A frequent question arises in discussion with people and politics. Repeatedly occuring in rhetoric is the misuse of labels that are commonly know but not understood. The question arose yesterday as to what a socialist is. I was surprised to find out after examining some early references that socialism has remained relatively unchanged for a century and a half. The crux of the theory is the distribution of capitol and capacity of a state equitably amongst the population. For instance, large scale manufacturing would be controlled by the state for the people. In its most pure form it would represent the ultimate worker owned corporation. Alas, the whole premise is flawed. As an example, what is a workers motivation to work productively? The betterment of the state? In fact, the system practically halts itself, in that what is the workers motivation to work at all? Resources are divided equally, so why work for them? Then of course the state needs to 'encourage' the workers, for the betterment of all. So you end up with forced labor. We could go on, but the idea is clear.
Now as for the label, we turn to our favorite source of wonderment, the Oxford dictionary:
1. a. One who advocates or believes in the theory of socialism; an adherent or supporter of socialism.
Ok, no great surprises there. The fun begins in the citations. The first, and I would assume very close to the originating date of the term, is from 1827.
1827 Co-operative Magazine Nov. 509 The chief question..between the modern,..Political Economists, and the Communionists or Socialists, is whether it is more beneficial that this capital should be individual or in common.
We see from this the origin of the problem. Many workers, barely off the farms, work hard and have very little to show for it. Whereas the privileged have profited greatly. So the obvious solution is to take the capitol from the rich and give it to the poor. We can be clear that this sounds nice, yet never works. And that does not imply that government should not involve itself in labor laws and increasing the standard of living for the worker. It just means that removing the capital from those who use it to create more wealth and distributing it amongst those who will consume it is self defeating. Next we have:
1833 The Crisis 31 Aug. 276/1 The Socialist, who preaches of community of goods, abolition of crime, of punishment, of magistrates, and of marriage.
Ah yes, crime and punishment. Oh, and lets get rid of marriage. Sound familiar? Redefining the family to suit your personal belief. And how do you abolish crime? Is everyone going to be happy with their equal allotment from the whole? Happiness everywhere. I don't think so. Most people are happy when they have a sense of fulfillment. And the state can not provide that. The state challenges no one personally, all are 'equal'. Equally turned into mind numbed robots who have no say and no opportunity as an individual. Lets move on:
1889 SHAW Fabian Ess. Socialism 182 The young Socialist is apt to be catastrophic in his views.
Its 60 years after the introduction of the label, and things don't look good for the socialist. What a surprise! Why, do we not hear the same litany today? Everything is the worst possible. There is no optimism anywhere amongst the liberal ranks. For some reason the socialistic ideology produces the same type of person today as it did over a hundred years ago. One final gem:
1848 W. E. FORSTER in Reid Life (1888) I. vii. 246 The worst of all Socialist plans I have seen is that all have within them..a damning desire to shirk work.
Ah! Now we find out why the world is not a socialist paradise. I find it fascinating that this obvious result of the socialist model was recognized so early. However, as self defeating as it is, the socialist agenda appeals to peoples emotion and continues to influence the western world. Everyone empathizes with the oppressed downtrodden worker. Especially if that worker is in the minority. Yet the socialist solution oppresses even further by removing freedom and trods upon the desire and hope for betterment. With enlightened vision, we can see government protecting freedom and providing opportunity. At the same time not falling into the trap of the socialist state. Now we have a better idea of what a socialist is, so go out a call a socialist a socialist.