If you’ve ever tried to debate socialism with a socialist you know very well why we can’t debate socialism with socialists. Debate is an exchange of ideas and arguments about a subject of importance. The participants to a debate are expected to operate on the basis of candor, intelligence and good will. That’s not what socialists do. In addition to these factors a modicum of knowledge on the main points of the subject is also appreciated.
To come to a debate without these tools, or at least some attention to them, turns what was to be a debate into little more than mud slinging and ad hominem attacks. The honest debater is willing to acknowledge plainly obvious short comings and weaknesses to his position, even if only to set them up for discussion. This is no more than the simple truth that perfection is rare and its quest will often be the enemy of the good anyway.
We’ve heard from Alexandria Ocrazy-Cortez, Rashida Taliban, Bernie Berlap-Bag of Wind Sandernista, Beto Braindead O’Rourke, Bill de Bolshevik, etc. etc. and their breathless demands for socialism. We aren’t going to get very far in a debate with people who want and believe that in the very near future all energy can come from solar panels and windmills, that airplanes and automobiles can be scrapped and replaced by high speed rail with solar panels instead of electric lines on top.
Of course, these nutbags are not the only ones calling for socialism. These are unserious mental midgets. If they were the only ones we could safely ignore them. The serious ones we should be worried about are the four in ten Americans who tell pollsters they favor some form of socialism. They are the members of the Democratic Socialists of America and it would be perilous to ignore them.
Unlike the crazies and simpletons, these are not people who have lost their minds. They are seriously misguided and confused, but they have an honest belief that socialism would make America great. Their own description of Democratic Socialism seems to be some form of “Socialism Light.” They don’t envision the end of free markets or voluntary exchange, i’e., capitalism, yet. Their immediate goal is to expand and booster the Left Wing of the Democrat party. That’s frightening enough although it might cause a split among Democrats that could end up helping the GOP.
While the mental lights that support the Green New Deal are never going to see any of what they seek, the Democratic Socialists could very well get at least some of what they want. Nearly everything they want is atrocious, so even if they only get rid of the electoral college or if they get Medicare for All (which would result in medical care for none) either of those would be a serious setback to prosperity and freedom. These and the other things they wish for would not lead to the utopia they vision, but to a dystopian future for America.
Like all true believers they are not going to debate any of this. At least not in a way that would be productive. If our side should debate them, the objective would not be to convince them they are misguided and wrong. That would be impossible.
It would be to show anyone watching the debate what is actually at stake. Will they offer themselves up to such a debate? Maybe, but they will likely resort to what liberals always do — they would make no logical argument and instead try to bury the debate audience in a lot of discordant empty rhetoric.
It turns out this style of debate is nothing new on the Left. Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), the prominent Austrian School Economist, showed us that things were little different in the past. The proponents of Marxism, a form of socialism, operated in the same style as true believing socialists today. Below is an excerpt from the Introduction to his famous treatise on Socialism.
Ludwig von Mises, Socialism, An Economic and Sociological Analysis (1922):
According to the Marxist conception, one’s social condition determines one’s way of thought. His membership of a social class decides what views a writer will express. He is not able to grow out of his class or to free his thoughts from the prescriptions of his class interests.
Thus the possibility of a general science which is valid for all men, whatever their class, is contested. Marxism protects itself against all unwelcome criticism. The enemy is not refuted: [It is] enough to unmask him as a bourgeois. Marxism criticizes the achievements of all those who think otherwise by representing them as the venal servants of the bourgeoisie.
Marx and Engels never tried to refute their opponents with argument. They insulted, ridiculed, derided, slandered, and traduced them, and in the use of these methods their followers are no less expert. Their polemic is directed never against the argument of the opponent, but always against his person. Few have been able to withstand such tactics.
Marxism declares on the one hand that the socialization of the means of production is the end towards which economic evolution leads with the inevitability of a natural law; on the other hand it represents such socialization as the aim of its political effort. In this way he expounded the first principle of socialist organization. The purpose of the prohibition to study the working of a socialist community, which was justified by a series of threadbare arguments, was really intended to prevent the weaknesses of Marxist doctrines from coming clearly to light in discussions regarding the creation of a practicable socialist society.
A clear exposition of the nature of socialist society might have damped the enthusiasm of the masses, who sought in Socialism salvation from all earthly ills. The successful suppression of these dangerous inquiries, which had brought about the downfall of all earlier socialistic theories, was one of Marx’s most skillful tactical moves. Only because people were not allowed to talk or to think about the nature of the socialist community was Socialism able to become the dominant political movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Anyone who failed to comply unconditionally with this coercion was proscribed and outlawed. In this way Socialism was able from year to year to win more and more ground without anyone being moved to make a fundamental investigation of how it would work. Thus, when one day Marxian Socialism assumed the reins of power, and sought to put its complete program into practice, it had to recognize that it had no distinct idea of what, for decades, it had been trying to achieve.
As the French love to say, Plus ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose.
PS: I think the real reason some people want socialism is because they’re envious of some having more than they do. Another reason might be some think they will be in the ruling class and under socialism that’s a lucrative place to be. Some would just rather everyone be poor than some be well off and others not so well off.
P.J. O’Rourke once ask that if everyone can’t be rich isn’t it better that some are rich than if none are rich? Socialists might answer in the negative, preferring that no one be rich. If so, they are fooling them selves. Even in the most impoverished places on this earth some of the richest people can be found. Venezuela has lately become very poor, but Maduro and his crowd are still very rich. Capitalism is the only system where the most people can be rich and an even greater number will still be very well off.
I’ve been poor and pretty well off and I’ve been happy in both conditions. I believe that describes most people in America. If America were ever to go socialist that happy state would disappear.