Friday, September 18, 2009

The Dangers of Socialism: Beyond Economics

Steven F. Hayward, writing in a feature in The New York Times "What is Socialism in 2009?" says:
"If we understand socialism in its strict definition — central economic
planning and public ownership of the means of production — then the president is
obviously not a socialist (with a mild caveat for the auto bailouts, the banks,

But if we step back a moment and consider “socialism” more broadly
as a step increase in political control of or intervention in the economy —
whether it be through a revival of Keynesian-style stimulus and things like
“cash for clunkers” subsidies, or through a government semi-takeover of the
health care sector — then the charge appears more salient.

The serious conservative critique of these socialist-like forms rests, in
one sentence, on the cognitive barriers to government commanding or allocating
resources effectively, which means we can expect very poor results, resembling
the sluggish, centrally directed economy of Britain in the 1970s."

Hayward's concern here is with economics and clearly he is right. But the deterimental effects of an enlarged welfare state on civil society, individual initiative and public morality must also be considered.

New Labour has transformed the UK by insitutionalizing the sexual revolution, reducing the influence of Christianity and promoting social justice without grounding it in any of the other major virtues. The result of so this, after so many decades of socialism since World War II, is the severe depletion of spiritual capital.

I used to think that the depletion of spiritual capital under socialism and welfare state liberalism was not necessary, but merely a contingent event that could be otherwise if only more moral people were in charge of liberal and social political parties. Now, however, I have come round to the view that the depletion of spiritual capital is inherent in socialism and welfare state liberalism because these economic systems are inherently immoral. The economics of envy and coercive re-distribution of wealth cannot produce the virtues. One wishes it were different, but this seems to be the way the world works and we cannot change human nature.

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