The impracticality of socialism

There is no one-size-fits-all economic order

Socialism as an answer to our nation’s economic problems just won’t go away. And it’s not likely to during any period, such as ours, when there is a widely accepted view that wealth inequality is too flagrant and demeaning to lower and middle income Americans.

Inadequate social cohesion or a feeling that society is too fractured between those that have and those who don’t have enough wealth and resources, leading to a lack of shared prosperity, continues to fester in the public mind. A strong case can be made broadly identifying economic collectivism as a unifying principle, which best ensures financial stability across all class and demographic sectors.

If we agree societies are best measured by how all people are treated, particularly those at the edges, then an economic system in which production and distribution of goods and services is a collective responsibility, as socialism claims to be, can look appealing.

However, there is a serious theoretical disconnect between the widespread ends socialism proposes and the practical means of getting there, especially given the American values mindset and economic tradition, based as it is on capitalism and individualism.

Socialism prides itself on believing there really does exist a profound rational approach to achieve a moral objective. Well-defined policies, detailed planning, targeted interventions, distributive actions and data-driven predictions, all executed by like-minded proficient and professional managers, will achieve universal goals from which all will benefit. All that is needed, we are told, is for the country to place its trust in a single administrative class of skillful specialists and what will follow are resources being allocated reasonably and wisely, thereby eliminating want and suffering.

Of course, this socialist managerial group of supervisors need unfettered power and control to achieve these ends. They can’t have their time interfered with by negotiations and compromising with others who may disagree with their approaches. To do so would dilute the effectiveness of their policies.

Insular command and control of the nation’s decision-making apparatus must be maintained if progress is to be realized. Indeed, a unified rationalist process is foremost in a socialist governance structure. A single on-high leading voice must be heard in order for economic benefits to best be disseminated.

Socialism is highly concerned with distribution. In fact, apportionment of wealth would appear to be the only concern we need to address. What is glaringly absent in socialist rhetoric is barely any mention of production. Where is the money to be distributed to come from?

As best I can make out, socialist production is to come from mandated and deliberate economic planning, supported by a commonly accepted ethic stating we’re all in this together and therefore we will all work for the common good, like it or not.

Can we look to examples throughout history where this has successfully worked? China and Vietnam, maybe. Are these realistic models for the United States?

There are those who give rise to wealth. Entrepreneurs, corporatists and businesspeople actually generate economic value, but they are disparagingly referred to as the problem, because they hoard wealth for themselves and their ilk. Raiding their coffers is just and fair, because they’re greedy and self-interested, or so the rationale goes.

Perhaps socialists and far-left liberals should find solace in the meaningful ways socialism has already permeated our lives at a policy level. Let’s face it. We already are partly socialist. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, labor protection laws, minimum wage, industry subsidies, government-mandated work standards, and soon-to-be universal healthcare, are obvious examples. The political debate is really about balancing socialism with free-market neoliberalism, not choosing one solely over the other.

No one ideological group holds all of the required reason and knowledge to dictate a one-size-fits-all economic order. A mix of views debated vigorously brings any hope all constituents’ interests will be addressed.

Bill Ryan, who writes about career, employment and economic topics from his home in North Sutton, can be reached at

Categories: Business Advice