The Appeal of Socialism
Dr. Randy White
Socialism is the ism de jour for America’s millennial generation. Socialism is this idea that everything belongs to us, that there should be share and share alike for everyone. It requires taking from the rich and giving to the poor so that there is an equal distribution of resources. It is based on a worldview of materialism: that the material world is the fundamental element of the world-order, and must be managed societally. A Biblical worldview opposes this material worldview and believes that we are, individually, under God’s sovereignty, given dominion over the material world.
I am a poetry fan, and especially like Rudyard Kipling. Kipling’s poem, “An Imperial Rescript,” though written over a century ago, is relevant for today. In the poem, Kipling tells of the German Kaiser, who has devised a grand solution, “to ease the strong of their burden, to help the weak in their need.” Kipling tells how the Kaiser sent out a decree, to “all the people who struggle and pant and sweat.” They’ll all gathered together, the working class, and the young king says:
“I have found it, the road to the rest ye seek:
The strong shall wait for the weary, the hale shall halt for the weak:
With the even tramp of an army where no man breaks from the line,
Ye shall march to peace and plenty in the bond of brotherhood — sign!”
The king asks for signatures on this document, this imperial rescript. The Kaiser envisions a utopian socialism, in which there is the “even tramp of an army where no man breaks from the line” and the working class “shall march to peace and plenty in the bond of brotherhood.”
Socialism: Founded in Fantasy
Socialism is the fantasy that we are going to be able to build an ideal society in which there is no want, no weakness, no bully, no rich, no poor. That’s the idea though it has never existed in reality.
The first reason that socialism is appealing is that its foundation is fantasy, and fantasy is always attractive. The problem with fantasy is that it never works in reality. Utopian Socialism has always had a sense of mass appeal, but almost never has an appeal when it comes to individual application. When it comes down to “my stuff,” and me sharing my stuff, not out of the desire of my heart but out of the compulsion of the society and its government, all the sudden the appeal goes away. Socialism is a theory that is only beautiful in theory, but when it comes right down to it, nobody is ready to jump on the bus, except of course those who are recipients of the bounty.
Socialism: Immediate Gratification
Second, a reason for the appeal of socialism is the immediate gratification it claims to offer. In socialism there is hope for immediate gratification – you can get what you don’t have, and get it without years of labor. It is the same appeal as the lottery (which is why the rich don’t play the lottery). The lottery and other forms of gambling are so addictive and so appealing to the masses because “I don’t have something, but maybe I could get it for a dollar.” There is an appeal there, a strong draw that is addictive. As a Pastor, I am not an adherent of the church growth movement. I think that it has brought far more harm to the church than it has brought good. But if I want to grow a church it would honestly be very simple. I could offer a pitiful little five dollar bill to everyone who came to church, and I would fill the church. Just a measly $5 is enough. There are enough people who would say, “I’ll do it, I’ll take it, I’ll sit there and take the five dollars.” This plan would work, of course, until another “church” offered $6. The new crowd would flock to the $6 offer because we are, at our core, capitalist.
Our society has already adopted many socialist ideas. On our phone bill is something called the “universal connectivity charge.” Every time I see that I just want to take my pen and scratch it out and write “socialism fee for using the telephone.” My opinion is that phone companies have been illegally forced to become the government’s collection agency for a socialist program. The government has decided that everybody ought to have a cell phone, the internet, or a land-line telephone. Then they forced the phone companies to provide this social service.
The phone companies, of course, said, “we’re not paying out of our pocket!” Such a response is always the “reality” response to socialism. But the phone companies did agree to pass the expense on to the consumer. I think the phone companies should have said, “We’re not collecting, it’s not our job to be the government’s collection service for social programs.” The phone company passes the fee on to the consumer, who doesn’t have anybody else to pass it on to, so he is forced to pay.
Socialism is appealing because of immediate gratification: I can have a phone, and I don’t have to pay for it. I can have electricity, and I don’t have to pay for it. I can have food, and I don’t have to pay for it. I can have a house, and I don’t have to pay for it. All this is appealing to human nature.
I remember a few years ago when Baskin-Robbins the ice cream company had their 31st anniversary. They were giving ice cream cones for 31 cents. I drove by Baskin-Robbins and saw a line out the door and around the building, in the hot Texas sun. I was amazed at what people will do for a little scoop of ice cream.
We are wired this way because we have failed to teach values like the worth of the individual. We are a ‘we’ society, and I think that ignores the worth of the individual. What about the ‘I’ in society? Of course, the church has taught so many that “I” is a dirty word. They’ve hammered into us the idea that “the middle letter of sin is I, and you can’t have sin without I.” Well, I understand some of what they’re saying, but it degrades the individual. God made us very unique, didn’t he? Fearfully and wonderfully made, my fingerprint is different than your fingerprint, and the arrangement of the iris in my eye is different than yours. Why does the church (and society) reject the value of “I?”
We need to teach that there is some value to the individual, a value that socialism rejects. The flip slide of “thou shall not steal” is somebody owns something, it belongs to him, it is his or hers, it is theirs individually, not just in their possession as a loan from society.
I think another value we failed to teach is logic. A fundamental problem with socialism is that it doesn’t work! It has been tested time and time and again, and it doesn’t work. I believe it was Einstein who said that insanity is beating your head against the wall over and over again and thinking you’re going to get a different result.
When you Read Kipling’s poem, you’ll see that the Kaiser’s plan sounded great in theory, but when it came time to sign the paper they begin to cry out from all over the different parts of the kingdom. All the common folk of the land, who so wanted to be eased of their burden, began to say, “you know what, wait a minute, I own this, and I have that. They realized, “I’m going to have to give up these things to achieve this socialist idea.”
Socialism: Somebody Else Can Fix the Problem
The third reason for socialism’s appeal is that it puts the weight on someone else. Socialism has to be contrived to work. It doesn’t work on its own, but somebody has got to organize it. One of the reasons it’s so appealing in our society today is because many people in society actually want someone else to fix their problem. Though I’m not one of them, I encourage you to watch what happens the next time something goes wrong in society. There will be an immediate chorus that says, “We ought to have a law against that.” This is just a way of saying, “somebody else ought to fix this problem.” Of course, that “somebody else” is the government. Society wants to look to government to fix the problem and take care of it for us.
For example, do you remember some years ago when there was a lot of anger over the fact that banks were charging a dollar to use the debit card? People cried out, “this is horrible that the banks are charging a dollar to use the debit card at an ATM, and it’s unconscionable, and it shouldn’t be done, there ought to be a law against this.” Many groups were lobbying their congressman and state representatives to pass a law that banks could not charge a dollar to use the debit card at an ATM. What brings about such stupidity? Nothing less than a socialist kind of thinking that says, “I want someone else to fix my problem”.
Socialism will never happen naturally, neither will it maintain itself naturally. When you come into a socialist system somebody has to organize that system. Somebody has to determine what the equality level is, and who’s above that level, who’s beneath that level. They have to determine how to bring everyone to that artificially defined level, to provide everyone all these same benefits. Whether it’s health care or telephones, somebody has to manage it to make it happen, because it’s not natural.
Socialism has to have a big government; it has to have to have a very powerful king, or a dictator, or a president, or whatever title you give the position. For socialism to work the government has to have their hand in everybody’s pocket and everybody’s business.
The Jewish people, when they started the modern nation if Israel in 1948, had the Kibbutz system. In these Kibbutzim the economy was socialist, and all members of the kibbutz society owned everything together. When their kibbutz did well, everyone prospered. When it failed, everyone hurt. But today, over 70 years after the beginning of the system, there are very very few Kibbutzim that continue this socialist structure. Most kibbutzim are very capitalist.
In the beginning, a type of socialism was almost a necessity. Almost everyone in the country was out of a concentration camp or had escaped Nazi Germany or Jew-hating Stalinism. They had absolutely nothing except a dream and a God-given passion for going back to their homeland and for building the nation of Israel for the first time since 70 AD. These people came with only the clothes on their back, into an environment in which they were thoroughly hated. The British Mandate did everything possible at first to open the doors for their return and to allow them to build their homeland. But by 1948, Britain abandoned the Jewish people and their dream of a Jewish homeland, and these “drifters and dreamers” were all alone to build a new country.
These Jewish pioneers started the kibbutzim in a time of crisis. The people had nothing but each other and were surrounded by enemies. “I’ll watch out for you, you watch out for me, if I get a dime we’ll split it and have a nickel a piece because we have got to make it together.” Once they overcame that crisis, however, and they were living in relative safety compared to 1948, they began to give up this socialism because it was no longer needed. Even on the rare occasions that socialism happens naturally, it cannot maintain itself naturally.
When you have socialism, you have to have a controlling mechanism.
That controlling mechanism, I would say, is either rejected for capitalism or turns bloody. In history, the bloody nature of that mechanism has always been directed towards Christians and Jews, because Judeo-Christian value is respect for the individual and respect for property, and these values are anti-socialist.
When you create a socialist government, it will always become a totalitarian government, and those totalitarian governments always, turn against those who don’t go along with the system. They’ll begin to fine you, and then imprison you, and eventually kill you. So socialism is a death warrant to anyone who has any independent thinking. This is why these liberals are not thinking logically when they adopt socialism.
Socialism is appealing because of its foundation in fantasy, and the supposed immediate gratification of having what you didn’t earn, and because it has someone else fix the problem (rather than my blood, sweat, and tears). It should be rejected by anyone with a Biblically based Judeo-Christian worldview.
Want more? Here is a sermon on this topic.