Socialism is one of many collectivist camps that have gained prominence, especially with intellectuals. Isn’t the idea of a socialist heaven beautiful and appealing? We will all be equal. No one will have more than his brother or sister. There will be no recessions. The government will take care of healthcare, roads, business and everything else. To put it simply the government’s got your back. Again, the government will carry out all these activities without a profit motive. Everything will be done for the social good, whatever that means.
On the face of it, socialist doctrines can be very attractive, especially to those who see all the rot in society; they will think, the system stinks, there should be something better than this and that must be socialism.
A common trait of proponents of socialism is to attack the person (the class) of people who disagree with them; they are called bourgeoisie writers. This is a sort of blank-out they use to avoid discourse. An ideology is only as good as the results it achieves, and everywhere socialism has been purely practised it has failed. Proponents of socialism suggest that socialism only appears to fail because of sanctions imposed by capitalist countries. Question: why did it fail in Russia at a time when there were hardly any sanctions? (Communism and socialism are not very different.)
Socialists usually point to what is happening in China as a testament of what socialism properly practised can do. The question to be asked is why China is doing a lot better after individuals begun to run some businesses. China’s success is as a result of injecting capitalism in the economy, not the success of socialism.
We need to ask ourselves why socialism appeals to most intellectuals. An intellectual, in the purest sense, works for knowledge. Therefore money is hardly the objective. For an intellectual, the idea of a socialist heaven is attractive. An egalitarian society, where there will be no class distinction. But intellectuals need to ask themselves what equality means. Equality should be before the law. This means that whoever a person is or where he comes from should be of no consequence if there is a legal issue at hand. People with different abilities will not achieve the same result. From this simple premise, human beings cannot be given the same rewards because we have different abilities. It is a delusion to say that human beings are equal beyond the law. What every man is entitled to is freedom, so far as that freedom does not hurt or interfere directly with others’ lives.
Individuals should reap what they sow. Each man according to his ability, having the right to be lazy or hardworking. The problem with socialism is that it robs individuals the right to be either hard-working or lazy. The government takes care of everything, and you cannot own more than the government gives you. There is little motivation for an individual if he is not working in his self-interest. Only an individual can know what is good for him or her. The problem with socialism and its planned economy is that in its omniscience it knows what is good for everyone. If socialists are passionate about their ideas why don’t they form companies to advance them? This is a clear difference between capitalism and socialism. That socialism does not tolerate dissent. If the government controls the media, how do you air opposing views? If a government controls business, how do you undertake a business you are passionate about?
Another curious idea that socialists propound is that socialism is an epoch the world cannot avoid. They say civilization begun with communalism, then to feudalism, capitalism, and that socialism is the last stage. This is mysticism. What the future holds no one knows because man is not omniscient. The world does not have a purpose other than what human beings ascribe to it.
Some people spite capitalists out of jealousy. Jealousy is not alien to human nature. Socialists suggest that individuals’ rewards in a lot of businesses are not proportional to their efforts. This appears to be a valid statement. Why should a footballer take more money than a medical doctor? What they forget is that nothing is intrinsically valuable. Human beings determine value through exchange. And human beings do not sit at a table to determine value, the market takes care of that, and rewards accordingly. The world is indifferent. A gold fish may mean so much to a Japanese but nothing to a Ghanaian.
There is a high tendency for socialist governments to be despotic. Socialism often begins with a popular uprising, then it becomes a tyranny of the majority and later to dictatorship. To check socialist ascent, we have to know the questions to ask ourselves when we come to critical junctures. When a government decides to outlaw a particular act, we should elevate the discussion and ask ourselves how far we want the government to interfere in our lives, to tell us what to do or not to do, especially if it affects only our person.
WRITER: Kwaku Gyamfi