Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Science Is Settled: Socialism Has Failed

What seemed to have been the death of socialism when the Berlin Wall fell nearly 30 years ago has not been so.  Like Lucky Luciana socialism was taken for dead but has managed to survive and flourish.  According to a Gallup poll, about 35% of Americans now have a positive view of socialism. Bernie Sanders's showing in the last Democratic primary, in which he received 13.2 million votes to Clinton's 16.8 million, suggests that a large section of the Democratic Party now favors socialism. That may be even greater support than, or at least comparable support to, the 1940s, when a Fortune poll (see note on p. 341 here) found that 25% of the public favored socialism and another 35% was open minded about it.

The evidence has been in for decades: Socialism is a failure.  It has been tried, and it has failed. The chief response, the claim that"there's never been a real socialism," is vacuous. That is, it can be made with respect to any ism, social arrangement or institution. There's never been a real capitalism; there's never been a real Nazism; there's never been a real anarchism. 

The "there's never been real socialism" argument is antithetical to empirical science, which aims to falsify, prove false, hypotheses through systematic testing.  The best scientific evidence with respect to social arrangements is their real-life outcomes. There have been a number of liberal (I use the word "liberal" to mean "capitalist") societies, and there have been a number of socialist ones. The liberal societies have outperformed the socialist ones on all measures save equality when measured with broad statistical measures like the Gini coefficient. 

With respect to how well off the worst-off individual is, liberalism performs better than socialism. With respect to how well off the average person is, liberalism also performs better than socialism. When compared as to how much innovation or progress occurs, liberalism also performs better than socialism. When one compares the pattern of state violence, mass murder, and freedom of expression, socialist societies have performed worse. 

While socialism seemed like a good idea until say 1970, it has proven not to work. Why, then, are so many Americans committed to a superstitious belief in it? The superstition permeates our universities, the Democratic media, and even mainstream religious institutions.  The primitive belief that violence and redistribution are more efficient than voluntarism can explain it. Socialism is a persistent superstition because human beings are genetically tribal, and the impulse toward tribalism is thwarted in the modern world.  However, tribal arrangements impede prograss.  Socialism is the ultimate reactionary form of government.


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