Ben Shapiro Plays Dumb on Democratic Socialism
Derrick Crowe
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Horribly bored with this sort of word-play.

Socialism is government ownership of the means of production.

If the Democratic Socialists don’t want government ownership of the means of production, then they’re not really Socialists. Damn, it’s simple. But, so are the DSA fanboys and fangirls.

But, since you went to the trouble to dissect Ben’s point for point, let’s do the same regarding the word-salad found on the DSA website (they have an FAQ of sorts.)

Doesn’t socialism mean that the government will own and run everything?

The textbook answer to this question is YES. However, the DSA aren’t really socialists; they want to alter corporate ownership so that the means of production is owned by employees and/or a broad cross section of the public (as opposed to shareholders, which is not a broad crosssection.)

The first thing that one should note about the above is that the DSA’s objective cannot be achieved without revolution, assumedly violent. The government does not have the power to alter these corporate structures because of the Takings Clause in the Constitution. So, this “objective” of the DSA is so impossible that it can be ignored.

However, there’s a naivete’ here that needs to be addressed. The DSA is correct in pointing out that the current corporate ownership structure is unbalanced; only those who have profit-above-all objectives have any say in corporate governance. Both workers and the general public can be given an appropriate amount of representation in corporate governance WITHOUT a revolutionary change in corporate structures; the DSA is choosing the most radical method of addressing this problem, whilst ignoring the fact that other capitalist nations HAVE addressed it in ways that work WITH the existing structures, not against them.

In short, they’re having a failure of imagination.

Hasn’t socialism been discredited by the collapse of Communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe?

Again, the textbook answer is YES, but democratic socialists aren’t really socialists. :-)

However, like the communist and socialist governments that have failed in the past, the democratic socialists would run into the same problem those other experiments hit: compliance.

You see, in a capitalist society, you don’t have to have full compliance to have capitalist country. Tens of thousands of Americans (perhaps more) all over the country live in commune-type settings; and if California (for example) ever wanted to set up its own government-owned bank, that’s entirely up to them. Doesn’t threaten capitalism in the least.

However, the moment that you move in the direction of changing corporate structures, there is a risk that pops up; that being that decisions stop being made on the basis of profitability, but on the basis of social utility.

Now, any DSA person reading this immediately thought “Yes! That’s a feature, not a bug!”. But they fail to peel the onion far enough. If corporate decisions are being made on something OTHER than profitability, then those corporations will fail in competition against other corporations which (a) are not as socially minded, and/or (b) are based in other countries, and are not socially minded in the slightest.

Where does that go? Well, US corporations start getting the shit kicked out of them in the marketplace. They start to shed jobs. The government has no choice but to either watch it happen, or start to intervene in the marketplace with either (a) protectionist measures (against the overseas competitors), and/or (b) an increasing amount of regulation to “level the playing field”, the ultimate expression of that being wage and price controls.

Not to mention having to try and shut down all the black market goods and services that start to pop up everywhere like this kid’s game:

(However, it’s worth mentioning that black marketeers are also…… a very big crime problem as well. So, there’s that.)

Bottom line? The corporate ownership matter results in the “democratic socialists” ending up with the very same problems the communists ended up with — — and only one way to solve that problem, which is by coercing full compliance with violence.

Private corporations seem to be a permanent fixture in the US, so why work towards socialism?

The DSA website answers with this:

The government could use regulations and tax incentives to encourage companies to act in the public interest and outlaw destructive activities such as exporting jobs to low-wage countries and polluting our environment.

Why that doesn’t work is explained above. Not to mention that the government has ZERO ability to stop a corporation from “exporting jobs”. None whatsoever, and none is possible. Unless you just want to abandon this idea of “freedom.”

Won’t socialism be impractical because people will lose their incentive to work?

The DSA website says this:

We don’t agree with the capitalist assumption that starvation or greed are the only reasons people work. People enjoy their work if it is meaningful and enhances their lives.

The problem here is that the avoidance of “starvation and greed” is not a capitalist assumption; it’s a principle well grounded in psychological science. The operative terms here are “intrinsic motivation” and “extrinsic motivation.” So, the science is being ignored by the DSA.

Put another way, if what makes you study is the desire for an A, or what makes you work is to pay your bills, that’s extrinsic; if you study because you’re interested in your subject, or you work because you love your job, that’s intrinsic.

The problem here for the DSA is that their little blurb up there assumes that everyone can be motivated intrinsically. This is decidedly NOT the case; and study after study shows that most people are motivated by extrinsic factors rather than intrinsic.

However, what’s even MORE interesting about the DSA’s response is what it DOESN’T say; the question could have been answered simply by saying that corporations are still free to pay people what they need to pay them, so the pay incentive will stay the same.

That omission is ominous, as it implies wage controls and the assignment of individuals to jobs. And if THAT happens, for you and I, the comparison with the US and USSR will be a set of distinctions without differences.

Why are there no models of democratic socialism?

I think we’ve pretty much covered this. The European experiment after WW2 tried to do a lot of these things, but the nations were forced to back off because their ambitious agendas created so many economic distortions that they couldn’t pay for their programs. So, Europe has been “supply siding” themselves back into the economic game for decades; for example, taxes on the top earners in Sweden were 93% back in the early 80’s; they’re now at about 55%. Still high by US standards, but they had so much capital flying out of the country seeking a place it could be efficiently used that they had to lower rates.

But hasn’t the European Social Democratic experiment failed?

Depends on how you define “failure”. As the DSA site alludes, the most ambitious experiments were in northern Europe; those nations quickly backed off their envisioned models to keep their economies afloat. At this point, they have settled on models which are:

  • Very highly taxed by US standards,
  • Provide a very broad range of social services by US standards,
  • Are rabidly capitalistic, even by US standards, with fewer regulations and low corporate taxes, designed to create corporate juggernauts who….
  • ….hire a lot of people, who then pay the taxes that keep the model afloat, although…..
  • ….the people have less disposable income than we are used to in the US, BUT seem to be satisfied with the model.

“Fail” and “Success” in this context are therefore relative and subjective.

Aren’t you a party that’s in competition with the Democratic Party for votes and support?

They deny this, but of course they are. If faced with a choice between a decent Republican candidate and a far left Democrat, the former will appeal to centrists who normally vote Democrat.

There are a couple more questions on their list, but they’re weak tea as they refer more to strategy rather than governance.

And, these people bore me. We’ve been through this all before, in the 1960’s; and we know how it ends. The far left activists got mugged by reality, got MBAs and then voted for Reagan.

This has all happened before, and it will all happen again.