A Libertarian walks into a bar. He sits down next to a socialist just as the 10 o’clock news comes on the TV. There is a man poised to jump off the ledge of a very tall building.
“Do you think he’ll jump?” asks the socialist.
“I bet he will,” says the Libertarian.
“Well, I bet he won’t.”
At that the Libertarian slaps a $20 bill on the bar. “You’re on.”
Just as the socialist puts down his money, the man swan dives off the ledge.
Upset, the socialist says, “OK, I lost. Here’s your money.”
“I can’t take it. I saw this earlier on the 5 o’clock news and I knew he would jump.”
“Oh, I saw it, too”, says the socialist, “but I didn’t think he would do it again.”
I laugh because this illustrates to me what Aristotle called “the willing suspension of disbelief,” something I find common among those who tout the wonders of socialism despite its obvious failure in every country where it has been tried, the most recent being Venezuela.
If you point out socialism’s failure to anyone who believes in it, they will tell you that true socialism has never been tried. Ask them what “true socialism” is and they will have no answer. At least that has been my experience whenever I engage in an argument with someone on the left.
My father was a devout member of the Socialist Labor Party. Having been raised hearing names like Babeuf, Owen (who coined the term “socialism” in the 19th century), Marx and DeLeon, it is difficult for me to take seriously fauxcialist Bernie Sanders, a veritable dingleberry on the hind of capitalism, a millionaire with three houses who, while promising free stuff to everybody, neglects to mention the fact that — as in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics — that free stuff comes at the cost of their freedom. (Yes, Virginia, communism grew out socialism.)
There are those on the left who love to point to Social Security as socialism. Actually, it is a social-welfare program buttressed by a capitalist economy, a descendant of Bismarck’s attempt to head off socialist appeal in the First Reich. The only resemblance to socialism is the fact that it is run by the government and will, according to a 2018 SSA Trustee report, not only run out other people’s money by 2034 but other people as well because of declining birth rates. So, yeah, that sounds like socialism. Still, the illusion of the socialist ideal appears to grow in popularity.
According to Gallup, some 51% of Americans aged 18-29 (that is 51% of millennials) have a positive view of socialism. I believe they are the 51% raised on Ritalin and participation trophies. I wonder if the drugs and unearned accolades created a group of people without any impulse to succeed, let alone compete. That may explain their attraction to Bernie and his “participatory” benefits. Or do they see him not as an angry old commie but as the kindly old gramps who always had lint-covered butterscotch in his pockets for them. Perhaps not the candy they were hoping for, but what-the-heck, it was free. And unlike Dad, Gramps didn’t tell them to mow the lawn first.
In the opening sentence of his book, “The Totalitarian Temptation” (1976), Jean-Francois Revel writes, “The world today is evolving toward socialism.” So, who knows?
For those who insist real socialism has never been tried, I suggest they read Joshua Muravchik’s “Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism.” In the epilogue he writes about the kibbutzim of Israel. He ends by writing: “Only once did democratic socialists manage to create socialism. That was the kibbutz. And after they had experienced it, they chose democratically to abolish it”.
And that about says it all.