“…democratic socialism, the great utopia of the last few generations, is not only unachievable but that to strive for it produces something utterly different – the very destruction of freedom itself. As has been aptly said: ‘What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven.'”
~ F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (1944)
Life is unfair. While a few do, not everyone can achieve everything they desire. Economies are unbalanced. Some people have more wealth and therefore more power than others. We all want to be equal, to be treated the same. Sometimes our system of governance fails in those regards and the ignorant masses call for socialism to level the playing field – but here’s the deal – it always happens the same way:
- First comes the “big idea”.
- Then comes the intent to do “good” with the “big idea”.
- Then comes expanding all this doing “good” with the “big idea” to groups of people.
- Then comes the ego.
- Then comes the ego’s thirst for overcoming resistance to, and criticism to of, doing “good” with the “big idea” to groups of people.
- Then comes power.
- Then comes corruption and tyranny.
- Then comes destruction and rebuilding.
History shows that this is an unavoidable cycle.
To have any sort of collectivist economy or society, the commonly owned productive outputs must be planned, there has to be some method for that productive capacity to know everything from how much corn to grow, how many refrigerators to make and how many doctors to educate – every socialist worth his salt will tell you that. Planning will cause a collective group to tend toward a single point of control, a dictatorship, because that is the most efficient manner to plan and coerce others in the group to go along with the plan. Anyone who has ever tried to gain consensus in a group of more than two people can tell you how inefficient a committee based decision process is and how almost in every case, the decision tends to be made based on the strongest person or opinion. Somebody eventually stands up and say’s, “Let’s do it this way” and by saying that they mean, “Let’s do it my way”. If nobody takes the initiative, nothing gets done.
This is just simple human organizational and behavioral dynamics. Hayek describes it as:
There will be a stronger and stronger demand that some board or some single individual should be given power to act on their own responsibility. The cry for an economic dictator is a characteristic stage in the movement toward planning. Thus the legislative body will be reduced to choosing the persons who are to have practically absolute power. The whole system will tend toward that kind of dictatorship in which the head of the government is position by popular vote, but where he has all the powers at his command to make certain that the vote will go in the direction he desires. Planning leads to dictatorship because dictatorship is the most effective instrument of coercion and, as such, essential if central planning on a large scale is to be possible.
While collectivism promises individual equality, it inevitably ends in a single point of control, one that exercises coercive control over the masses. There is a reason that every attempt at socialism on a national scale has ended in actual or virtual dictatorship.
Collectivism argues that it can beat human nature – that we need only to replace antiquated notions of principle, natural law and spirituality with the concepts of materialism, science and reason. Since Man is the most powerful entity, Man can force (coerce) reality to conform to our plans – but the reality is that no form of collectivism can overcome the human ego. Collectivism only supercharges the ego and sooner or later the collective will call for a dictator, a singular leader – the very thing the collective was supposedly designed to prevent.
As Hayek said: “Democratic socialism…is unachievable.”