The essential characteristic of socialism is the denial of individual property rights; under socialism, the right to property (which is the right of use and disposal) is vested in “society as a whole,” i.e., in the collective, with production and distribution controlled by the state, i.e., by the government. Socialism may be established by force, as in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—or by vote, as in Nazi (National Socialist) Germany. The degree of socialization may be total, as in Russia—or partial, as in England. Theoretically, the differences are superficial; practically, they are only a matter of time. The basic principle, in all cases, is the same.
The alleged goals of socialism were: the abolition of poverty, the achievement of general prosperity, progress, peace and human brotherhood. The results have been a terrifying failure—terrifying, that is, if one’s motive is men’s welfare.
Instead of prosperity, socialism has brought economic paralysis and/or collapse to every country that tried it. The degree of socialization has been the degree of disaster. The consequences have varied accordingly.
Campus Reform published a video yesterday showing college students in Washington, D.C. responding to two simple questions. The first question was: Do you think socialism is good or bad? As you’ll see, there was enthusiastic agreement from the students that socialism was a good idea, one which is about “helping people” and spreading the wealth. Some of the students even seem defensive, noting that socialism, inexplicably, has a bad reputation.
The second question was also simple: What is socialism? All of the students who were confident socialism was a good idea seem unable to really explain what it is or how it works to produce all of the good outcomes it supposedly produces. One student refers to “getting rid of that wealth gap” but that’s an effect, not a policy or a definition.
There is one student who seems like she might have more to say on the topic but the vast majority of respondents don’t seem to have a clue. Their thinking about socialism is a kind of magical thinking, i.e. they have an emotional reaction to the idea but no actual thought process connecting specific policies to desired outcomes.
I don’t think these students should be ashamed because I doubt most college students, many of whom undoubtedly supported Bernie Sanders during the 2016 campaign, could do any better. In fact, I’m surprised some of them didn’t toss out a few of Sanders’ policy prescriptions in an attempt to answer question #2.
For the record, the definition of socialism is democratic ownership of the means of production.