Conservatives are always saying that socialism doesn't work or that it can't work. I've heard a number of conservatives say, "socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried". But this criticism simply isn't fair. Socialism has only failed because we have never had the right people. Socialism can work and it will work, if only we get the right people to do it. What kind of people do we need? Simple:
- Leaders who do what is best for the country rather than taking advantage of their position. Under socialism, the government has to manage the entire national economy. This means that political leaders have a lot of power and influence. Often, it seems, instead of using that power for the good of the people, leaders become corrupt and use their power to amass personal fortunes, or pursue power for the sake of their own egos. To make socialism work, we need leaders who cannot be corrupted, and who continue to put the good of the people first.
- Citizens who will work just as hard for the good of the community as they would for themselves or their own families. Under capitalism, a person who works hard only benefits himself. Under socialism, where wealth is shared, the hard work of one benefits all. This is clearly a morally superior system, as it is not fair for one person to have more than another. But there are many people out there who are greedy, and who are not willing to work if they personally don't get the benefit. To make socialism work, we need citizens who work hard without any thought of personal gain.
- Government officials -- bureaucrats, if you prefer -- who have the competence and intelligence to set national policy. Under socialism, government officials are frequently called on to make decisionas that affect large segments of the economy. A government official may have to decide whether to invest in a new technology or to continue doing things the old way (either decision could be a mistake, the new technology might turn out not to work, or it may be a vast improvement), he may have to project what career fields will need the most new workers twenty or thirty years in the future so he can direct the educational system, he may have to plan housing and transportation, etc etc. In many cases a new government employee fresh out of school will be making decisions that affect the lives of millions of people. To make these decisions effectively, the government official must be able to learn more about an industry or sector of the economy in a few weeks, or at most a few months, than all the people who work in that industry have figured out over the course of decades. Government officials must be not only the smartest people in society, but they must be smarter than any thousand or ten thousand ordinary citizens combined, or the gullible may fall for the argument that people who have spent their lives doing a certain job should be permitted to make decisions about how those jobs should be done, and a cohesive national policy will be endangered.
- Journalists who will support government policy. It is difficult to keep an entire nation of people focused on the policies and objectives set by the government. People often have their own agendas and ideas, and these must be aligned with government policies or suppressed if the nation is to remain on track. Accomplishing this is doubly difficult if journalists constantly attack government policies and undermine national goals. Of course the whole point of socialism is to increase human freedom, so we cannot simply censor unfavorable journalists. But freedom to spread lies and slander is not real freedom at all. Real freedom is the freedom to speak the truth, and of course the government is in a better position to determine the truth than some random reporter.
- Scientists and engineers who will make national programs happen. Socialism relies on the ability of the government to set a goal and make it happen. For example, the government may declare that within 10 years all cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas, or that every citizen is entitled to unlimited free health are. Sometimes counter-revolutionary scientists and engineers will claim that these things are impossible, that there is no known technology to achieve these goals or that they violate the laws of physics. Such scientists must be replaced with ones who will carry out government programs regardless of their own personal beliefs about philosophical and religious questions like the so-called "laws" of gravity or thermodynamics.
I think that would basically do it. If we could just get the right people in those categories, socialism would work.
© 2013 by Jay Johansen