Socialism works, but doesn't scale

Published on , under Politics, tagged with libertarianism.

In a discussion it is recommended to first find a common ground of agreement, before working on the differences. This puts both parties in a better mood to find a shared truth.

Maybe libertarianism and socialism have both something to add to the table, can these two opposite views of the world agree on anything?

Socialism works

We all have a very early and direct experience with socialism. We practice it within our families. We teach our kids to share and be supportive. We are preached similar ideas at the congregation. We put it into practice as volunteers in NGOs.

We are social animals after all. Our brains are wired to live in small communities, groups & villages, with our kin and people we share a common set of values with or a common past.

Socialism comes very natural to people. It is digestible and appealing. Presents ideas of an altruist society that doesn't leave anyone behind. Provides to the needed, cares about people, balances the economic forces, takes from the rich and helps the poor.

Solidarity, equality of opportunities, social justice, minimum wages. Who can oppose to that? These are good things, noble goals.

Socialism not only feels emotionally superior, but it offers a quick and easy explanation to every day dramas.

On the other hand, libertarianism requires rational thinking to make sense, needs to be studied, it's all about the ultimate consequences, it's explanations of reality are counter intuitive or seem far fetched. Respecting individual freedoms sound more like greed and mind your own business selfishness.

If you are struggling to make ends meet, would you listen to someone who talks about how the federal reserve creates inflation and distorts the economy with artificial interest rates or someone who talks about universal basic income, tuition free schooling and human compassion?

Laissez-faire is scary. Some will profit, some will loose, the system seems unfair. The welfare state provides a sense of security, things get planned because we all need to cooperate towards common goals.

Socialism doesn't scale

This way of relating with family, neighbours, friends and acquaintances, most of the time through rules that are written nowhere, but are a cultural legacy of shared responsibility, has it's limits.

With a bigger population, a more diverse society, there are no strong bonding links between it's members. Not everyone agrees on what needs to be done. The trust and selfless altruism that might have worked in your local community, now becomes unnatural.

Empathy disappears as the distance between governance and governed widens, your ability to change the course of action of such society decreases.

This disconnection makes the government less accountable, prone to corruption.

Central planning is now inefficient and too risky, it affects too many people and policies probably assume too much. Regulations are slow to adapt and impose hidden costs. Politics become aggressively toxic. No one is satisfied.

Big government, and it's ever growing spending, is a fiasco. The virtues of the socialist ideals turn into a delusional mirage.

Here is where libertarians should step in and say: It's not impossible to put the cart before the horse, but simply impractical.

The dynamism and efficiency that capitalism achieves, in coordinating efforts between people that don't know each other, to produce better goods and cheaper services has no suitable opponent.

Free markets, tolerance to divergence, innovation, competition and freedom to experiment are indispensable at this scale. Now ideas of limiting authority, decentralizing power, and questioning regulations really shine.

As a libertarian, I do understand socialists. And agree that socialism works, but it doesn't scale. I'm willing to accept a certain amount of forced collectivism, so long as it stays local, accountable and in competition with other regulations. But I still stand by freedom, as the beacon of light guiding society to a greater good.