Across America, young people, especially college students, are instructed of the virtues of statism. Statism can take many forms: socialism, Marxism, Fascism, mercantilism. For simplicity’s sake statism shall be defined as a political/economic organization of society rooted in compulsory obligations a central governing body enforces. Most modern statist systems today stem from Marxism/socialism. Fascism and Nazism evolve directly from socialism; a simple dictionary definition of the term “Nazism” shows the word stands for “National Socialism”, an inconvenient fact socialists attempt to mask. To reach a more free and prosperous society, these statist ideas must be eradicated, not by force, but with superior arguments grounded in reason and evidence.
The first lie a critic of socialism encounters is that a true socialist/Marxist society never existed, thus their perceived past failures cannot excoriate the philosophy as a whole. This position is categorically false. Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and Mao’s China were undoubtedly socialist nations to varying degrees. All nations vociferously criticized the greed of the capitalist class, the factory owners, bankers, and land owners. All nations castigated the capitalist class’s exploitation of the workers. All nations promised to alleviate economic exploitation through redistribution of wealth and public ownership of property, where democracy directed national decisions, rather than profit-making. All nations espoused a commitment to achieving class equality. All nations claimed to act in the best interest of common good, the good of the collective, rather than individual self-interest. These are all core Marxist/socialist beliefs and to reject Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Maoist China as socialist nations is to act as an apologist, completely ignorant of the facts. Socialism is not, and never has been, a system of benevolent design.
The fundamental and primary failure of socialism, and other statist ideologies, lies in the understanding of private property. Property rights build civilized society. A principled understanding of property rights begins with universalized ethics. Property rights ultimately originate in self-ownership, a Lockean concept that logically leads to ownership of property. Each person owns and retains dominion over their physical bodies. Through this self-ownership, the labor of an individual’s body concludes with ownership of property. A man not only owns himself, but the effects his body produces. This forms the basic foundation of property rights: an individual owns what he mixes his labor with. Either man has property rights, or he does not. Either property rights are valid, or they are not. Clearly as defined by Locke, man has a natural, inherent right to private property through the reality of self ownership. Further, theft, or other active violations of property rights, cannot be universalized. Theft, by definition is a violation of another’s property rights. If theft is a moral good, person A must desire person B to steal what he owns. However, if person A desires to relinquish his property, then the transfer is an act of voluntary exchange rather than unwanted theft. Therefore, theft logically cannot be a valid moral good. This ethical support of property rights borrows heavily from Stefan Molyneux’s proof of secular ethics, Universally Preferable Behavior.
How does a statist regime achieve their Utopian objective of abject equality and redistribution of wealth? Who decides what property is validly owned and what is not? Further, how can a society possibly enforce such social outcomes? A socialist cannot possibly expect factory owners to willingly capitulate to arbitrary demands of wealth redistribution. There can only be one answer: the state. To reinforce their whimsical fantasy of radical equality, the socialist must erect a coercive statist structure to compel conformity. Those who resist or disagree with the socialists’ goals are violently forced to submit. The state continuously seizing resources, codifies plunder into law. This leads back to the previous paragraph; property rights are valid, and theft cannot be a moral good. How then, is theft immoral for an individual, but virtuous and noble for the state? The cognitive dissonance in the mind of a socialist to rationalize such a blatant contradiction is astounding. Theft cannot be immoral for some, but good for others. State appropriation of wealth for redistributive purposes is theft, a violation of property rights, and thus immoral.
Besides the logical philosophical evidence against socialism and other statist creeds, there exists ample historical evidence, dating back thousands of years. The economics of trade and voluntary exchange is infused into the nature of man. Voluntary exchange for mutual benefit is a unique feature of man. Matt Ridley has an excellent book, The Rational Optimist, discussing the ancient evidence of trade. Since prehistoric times, man has traded goods, meaning a respect for property rights, ownership, and relatively unhindered free trade is built into the very nature of man. Any economic or political system that denies this Natural Law reality not only restrains human potential, but directly opposes the very dignity of man. Socialism, a system of unbridled coercion and plunder, is intrinsically evil.