Wednesday, November 07, 2007

90th Anniversary of the October Revolution

Dear Comrades:

On the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, I have the honour to offer warm fraternal congratulations to my readers, and to all the comrades and friends present.

For thousands of years the working people of the world and all progressive humanity have dreamed of building a society in which there would be no exploitation of man by man, This dream was realized on one-sixth of the earth's land surface for the first time in history by the October Revolution. This revolution proves that, without the landlords and the bourgeoisie, the people are completely capable of building a free and happy new life in a planned way. It also proves that different nations of the world are completely capable of living together amicably once there is no imperialist oppression.

...or so it did, at least for a while.

Socialism is a wonderful idea. It is only as a reality that it has been disastrous. Among people of every race, colour, and creed, all around the world, socialism has led to hunger in countries that used to have surplus food to export.

A more careful review of the facts will show that socialism is not sustainable - it does not work. Period. Every experiment has failed; every treatise has been decisively refuted at its logical roots. Places where we continue to dabble - education, medicine, etc - in our "mixed" economy, are unmitigated disasters.

It comes down to this:

1) Free people are not equal - and equal people are not free. I'm not referring to equality before the law - that is to say, equality in income and material wealth. We shouldn't get hung up about differences in wealth as result of people being themselves. If it's a result of artificial political barriers then we should do what we can to get rid of them - but don't try to place fundamentally unequal people into a homogeneous heap - it won't work and you'll destroy everything in trying. Read up on the histories of Stalin, Khmer Rouge, etc.

2) What belongs to you, you take care of; what belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair. This is the magic of private property - and a big reason why socialism fails.

3) If you encourage something you get more of it; if you discourage something you get less of it. We are creatures of incentives and disincentives. What to break up families? Offer a bigger welfare check if the father splits. Want to get less work? Impose such high tax penalties on it that people decide it's not worth the effort... Want to discourage investment? How about a high capital gains tax?

4) Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own.

5) Government has nothing to give anybody except what it first takes away from somebody, and a government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you've got. This bears some serious reflection for those who think, "we can be different this time..."

To quote Lawrence Reed, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy: "Liberty isn't just a luxury or a nice idea. It's not just a defensible idea or a happy circumstance. It's what makes just about everything else happen. Without it, life is a bore at best. At worst, there is no life at all."

Nevertheless, for many of those who deal primarily in ideas, socialism remains an attractive idea - in fact, seductive. Its every failure is explained away as due to the inadequacies of particular leaders.

Many of the intelligentsia remain convinced that if only there had been better leaders - people like themselves, for example - it would all have worked out fine, according to plan.

In all the very different societies around the world, however, the story of socialism has been a story of high hopes and bitter disappointments. Attempts to redistribute wealth repeatedly led to the redistribution of poverty.

Attempts to free ordinary people from oppression repeatedly led to what Mikhail Gorbachev frankly called "servility" to new despots.

Human nature has been at the heart of the failures of socialism to produce the results it sought, even when socialist leaders were idealists like Julius Nyerere in Tanzania or Pandit Nehru in India.

Nowhere have people been willing to work as well for the common good as they do for their own benefit. Perhaps in some other galaxy there are creatures who would, but the track record of socialism among human beings on earth shows that this is not the place.

Worst of all, the concentration of political power necessary to try to reduce economic inequalities has allowed tyrants like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot to impose their notions and caprices on millions of others - draining them economically or slaughtering them en masse or exploiting them sexually.

There is no point blaming the tragedies of socialism on the flaws or corruption of particular leaders. Any system which allows some people to exercise unbridled power over other people is an open invitation to abuse, whether that system is called slavery or socialism or something else.

Socialism has long sought to create a heaven on earth but an even older philosophy pointed out that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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