Making socialism not work
"Socialism in one country!"

-- Stalin

"Socialism in one state!"

-- Wisconsin legislature.

Because of my liberal tendency to assume in good faith that people say what they mean (and mean what they say), I'm often dumbfounded to see so many people seeming to devoutly believe that socialism can be made to work. Whether "this time" or any other time.

Considering socialism's proven track record , I often ask myself in despair. "why would anyone want policies that have been proven to fail?" I'm not alone in my amazement. Lots of people ask the same question, and I'm sure it was very much on John Stossel's mind when he wrote about impending socialized medicine in Wisconsin, and what it will do to health care:

The plan would cost an estimated $15.2 billion, or $3 billion more than the state currently collects in all income, sales and corporate income taxes."

And, of course, down the road it will cost much more than that. Even the $15 billion is based on the usual Pollyannaish assumptions such as millions in savings "from putting more emphasis on primary care."

As usual, most of the new taxes will be imposed on employers. Progressives believe money taken from them doesn't cost anything. Rich corporations will simply waste less on lavish perks and excess profits. But taxes on business are often paid by workers, stockholders and consumers. Businesses that can't pass the taxes on to someone else will close or move out of state.

But progressives are oblivious to this fact. They see Wisconsin becoming a fairyland of health happiness supervised by the 16-person "authority" that will oversee the plan. Socialism will work this time because the "right" people will be in charge.

Does it never occur to the progressives that the legislature's intrusion into private contracts is one reason health care and health insurance are expensive now? The average annual health-insurance premium for a family in Wisconsin is $4,462 partly because Wisconsin imposes 29 mandates on health insurers: Every policy must cover chiropractors, dentists, genetic testing, etc. Think chiropractors are quacks? Too bad. You still must pay them to treat people in your state.

Want to buy insurance from another state, like nearby Michigan, where an average policy costs less? Too bad. It's against the law to buy across state lines. Your state's Big Brother knows best.

Read the whole thing. Stossel speculates (somewhat cynically, which endears me to the man) that allowing socialism "in one state" will supply a much-needed lesson to the rest of us:
The fall of the Soviet Union deprived us of the biggest example of how socialism works. We need laboratories of failure to demonstrate what socialism is like. All we have now is Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, the U.S. Post Office, and state motor-vehicle departments.

It's not enough. Wisconsin can show the other 49 states what "universal" coverage is like.

I feel bad for the people in Wisconsin. They already suffer from little job creation, and the Packers aren't winning, but it's better to experiment with one state than all of America.

Certainly, it's always better to lose one than lose all, but I'm afraid I'm even more cynical than Stossel about the learning-the-lesson part.

I think that those who know socialism doesn't work already know that socialism doesn't work. No lesson is needed. Unless acknowledging a few simple facts of history constitutes cynicism, there's nothing cynical about that.

Rather, my cynicism involves a growing suspicion I harbor. I think that some (not all) of the people who have been confounding me and others for years are running a con game, and it's been successful. We're still reduced to arguing over the ricidulous (and settled) question of whether socialism works, as if people of good faith are trying to convince each other to see the error of their ways. I don't think it's so simple, and I think the good faith opponents of socialism are overlooking a strong possibility that the proponents of socialism are not operating in good faith.

They know socialism does not work!

They have to know. These are not stupid people. They've studied history. They know the predictable results of policies that have been proven to fail.

And I am so cynical as to believe that they actually want policies that fail.

Who are they, you ask? Good question. I wrote a post on that very subject. They consist of "a vast group of intellectuals" which Herman Kahn described as "suffer[ing from the most intense anomie of all social groups":

In becoming a mass profession, they open themselves to sharper criticism as a group because their average standards necessarily decline, their contacts with outsiders wither, they become less self-conscious as a stratum but more actively self-serving, and they make clear their belief that they should wield social power.
This class is growing by leaps and bounds, and if there's one thing they know, it's that they are entitled to have power. But the free market has no use for them, so their unelected jobs must come from government or from the myriad of entities relying on government support.

To follow my cynicism out, if we take it as a given that socialism does not work, but that it is imposed by government, what generally happens when government programs don't work? Why, new programs to fix the old programs, of course. The government will "fix" the problems the government creates. Seen this way, imposing socialism guarantees a vast expansion of the innumerable busybody classes -- especially if it doesn't work. It explains why they have to have socialism.

And the fact that socialism doesn't work, why, it's not a bug, it's a feature!

(And much as it kills me to be fair, I have to admit that if the goal is endless expansion of government, socialism does work!)

posted by Eric on 08.09.07 at 03:00 PM


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