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Why Socialism Is Still Popular

Why is socialism still so popular? A superb conference at Cato [1] recently addressed the issue with new insights and reasoning. Socialism should be discredited in this age of incredible abundance and progress: hunger has declined from 30 percent of the world’s population to some 10 percent, yet with billions more mouths to feed. Socialism’s continuing appeal is so irrational that there must be some innate support for it in the needs of the human psyche. The subject was explored by several evolutionary psychologists at Cato’s event, which was moderated by Marian L. Tupy, editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst at Cato’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

I always used to think that socialism’s appeal mainly came from envy, which was innate to human character. There’s a classic book titled Envy [2], by Helmut Schoeck, that explains the extraordinary progress of Western civilization as coming from our religions, Christianity and Judaism before it. It notes that two of the Ten Commandments strongly condemned envy—that subordinating it was vital for a society to progress. But envy is still innate. Remember the old story of a poor Russian peasant [3], whose neighbor finally owns a cow. The peasant becomes consumed with envy and cries out to God for relief. When God answers him to make a wish come true, he prays, “God, make my neighbor’s cow sicken and die.”

New knowledge of human nature delves much deeper, however. For 200,000 years humans lived in tribes as hunters and gatherers. Agriculture has only existed for some 10,000 years, and the human mind has not changed appreciably during the last 50,000 years. Evolutionary psychology (EP) helps us understand “why relatively free and fabulously wealthy societies like ours are so rare and, possible, so fragile.” (The quote and the numbers above come from a Cato paper distributed at the conference, “Capitalism and Human Nature” [4] by Will Wilkinson.)

Professor Jonathan Haidt spoke of his article “The Moral Foundations of Occupy Wall Street” [5] for the libertarian magazine Reason. He showed photographs of the leftist demonstrations, explaining that while participants promoted a contrary frame of mind, they still understood the tradeoffs between communal values and economic growth. They had slogans like “equality now, liberty later.” Their objective—having the 99 percent throw off the yoke of the 1 percent—fit with EP theories. (Haidt’s analysis and interesting visuals are in the Cato video of his speech linked above.)


Another speaker, Prof. Leda Cosmides [6], explained how primitive hunting was intrinsically difficult and dangerous. Hunters caught prey less than 40 percent of the time. This led to an ideal “communist” society of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Luck was often the reason one party returned with food and not the other. Any tribesman who was injured or became ill could only survive, along with his family, if the rest of the tribe shared the food they caught. Sharing was everything and property rights scarcely existed.

John Tooby [7], an early pioneer in EP, explained why socialism and even Marxism are still so popular in the academic world and among many young people. He said nobody rational could defend the economic performance of resource-rich but socialist Cuba and Venezuela compared to Hong Kong—where, without natural resources, gross domestic product per capita increased by 89 times from 1961 to 1997. He explained that the spontaneous order of capitalism did not reward superior professors and bureaucrats with the income and recognition that they thought they were worth, that markets make intellectuals irrelevant. He explained how the loneliness [8] of modern societies also made socialism appealing in terms of old tribal memories of a “good world,” where one was surrounded by relatives and people who “cared.” Many young people reach for a more sharing society which they imagine in socialism.

As Leda Cosmides and John Tooby put it: “The key to understanding how the modern mind works is to realize that its circuits were not designed to solve the day-to-day problems of a modern American—they were designed to solve the day-to-day problems of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.”

More about the human mind is well explained in the Cato paper linked to above by Wilkinson. It explains in detail the concepts of Cosmides and Tooby. Studying EP does not tell us what kind of society works best, but it does tell us what kind of society does not work well—think socialism and communism. EP helps us to work with human nature. It helps us “to understand that successful market liberal societies require the cultivation of certain psychological tendencies that are weak in Stone Age minds. Free capitalist societies work with human nature. But that human nature is not easy material to work with.”

Human minds are quick to define who is inside or outside their own group—think of our tribal ancestry. The disposition to think in terms of “us” versus “them” is instinctual, the reason populist and racist rhetoric always finds a ready acceptance, especially when growth slows or there are economic crises. Wilkinson explains in “Capitalism and Human Nature,” [4] in terms of EP, some of the animosity against free trade. He writes, “Positively, free trade is laudable for the way it encourages us to see members of unfamiliar groups as partners, not enemies.”

Humans form hierarchies of dominance. “Life at the bottom of the dominance heap is a raw deal … lower status males naturally form coalitions to check the power of more dominant males … to [try to] achieve relatively egalitarian distribution of resources”—think Occupy Wall Street. The human capacity for “envy is related to our difficulty in understanding the idea of gains from trade and increases in productivity unequal sharing in order to accumulate investment capital.” Socialism is about dividing existing wealth, not creating new wealth.

Equally, the zero-sum world of primitive societies (embedded in human minds) makes it very hard to focus on the “increases in total wealth through invention, investments and extended economic exchange.” Wealth through most of human history was acquired by cheating, stealing, invading one’s neighbors, or just sheer luck. This explains much of human history and the recent history of the Third World in particular. Industrialization came from Northern Europe and is even reflected in the languages. The word for getting money in English is “earn,” in German it is verdienen. Both imply work. But in the Romance languages, it is ganar in Spanish, gagne in French, and similar to Spanish in Italian. The word is the same as “to win.” That implies that work and luck are equal, or even that hard work won’t help without good luck. Historically, in most of the world capitalism meant trading, not creation of new wealth.

When I first went to work in South America in the ’60s I observed how people thought that wealth came from owning land, from owning minerals under the land, and from foreign (American) corporations. There was little credibility for the concept that wealth could be created by their own people. The success of Hong Kong, and the ideas of Ronald Reagan, Hernando de Soto [9], and Jude Wanniski [10], were principal promoters of a change in psyche, and today many Latin nations foster economic growth with lower taxes, rule of law, property rights, and free trade—e.g. supply side economics.

The Cato paper linked above explains much more in detail and is well worth reading. There are also, of course, other reasons many nations don’t prosper. Faulty electoral systems, for example, which I have written about, or foreign invasions.

Jon Basil Utley is publisher of The American Conservative.

36 Comments (Open | Close)

36 Comments To "Why Socialism Is Still Popular"

#1 Comment By interguru On September 22, 2016 @ 8:02 am

To my generation, born in 1942, socialism means the Soviet Union. To my children socialism means Sweden.

#2 Comment By mark_be On September 22, 2016 @ 9:51 am

In Flemish dialects close to the German border, the word verdienen also means to win. It is not uncommon to hear the question “Wer hat verdient?” (Who has won?) in relation to a game. Though that might be a gallicism; I’m not a specialist in the matter.

Other than that, as a self-professed social democrat, I disagree that socialism flows from envy. It flows from the recognition of the fact that much wealth was indeed accumulated through unlawful means, and then used to opress those possessing less (and often nothing at all). It flows from the realization that polities with less extreme wealth distributions are often more stable and less prone to violent revolutions. This does not mean that everything should be equalized and accumulation of wealth abolished. It means that there should be limits to how much wealth (and thus political power) any single person, family or corporation can acquire.

That Mr. Utley credits neoliberalism for the economical success of Latin American countries is rather disingenuous, too. That civil wars are not very conducive to economic growth is an understatement, and only with the end of the Cold War and the proxy conflicts between East and West could those countries stabilize and develop their economies.

And Hong Kong, well, not every country can become an economical hocus pocus special territory tax paradise located near very busy shipping lanes. That might be a libertarian’s wet dream, but it’s as equally unlikely as a communist utopia.

#3 Comment By libertarian jerry On September 22, 2016 @ 11:13 am

Socialism is all about 2 emotions. 1.envy 2. the lust for power. Rational people understand that a free market economy with property rights,limited government and the rule of law produces more prosperity for more people then any other system yet devised. But still,in that market system,there are those that either cannot or refuse to be productive in the creation of wealth. In a competitive market some people because they work harder,or are smarter or just plain lucky add more value to the economy and thus are rewarded more for their efforts.
Why is it that Hillary Clinton and her Progressive(socialist)cohorts keep asking to see Donald Trump’s tax returns. Like he has something to hide and be ashamed of. Maybe Clinton is trying to appeal to the class envy in her supporters hearts. Like “look at Donald Trump,why didn’t he pay his “fair share” while you the “honest” tax serf paid all that money?”
Its playing on the envy of the lazy and non-productive in order to garner votes to attain power. If Hitler could gain power by playing the envy game why not Hillary? Thus the system,democratic capitalism that advanced mankind in 2 centuries more then what the systems that proceeded it could produce in a 100 centuries is belittled and destroyed for the sake of the envious and power lust in the hearts of man. What a waste.

#4 Comment By Rabiner On September 22, 2016 @ 11:25 am

” today many Latin nations foster economic growth with lower taxes, rule of law, property rights, and free trade—e.g. supply side economics.”

What you mean is many Latin nations foster economic growth through more effective government. Taxes has the smallest of effects on economic growth out of the 4 items you mention and is the only one specific to ‘supply side economics’.

Also supply side economics is a subset of economic theory and one that has shown to be ineffective at providing more equitable outcomes in society even if there is economic growth.

#5 Comment By JLF On September 22, 2016 @ 12:21 pm

Yet another reminder: Revolutions do not spring from the lower classes; rather revolutions come from the frustrated expectations of the middle classes. As long as there is the relief valve of economic (hence, class) growth, society will allow the upper classes to enjoy their lot. Block that relief valve, however, and you risk an explosion.

It is generally the same in urban neighborhoods as it is in the broader society, though there are other factors, like drugs and the gangster culture, that act as narcotics, stifling the reactions of those affected. And the same mechanisms keep the destruction of periodic unrest confined to the ghetto.

#6 Comment By colinrossmcarthur On September 22, 2016 @ 12:35 pm

TAC generally reads a lot better than this article. The piece is reliant on a nebulous and ill defined “Marxist” or “socialist” strawman to reach its superficial conclusion that any bent of communitarianism, collectivism, welfarism, or social democracy, is somehow “irrational” in the face of the all-conquering, utility maximizing automaton Anglo-Saxon homo economicus.

This is the same rhetorical approach employed by certain progressive or liberal commentators when they define strawman conservatism as some sort of psychological disorder, to which dangerous and ignorant authoritarian personality types (probably also fitting the white, male, and old demo) are particularly predisposed.

As another commentator noted, for many today the word socialism doesn’t conjure the vile, totalitarian Soviet Union, but rather social-democratic and communitarian models that seek to balance the prosperity, efficiency and purpose created by private market activity, with the perceived need to protect the vulnerable, retain valuable social linkages and community, as well as taming the dangerous externalities generated by homo economicus in his daily business. Moreover, such lines of thought also recognize that not everything of “value” is generated from private markets, and that politics that don’t bow down at the altar of the free market can help serve these values through the democratic process.

This form of progressive, or leftist thinking is a much more comprehensive and challenging rival to modes of conservative thought – and requires serious engagement. Not pithy and self-satisfied screeds. Keeping writing this way and good luck retaining the great mass of young people to your political program.

#7 Comment By WAB On September 22, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

The essay and Wilkinson’s article are curious and interesting exercises. The initial predicate is that the belief in socialism is somehow irrational. That there are good evolutionary reasons why a “sharing” economy might be preferred to capitalism but that the success of capitalism mitigates against that “naturalistic” argument.

Wilkinson’s article begins with the proposition that Marx’s definition of human nature as “the ensemble of social relations” is somehow illegitimate and then provides what he believes is a counter-example in the North Korean “pine needle” example that seems to have no corollary in the idea of social relations but rather in biology. EP may argue a fundamental biological substrate in human relations but it does not reject the importance of nurture as an element of those relations. The notion that people find their humanity in community is not just Marx’s idea. Aristotle noted long ago that men divorced from the polis are no better than beasts. That indeed, as human beings or social animals, we are defined and define ourselves through “an ensemble of human relations”. This is fairly unremarkable and one wonders why he emphasizes it given that the substance of the article affirms the idea.

Wilkinson notes that “We cannot expect to draw any straightforward positive political lessons from evolutionary psychology. It can tell us something about the kind of society that will tend not to work, and why… it cannot tell us which of the feasible forms of society we ought to aspire to. We cannot, it turns out, infer the naturalness of capitalism from the manifest failure of communism to accommodate human nature.” One should note that the failure of a particular form of communism or socialism can be predicated on the notion that it does not accommodate “human nature” but one cannot infer all forms of communism and socialism do not accommodate human nature; it does indicate that they are not systems that generate great wealth. That is an entirely different evaluative category than which society “works”. In any event, Mr. Utley remarks that “EP does not tell us what kind of society works best, but it does tell us what kind of society does not work well—think socialism and communism”. Which might be news to Danish and Nordic citizens who consistently score higher on measures of happiness and well-being than capitalist Americans.

Wilkinson goes on to describe the hierarchical and coalitional face-to-face nature of small “hunter-gatherer” tribes, sharing economies, or what Burke might have referred to as the “little platoons”. It is when he gets to the concept of “envy”, the ground of socialism and communism, as chiefly the difficulty humans have in understanding the virtues of capitalism that we can feel Mr. Utley putting his thumb on the scales. Envy can be understood as low-dominance groups seeking rewards as Wilkinson defines it or, to the EP mind, it can be understood as social groups attempting to maintain a “hunter-gatherer” sharing ethic. That distinction is elided by Utley. Human empathy or the “hunter-gatherer” mind naturally rebels at the sight of grinding poverty in the midst of great wealth and it apparently takes a degree from the Chicago School of Economics to quiet that nagging sense of unfairness.

On another note, Mr. Utley infers that the notion of private property was somehow antithetical to the idea of a sharing economy, i.e., “Sharing was everything and property rights scarcely existed”. Well, one has to ask, what “rights” did exist? I imagine that primitive hunter-gatherer societies were not completely confiscatory and did have a rough sense of ownership. It is one thing to defend that right of ownership and another entirely to base rights of ownership on a Lockean idea of limitless accumulated wealth.

Mr. Utley goes on to conclude that, “The success of Hong Kong, and the ideas of Ronald Reagan, Hernando de Soto, and Jude Wanniski, were principal promoters of a change in psyche, and today many Latin nations foster economic growth with lower taxes, rule of law, property rights, and free trade—e.g. supply side economics”. I’m not sure how Ronald Reagan is elevated to the pantheon of economic intellectuals but it makes it pretty clear where Utley wants to end up. How “supply side economics” are conflated with “lower taxes, rule of law, property rights, and free trade” is puzzling but at this point we are far from any consideration of how evolutionary psychology provides a substrate for human flourishing and have entered the realm of constructed ideology.

#8 Comment By Joan On September 22, 2016 @ 1:22 pm

Another reason that socialism is still so popular is that the capitalism most common in this world of corruptible humans is not a a free enterprise system featuring “lower taxes, rule of law, property rights, and free trade,” but some flavor of crony capitalism in which economic opportunity is only available through family and friendship connections to those who already have it. If you look at countries that experienced Marxist revolutions, the economies you see in the years leading up to those revolutions, when Marxism was growing underground, bear a closer resemblance to feudalism than to any prosperous modern economy. Russia under the last Tsar actually put a law in place forbidding upward mobility. Even where no formal law exists, the impulse to pull up the ladders will eventually create a situation in which the fatalism of the South Americans you mentioned meeting in the ’60s, doubting “that wealth could be created by their own people,” are not unrealistic. The elite will have blocked off most of the avenues for material advancement on the part of the common people.

And don’t think it can’t happen here. The amazing showing of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential race clearly shows that a lot of voters think there’s been some pulling up of ladders in this country, that this isn’t the land of opportunity the way it used to be, that under the veneer of cooked statistics, significant numbers of people are experiencing downward mobility that is the doing of a 1% whose wealth soars to unprecedented heights.

#9 Comment By I Don’t Matter On September 22, 2016 @ 1:37 pm

A perfect example of searching for evidence fitting a desirable pre-established theory. “Evolutionary psychology” has no scientific basis, and has been used by everyone to add “scientific credibility” to pet worldviews. Worthless.

#10 Comment By Peter On September 22, 2016 @ 2:29 pm

Interesting article.
“Wealth through most of human history was acquired by cheating, stealing, invading one’s neighbors, or just sheer luck.”
Fact is that generating wealth through “complex financial tools” is related to one or two of the above.
The renewed appeal of socialism relates to the fact that a few of the 1% forgot the adage “noblesse oblige”. When Warren Buffett speaks about his tax rate being lower than his secretary’s, he remembers this adage. Others do not.

#11 Comment By JonF On September 22, 2016 @ 2:49 pm

Oh, good grief! No one compares his life to life 100 or 1000 years ago! People compare their lives to A) the lives of other people in the here-and-now and B) their own lives within living memory. Yes, the latter is subject to the rose-colored glasses effect, and the former is subject to distortion by green-colored glasses, AKA envy. However simply stating “Things overall are doing well” can hide a lot of trouble: averages can be skewed by a handful of outliers, as per the usual example: You me and Bill gates are in a room together; the average income is in the billions, but that does make all; three of us billionaires.

“Hard work will not help without good luck”. The author is living in a very narrow bubble if he does not realize that this is true for millions of people in the United States today as well– and probably has always been true. The ancient wisdom that “Fortuna regnet omnia” (Fortune rules all things) was perhaps exaggerated, but it still holds more than just a kernel of truth.

#12 Comment By bt On September 22, 2016 @ 3:03 pm

Let’s make a more practical observation. And let’s state at the outset that most voters / citizens are not very political or ideological or informed about Marxist theory.

Free market capitalism usually ends up looking like a game of Monopoly. We’ve all played Monopoly, and it always ends the same way. One of the players ends up owning everything. And it you are paying any attention, free market capitalism works out more of less the same way. Once you own enough things, the money you bankroll allows you to buy all the other things and, not coincidentally, to capture the capture political power as well.

If Socialism is on upswing in America, you should attribute it to the fact that is precisely what the last 40 years has given America, because for all of this time we have followed a free-market / non-government model. And now the rich have more, everyone else has less. Things like expenditure of money on public colleges is today half of what it was in 1980 – People see this and sooner or later they connected the dots. If you think government is bad, you like this and you think that Scott Walker is great leader. If you have children who can’t afford college, it sucks. It’s not that complicated.

People’s attraction to socialism is not based on some high-minded study of Marx v. Hayek. It is rooted in the very real understanding that unless there is a countering force to the acquisition of money, power and influence it ends up badly for the everyone but the wealthy.

#13 Comment By Adam Kolasinski On September 22, 2016 @ 3:26 pm

interguru: you should explain to your children that Sweden isn’t socialist by any stretch of the imagination.

#14 Comment By grumpy realist On September 22, 2016 @ 3:56 pm

When the people who claim to speak for Capitalism are people like Martin Shkreli, it’s no wonder socialism starts looking attractive.

Police the people within your own temple FIRST, Catoists.

#15 Comment By KD On September 22, 2016 @ 4:09 pm

1. Socialism is undefined.

2. If we view Scandinavia as “Socialist”, the Scandinavian nations beat the US on about every measure of quality of life.

3. There is no discussion of the role of debt in the social order and economy, notwithstanding ancient as well as modern discussions of this phenomenon. Interesting because if you buy the Minsky’s hypothesis, debt is the cause of the 2008/9 crash, rather than some strange and inexplicable anomaly as the Neoclassicals would have it.

Of course, if you consider debt, you have to start looking at rentier capitalists, and ask the question, why should large % of national income be flowing to a group who are essentially social parasites?

What would happen to society if a group of aliens appeared and carried off the staff of Goldman-Sachs, in contrast to say the NYPD?

#16 Comment By cesskar On September 22, 2016 @ 4:50 pm

You talk of progress several times, even associating it with premodern times…

#17 Comment By Tzx4 On September 22, 2016 @ 6:18 pm

Collective efforts empower people. Somewhere I read that this is a Chinese saying; “one man cannot build a house, but ten men ca build ten houses. I would posit that insurance is a type of socialism. If auto insurance was unavailable, I could not afford the risks of owning one. The socialism of how car insurance empowers me as an individual.
We, like several other species of primates are absolutely social creatures.
We could not be where we are without community and collective behaviors. I find this right wing notion that all men are an island in a society to be false and wrong.

#18 Comment By Gregory On September 22, 2016 @ 8:40 pm

Don’t worry. The American public hates socialism. Just the other day, I heard an older gentleman ranting about it in a gun shop.

Then I wondered if he’s like the rest of the American public: he hates socialism but doesn’t want Social Security or Medicare eliminated. Or if he’s like a citizen of Alaska: he hates socialism but still takes his checks from the Alaska Permanent Fund.

It turns out that a lot of the opposition to socialism in this country is based upon the suspicion that it might be going to “those people over there.” People aren’t opposed when socialism supports their grandparents or themselves.

#19 Comment By twiceaday On September 23, 2016 @ 12:02 am

I wouldn’t normally bother, but this is just so full of horrible inaccuracies that I had to say something.

“the human mind has not changed appreciably during the last 50,000 years”

It’s changed radically in just the last 10 thanks to the emergence of tablets and smartphones. The human mind isn’t full developed until the early 20s; the ways we interact with the world early in life have a profound effect on our minds. There’s plenty of psychological research showing that overuse of digital devices at a young age adversely affects brain development. (I’d link to some studies but I’m assuming they’d be blocked to prevent spam.)

“Luck was often the reason one party returned with food and not the other.”

And luck continues to be a major reason why some businesses succeed while others fail.

“the economic performance of resource-rich but socialist Cuba and Venezuela compared to Hong Kong”

You’re comparing a city to 2 countries, which is absurd. San Francisco has a much higher GDP than Montana despite far more regulations and far fewer resources.

“Socialism is about dividing existing wealth, not creating new wealth.”

And so is capitalism.

“Wealth through most of human history was acquired by cheating, stealing, invading one’s neighbors, or just sheer luck.”

So the development of little things like agriculture, fire, and the wheel didn’t create wealth? Ok.

“hard work won’t help without good luck”

Finally a bit of truth.

#20 Comment By Winston On September 23, 2016 @ 12:23 am

America has less upward mobility than feudal- led Pakistan. The boomers have not saved and will be marooned in the suburban homes when they cannot drive. Occupy represented by youth who are hurting.
Small segment of the country has taken lions share of economic benefits.
Socialism will arrive with a vengeance in US.
Socio-democractic countries provide improved quality of life to their population and still beat US at innovation!


Why Germany Dominates the U.S. in Innovation
Why is America’s Manufacturing Job Loss Greater than Other Industrialized Countries?

#21 Comment By Jeremy Wells On September 23, 2016 @ 1:08 am

“Socialism is Still Popular” because Capitalism has always failed to provide a universal minimum standard of living for humanity.

The global warming, climate change, ecological crises are caused by the toxic energy industries (oil, coal, gas, tar sands, nuclear), are allowed to make profit while destroying the planet. All privately owned, as well as state-owned, toxic energy industries must be socialized and either shut down or converted to non-toxic energy. The survival of humanity demands this.

Approximately 60 individuals worldwide own and control as much wealth as the bottom 3.5 BILLION PEOPLE.

Capitalism, run-amok greed, is destroying itself and humanity and the planet along with it.
Read daily the World Socialist Web Site [13]

Listen to Richard D. Wolff rdwolff.com Democaracy at work

#22 Comment By Stephen On September 23, 2016 @ 1:09 am

“Socialism” is anything I don’t like and that doesn’t benefit me directly.

If you object to blatant cronyism and outright criminal conduct by financial elites, it’s only because you’re envious. If you believe in helping your fellow man, you just haven’t evolved sufficiently. Not like the highly advanced übermenchen at the Cato Institute.

Libertarianism is, pardon the expression, nothing but a circle-jerk for nerds and misanthropes. Sadly, some of these people, like Greenspan, get a chance to implement their Randian fantasies as public policy. We may never recover.

#23 Comment By Clint On September 23, 2016 @ 12:56 pm

Socialism is about dividing existing wealth, not creating new wealth.

Charitable fellow man help should come more from family, churches, institutions, groups, affiliations, local and state government and less from federal government.

#24 Comment By bacon On September 23, 2016 @ 1:43 pm

A post filled with science, studies so erudite as to be arcane, but to me unconvincing. Maybe it’s much simpler. Capitalism when relatively unfettered by consistently enforced regulations produces economic conditions so brutal that people look for something different.

#25 Comment By Alex Ingrum On September 23, 2016 @ 3:08 pm

Socialism appeals to younger people because the see the massively growing wealth inequality gap, the usurpation of democracy with oligarchy, and the never-ending wars for resources that capitalism has wrought. Capitalism is amoral, as property is all that matters. It has no regard for the injustices of history, no place for a compassionate ethics of unselfish restraint, love, and reconciliation. Capitalism is spiritually vacuous.

There is a reason that countries that are more democratic socialist like Canada, Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand, etc. tend to be much happier than the U.S. or U.K. They value community, caring for your neighbor, and making sure that the poorest and most disenfranchised can lead lives of meaning and dignity. Why was Bernie Sanders so immensely popular with the younger generation? The Cato Institute and the Ayn Randian acolytes need to ask themselves that.

#26 Comment By wellxx On September 23, 2016 @ 4:27 pm

The model for non-socialism is Hong Kong? If only all of us could live next door to the most populace country on earth, willing to devastate its natural environment while employing hundreds of millions of its citizens at slave-labor rates in service to American industry…

#27 Comment By James McClure On September 23, 2016 @ 9:19 pm

Related: [14]

#28 Comment By Winston On September 23, 2016 @ 9:46 pm

wellxx actually China wages are not very low now
‘Made in China’ labor is not actually that cheap

China’s appears to have followed the Singapore route, low wages first stage (unfortunately some US states, never got off the first stage):

The Low-Wage Strategy in the South: Is It the Future for Your State?

#29 Comment By Compound F On September 23, 2016 @ 10:53 pm

Your understanding of evolution is bonkers.

Have you even heard of endosymbiosis? Mitochondria, Chloroplasts?

Dear Gawd, protect us from your political spin!

You appear to know nothing of anything.

#30 Comment By Winston On September 24, 2016 @ 12:49 am

By the way, roots of American decline gi back to the 1960s.
“In fact deterioration in the production competence of U.S. industries had been well under way since 1960 and was reported in some detail by 1965.”
[17]. vanderbilt.edu/index.php/ ameriquests/article/view/127/ 136
Chaper 3 – Deindustrializing the US: The War Against American Workers

US basically killed economic base for cold war.
“the United States government helped dismantle its own economy in order to get an upper hand in the Cold War.”
How We Got Here: Stein, Cowie, and Arrighi on the Post-Industrial Economy
See also:
Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies

#31 Comment By Geoff Guth On September 24, 2016 @ 1:53 am

Shorter article:

Q: Why doesn’t everyone think like I do?

A: Because only I am so advanced as to have transcended the muck of my genetics!

#32 Comment By Winston On September 24, 2016 @ 2:28 am

Consider: Cronyisn as the Bridge from Laissez-Faire to Socialism

The Bridge from Laissez-Faire to Socialism
Cronyism remains unchecked in the world’s largest economy

Are baby boomers turning out to be the worst generation?

#33 Comment By John Uebersax On September 24, 2016 @ 3:04 pm

I suspect one topic insufficiently considered in the current debate is the role of innate spirituality and extra-rational wisdom in cognition.

Please let me refer folks to Iain McGilchrist’s book, The Master and His Emissary for an important perspective on what’s wrong with the modern mind.
Contrary to the modern academic consensus, I can easily believe that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were smarter than us, and preferred anarchism to socialism. In Book 2 of the Republic, Plato seems to say something similar.

We already have an instinct to share. What we need is to get back in touch with our authentic nature — not further dissociate it by constructing socialist institutions the control our thoughts and lives and diminish our humanity.

#34 Comment By Roger Hicks On September 25, 2016 @ 4:51 am

In my experience, there is no greater and more deeply satisfying pleasure than sharing my excess wealth with friends and family. This, I believe, rather than envy, is the evolutionary source of socialism.

Its evolutionary value in the tribal society that existed before the first states and civilisations emerged from it is obvious. From a Darwinian perspective, it is the survival and well-being of the tribe that is paramount, taking precedence over the personal interests of the individual.

The state conflates and confounds very different aspects of the original tribal environment in which human nature evolved, long before the first states and civilisations emerged from it, with the modern “nation state” now deceitfully posing as our tribe or nation (intra- and inter-tribal environment) itself, while at the same time facilitating society’s SELF-exploitation (as an extra-tribal environment, on a par with the natural environment) to the personal advantage of its ruling elites and favoured (especially wealthy and academic/formerly priestly) clients, at the expense of society at large and its long-term survival. This is why all past states and civilisations (ancient Greek and Roman civilisation being the most pertinent) have declined and disappeared. It is why our own civilisation, which has blossomed like non-before it, is on course to self-destruct in the decades ahead.

Most people scoff at my analysis, but I think it is pretty sound. EP can also explain why they scoff, our brain having presumably evolved to want to maintain the (socio-economic) environment on which it depends and has been successful in, especially in respect to social status.

Socialism has aways failed, because of the very nature of the state which seeks to impose or implement it.

Capitalism works better, but only in the sort to medium term, before it self-destructs.

Why have academics failed to recognise this?

Like their medieval predecessors and counterparts, they are themselves privileged clients and employees of the state, with a massive personal self-interest (subconscious more than conscious) in rationalising and defending its role, self-image (as our “nation”) and ideologies (social, political, economic and racial, formerly religious), on which the state bases its claim to moral and knowledgeable authority.

My “website” links to a blog in which I elaborate on these ideas.

#35 Comment By Howard On September 25, 2016 @ 11:54 am

There are two kinds of envy. The one says, “you got that thing,,and I didn’t, so I’m going destroy that thing of yours.” That kind of envy leans left. The other kind says,”you’ve got maybe less than I have, but you haven’t ‘paid your dues’ for what you have, and I’ve ‘paid my dues’ for what I have, so you shouldn’t have even what you do have.” This kind of envy leans “right” not in the sense that it’s part of any conservative ideology, but emotionally it leans “right,” and conservatism has at no time had any political success in this country except when it allied with this line of sentiment.

#36 Comment By Jevioso On May 11, 2017 @ 6:33 pm

Socialism isn’t really that important, if anything, focusing on it, distracts people from the nature of it, which Eric Hoffer pointed out more than 40 years ago. It simply stems from a desire of the literati, clerks, intellectuals etc, to take the realms of society and drive it, in whatever direction they seek fit. It’s been like this since the French Revolution, at the very least.

Socialists believe that if they were in power, they could control and guide society, in such a way that not only will all be rich and there would be no inequality, but also, there would be no war or exploiting fat cats.

Socialists are merely wannabe philosopher-kings, sparked by the ideas of the french revolution and it’s aftermath. It’s just a matter of how much ambition they have to be in power and in charge of directing society, that separates one from another.