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Why Reject Socialism?: Private Property, and Economic Freedom vs. Economic Equality (part 2)

April 1, 2009

I left off section one of this series pointing out that Socialism, by definition – ‘aims to create social and economic equality’ – and the only way it can do this is through government coercion. (You should read section 1 – Collectivism vs. Individualism, before you read this one.) Keep in mind – Conservatives do not oppose working together for a common good – so long as individuals are given a free choice to participate, rather than a mandate through governmental force.

Let’s now take a look at Socialism as an economic philosophy. 19th century philosopher Ayn Rand had some strong words to further define socialism and its nature as an economic and governmental theory:

“Socialism is the doctrine that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that his life and his work do not belong to him, but belong to society, that the only justification of his existence is his service to society, and that society may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good.”
– From The New Intellectual

In order to fully understand Rand’s view – we need to clearly define ‘private property.’ In plain terms, Private property is essentially the results (or wages) of an individual’s personal labor. Furthermore, an individual’s labor is basically the sum of a person’s mind, since all that we do creatively and productively is the result of our own mind making free choices to take actions. Therefore, the crucial question each person must ask is, “Does a free individual have the right to the product of their own mind?” Take a moment to internalize this question, because it is simply too easy to think of ‘individuals’ as numbers.

Do you have the right to the product of your mind?

In my view, if you truly believe in personal human liberty – you must answer this question: Yes.

This is where a proper view of taxes becomes important. Part of the problem in America today is that people don’t really view taxes for what they truly are: unpaid labor for the state. Most people are so used to paying their taxes (many times not even seeing them, as they are deducted automatically) that this reality is blurred. You and I pay a certain percentage of our annual wages in tax. What this really means is that we spend that percentage (if you are middle-class, that’s about 30%) of our year working directly for the state and not ourselves or our families. Furthermore – you and I don’t really get to decide what happens with the labor we do for the state. Sure – we get to vote about this or that spending bill from time to time – but at that level, we are so far removed from any real control over how the product of our minds is put to use that it is almost negligible. More realistically, the product of our labor is handed to a government official who then gets to decide what is in our, and society’s best interest.

The conservative rejects this idea totally. And I must point out here that Conservatives aren’t against taxation. What we reject is the idea that a government bureaucracy can possibly know better what is in your personal interest, let alone an entire society of persons.

Rand further elaborates:

“The essential characteristic of socialism is the denial of individual property rights; under socialism, the right to property (which is the right of use and disposal) is vested in ‘society as a whole,’ i.e., in the collective, with production and distribution controlled by the state, i.e., by the government. Socialism may be established by force, as in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – or by vote, as in Nazi (National Socialist) Germany. The degree of socialization may be total, as in Russia – or partial, as in England. Theoretically, the differences are superficial; practically, they are only a matter of time. The basic principle, in all cases, is the same.”

– From “The Monument Builders

So, what about Economic Equality?

Socialism seeks to make all people economically equal through the idea of fairness. In other words, socialism seeks to share the wealth, or create a state of ‘shared prosperity‘ as this is seen to be more fair and compassionate. During the recent campaign, President Barack Obama, then candidate Obama made the remark, “When you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everyone.” Of course, most people (including conservatives) view sharing with those who are less fortunate, as a positive thing. However, it is important to remember we are talking about a governmental philosophy, not personal kindness and charity.  Under socialism, in order to create fairness or shared prosperity, this requires taking the labor of some, and giving it to others. This is, as Rand said, the denial of individual property, and ultimately the control of the product of an individual’s labor.

Socialism is the denial that you have the right to the product of your own mind.

Conservatives believe that this idea is in direct conflict with liberty. How is it fair to take by force the rights of some to promote ‘fairness’ for others? How is this ‘fair’ for those who are more productive? Is that not cyclical reasoning? If you have no right to your own labor and the product of your mind – do you really have the right to your own life?

Furthermore – is it not immoral to justify taking a larger percentage of an individual’s labor and mind, simply because they are more productive than someone else? Not to mention – who among men has the wisdom and the right to decide who is wealthy and who is not? (Note that in contrast, the free market does not discriminate based on wealth, race, sex, status, or any other factor.)

The simple fact is that human rights, and property rights go hand in hand. You cannot have one, without the other. Any governmental philosophy that violates the fundamental right to property is a threat to liberty, even if it’s intentions are noble. Again – Ayn Rand elaborates:

“There is no difference between the principles, policies and practical results of socialism – and those of any historical or prehistorical tyranny. Socialism is merely democratic absolute monarchy – that is, a system of absolutism without a fixed head, open to seizure of power by all comers, by any ruthless climber, opportunist, adventurer, demagogue or thug. When you consider socialism, do not fool yourself about its nature. Remember that there is no such dichotomy as ‘human rights’ versus ‘property rights.’ No human rights can exist without property rights. Since material goods are produced by the mind and effort of individual men, and are needed to sustain their lives, if the producer does not own the result of his effort, he does not own his life. To deny property rights means to turn men into property owned by the state. Whoever claims the ‘right’ to ‘redistribute’ the wealth produced by others is claiming the ‘right’ to treat human beings as chattel.”
– From “The Monument Builders

(emphasis mine)

Furthermore – the idea that an individual has no right to the product of their own labor is totally at odds with the foundational philosophy of liberty in America.

“Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”
-James Madison, Federalist Paper #10

“A right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings.”
–Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1816. ME 14:490

“…the moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and there is no force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”
-John Adams

Conservatives agree with this idea that private property, though not the expressed goal of life, is essential to individual rights and freedoms. Though the stated intent of Socialism seems noble, we reject Socialism as an economic philosophy because it substitutes a realistic view of human nature (people are not the same, and thus cannot be made to be the same, economically, socially, or otherwise) for an utopian philosophy (that an authoritarian governing few have the wisdom, authority, and right to legislate ‘fairness’ upon individuals lives).

Also – Socialism requires authoritarian control of the product of some people’s minds, and is thus in total conflict with the liberties of man. In a free society YOU have the right to YOUR productivity – under Socialism, the State and the ‘collective good’ have the right to YOUR productivity. Thus, from the conservative prospective, socialism is ultimatley not liberty, but slavery to the state. (I have to also note here that I find it somewhat contradictory that most people who look positively at socialism, consider themselves ‘liberal’ – as socialism implies a far more authoritarian governing body than say, a fairly libertarian capitalist system. Mark Levin rightly points out in his book Liberty and Tyranny, that a more appropriate name for this view would be, ‘Statist,’ rather than liberal.) Furthermore, even if it weren’t immoral, conservatives reject the notion that a small group of elected officials can possibly comprehend what would be in the best interest of you as a citizen.

President Lincoln adequately summed up these concepts:

“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name–liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names–liberty and tyranny.”

-Abraham Lincoln, 1864

If you wish to learn more about Economic Freedom – please watch or listen to Free to Choose, by Milton Friedman. This will provide you with a decent overview of the foundations of economic liberty. Also, I strongly recommend reading Frederic Bastiat’s The Law.

In part 3 I will be further discussing the idea that Socialsm’s form of government is in conflict with a democratic republic – and takes on the form of an oligarchy, ultimately resulting in a ‘soft tyranny’.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2009 1:09 pm


    From a Socialist to you:

    Socialism: Is a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating public or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods and a society of equal opportunities for all individuals, with a fair method of compensation.

    Phil Edwards

    • May 21, 2009 2:38 am

      That’s a much better definition than the biased stuff on this entry, honestly.

      Here are my definitions:

      Capitalism: Any economic system where the means of production are privately owned.
      Socialism: Any economic system where the means of production are collectively owned by the workers.
      Communism: Any economic system where the means of production are collectively owned by the society/community.

      I designate State ownership or State synergy in the economy as State Capitalism, State Socialism and State Communism respectively.

    • Gil Hernandez permalink
      October 26, 2009 6:41 pm

      Any way you pretty it up – it’s wrong, it goes against the very fabric of what it means to be a human being.

      Oh, it looks great on paper “Socialism: Is a broad set of economic theories of social organization ………production and distribution of goods and a society of equal opportunities for all individuals, with a fair method of compensation.” – in actual practice it fails miserably to the detriment of the people under this and every similar form of oppression.

      I am 1 generation removed from this type of government and part of my family still lives under it.

      • Goldfish permalink
        August 3, 2011 2:16 pm

        @Gil You are talking about communism. Communism fails in reality, but socialism isn’t communism. Socialism is, at it’s base, capitalism, and several countries (such as India) have successfully managed to pull off socialism. Meanwhile, capitalist countries, such as America, still have socialist tendencies, such as taxing the rich more than the poor. And generally, socialism reaps big benefits. Unlike communism, it can work in reality, and unlike capitalism, it does not mainly cater to the upper class- it allows less disparity between classes, and helps the general public.

        Also, socialism is a recent concept. Before then, capitalism was the common form of economy in nearly all countries, and there has been oppression and detriment in all of those societies.

        Also, what is “the very fabric” of a human being? Giving up one’s right to earn money for the sake of the government? Unlike communism, socialism still leaves people with property rights. And if you’re saying that giving up rights in itself (like submitting to taxation) is immoral, then look at it socially: Murder, rape, and maiming people should be a right, because we generally all have those abilities. However, those activities are harmful to the victims (AKA society), so we have to give them up if we want to live in society. In order to maintain a good society, we need a balance between complete freedom (capitalism) and complete slavery (communism). Socialism is that balance. It is giving up our personal freedoms to such a degree that it is beneficial to the rest of society without being completely detrimental to ourselves.

        Somebody ought to create a counterargument somewhere for all of this. Then we could have a debate. That would be fun :D

      • August 3, 2011 7:45 pm

        First, @Goldfish, I assume when @gil mentions “the very fabric” of a human being” he is referring to something man as Frederic Bastiat defined:

        “Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man.”

        The Law –

        Second, I don’t think you or @gil and I are using the same definitions for socialism or capitalism, since you view them as the same. Capitalism is not a social system, like socialism. It has no planners, no central control, or rules other than being predicated on outlawing the use of Force in human interaction (in contrast, collectivism, in it’s various forms, requires the use of Force). However, you ARE correct that, in America, we have a mixed economy that is far more socialistic than capitalistic. But that’s exactly the problem. There is no ‘balance’ between freedom or slavery. All forms of collectivism, which includes socialism, are slavery – slavery to other men, “society”, the “common good” – whatever you wish to call it. At their core – collectivist ideas are a regression into tribalism. Essentially, the belief is one that man exists for the sake of the tribe – rather than for himself.

        And all forms of collectivism: Communism, Fascism, Socialism — reject or sacrifice the three pillars of man (above) in some way or another for a relativistic fiction called “the common good.” You have no “society” without individuals – so you have to start with individuals rights, property, what is man? – before you can even propose concepts like “society”.

        And we are not giving up the “right” to murder someone else – because it cannot be a right. Rights by definition are inherent to a man – therefore, there cannot be a right which destroys rights. Any initiation of Force against another person violates their basic right to life — to use their logical abilities (liberty) to produce property — that property used to sustain life. Therefore “murder” and “rape” cannot be rights because they violate the right to life. We don’t give them up to live in society. We cannot employ them without warranting the only destruction we have the right to — our own.

      • Goldfish permalink
        August 4, 2011 3:24 am

        @adc yaaay, a reply :D and a smart one, too
        Firstly, I think capitalism is a form of social system, or at least, like you said, the absence of a social system. Capitalism is like a free for all, in theory. Therefore, it’s the only system that provides complete economic freedom. However, the result of that lack of regulation, though persistent throughout history, usually results in an upper class and a lower class. So, though capitalism allows us to have rights and privileges not existent in a social system like communism, a problem is that there will always be losers in a system like that. Certainly, there will be kings of the industry, but there will also be hobos and unemployed people. Therefore, in the real world, a capitalist society has flaws. The reason for instituting “slavery” into this society is to remedy those flaws. So, those in support of social systems aren’t inherently trying to oppress people- instead, they are trying to help the lower and middle classes, by using “Force” to stop disparities between classes. I mean, in a capitalist society, the upper class would have the most power, and therefore, the system would work primarily for the upper class. But in a socialist society, the general public takes control, so lower and middle classes can receive relief. So, yes, definitely, socialism takes away some freedom. But was it worth helping lower classes, saving the uneducated, curing the sick or the insane, taking care of the old, and basically assisting the groups who would be oppressed in a capitalist society? If somebody was a socialist, they would say yes.

        I agree with much of what you say, but I still believe a balance exists between freedom and slavery. Capitalist allows you to rise and fall through classes freely. Communism allows no rising and falling at all. In all the middle territory, you still retain the right to rise and fall (aka the American Dream, or something), but it is restricted. Freedom can exist within limitations. Freedom without limitations is insanity, but with too many limitations is suffocating and unrealistic. And I know you need individuals in a society, but I don’t understand how making those individuals sacrifice their freedom in order to live with each other betrays the idea of a society. Isn’t that the definition of a society? o_O

        It seems we have different definitions of rights. You believe that a “right” is removed when it destroys the rights of others. I believe that a “right” is anything that you are capable of doing. I don’t entirely understand your definition, because logically, having the “right” to operate economically with complete freedom leads to capitalism. Capitalism leads to upper classes dominating the lower class, which impedes on the lower classes right to become upper class, or to operate with the same level of economic power as the upper class. In other words, the upper class possessing that right leads to the lower class losing their right to “happiness.” Okay, this is getting confusing. I’m just attempting to say that I believe that rights are inherent. You cannot relinquish your right to live when you kill somebody. You have a right to live as long as you are living. I don’t get how hurting another person’s rights would drive your own rights to become obsolete. We have rights, and we choose to exercise only some of those rights. And, we have to give up some rights in order to live in society. The success of the society (in my own opinion, which I hope you refute, because this is getting fun) is defined by the moderation in which those rights are held and relinquished.

        Man, this was long.

      • Goldfish permalink
        August 4, 2011 3:33 am

        And, I totally blanked out and forgot this example for the last comment, but about giving up social rights: even if my proposal for murder and rape is rendered meaningless by your definition of rights, what about drug use? Thinking of hardcore drug use in an entirely self-destructive sense (which it isn’t, but this is a hypothesis), drug use would not affect the rights of anybody around the drug user. Get it? Was that too unclear? Anyway, drug use it harmful to those individuals, NOT to the society around them, in this scenario. If that were the case, don’t these individuals have the right to damage their own lives by using drugs? Therefore, in such a scenario, wouldn’t banning drugs destroy the rights of those individuals? So, should society still ban drugs, if the users were not affecting the rights of others? (Is that a good example?)

  2. May 20, 2009 8:32 am

    Doesn’t look like you followed my advice: you still have no idea what “capitalism,” “socialism” or “communism” actually mean. Since you take your philosophy from… Ayn Rand (a capitalist crony) and Abraham Lincoln (probably the most prominent fascist politician in US history)… I guess that’s not very surprising.

    • May 20, 2009 8:49 pm

      Hey Francois, I respect your opinions and would be happy to approve and support any comments you have that add to the discussion. Even links to more extensive arguments on your blog are fine.

      However, rather baseless Ad Hominem attacks on myself and/or other persons – whether living or dead, (as you have done above) – will not be tolerated and in future, will be marked as Spam.

      Next time – take on the substance of my posts, or the quotes, rather than directing attacks at the writer. I’d happily approve something like that.


      • May 20, 2009 8:52 pm

        What do you mean, baseless ad hominem attacks? I didn’t do an ad hominem against anyone. I think you’re trying to posture your way into censoring me, which is just lame. If you’re gonna censor comments, then just do it, don’t try to justify it.

  3. October 27, 2009 2:32 am

    Brilliant piece. Ayn Rand, though I don’t agree with everything she wrote is right on, here. If we get back to the founders and their intentions the reality of what is happening currently in America will become clear. America, in essence, was the product of a people yearning to be free, to have individual freedom, to pursue their own destinies without an oppressive government quashing that desire. Obama is taking us in a who new direction which is contrary to everything the founders stood for. Obama believes in a socialist utopia which has been tried many times for hundreds of years, and every time it’s been a failure. Obama would have made a fine British loyalist in the 1700’s. Mark Tulsa, OK

    • Goldfish permalink
      August 4, 2011 3:48 am

      @Mark, I disagree… sort of. With your comment, in this case, though I also disagree with the article (though it was very interesting). America was in pursuit of freedom, but it was in pursuit of economic freedom from Britain. The foundations of America were based on Enlightenment principles, which were very diverse. The founders of America were both liberal and conservative (though I’m pretty sure they definitely didn’t go by those specific names at that point in time).

      For one thing, America established a government. The very point of a government is to maintain order in society. Order, itself, is the opposite of freedom. The Founding Fathers created a democratic republic, because it seemed like the best way to maintain order (which you consider “slavery”), while at the same time, reaping freedom. Even today, America attempts to find out how much freedom they can attain within the limitations of the government created by this nations founders. Complete freedom is anarchy, and not the good kind (i.e. it’s not a socialist utopia, it’s craziness)

      Also, a big part of what I disagree with is that the founding fathers believed in capitalism only. Many of the founding fathers supported capitalism, it’s true. Many of them were conservative, in a sense. Many others, however, were much more liberal. I don’t want to squash your sense of patriotism, I just think it’s offensive to generalize the founders like that. Thomas Paine, in particular, is often misrepresented; he was definitely a founding father, but at the same time, in the economic sense, he was insanely left wing. He believed in giving all citizens a certain quantity of free land, handing out money to seniors, and giving benefits to women and children. If Thomas Paine were here today, I suspect he’d be close to Hugo Chavez.

      Plus, that remark about Obama is unfair. Obama certainly comes off as an idealist, but he is really dedicated to compromise. Obama is not planning on turning our country into the Soviet Union, on the contrary, he has often sided with the right wing, much to the irritation of his own party. Whether you are conservative or democrat, either way, I’d still hold a level of respect for Obama, because even though he alienates members of both parties, he always tries to get a compromise. In that sense, he ought to be the conservative’s favorite democratic president. Imagine how things would’ve turned out it Hillary Clinton had gotten elected, in comparison to Obama. I could understand you saying that comment about her, but Obama? A democrat wouldn’t even believe he deserved a comment like that. He didn’t even pass that bill on the debt ceiling without bending backwards for the right. I mean, I know that he’s a democrat and all, but I really don’t get where that comment is coming from. o_O


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