Can socialism really be the “the greatest evil in mankind’s history” as Walter Williams refers to it in his column today? Obviously it can if your income is not based on real labor. Williams, as a writer, earns a living with his words. His message that he gets paid for revolves around capitalism and its ability to generate wealth by exercising mental muscle tissue as opposed to physical muscle; the latter being the kind that build’s our infra-structure, buildings and our machines. He contributes to the information component of our social order but only to that aspect that doesn’t negatively impact his self-interests. A fair assessment of socialism would give credence to the politics that is in play within not only our own government but the governments of many civilized nations today. This seems to work against the Libertarian views of self-interest that Mr. Williams and his ilk have latched onto with the rise of Tea Party politics; a political movement in part that has its roots in Ron Paul’s Presidential candidacy in 2008.
Socialism is a form of politics that utilizes the efforts of the state to improve the lives of ALL citizens. Taxes are used to provide basic services for those who would otherwise go without in most any other form of government, including democracies dominated by capitalist ideology. Though not a perfect system, Socialism sets goals to insure that all people get a living wage for their labor and have access to quality health care and education. This of course entails the redistribution of some of the wealth in society to make sure such equity in these areas comes about. Not all Socialist governments have practiced humane policies yet you would be led to believe that by reading Walter Williams’ column.
When people distort reality by referring to any system they object to as “the greatest evil”, we can be sure that their view of history is not complete nor is their message meant to objectively inform those that read or hear such messages. There were right-wing extremes to socialism like Germany’s Nazi party under Hitler but to Williams, the mere fact that the word “socialist” was in the Nazi party name is enough to conclude that it was atypical socialism. Never mind that it excluded many people in its political views (Jews and any non- Aryan as well as the mentally retarded were the most prominent); the fact that the word socialist was used at all is evidence to him that socialism is to be avoided at all costs.
Likewise, the word socialist used in Russia’s former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic is enough to satisfy the narrow perceptions of Mr. Williams that it too reflects the full and complete scope of socialism. Both Hitler and Stalin murdered millions of their citizens because they perceived them to pose a threat to their power and yet Williams is only able to see this as a manifestation of socialism rather than as a psychotic disorder with these two despots. Many non-socialist dictators, who it turns our were and are also very pro-capitalist despots, murdered many of their people for the same reasons Hitler, Stalin and Mao did yet Williams seems oblivious of this. China today does not lean towards Mao’s communist economic views any longer, promoting capitalism instead to improve the lives of it massive population and yet thousands are tortured, imprisoned and killed almost daily to prevent a loss of power by the military command there.
Augusto Pinochet, the military leader of the coup that over threw the leftist Allende government back in the 1970’s was supported by right wing elements in the CIA and his rule in Chile resulted in the death of over 3000 citizens and thousands more imprisoned and tortured for their political views. The fascist government of Mussolini along with Nazi Germany was supported by renowned wealthy capitalists like JP Morgan, Andrew Mellon and Henry Ford. Apparently they were less fearful of any socialist views that these governments claimed but found commonality in their hate for labor unions and Jews.
The pro-western Indonesian dictator Suharto ruled his country with the support of the right in Washington for over 30 years. As a capitalists sympathizer he is reported to have stolen up to $35 billion from his people before his death and killed millions of his political enemies along with one-third of the East Timorese population who was seeking independence from Indonesia during his reign. Using UN Population Division data one can estimate that the death toll in Indonesia under Suharto totaled 33 million. The pro-American, anti-socialist dictator of the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, bolstered by the Bush White House, is alleged to have killed hundreds of pro-democratic protesters based on a report from Human Rights Watch back in 2005
Yet these great evils by pro-western capitalists are omitted from Williams’ protestations to socialism. One can only assume that Williams lacks any real depth of knowledge concerning world political structures in recent history or perhaps instead sees friendly dictatorships as necessary evils to get rid of the other perceived evil – socialism. Can two wrongs make a right? Apparently, in the views of Walter Williams and people who think like him, it can.
Socialism is as good or bad as its leadership is and its ability to manage the bureaucracy it encompasses. Yet for all of its pitfalls it has successfully existed within democracies that we have allied ourselves with for years such as England, France, Canada, Mexico and most of Western Europe. What aspects of it are broken are not irreparable and are capable of existing within democracies that also support free-market capitalism. Only purists within capitalism have misgivings about a mix of socialism and free-market practices. The views of socialism held by people like Walter Williams it seems are based on the unrealistic idealism espoused by Libertarians and their heroine, philosopher Ayn Rand.
The notion that all people can make it equally under the laissez-faire approach touted by Rand’s “objectivism” might be realized but only in a world where the human characteristic of greed is non-existent. Only someone who lives in a fantasy world would believe that a person’s self-interest would never evolve into anything destructive for a society. Only people like Walter Williams are unable to see the greater evils that mankind can effect if they personally are gaining from some of those evils.