“Account must be taken of every single article, every pound of grain, because what socialism implies above all is keeping account of everything” — V.I. Lenin
Now that we have had a good look at Leftist notions of equality, we need to have at least a brief look at the characteristic Leftist love of maximal government. We see in Lenin’s jealous remark above part of the foundation of the bureaucratic State that Leftism always creates, though Lenin himself went on to say that you could somehow keep account of everything without bureaucracy! (in what universe?)
One hardly needs to give examples of government inability to solve problems but, if one is needed, the way Argentina’s Juan Peron proposed to deal with rising prices is at least amusing: He threatened to shoot any shopkeeper who raised his prices! Needless to say this was a good way of getting shopkeepers to shut their doors and turn Argentina into one big black market — thus driving prices UP — but it was not a solution to anything. Risible though Peron’s ideas may have been, however, the reliance on coercion by Communist regimes was not dissimilar and was equally counterproductive and impoverishing. Coercion of any sort or degree — whether by governments or anybody else — is generally a poor and ineffective way of doing things.
Furthermore, governments everywhere remove large slices of the workforce out of productive activity and into paper-shuffling so are principally successful at impoverishing their communities but Leftists in some way manage not to care about that despite their vocal claim to be concerned about poverty. If they really were concerned about poverty, they would want to REDUCE the number of things government did! That they do not shows the hollowness of their “concern”.
The now worldwide trend towards privatization and deregulation, however, shows that even governments themselves eventually have to admit that their cures are often worse than the disease. When governments as diverse as the “Communists” of China and the Hindu nationalists of India have now embraced deregulation and privatization (with great success), the continuing Left/liberal infatuation with government exposes them as the dinosaurs in the world of ideas.
Not that old ideas need be wrong: The seminal conservative political philosopher, (and friend of American liberties) Edmund Burke (1907), was a great advocate of limited power for government and already in the 18th century saw that government attempts at “compulsory equalizations,” would lead to “equal want, equal wretchedness, equal beggary” — and 20th century Socialist and Communist governments amply validated that prophecy.
Nonetheless, Leftists DO constantly seek expansion of the role of government — with Communism being the limiting case of that, i.e. the case where government is all-powerful. So why do they do such an apparently foolish thing? As the quote from Hegel at the head of this article shows, it is a Leftist propensity of long standing and great centrality so it cries out for explanation.
I will submit at length throughout this monograph that the answer is psychological rather than philosophcal or theoretical but we might at this point take a passing look at the sort of rationale that Leftists do offer in an effort to appear as more than just control-freaks:
Their basic argument is that the State somehow has superior claims to the claims of the individual. The formulation of the ex-Marxist Mussolini is perhaps the most famous and extreme example of such thinking:
“Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”.
Mussolini, however, was of course far too untactful for modern tastes but muted examples of such thinking still abound on the Left where, under the heading “No, it’s not your money”, a modern-day mainstream Leftist quotes the thinking of philosopher Peter Singer as “proving” that none of us have any good claim to own anything: Everything we have is courtesy of the State. The explanation for such a counter-intuitive and plainly totalitarian claim is to say that the individual could accomplish nothing and would earn nothing without the community of which he forms part — and that therefore he “owes” the community something in return. That is of course true. What is hilarious is that Leftists by some amazing feat of illogicality then immediately equate “the community” with “the government” — which is in fact merely one part of the community, and a very parasitic part at that.
To see how parasitic, it is instructive to look at Britain in the year 1900. Britain at that time was the workshop of the world, had the world’s largest navy (far larger than it is now), had an army that could muster half a million men if required (as it subsequently did in South Africa), had more effective policing than it has today, had justice and educational systems that were legendary for their quality, had a comprehensive welfare system and had extensive worker-protection legislation (principally introduced by the arch-Conservative Disraeli). So how much of the national income was spent by government at that time? 13.3%! Taxation there has since skyrocketed (government expenditures reaching 49.9% of the national income in 1984) and what have Britons got in return for all that extra tax? An army of clerks and petty dictators, principally. Clearly, Britain in 1900 shows that one can discharge one’s obligations to “the community” without giving half of the national income to the government to squander.
So the whole argument is an evasion. Practically everyone (a few anarchists of various types excepted) agrees that we need government and owe it something. The only interesting debate is over the quantum — how much do we need the government and how much do we owe it? And to claim that we owe it everything is simply a dogmatic assertion with no evident basis.
The plain fact is that what we owe the community we DO pay and have ALWAYS paid — by working and providing our services in exchange for services that we receive from others. And people co-operate to create goods and services for one-another with or without government involvement. And even if we agree that we owe the government some of our money for the services it provides, that in no way implies that we owe something to each and every member of the community, regardless of how much they contribute to the community.
There is, for instance, nothing inconsistent with my admitting indebtedness to the community and also saying that I owe hobos nothing. They have done nothing for me so I owe them nothing. I may give them something out of kindness but that is all. It is of course typically dreamy and simplistic Leftist thinking to see “the community” as some sort of undifferentiated whole when it is in fact anything but and when people in every day of their lives make sharp and important distinctions of all sorts between different members of it. Leftists have such rigid and simplistic thinking that their analyses of the world have always concentrated on large and overgeneralized groups. It used to be “the working class” versus “the bourgeoisie” and now it is mostly “gays”, “women”, “minorities”, “Zionists” etc. They just can’t handle or allow for individuals in their thinking. Individuals are just too messy and unruly for them. Straitjackets for all!