There is a specter haunting the United States. It is the specter of democratic socialism – an idea that is being popularized by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
The unexpected rise of Sanders has caused the establishment to panic and has also resulted in the complete meltdown of the press – on both ends of the spectrum.
Why does socialism remain such a contested topic in the US? Why do Americans hate socialism more than any other group of people in the world? The answers are not hard to find if you dig a little deeper into American political history.
America – The Home of the Free
America’s aversion to socialism becomes easier to understand once you realize the fact that the country was literally founded on the principles of antistatism. The Founding Fathers rebelled against the government of their time and founded a country that was to be the home of free people.
Jefferson was known for his distrust towards big government, which is why he stated that a government that governs the least is the government that governs best. The Bill of Rights was written for the specific purpose of restricting the power of the government over the rights of individuals.
The settlers who built America from the ground up did not have a government to rely on. They toiled hard to build a country where free men can live, make a living, raise a family, and embark on the pursuit of happiness. So, naturally, they did not like the idea of a big government that controls every aspect of social life and decides who gets what.
The Fallacy of Socialism
Socialism, in case you did not know, is a system of governance where the state controls the means of production, sets the price for the goods produced, and distributes the goods evenly among the citizenry. The most important feature of a socialist government is collective ownership. From mines to roads, railroads, and factories – everything is owned by the state, which is the representative of the people.
Socialists firmly believe that capitalism invariably results in the oppression of the many by the few, since much of the wealth produced is concentrated in the hands of a small group of people. So, they collectivize society’s wealth and ensure that everyone receives the same amount of benefits.
The biggest flaw in a socialist system is that it fails to accept the fact that human beings are hardwired to respond positively to incentives. If there is an incentive to do something, people will do it. Similarly, if there is a disincentive to do something, people will not do it. In other words, if a person does something and gets a positive result, they are likely to do it again. If, on the other hand, a person does something and gets a negative result, they are unlikely to do it again.
It is the natural order of things, which rewards people’s instincts for wealth generation and punishes people for their mistakes. A socialistic society, on the contrary, shields people from the consequences of their decisions by providing everyone with the same amount of benefits.
Therefore people in a socialistic society are generally not interested in taking risks or taking the road less traveled. After all, if everyone is assured of the exact same amount of benefits irrespective of the amount of effort they put in, why would anyone want to push themselves harder?
Is it any wonder that our Founding Fathers – a group of enterprising individuals who wanted to earn what they needed by the sweat of their brow – were dead against the idea of socialism?
Why Socialism Always Fails to Work
Socialism, in its essence, is all about ensuring the equality of outcome, which is unnatural and unsustainable. The world, by its very nature, is unequal. Some are strong, some are weak. Some are beautiful, some are ugly. Some are intelligent, some are dull. In the same way, some are rich, and some are poor. You cannot make everyone equally rich – or equally poor – any more than you can make everyone equally beautiful or intelligent.
Does that mean we should let the poor and the underprivileged suffer? Of course not! In any decent society, people will be happy to pay their fair share to ensure that the basic needs of those at the lowest rung of the societal ladder are taken care of.
The problem, however, is that such a setup works well only if the society remains relatively homogeneous. You can find several examples like Japan, Finland, Denmark, and Norway – all of which have social welfare programs and have implemented several policies that would be considered socialist by American standards.
All these countries are homogeneous to a large extent and the people feel closely connected to the country they are born in and to each other. America, on the other hand, is incredibly diverse – racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically. Marx and Engels themselves stated that communist and socialist ideas are hard to implement in diverse societies, as people tend to focus less on class differences and more on ethnic and racial differences.
Even in America, FDR implemented several policies that were considered socialist back then (and still are though!). The high tax rate was tolerated by the general public because FDR kept on promising free stuff only keeping America in the depression (the UCLA study has proven FDR kept America in The Great Depression actually making The Great Depression exactly that – The Great Depression – passing higher taxes in the early 30s was terrible for the economy and The New Deal in the late 30s was another body blow to GDP growth – the jobless lines continued!), as they were not opposed to the idea of sharing a portion of their hard-earned wealth for uplifting their fellow citizens.
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is advocating for open borders and decriminalizing the act of illegal immigration. Why would Americans be okay with paying taxes for the benefit of people who are ethnically and culturally different from them and do not share any common values?
This is why, despite the sincere efforts of Sanders, the idea of socialism – even if it is propagated under a different name – is unlikely to be accepted by Americans (well perhaps in LA, San Francisco, and Chicago which is why those cities have lots of crime and little job growth). We are a free people and we always will be!