I’ve been writing about the coming of socialism in America for a very long time. In some ways, many ways its been with us since just before the presidency of FDR. But it has been a bad word in our capitalist economy, and for good reason. Yet many people really don’t understand why. It’s not enough any more to say that socialism doesn’t work, look at Venezuela. Now that it is essentially the platform of the Democrat party and so many kids have been taught socialism openly in public schools over the last couple of decades its time to explain exactly why socialism doesn’t work and why all countries should avoid it, especially these days because the world is actually growing more independent not more collectivist. Socialism is an old fantasy that took over a 100 years for the political left to spring into the light of day in the most powerful country on earth but they are about 20 years too late. Here’s why:
I was driving next to a person the other day who could not get off his cell phone. My first thought was that he could and should wait at least until he came to a stop light to do so much texting, but he was really engaged in his phone which reminded me of the question many have these days, why do people like their phones more than they enjoy talking to a person who is right in front of them. The answer is simple really and can best be understood in the great book on psychology called Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The reason people spend more time on their cell phones than with real people is purely because of autonomy, the ability people have to control their own destiny on a moment to moment basis. Often in direct contacts with other people individuals do not control all aspects of the conversation, and often the people present represent varying degrees of less personal autonomy including subject matter, the pace of a conversation, and even how the other people smell as their breath enters into your own lungs by inadvertent biological necessity just by being in close proximity with them. Whereas a smart phone puts the whole world and everything that has been learned in it literally in the palm of your hand and allows you to control the pace of a conversation. If someone sends you a text, you decide how long to answer if at all and it gives the user great autonomy and unlimited creativity which is the primary motivator of all human beings. Four main things have ignited in modern human beings a great revolution in the need for more personal autonomy, the smart phone, the explosion of the video game industry as a means of personal recreation, smart televisions and the decentralization in general of all entertainment options, and the use of personal transportation such as cars, motorcycles and even airplanes. Because of these four factors, and I’m sure we could break down even further, but socialism will never take hold again in an industrialized country.
Socialism in the modern sense, at least the way governments try to sell it to people is that essentially free pay checks not connected to any kind of real performance is attractive because it allows people not to worry about how they pay their bills so that they can think with more autonomy what they really enjoy in life. But the ways ultimately that people actually receive those paychecks is to essentially give up great autonomy in the factors that truly generate wealth so every nation that has tried socialism fails due to this condition. People may get a pay check but the work that is performed that generates wealth lacks the creative need for humans to contribute to it, and is missing making those workers much less effective than people who are performing those tasks with great autonomy. The key to all future economic growth in all nations isn’t to just give a pay check to workers who go through the motions of a job title with the same mundanity that they communicate with other people when a smart phone gives them freedom of autonomy to do and say what they want to other people when they want to. Those same traits need to be brought into the marketplace of employment in order to continue with efforts at nationwide economic expansion.
The problem in America is obvious because there is a free market system to serve as a backdrop. Socialism that we see in labor unions is much less effective than an industry where the workers have great autonomy in the work they do. The love of work for instance in a unionized school teacher who has a class full of children in kindergarten is much happier and autonomous compared to the history teacher of high school kids who aren’t as bright-eyed and willing to learn as the five-year old’s. With the labor union mandating collective bargaining and taking away incentives for personal performance and all other things being equal what makes a job happy or not for the employee is the degree for which they have autonomy. The kindergarten teacher is likely to spend the night before a class cutting out little pictures and words that might ignite learning in the children because they will react to it positively and feed the autonomy of the teacher whereas the history teacher knowing that the students will be more interested in dating, playing on their cell phones, and what they are going to wear the next day might only manage to make a cup of coffee for themselves in order to get autonomy in their jobs as misery looms over most of their lives due to those conditions.
Socialism fails because jobs are collective based and measured instead of the individualized results of productivity and the joy of creating and doing the task. Socialism robs individuals of their autonomy in performing work so it destroys the actual output of the task. When the only reason a person shows up for work is to just get a paycheck the reason for having a worker there in the first place is lost—employers might as well hire a robot, they’d be better off. People need autonomy in their jobs and where that personal freedom for performing a love in work is lost, productivity is destroyed and a culture dies, since culture is entirely made up of human input. Humans are thinking creatures and they require autonomy to bring about what’s unique about them to a marketplace and they need the ability to figure out what that is so they can get there. Socialism is too rigid of a structure and is entirely too social for autonomy to exist and that is why it has always failed and will always do so.
Autonomy in the world of productivity is the most important ingredient. Where great autonomy exists in workplaces, great productive output is common. Where a loss in autonomy is prevalent, a stagnant workplace will result. It doesn’t matter what industry it’s in or where in the world the work is performed, if autonomy is part of the management, companies and nations do well. If autonomy is controlled, the company and nation fail. It’s not that people in Venezuela conspired to hurt the government by not being as productive. Its that they lost their autonomy for performing work because of the means of instituting socialism even when the nation is sitting on vast resources for creating wealth. When the government took away the incentive to think freely on how to use those resources for the creation of wealth the ability to do so became impossible because humans cannot function well without autonomy, and socialism robbed the entire culture of that essential ingredient. Socialism can’t be made to work under any form of government management, it was an idea created by Karl Marx who clearly was illiterate in these understandings of psychology. But we’ve learned a lot about ourselves over the years. Socialism was pretty attractive to people who still had to hunt for their food and wash their clothes by hand, or couldn’t just go down to McDonald’s to get a hamburger when they were hungry. As people gained more autonomy in their lives through leisure time, they wanted more of it which is why we’ve had such explosive growth intellectually by way of invention in the last century as opposed to every century that came before it. But in the 21st Century autonomy is the expectation and if our jobs don’t factor that into their plans, they will have miserable work forces and therefore much less productivity which is the purpose for doing work. That is why socialism fails, because it destroys personal autonomy and the good work that comes with that invisible ingredient to anything that might be considered successful.
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