Let’s start with the things that are appealing about socialism:
– injustice: certainly, there is great injustice in the world that can be traced to men who have wealth and power using them to rob, pillage and manipulate poor people. Socialism makes reasonable claims to mitigate this injustice;
– stupidity: vast amounts of time, money and effort are spent trying to sell more hamburgers, more sticks of deodorant, and in general trying to convince people that their next impulse purchase will somehow make their life better. Even stupider are the vast economic resources devoted to fulfilling these newly-created delusions. Socialism proposes to mitigate this stupidity, and to make our economic world more rational.
And that’s about it.
And I could imagine going along with this IF – big if – the first and foremost efforts of socialist were directed towards creating a true democracy, or even if every socialist were to simply admit that the whole concept of socialism can only work if the government that controls the economy is of, by and for the people.
But no. The efforts to put yet more and more of the economy under the control of the government is never accompanied by any acknowledgment that the government is not really democratic, but that some people with money and power get what they want while the vast many get the shaft. Let alone any proposal to do anything about it.
At what point, to take an especially egregious example, do we take the Treasury department away from Goldman Sachs? At what point do the Socialists even admit that Goldman is de facto the national bank that sets national economic policy for the benefit of Goldman? Sure, the more Marxists end of the pool would say that the solution is to socialize Goldman – but what, exactly, would that mean when the government that would be taking Goldman over is being driven by Goldman?
The two fundamental problems are these: you’d have to reform the government first and make it profoundly democratic so that we, the people, could really and truly fire anyone in the government, dissolve or defund any department or program in short order, AND have the process by which we do so permanently freed from manipulation. Otherwise, all we’re doing when we ‘make progress toward socialism’ is handing people in government more power to make sure they stay in power.
The second problem traces back to Marx’s denial of human nature – what if people aren’t soft clay that can be remade into whatever form suits today’s purposes? What if not all behaviors, instincts, and customs are the mere result of social conditioning? What if people choose? What if people – all people – at least sometimes choose badly? Selfishly? Stupidly? What if the human capacities for self justification and self delusion are as infinite as they appear to be?
In short, what if the idea that socialists, unlike all other men, are not the genius saints they clearly think they are? When your favorite words for your opponents are ‘stupid’ and ‘evil’, what other conclusion can one reach?
So, if socialists want my support, they will need to explain how it is that we get from our current state to a strong, resilient democracy full of well-informed voters with the time, inclination and ability to govern BEFORE we hand over any more power, and what other checks are to be put on the eventual holders of power besides ‘just trust us.’ Without these things, the injustice and stupidity admittedly present in the current arrangement will not be ameliorated, just rearranged like so many deck chairs. At best. Until then, based on my reading of history and human nature, it’s far, far better idea to keep as much power out of the governments’ hands as can safely be done.