You’ve probably all heard of this definition in one way or another before (credit to a writer on a Quora thread but no doubt this has appeared before in more than one guise):
SOCIALISM: You have 2 cows. You give one to your neighbour.
COMMUNISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.
FASCISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.
NAZISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and shoots you.
BUREAUCRATISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other and then throws the milk away.
CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.
DEMOCRACY: You have 2 cows. Your neighbor has none. You vote people into office who tax your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay for the tax. The people you voted for then take the tax money and buy a cow and give it to your neighbor. You feel righteous.
What I found interesting is the parallels between democracy and socialism and the fact that most of Western society has fairly readily embraced this worldview. What I found rather alarming is Marx’s theory as to how we get there:
To eradicate the structure of capitalism and lead human kind to the next socioeconomic model where human relations are built on equal term, as per Marx, the wage working class should/would arise and eliminate capitalism and replace it with a model where means of living are democratically operated, and not private. That model is socialism. Once the state has provided conditions of equality for sufficient period of time, the new man will no longer need a state, and the state would simply be redundant and wither away. That state would be communism.
What I find utterly naive in the belief system of your average Marxist (Jeremy Corbyn being a good contemporary example) is that this whole “evolution” demands that we believe humans are inherently good and will naturally work towards the common good. But the simple fact is that humans are naturally selfish (to greater or lesser degrees of subtlety, let’s all just be honest with each other for a minute). It’s the reason why no communist state has ever been successful – in fact, most end up a cesspool of pilfering bureaucrats taking state resources for their own gain and workers that will always figure out the route of least resistance to doing as little work as possible (and lest capitalists think they’ve escaped criticism let it be said that in the previous state of this evolution both the bureaucrat and the worker were ardent capitalists – this isn’t as much an assessment of political views, as it is of human nature and the fact that we all find a state of equilibrium based on the political, economic and social climate we occupy). History has proven this to be true time and again. Without a true regeneration of the inner man (and I need point you no further than this site to understand what I mean by this) there will never be an equitable society where people will love one another and act selflessly in meeting the needs of others.
Since Marx held a godless view of the world, I am not really sure where he expected the so-called “new man” to come from. As one Quora commentator succinctly put it: “Communism requires that labour becomes a desirable thing to do by itself, which is something that only robotic fantasies have ever portrayed as possible.” The best contemporary example we have of a pure socialist state is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
On their website they state:
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a genuine workers’ state in which all the people are completely liberated from exploitation and oppression. The workers, peasants, soldiers and intellectuals are the true masters of their destiny and are in a unique position to defend their interests.
But in reality it’s more like this (source interview here):
It was like living in hell. There were constant power outages, so everything was dark. There was no transportation – everyone had to walk everywhere. It was very dirty and no one could eat anything. It was not the right conditions for human life, but you couldn’t think about it, let alone complain about it. Even though you were suffering, you had to worship the regime every day.
Apparently, it gets better still, because the DPRK is still a socialist state and hasn’t yet reached the pinnacle of it’s political evolution: pure communism:
- Primitive communism (as with primitive peoples: no State, no money, no private property)
- Slave societies
- Communism (again, no State, no money, no private property…no nothing)
This Utopian communist state that Marx envisioned, where there would not even be a State to keep in check the base impulses of man, would soon be an anarchic free-for-all where people would be covertly or overtly robbing each other blind in some misplaced attempt to ensure everyone has equally nothing. This, dear friends, is the closest example of hell on earth (not my words, please read the interview above, or ask anyone living in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe for their opinion. Of course Mugabe will tell you differently…).
It’s always easy to criticise, but what is the answer? Firstly, I don’t think that socialism as an ideal is wrong. But we need to understand that when we implement pure socialism with people that are not ideal, we will end up with the very worst aspects of welfare fraud, tax and spend economics and a growing nanny state. But if we let equally selfish capitalists have their way, we’re not going to be better off either, with a widening GINI co-efficient and frivolous and unfettered consumerism.
What I propose as the only viable alternative, taking into consideration the best and worst of human nature, is compassionate capitalism. This system is perhaps also an ideal, but it is an attainable one – and one that exists already within many church communities across the world. It takes the impulse of man to “get ahead” (capitalism) and combines it with the anti-impulse to “give away” (compassion) to help create a fair society where the strong look after the weak. This is only possible when the capitalist has the revelation that “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). In other words, realising that profit in itself is not an end, but a means to an end. We must reject the inner Machiavellian capitalist and embrace the communal capitalist, who understands that he is not an island, but that both his welfare and the profit of his business is directly related to the welfare and the profit of the community he inhabits. The truest and best way to achieve this transformation is through the new birth, by allowing the indwelling Christ to transform our motives from selfishness to selflessness. However, there can be other motivations too, with a similar outcome, of which I am not placed to be the judge, but people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have epitomised this by – without State compulsion or coercion or revolution – offering up their spoils freely to those who have the greatest need. I, for one, take my hat off to them for leading so boldly in this area. My hope and prayer is that more business people will see the light but even more so that they may come to know the true Light of the World, whose lead we should all follow.