One hates to disagree with the late great Margaret Thatcher, and I’m not doing so precisely, so much as expanding/repositioning what she said.
The greatest problem of socialism is not that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money. The greatest problem of socialism, be it the soft pink, dilute kind, or the full on strong red kind that animated the USSR (which remember always called itself socialist. Just like the DDR called itself democratic. Never mind.) is that sooner or later any and all human beings become part of the “debit” column.
I was reminded of this — and that I meant to write on it — today by a friend posting that an ex-student of hers had put up that great old chestnut about “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”
Let us put aside the fact, that this might be a great motto for a small family or, stretching a point, an order of monks devoted to the greater glory of G-d but that no one, ever, in the history of humanity had the ability to tell what anyone else’s needs or abilities are. Certainly no state known to man, even given the ability to test every subject to exhaustion from cradle to grave can tell what every individual’s needs or abilities are. And this is because, often, humans don’t know what their needs and abilities are.
We were also talking yesterday, in a group of friends about things that became our lives pursuits, at which we weren’t actually naturally gifted (when i say I made every possible mistake in fiction writing, uphill both ways and as recently as yesterday, I’m not joking. I’ve seen natural effortless talent. It exists. I don’t have it) but which we loved intensely enough to work really hard at.
(The last standardized test for aptitude I took recommended I become a dancer, btw, which is one of those things that make you stare at the results long and hard, because when I took it at seventeen I still tripped on my two feet while standing still and even now I cannot see someone do moves and imitate them. Much less transpose them. When I take aerobic classes, I stand in the last row, so I won’t distract anyone else, when I improvise or do it all backwards and sideways. Also, I can’t imagine enjoying either the grueling effort or the public display. I still have no clue how the test extracted that brilliant conclusion and suspect some prankster in the back office of having said “Gads, she’s useless. Just put down dancer.”)
As for needs… I often say that Euclid cat was the cat we didn’t know we needed (He’s still alive, but lately he cries a lot. We’re going to get him pain meds and some of the good food tomorrow and see if that fixes it.) Because he was definitely an “unplanned cat.” But after 9/11 when we felt broken he was the constant companion, the completely devoted cat we all cuddled and he helped, though I can’t explain how, get us over the anger and the depression. Also, I have in mind one particular day, when I was scheduled for a business trip. I was very depressed, and didn’t even know I was, and my husband said “Come on” and pushed his work aside. We spent the day at City Park in Denver, on a beautiful Summer day, and it was one of the best days of my life, completely dissipating the depression. Did I know I needed that break? No. I was concentrating on getting stuff ready for the trip. He knew, because he is close to me. Or perhaps he took a guess. Who even knows?
Which means, of course, no government can know either what you’re capable of doing (if you really love something) or what you need. Particularly when what you need has been invented yet. For instance, I get lost in my own living room, and in the eighties I assumed the price of going anywhere was to pull over and study the map every other mile (and my success was indifferent. I’m not a visual thinker.) Of course I needed a GPS. I just didn’t even know they could exist. And I’m sure there are a million things being developed right now, which if they pan out will become indispensable to me in ten years or so. Only I don’t even know they’re possible.
So when your centralized government takes it upon itself to decide what every person under its purview needs and can do, the results would be hilariously bad, if they didn’t always end in famine, misery and mass graves.
The reason they end in mass graves is easy. You see, the left mistakes the government for a parental kind of unit: a benevolent, hovering authority who knows you better than you know yourself. It is the result of their bizarre hair raising utterances, like apparently she of the very Occasional Cortex thinking white people don’t need bug out bags. Because, you know, she assumes the government exists to take care of everyone and the only reason she and her family needed bugout bags is because they could tan. Meanwhile that all pervasive entity was looking after it’s favored (white, of course) children. Or the comments made at the Convention in what 12? “We all must belong to something, so we belong to the government.” Or “Government is the name for the things we choose to do together.” (Well, okay. Whatever. Next time tell the government to use lube. Also, when they were having kitten fits over the righteous killing of Al Suleimani, did anyone think to answer with “Hey, government is the name for the things we choose to do together”? No? Pity. Someone should meme that.)
But the problem is that the government is not your benevolent, just, all pervasive parent. Not even under Obama, whom the idiots praised as “kind of a god.” (Oh, light bringer, son of the morning, how has thou fallen….) I think what they are thinking of when they say government is an actual divinity. And don’t get me started on when they imagine that an AI might be the ticket to that. As an old pulp fan I weep. Weep, I tell you.
What the government can be, at least while other people’s money lasts, is an INDULGENT, spoiling parent. In that Thatcher was correct. As long as other people’s money is around, the government can give people lots and lots of things.
Now, mostly they will be things people don’t actually want, and which don’t work very well, kind of like if Santa limited his Christmas toy acquisition to the dollar store, and went for bulk.
So, in the case of the idiots currently trying to bribe us with our money, you’d get medicare for all and as efficient as the VA, and you’d get “safe and comfortable housing” or at least housing, but not in single family model. In fact, the old soviet stack a prole apartments built quickly, with insufficiently cured cement which starts crumbling after a year, with a bathroom per four apartment floor, and doors that never close quite right, and of course, no decoration, because well… they’re mass built. But hey, they’re free.
In the same way, socialists start out by being permissive with behavior, which, btw, quickly turns that “housing” into hell on Earth. You can see this with every class now dependent on the government, from school children, to the homeless. If you’re a big enough pain in the ass they leave you alone, since no one wants to risk getting cut to stop some meth head from pooping on the sidewalk, or some feral kid from holding his class hostage with a knife or a violent tantrum. The less offensive infractions will get severely punished, but the true crazies and bullies will be carefully ignored. In the same way, while most people who are dependent on government health care, as in the VA, and who are well behaved will wait forever, the illegals and marginal charity cases will clog up the ER because they’re bored, and it’s a bit of a drama. And it’s not like they’ll ever pay, anyway.
Socialist states always start like that. They indulge everyone they are afraid of. This is partly because socialism/communist amid the educated classes is at least a little rooted on the very strange idea that communist revolution is inevitable and also that everyone who is civilized somehow is guilty of offending/mistreating the uncivilized. Which means they feel guilty and scared of anyone who acts feral or aggressive enough.
So… it starts like that. The people who have for years or about a century idealized the “masses” and thought that once the masses — be they working class, or in the US various “victim” classes of interesting coloration, orientation, or simply in possession of a vagina — got socialism, and the government dolled out its shoddily built, completely inappropriate toys (A doll for every kid, from age one month to 18, regardless of sex! Yes, the doll is weirdly made and falls apart in a day, but you get a doll, for free!) they’d be grateful and behave like perfect angels, get disillusioned. After all, regardless of their college students assuring them that crime is the result of victimhood, and injustice, and psychosis inheres from the inequality and oppression of capitalism, these people are behaving like savages, are not grateful at all, and don’t respect their betters. They keep demanding more.
This effect is easily observed, in microcosm by putting a sweet spinster lady who “loves children” in charge of a horde of normally behaved children who’ve just been filled with soda and candy. By the end of the day, when you come to collect the kids, she’ll be foaming at the mouth and screaming she wants the little darlings dead.
Which is fine. Because she’d never do it, and she doesn’t have the power to do it. But when the sweet spinster lady is the government, she can.
And usually the intellectuals who have seized control of the government in the name of the people get to that stage just as they run out of other people’s money, because, strangely, the millionaires and billionaires didn’t have that much, once distributed all around. Not even enough to, say, cover everyone’s student loans, let alone to give everyone housing or food. And those companies you told had to operate on totally green energy which doesn’t in fact exist yet? Yeah, they left. For places where they can work.
And all the cows are dead, and the proles are demanding steak.
How ugly it gets and how fast depends on whether you’re dealing with people who have full control of the government and the populace, as in, hard, full on red, USSR (or Venezuela) style socialism, or pinker, more diluted socialism. Or even with the left side of something like our own country, where you can already see the ugly in potentia, as people refuse to play along with the left’s imaginings, like perfect little proles.
In full on communism, this is when they start killing the wreckers and the hoarders in batch lots, and suddenly you find that you too are a wrecker and a hoarder, even though the “wrecking” is that you failed to guess the job they wanted you to do before they told you, and the hoarding is that you have an extra piece of stale bread.
For the pink socialist, still trying to pretend we’re nice because though we have the ballot box sewn up with fraud, who knows, the populace might get frisky and give us trouble, it comes in the form of rationed health care, of take two aspirin and go home to die, no we won’t give you a CT scan, of your baby isn’t perfect, so we’re going to let him/her die humanely, rather than give him/her a simple surgery that might allow him to live.
Because you see, when you get to that point, human beings are ALWAYS in the debt column. They aren’t making enough, they aren’t creating new things, and it can’t be your fault, because you’re giving the ungrateful little bastards houses and food and clothes and EVERYTHING. And why aren’t they happy? It can’t be your fault.
The government can’t guess your abilities, and it certainly can’t force you to figure them out on your own, particularly when the choices it gives you are like that test that thought I should be a dancer. And you can’t discover anything, or create anything, because there’s five layers of bureaucracy to get through and, anyway, not one would give you anything extra for working so hard. So you do the minimum. Which means the government has no clue how to provide for your needs, and since everyone is doing their minimum, to comply with often unreasonable orders from above…. well, sure, you’re entitled to a new pair of shoes a year. And this year all the shoes are size two, because that was the only way the manager could make 3 million pairs, from the supply of leather he had, in the time allotted, and therefore avoid being penalized. So, take your size two shoes, comrade and shut up.
Or in the pink version, the doctors are overworked and get paid the same as school teachers, for years and years of training, and they don’t have access to the diagnostic equipment they need to figure out what you have. You know, CT scans are expensive, and we can only afford to have the machines in certain places. Here, here is a pain killer (unless we’re all et up about opioids in which case you don’t even get that) and come back in a month, if you’re still alive. If you survive long enough, maybe you’ll be the lucky winner, and maybe the diagnostic will even be in time. Unless, of course, you’re old or we think you’re stupid or useless, in which case, what’s the point? You’re just another mouth to feed.
It always ends like that.
You can already guess it in the eructations of our left who, with no power, yet, with no ability to make their vacuous dreams come true, can say, in public and unashamed that if the Wuhan flu kills a lot of people, won’t it be a great thing for the environment?
These people, who among the thousands of them lack the financial know-how to run a lemonade stand, imagine that wealth is something that exists independent of humans. Their vision of the world is like that creepy book I loved as a little kid, where ice cream grew on trees and fried chickens ran around with forks on their backs for convenient consumption.
They think with fewer people there will be less debit. They don’t realize people do things, and make things, and without people there is also no credit.
Making and building and creating is not part of their mental map. They are eternal children, hands raised and mouths open waiting for someone to distribute the candy. Sure, they want to be in charge of distributing the candy. But they have no idea that someone needs to make it, or even invent new candy. They are, in fact, like the insufferable little kids running for president of the first grade class and saying that everyone will get recess all day and ice cream for lunch.
The kids have no idea this is impossible. And one gets the impression neither do the socialists. Because they have about equivalent ideas of the world.
But the socialists are aware that one way or another there’s a limited supply of goodies. And therefore, already, before they even have any power to put their hands in your pocket, they dream of gulags and eliminating people they don’t like. Because people have no inherent value. They’re just items in the debit column. They’re units to whom “Stuff” must be dispensed. And therefore, the fewer of them, the better.
After all, if all the wrong thinkers, and all those stupid people who actually do things with their hands just vanished, you and your friends could have a great party, forever, right? You and people like you. People who think right, know how to live and would never do anything to upset you or demand what you can’t give.
That club, unfortunately, in the end, tends to shrink. The cannibal feast of socialists is always on, in many places and times literally.
Which is why for their own good we must — must — make sure they never get the power they want so much. Because they don’t see people. They see debits.