Socialism’s Achilles Heel: The Sinful Nature of Man
Updated: Jan 5
Encouraged by unrealistic promises made by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), socialism is becoming the economic system of choice for young Americans. The supposed fruits of socialism include two things that appeal to an increasing number of young people: free college education and free healthcare. Of course, the views of these young people might be skewed by the heavy burden of student debt they accumulated while majoring in disciplines that are scarcely more marketable than a GED. Further, who wants to pay for healthcare when someone else can be forced to pay for it?
To college graduates carrying more than $100,000 in student debt while working in jobs they could have gotten with just a high school diploma, free college education probably sounds pretty good. Of course, had they studied harder or majored in more academically stringent disciplines these college graduates would know that nothing is free. Somebody has to pay. Their support of socialism seems to be based more on ignorance than basic socio-economic or socio-political principles they should have learned in college. Unfortunately, the college experience has become more about indoctrination than education. Hence, many young people are simply parroting what they were taught in college when they claim to prefer socialism over capitalism.
A survey taken in 2017 by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that 44% of American adults below the age of forty—a cohort often referred to as millennials—favor socialism over capitalism. These numbers were recently reinforced by a Gallup poll that showed 43% of American adults favoring socialism. What is missing from these polls and others on this subject is that many of the people who claim to favor socialism cannot even define the concept, nor have they ever experienced it. I still teach college-level business courses. In my classes, I sometimes ask young people to define socialism. Most don’t respond but those who do typically claim socialism means everything is free. If only life were that easy.
When socialism is debated in an environment where the participants actually know what it means, the weaknesses of the concept are listed as:
Socialism eliminates private property, thereby eliminating personal incentives to work harder and smarter. Why be entrepreneurial when the fruits of your imagination, ingenuity, and hard work are redistributed to others by the government rather than going to you?
Socialism reinforces inefficiency. Have you ever known of a government bureaucracy that worked more efficiently than a private sector organization? Probably not. The reason is that private-sector organizations and the people in them are rewarded for efficiency. Government bureaucrats are not. In government, if you process two forms per hour or ten you are paid the same, so why work harder or smarter to be more efficient?
A core principle of socialism is central planning of the economy. With capitalism consumers decide what they want and need. Businesses then respond accordingly. The businesses that respond most efficiently and effectively prosper. With socialism, bureaucrats far removed from those who have needs decide what will be produced and in what quantities. Try to imagine how your life would change if government bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. decided what products would be on the shelves in Wal-Mart. The problems with central planning should be obvious. However, if they are not, just study the downfall of the Soviet Union or look into what is currently happening in Venezuela.
Socialism undermines the division of labor and capital. Jobs are created by entrepreneurs who risk their money and the money of investors to turn ideas into marketable products and services. This is the capital side of the equation. The companies that are established to manufacture the products and deliver the services hire people to do the necessary jobs. This is the labor side of the equation. Because socialism eliminates free markets, both sides of this equation are undermined.
These analyses of socialism are all valid. But they point out only inherent weaknesses in the concept, not the fundamental reason it never works. The Achilles Heel of socialism is that its proponents fail to take into account the sinful nature of man. Socialism relies on people being willing to voluntarily cooperate. Advocates of socialism claim that people are by nature cooperative. As someone who has spent more than 40 years helping organizations try to establish effective teamwork, I can tell you that people are not cooperative by nature. Rather, they are hardwired to take care of number one. The real irony here is that the best way I have found to encourage people to work together cooperatively is to offer them incentives that reward them on an individual basis, a mainstay principle of capitalism.
When the team works more efficiently and effectively, its individual members receive performance incentives in keeping with their contribution to the team. Although advocates of socialism claim one of their fundamental principles is from each according to his ability and to each according to his contribution, in reality this never happens. This principle of socialism is the quintessential example of a theory that looks good on paper, but doesn’t work in reality. The reason is it fails to take into account the sinful nature of man.
Advocates of capitalism understand and admit to the sinful nature of man. The beauty of capitalism is that rather than naively deny the survival instinct of man—an instinct that can lead to a self-centered attitude toward work—it harnesses this aspect of human nature and uses it for good. Capitalists understand that people will give you more of what you reward and less of what you don’t. Reward working hard, as capitalism does, and people will work harder. Reward, working smart, as capitalism does, and more people will work smart. Reward, entrepreneurship, as capitalism does, and you will have more entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, the obverse is also true. Fail to reward hard work, smart work, and entrepreneurship, as socialism does, and you will get less—if any—of all three.
The reality of socialism is that those who receive the most are the people in the bureaucratic positions who decide what will be produced and who will get how much of what is produced. This is why bribery is so prevalent in socialist countries. Getting what you need in a socialist country is not about working hard or working smart; it’s about finding ways to convince government officials to select you as a recipient over all of the other people clattering for their attention. This is where bribery comes in. Socialism did not work in the Soviet Union nor is it working in Venezuela. This is not because Russians and Venezuelans implemented it poorly. Rather, it is because socialism is a fundamentally flawed concept that quickly runs headlong into the sinful nature of man.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com