The Meme Above Is Not How Socialism Works: In Reality, It’s Much More Brutal
Now, obviously the above how socialism works meme is just a joke and isn’t meant to portray the reality of how socialism works. But, I do think it strikes to the root of a major issue, which is that Americans, especially young, left-leaning Americans don’t have much of a conception of the reality of socialism. They have some idea that it means the government taxing the wealthy and providing “free” (read: taxpayer-funded) services to those that are left fortunate.
That is completely wrong. In fact, it’s a semi-rosy view of how the Nordic welfare systems work, and those aren’t even socialist systems in the first place. Plus, they tax everyone quite heavily, not just the upper class; the average tax in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark is between 40% and 60%, but it is a more or less flat tax. In other words, everyone pays those relatively high taxes, not just the most productive members of society. That stands in contrast to the US, where about half of the population effectively avoids paying a federal income tax.
But, in any case, the Nordic countries are not socialist states. They are free-market states with high tax rates and large welfare systems. That’s not socialism, but the portrayal of it as socialism has skewed our understanding of how a socialist system works. Because Bernie Sanders and others have framed the Nordic model as “socialism,” young Americans think that socialism means lots of welfare, but a relatively high amount of economic freedom.
If you don’t believe me, here’s what the Cato Institute has to say about how young Americans view socialism and what they think it is:
“Millennials are simply not that alarmed by the idea of socialism. For instance, a national Reason-Rupe survey found that 53 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds view socialism favorably, compared to only a quarter of Americans over 55. A more recent January YouGov survey found that 43 percent of respondents younger than 30 viewed socialism favorably, compared to 32 percent thinking favorably of capitalism.
millennials don’t seem to know what socialism is, and how it’s different from other styles of government. The definition of socialism is government ownership of the means of production—in other words, true socialism requires that government run the businesses. However, a CBS/New York Times survey found that only 16 percent of millennials could accurately define socialism, while 30 percent of Americans over 30 could. (Incidentally, 56 percent of Tea Partiers accurately defined it. In fact, those most concerned about socialism are those best able to explain it.)
So what do millennials think socialism is? A 2014 Reason-Rupe survey asked respondents to use their own words to describe socialism and found millennials who viewed it favorably were more likely to think of it as just people being kind or “being together,” as one millennial put it. Others thought of socialism as just a more generous social safety net where “the government pays for our own needs,” as another explained it.
If socialism is framed the way Sanders does, as just being a generous social safety net, it’s much harder to undermine among millennials. This narrative says government is a benevolent caretaker and pays for everybody’s needs (from everybody’s pockets), along the lines of the Obama administration’s Life of Julia montage.“
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Any student of history who has seen examples of real socialism knows that the millennial view of how socialism works is completely untrue. Read The Gulag Archipelago, The Case Against Socialism, or Socialism Sucks to see what socialism really is. It’s not some utopia where a mythical, Robin Hood-like government taxes from the productive and gives to the poor. In reality, socialism is a system where the state owns everything.
The means of production are owned by the government. All of the land is owned by the government and farms are often collectivized. The government uses brutality and gulags to enforce its will and disappears anyone who gets in its way. Sure, the market system is destroyed, but a socialist economy is, if completely effective, more or less meant to replicate a market economy, just without capitalism. Even Karl Marx admitted to that, which makes socialism seem like a market economy, just with extra steps and more government oppression.
The lesson from all that is that we conservatives need to do a much better job of teaching young Americans how socialism works and what it really is. Their picture of it should not be a kindly government agent handing out buckets of money to anyone who needs it. That is a ridiculously unrealistic perception of socialism. Their mental of socialism should be a Soviet commissar or Red Chinese “Red Guard” militia member demanding that they submit to the state and go along with collectivization and confiscation.
Furthermore, we need to teach them that wealth confiscation should not be cheered. A government powerful enough to give you anything you want, after all, is a government powerful enough to take away everything you have. That is how socialism works; the government takes everything. No one should want that; Americans should desire liberty and limited government, not welfare and government wealth redistribution schemes.
If we impart those lessons on our youth, I think things will get better and the problem of socialism on college campuses will start to recede. Yes, there are psychopaths who know who the real Che Guevara was and still want to establish a socialist order. But those are bad people who just want control, not normal people that can be reasoned with and taught the error of their ways.
I am firmly convinced that the average person, if we take the time to educate them on the truth about how socialism works, will shy away from socialist thinking. They might still support some Nordic-type welfare system, but that at least is better than outright socialism.
By: Gen Z Conservative
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