit of other people. And there will be slaveholders—those who want to rule. The power-mongers. The tyrants.
Whatever socialism claims to intend, it can’t get anywhere positive by taking away our God-given freedom. Freedom, prosperity, and civilization are better alternatives every time than slavery, poverty, and savagery.