Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Socialism...Tried and Found Wanting Since 1521, 1621, 1917, 1933, Et Cet.

Those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it:
Most Americans are familiar with the story of the Puritans landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620, but few perhaps understand their early experiment with socialism and how its failure led them to embrace individual-driven capitalism.
[A]fter landing on Dec 21, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered horribly their first winter, with around half the colonists perishing. Aid from the now-famous native, Squanto, helped them survive with new planting techniques, but the harvests of 1621 and 1622 were still small.
The colony’s governor, William Bradford, wrote that its socialist philosophy greatly hindered its growth: Young men resented working for the benefit of other men’s wives and children without compensation; healthy men who worked thought it unjust that they received no more food than weak men who could not; wives resented doing household chores for other men, considering it a kind of slavery.
Governor Bradford wrote that to avoid famine in 1623, the Pilgrims abandoned socialism, Patton said. “At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land,” Bradford wrote.
The colonists, each of whom now had to grow their own food, suddenly became very industrious, with women and children who earlier claimed weakness now going into the fields to plant corn. Three times the amount of corn was planted that year under the new system.
“By the fall of 1624, the colonists were able to export a full boat load of corn!” Patton wrote. “And the Pilgrims settled with the Adventurers. They purchased the Adventurers stock in the colony and completed the transition to private property and free markets.”
There is a strain of Christian thought that takes Jesus' red-letter words and uses them as proof-text support for big government communitarianism. While the Roman Catholic Church did this and does this to a moderate degree, this strain was most strongly expressed by movements like the Reformation-era Anabaptists, who cratered whole cities in Germany several hundred years ago, the Puritans, who also attempted to live like good totalitarian Commies before abandoning it in the face of unyielding survival pressure, or 20th Century South American liberation theology proponents, heirs of Marxism.

These examples of history must inform our thoughts when considering whether or not we presently have a free market--or something else entirely--when we hear Pope Francis' recent words criticizing capitalism and calling for even more State intervention in people's lives to alleviate their suffering.  Indeed, while he correctly observes a widening gap between rich and poor, he mis-attributes the effects of modern corporatism for free market capitalism. (For clarity, "corporatism" is defined as the nexus of government, big business, and labor, although lately, due to labor's declining influence, it has gone from the tripartite model to a more binary form consisting of government and big business only). In this, he appears to have drunk the Marxist kool-aid, not surprising given his South American roots and his lack of direct experience with "successful" Socialism that his Papal predecessors did. Equally unsurprising, given his subscription to Roman Catholic scholastic thought, is his suggestion that State force be used to level what is unequal via wealth redistribution.  

Instead of attacking capitalism itself, which has done far more to promote human welfare than any other system of resource allocation to date, perhaps Pope Francis would do better to address the real villain here--homo economicus, or the species of man who does nothing if it not in their own self interest. The real deficit here is in those Dickensian human hearts devoid of Christian charity, a mission field that appears quite ripe for Catholics and Christians alike. In contrast, calls to harness the State power to tax, and accomplish that which the Church has failed to do, are as un-Biblical as they are ill-advised. For these calls, if implemented, would not only likely fail to bring the levelling and redistribution they seek, but would most assuredly to lay liberty even lower.


newrebeluniv said...

Socialiam keeps getting tried because it absolutely DOES work every time... for the socialists. Whenever a group of outsiders want to displace those entrenched establishment oligarchs with themselves, socialism is a good tool. It is especially useful in situations like ours and Europe where democratic governments can easily revert to nothing more than mob rule. Out of power people tell the mobs, "we will give you free stuff by redistributing it from the rich/landowners/aristocrats". It is never good for society at large and it never lasts because it inevitably leads to collapse. But it is ALWAYS good for the socialists.

That is why it keeps getting tried no matter how it turned out last time.


Unknown said...

Interesting - you touched on it a bit with regards to Christ being portrayed as a "socialist"...

I've often thought he is! His ideal is the BEST... but it is not the method of governance outlined in scripture, because at the end of the day, we are ruled by humans who don't care that much for us.

I think that (if the end times follow this interpretation) when Christ returns and establishes his Kingdom on earth, it will more closely follow a Socialist model. The main thing being we will be ruled by a perfect King who loves us very much... which makes the difference.

But I do kind of expect Wealthy Christians to give freely of their wealth. And they do more than their secular counterparts. I also expect Christian business owners to treat their employees and customers with more respect, kindness, and love than their secular counterparts do... which they do.

Also - I came across a comment on one of the things I read concerning the Pope's statements that Capitalism /= Free Enterprise... that Capitalism gives large businesses something to hide behind while toying with government... if Capitalism is the free pursuit of capital, than the busting up of monopolies in our early history would make no sense... which was done to encourage competition, keep quality high, and prices low... things that seem to be sought after in a Free enterprise society.

But I could be wrong. Economics is not my strong suit =p I get the basics... work to earn, tithe, save, budget =p


Elusive Wapiti said...

@ PH,

Too true. Robin Hood was not the first, and certainly won't be the last. Envy being what it is.

@ Christina,

My issue with the "Jesus was a socialist" meme is in the sense that busybodies use the State to effect charity on their behalf. JC's words express deep concern for inequality of condition; I think that some interpret this as a license to loot others' pockets to "do good", all while having a clear conscience.

Not trying to put words in your mouth, but I think you would agree on this objection...the wealthy are to give of their wealth freely, as an expression of their Christian faith, not because someone with a messiah complex is holding a gun to their head.

Re: the Pope's comments about capitalism and trust-busting...if my history is correct, it's precisely because companies had co-opted government that trust-busting was subsequently needed. This gets at my primary critique of the Pope's comments...he is mistaking free market capitalism for corporatism (today), or mercantilism (the goverment-business nexus from the 17th - 19th centuries).

Every time I head "public-private partnership", I cringe, 'cuz some businessman's wallet is about to get fat at the expense of others. Adam Smith, IIRC, even inveighed against the tendency of businessmen to corrupt the government to their own private ends.

Eric said...

When the local dunderheads elected Communists to our City Council recently, I suggested in an editorial that the newly-elected Communists begin their policies by 'collectivizing' the local media. After all, the media went out of its way to support these candidates; and the Communist Party platform DOES call for State control of the Press... but the editorial wasn't printed.

I would have the same suggestion for Pope Fannie. Instead of preaching this doctrine to national governments, he should set the example by appointing avowed Communists to run the Roman Catholic Church.

Elusive Wapiti said... wonder that editorial wasn't printed. Collectivism is great as long as it's the other guy who'se getting nationalized or having a bureaucrat put in charge of his every move.

As for avowed Commies running the RCC, that would be a hoot given that hard-core Communism is atheist.

Eric said...

LOL---I meant the suggestion to let Commies run the Church in jest: but it does have a point.

The Communists are atheists and their platform spells out the suppression of all organized religion. So what do religious leaders like the Pope expect is going to happen once Marxists start taking over governments? Does he think the Church is going to get rewarded for its support?

Yeah---they'll get rewarded alright---with a trip to the guillotine.