The Psychological Cost of Socialism

Bernie Sanders is an outwardly socialist candidate running for president who might actually get somewhere. In some polls, he’s neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton for his party’s nomination. No, he will probably not get the nomination in the end. But he could, and he’s having an impact on his party. Thanks in part to Sanders, the Democratic Party is now consistently and openly socialist. No more in the closet. Big Brother is here, and his name is Bernie.

Unlike even hardcore leftists like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Sanders comes out openly for the redistribution of wealth. “It’s not your money. It’s society’s.” That’s it. We hear a lot about how the redistribution of wealth is bad for the economy, and of course it is. When you take wealth out of the hands of people who competently created it, and put it into the hands of those who could never have made an honest $10 (see Sanders’ personal history), then you’re asking for trouble, economically. It would be like turning your bank account or IRA over to a ten-year-old, telling him, “Spend it as you like.”

We hear less about how redistribution of wealth is morally wrong. Yet it is. Ayn Rand, in her novel Atlas Shrugged and elsewhere, had the gumption and honesty to point out what should have been obvious. When you steal from a person, you violate his individual rights. It doesn’t become “not theft” simply because the person makes over $250,000 a year, or over a billion a year, just because you choose to arbitrarily violate his individual and property rights at that point.

What about the effect of wealth redistribution on those to whom it’s redistributed? We almost never hear anything about that. It’s taken for granted that the person receiving the wealth redistribution is better off. But how can that be?

For one thing, government is inefficient, and often corrupt. Government is not a private charity. An honest charity has a rational interest in seeing to it that the charity’s beneficiary will get the intended benefit. Sometimes charities are corrupt, but usually they are not. When they are, they are exposed and shamed, even prosecuted. When a government charity is proven corrupt, they usually end up with more tax money and anyone who criticizes this will be labeled a racist. Bottom line? Private charities can go out of business; government programs almost never do.

If you’re really in need of charity, then you’re far better off with a private charity, than with a red-tape laden, paperwork-drowning government-run one. Look at the fiasco that’s Obamacare. This is what happens when you try to turn charity into a government-run program.

Redistribution of wealth changes the nature of charity. Instead of the recipient thinking, “Somebody, out of the kindness of his or her heart, wanted me to be better off,” the recipient knows full well that the donations were taken by force. This changes the psychology. It changes the whole dynamic. The psychology shifts from benevolence and appreciation to entitlement, even nastiness or defensiveness. “Well of course I’m getting this help. I need it, and I deserve it.” People obtaining assistance and benefits from the government often complain about the poor treatment they receive from government welfare officers. But what else can they expect? There’s no mutual respect or benevolence in a context where force rules.

Redistribution of wealth takes the rational judgment of the donor out of charity. This means the beneficiary gets the benefit as an entitlement, as a right, not as a favor. The moment this happens, it’s no longer charity. Government, while much less efficient than private charity, is better at ensuring that those who do not deserve charity nevertheless get it. It’s so easy to lie, cheat and manipulate your way through a government system, since “judgment” consists of looking right on paper more than a donor making any kind of intelligent judgment. Who deserves charity, and who does not? Rationally speaking, a person deserves help if (1) the help is temporary, i.e. a hand up and not a handout; and (2) the person suffers through no fault of his or her own. The help, of course, must always be voluntary. While a person has every legal right to give charity to someone not deserving by this definition, it’s appalling tyranny to watch the government impose it as an entitlement. (This applies to corporations no less than individuals, by the way.)

Government does not give hands up, as most people—Donald Trump included, in his defense of the so-called social safety net—mistakenly assume. Government provides toxic incentives to stay on the benefit. I cannot tell you the number of people I have known, through my work, who reluctantly get dependent on a government handout (e.g. Social Security disability), a meager income to be sure, and then feel an incentive not to work lest they lose the benefit. It shatters their spirit, their self-confidence, and any rational incentive to make themselves into capable, self-sustaining individuals, even on a modest scale. And this misery happens in the context of a stagnant, minimal income.

Entitlement and redistribution of wealth shatter lives. I am so sick of people against these things being on the defensive. We give the moral high ground to the likes of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, whose beliefs and policies are responsible not only for progressive destruction of the economy, but also for sacrificing the lives and souls of millions of people who become dependent on this permanent form of help.

Socialism has already ruined the lives of much of the poor. Now it has set its sights on the middle class. When America’s middle class is ruined and ultimately gone, as it will be if socialism continues on in America, then America will truly no longer be America.

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