In Greek mythology, the sirens lived on an island, Sirenum Scopuli, and lured sailors to shipwreck on its rocks with their enchanting songs. Socialism is the Sirenum Scopuli of civilization. Its incredible to me that socialism remains so appealing to so many people. It has always failed miserably to increase the well-being of the people subjected to it no matter where it has been tried. It failed the Pilgrims and almost led them to starvation. It failed the Soviets who were unbelievably wasteful in energy and food production. It has never succeeded and will ultimately rend apart China. Yet it continues to hold favor mainly with those who are among the taking class and those who seek to impose their own personal beliefs upon others. Lets consider the two. The first is the taking class. These are the persons in the society who are dependent upon the largesse of others in the society. They are either non-productive through no fault of their own or non-productive through choice. Either way rather than depend upon their own resources, they depend upon family, friends or the state to provide for their welfare. Note that all members of the taking class do not necessarily favor socialism. However, it is likely that most do. The second group is what some call facetiously “the elites.” These are “elite” in their own minds. They have the attitude of superiority in that they feel they can make decisions for others better than the others can make decisions for themselves. They tend to have ivy league educations. Do you know any elites from Ohio State? They are the ultimate snobs. Their tastes in music are superior. Their tastes in food are superior. Their tastes in fashion, arts, culture, diet, health and most importantly economics are superior. They know what is best for others and seek to impose themselves upon the masses. Milton Friedman once said that the reason why the intellectual tends to the left is not the desire to discuss the merits of their arguments with others but rather to impose them upon others. These snobs cannot accept the simple fact is that people in the main regardless of background know what is best for themselves and act accordingly. Moreover those acts led to market demand which directs resources to be used in their most efficient manner resulting in greatest consumer satisfaction and the least waste of resources. The irony is that the imposition of the will of the few on the many results in just the opposite, less consumer satisfaction and more waste. The government is inherently inefficient because it does not operate under the profit motive. By taking resources from the productive and allocating them to the non-productive creates disincentives on both ends. And this is precisely why in the end socialism fails: it is wasteful and breeds sloth. Despite the obvious, in the final analysis it is not surprising why socialism is still appealing. The takers think they will be better off, event though they will end up being worse off as the economy gets less productive. The “elites” are our modern day sirens. They favor it regardless even though they know that the economy will shipwreck. They will have more individual resources in their control and most importantly to them, they will have more power.
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com