by Jay Johansen | Jun 18, 2017
Socialism inevitably causes conflict. Enough socialism inevitably causes violence.
Suppose that I like to eat tacos for lunch and you like to eat hamburgers. Fast food in America is mostly free market. So I go to Taco Bell and you go to McDonalds, and we're both happy. We don't have to argue about which kind of food tastes better or is better for you. We each do what we want, and there's no reason for any sort of conflict.
Imagine if tomorrow the government took over the fast food industry. (Presumably because food is a fundamental human right.) All fast food places are now offices of a government agency. The government decides what food will be offered. Now if I want tacos and you want hamburgers, we have to petition our Congressman, lobby the bureaucracy, maybe even have protests in the street. Now we can't each get what we want. There will be a winner and there will be a loser. At best, the majority will win. If 51% want hamburgers and 49% want tacos, then we'll all get hamburgers. More likely, rich and powerful interest groups will decide and the common people will be out of luck.
Oh, one could imagine a government-run system that allows everyone to get what they want. But that's rarely how it works in real life. What's the point of having the government take over if it's not going to implement the "right" policies? This food is better for you. If you'd just try it you'd realize it tastes better. We're doing this for your own good. And what about the children? Even if most people are willing to live and let live, there will always be some who want to impose their preferences. And these people will be passionate and will work hard. They will win.
We don't have to imagine. Consider a sector with heavy government involvement, like health care, especially since Obamacare. For example, the government decreed that all health insurance must cover contraception. As I have no need for contraception -- I'm a single man and I'm not even dating -- I'd happily give up contraception coverage in exchange for a lower premium. Some people have religious objections to contraception and don't want to be subsidizing it. But under Obamacare, people who don't want it are forced to pay for it anyway. They can't just go out and buy a policy that covers what they want. Now they have to study the positions of candidate for Congress and vote for those who agree with them, maybe even donate to their campaigns. Form organizations that will lobby Congress or the bureaucracy. Go to court. President Obama wasn't man enough to stand up to the Iranians, but he could beat up the Little Sisters of the Poor and steal their lunch money. Now the Republicans are talking about changing some of the rules, and so liberals are the ones forced to fight. They're funding organizations to fight changes to Obamacare and having protests in the streets.
Sometimes things go far enough that people go beyond peaceful protest to violence. In 1974, a judge ordered Boston schools to bus children all over the city to meet liberal goals of racial balance in the school. Children from black neighborhoods were bused to schools in white neighborhoods and vice versa. Many children had to spend two hours a day riding the bus to and from school. Parents and children of all races mostly hated it: It was inconvenient, children were often unwelcome at the new school and became victims of harassment, and in some cases children were bused into dangerous neighborhoods. (One survey found that 4% of white parents and 9% of black parents supported the policy.) But liberal elites loved it. There were massive demonstrations and riots. There was violence.
If government policies go far enough, it is not just that some crazy people will turn to violence. It is an objectively rational thing to do. If you believe that a government policy will literally ruin your life, that this policy makes it impossible for you to get enough food, or to get medical care for your dying baby -- cf Venezuela, for example -- then violence may be your only remaining option. If government policies will kill you or make your life not worth living, then why not risk your life in the hope of changing things? A risky chance is better than no chance at all.
In a free market, if you and I disagree, it doesn't matter. We can both get what we want. We can both win. Under socialism, there is a winner and there is a loser. At some point the loser is going to decide that he doesn't want to play the game by these rules any more.