An In-Depth Look at Socialism
by Tom Anderson
Socialist ideas in general and in form of political influence, ideology, and open or implicit agendas of political parties and many
organizations, are a major paradigm in todays society, important enough to take a close look at them. This is an attempt at
understanding and analyzing socialism in detail, unbiased, and from all perspectives.
First, we have to find an appropriate definition of the term socialism, which turns out to be quite a problem. Many different political
groups and ideologists have given the word many different, often even conflicting or contrary definitions. The fact that the definition
of socialism is so vague, is a problem, because it can be used to describe many different systems and doctrines, and to a certain degree,
the term can be exploited by totalitarian systems, perhaps the worst one being Hitler's national socialism, a criminal system which
today no advocate of socialism would associate with his definition of socialism. However, it contained social aspects, like short-term
job creation through state-owned economy, expropriations, and so on. This is a reason why today, certain people who are opposed to
socialism in general, actually associate socialism with fascism.
The dictionary definitions of socialism are: "A term applied about 1872, at first in ridicule, to a group of German political economists
who advocated state aid for the betterment of the working classes.", and more general: "A theory or system of social reform which
contemplates a complete reconstruction of society, with a more just and equitable distribution of property and labor. In popular usage,
the term is often employed to indicate any lawless, revolutionary social scheme."
We can see that the term is loosely defined. Intelligent people and non-conformists, such as atheists, freedom advocates, and other
famous non-political figures have often advocated socialism, primarily as a synonym for social change. For some people, socialism is
just a culture of utopianism, change, revolution, or protest against the current system, however, without definite, final identifications
of negative factors and root causes of problems in current societies.
There are a few main points that characterize an idea as socialistic, however, on each of these points, you will be able to find socialist
organizations and parties who strictly oppose it. Some criteria of a socialist society include that it uses no money and possesses no
market system, that all goods are freely accessible to everyone, and that work is voluntary. Original socialism includes the abandoning
of organized religion and its structures. Also, no classes and no leaders would exist and there would be no state; instead, everyone
controls society. Additionally, many socialist movements claim that a "real" socialist system has never been established before.
Although socialisms' main ideas are idealistic, even revolutionary, because of their differences from existing systems, practical
problems arise from the nature of these points. The nature of such ideas is that they all describe far-away, utopian standards,
however, no concrete approaches or strategies for reaching them. Such ideals carry the danger of being exploited, suiting an image of
the public good or the higher cause, being pursued by *any* means justifying the aim.
For the reasons above, evaluating the main points of socialism objectively, is hard. Socialism carries ideals, and a theoretical strategy,
but factual plans backed by hard proofs and previous historical successes are not laid out consequently with economical-like precision
and certainty. A social system with no market and no capitalistic economy has indeed never existed before in an advanced
civilization. One can argue that therefore, in such a system, everything would be different. But the question is, is it even possible to
fully establish a stable society without profit- driven trade and market dynamics. Since there are no historical examples, the proof of
the possibility is left to anyone making the claim that it is possible. On the other hand, imperfect, but relatively stable societies of
today, are proven to function within a traditional half-free politically controlled market- system. But logically, this is not a proof that
the market/free-trade aspect is to blame for the imperfection of current societies. Claims in any directions are incomplete without
Taking a look at historical influences of socialist ideas more close to the "real" socialism in our society, in the past century, one can
find distinguished scenarios, one of the worst being the oppressive/big-brother state of East Germany, whose political leaders claimed
a system of real socialism according to original ideals of Engels, but systematically ignored and criminally violated citizens rights
while trying to maintain illusions of freedom and justice.
Perhaps the best scenario in which socialism played a role were the international student revolts in 1968, some of which openly
endorsed socialist concepts. This movement confronted some aspects of the state and of society which supported conformity, tyranny
of the majority, and limitations of personal freedoms, for example, unlimited freedom of speech. It was interesting, because in its
early stages, it opposed not a specific political party or system, but state/government-controlled traditional society itself, bringing
forth not just socialist, but individualist concepts.
Sadly, today, socialism is often associated with pro-state and pro-regulation campaigns, which target small businesses or "social
injustice" in general, without boiling down the problem to definite points. Modern anti-business-like socialist thinking attacks
blindly, without taking time to identify the problem. That problem can hardly be private business per se, as it is simply a dynamic
inherent in society, but a productive element, not one based on force, fraud or violence. The real problem, against which some of the
acceptable socialist movements have been fighting, is the corruption of society. One has to understand why and where corruption
exists, before defining the enemy. Corruption is a result of unearned wealth and power, directed against the masses, for personal,
illegitimate benefits. Power corrupts, ultimate power corrupts ultimately. Why are systems like in Cuba, Communist Korea, the
Soviet Union, East Germany, and most other "socialist" dictatorships, much more corrupt than western democracies as they exist in
Europe and North America? Because these states are based and depend on much more power, which is gained un-earned by their
leaders and exploited in form of force and arbitrary laws over their innocent citizens.
How, then, is corruption in business created? Consider that production originally has little to do with force, but mostly with
competition. Normal businesses regularly outcompete each other while trying to generate profit, but don't intentionally harm or use
force against their customers, since it would not contribute to their profit. However, as regulations of economy through government
force increases, businesses can profit much easier by exploiting or collaborating with the government leaders than profiting through
competition. A powerful, forceful system of government suddenly gives society, including businesses, many reasons for supporting
force against the individual - if any governments use force-backed laws to maintain control, political lobbies can and will exploit the
existing system for personal profit.
Socialism does include the idea of a society controlled by everyone, instead of corruption-creating parasitic elites. Such a society
would ultimately be lacking a state and classes. How, then, could such a society achieve its goals? What many of todays advocates of
socialism don't see is the fact that common goals of society are goals that are beneficial to all individuals; therefore, it is doubtful that
central force and control is even necessary in a social system - or, if common goals will be reached naturally, if pursued volitionally by
individuals or small groups at the same time, by the productives of society, instead of an artificial administration. A socialist system
in which everyone controls society might be a laissez faire system in the original sense, but probably not chaotic "anarchy" (although
it might, according to the original meaning of anarchy: no rulership). Without a state, governments could still exist, as local
administrations, or volitional groups of productives, who administrate only fundamental necessities of a human civilization - e.g.
protection from physical aggression through volitionally accepted security forces.
If socialism could eliminate corruption through eliminating force of the state, what about the goal that nowadays is proclaimed as the
primary aspect of socialism - the solving of social problems ('social' meaning: support of the poor and needy) through politics? If you
think about how politics "solve" problems, and about existing approaches of politics "solving" social problems, this point becomes
very questionable. Popular solutions against poverty mean to fund movements against poverty and social problems through nothing
worse than force of the state - NOT volitional efforts of society - by accumulating wealth, and power from society to the state,
through taxation systems, and possibly, expropriations. Many modern advocates will agree to this practice, but it actually does not
solve the problems, but worsens them, through dynamics similar to the USA's "War On Drugs", and dynamics which justify any
means by the aims. But through forceful control in any form, instead of volitional contribution, endless opportunities for corruption
are naturally created by the accumulation of unearned power for the initiators of force - no matter what goal is pursued.
This brings us to socialist principles of common ownership and systems without money. Albeit it is possible that future societies will
exist where material property and money will become unimportant - or where, through advanced technologies, everyone can easily
obtain all property required for a good life - property and money should never be controlled. The reason is that control of property,
money, and economy requires forceful control - there is no other way of making the richest people deliver goods to the poorest. With
that control, possibilities for exploiting and benefitting through the use of government force would be created, with it, the
exploitation of money, wealth and laws for the public good, and creation of bogus welfare projects that never genuinely solve
problems like poverty. But what, then, is the solution? The solution is simply, to maintain a forceless society, comprised of individuals
contributing volitionally. By eliminating corruption and possibility of artificial coercion, massive unearned wealth could no longer be
accumulated. In the long term, only self-earned wealth and property could exist, but not wealth "created" out of unjustly draining
individuals or minorities. And money should exist and be used volitionally, without restricting economy to money-driven systems by
the state. Money is not the root of all evil, but was originally just invented to represent amounts of wealth and values. In a corrupt
society, wealth and values are drained from the productive people, and so is money, which creates an image of money itself standing
for corruption and social problems, which is not actually the case.
Some of the modern socialist systems admit that they would only work in a world with perfect people, but the problem is that too
many people make mistakes, are greedy, and egoistic in reality. In a social system which is not controlled by force, all kinds of people
could exist and prosper, because no-one would have any privileges of using force to gain unearned benefits. Consider problems with
big corrupt corporations, in a system where force is legal for the government, and silently exploited by lobbies. For example, take Bill
Gates and Microsoft, often attacked, especially on the Internet. The problem is not really the wealth that Microsoft has accumulated
because of producing and selling desired products, from which a huge amount of people through the world have clearly benefitted.
Despite any personal opinions, you will have to admit that Gates is capable of producing many useful and necessary values for society.
The only factual problem is, that Microsoft products aren't perfect (but, what is?), but there are only few comparable alternatives to
Microsoft products in many areas, especially for professional uses. It is a known fact that Microsoft has gained its early economical
advantages through support by and cooperating with the US government, benefitting through international trading privileges, while
complying with requirements of agencies like the NSA, while other competitors had to market on their own, and were even restricted
by the US government. If you were a Microsoft executive officer, having the chance to profit highly through aggressive business
strategies, made possible through the early-years government support, you wouldn't act differently. Naturally, you would go for the
maximum benefits. Egoism and the exploiting of opportunities are just human nature. Such attributes are only harmful together with
unearned power through force. In a forceless society, today's big companies would have faced much more early competition, and
would have needed to naturally improve their products more, offering the maximum value they could, or risk that other people would
make better inventions and products. A totally unregulated computer industry would have advanced even more rapidly than our
slightly-regulated computer industry, and would have yielded better and more efficient products, including better operating systems.
Can socialism ultimately improve society and help the productive working class? The easier question to answer is, Can the state
ultimately improve society and help the productive working class? Even Karl Marx realized that the idea and system of the state is
conceptually wrong, and opposed it. Humans like to follow authorities, for the sake of comfortability, and they generally do, until the
authorities they follow exploit and dump them, because even "authorities" like the state, can only consist of smaller or bigger groups
of people, who aren't more moral, wise, or reliable than anyone else.
Should ideas that are called socialist generally be rejected? Most probably not. But consider a few examples about how terms like
socialism, patriotism, nationalism, justice, public good, can be smartly exploited. Should people, generally, try to label and associate
ideas with existing ideologies, if we take into account the potential of abuse of such terms?
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of this text, perhaps you still associate socialism with the negative meanings it has for you. In
that case, why not just dump socialism as a meaningless word? What is really important are the ideas that stand behind such words,
and the question, if such ideas stand for improvement of society towards freedom and solving problems, instead of creating problems.
Nowadays, endless consideration about philosophies and ideologies is "out". Maybe it is for a good reason. Acting on and realizing
what you know is right is much better.
But perhaps, you are not satisfied because you've associated socialism with something you endorse but which actually harms society.
Some people associate socialism with things that are already inherent in our society more than enough, which silently cause
stagnation and problems while even seeming to solve them. Certain dishonest and irrational dynamics, that are barely described, are
identified by some people as socialistic. Those include group thinking, and collectivism (as in sacrifice/ exploitation-of-the-good
parasitism, not in seeing society as a collective of free individuals), mafia-like dishonesties, conformism, and polarization instead of
individuality. Don't be insulted by these associations, but they implicitly exist in some viewpoints of socialism. The meaning of
important words and terms are constantly changed, and associated with new paradigms, and sometimes associated with harmful ideas,
by people or movements who dishonestly benefit from them.
In any way, valid ideas will evolve, while destructive ideas will stagnate, and never really change, although they sometimes appear in
new forms. Valid ideas based on socialism also evolve, for example, traditional social dynamics evolve towards more efficient and free
volitional synergy. New combinations of ideas also manifest, and without making an evaluation, such trends include: Transhumanist
Socialism, Contractual Socialism, even "Capitalism Nature Socialism" and "Market Socialism".
Solutions and answers are never automatic, and real long-term solutions naturally require constant effort and thinking. An utopia or
a perfect society cannot be established only by a social system or an ideology. Society can only evolve toward a better standard, if
people have the freedom to pursue their own ideas and to do what they know is right for themselves and society. While honest ideals
can be helpful, however they may be called, the only prime requirement for that evolution is a profoundly free society, which is not
controlled by force, authorities, leaders, or government, but which volitionally leads and changes itself.