The Goal of Socialism Is Not to Help the Poor

by | May 25, 2023

Socialism is based on the doctrine of altruism, the morality of self-sacrifice.
Migrant Mother

Socialism at its root is not about economics. (I will use the term socialism and Communism interchangeably).This is why endless attempts by conservative publications to promote better economic education fall on deaf ears among leftists. The conservatives claim socialism has failed, but the socialists say, “No, it hasn’t. You capitalists are focusing on the wrong outcome.”

In fact, economic education is only useful if the culture and its leadership value wealth creation. Socialists do not. Every socialist “experiment” in history has been a failure with respect to abolishing poverty. It is quite clear that socialism has created and sustained poverty everywhere it has been tried, as for instance, by Russia and China.  under pure Communism. In recent years, tired of mass poverty both have allowed some capitalism. Russia backed gangster capitalism and even that has made them somewhat better off economically (though not politically) than before. They are now undermining their economy by promoting a senseless and vicious war. China has allowed some capitalism under very strict Communist supervision accompanied by frequent threats against successful capitalists. Cuba and Venezuela have stuck defiantly with pure Communism and poverty. Millions of people who want chance in life have been fleeing from both countries

So, what is behind socialism? It is motivated by a certain ideal, a certain view of morality, which is the opposite of capitalist morality. Socialism is based on the doctrine of altruism, the morality of self-sacrifice. (Altruism, which means that your life belongs to others, is not the same as helping valued friends and relatives.) In contrast, capitalism is based on the morality of self-interest, which means the right to trade freely with others and to profit from trade. In a free, capitalist country, everyone is better off but everyone does not come out exactly the same because people differ in their family circumstances, ability, ambition, effort, persistence, and integrity.

Is there a way around the fact that everyone does not start life in the same circumstance? Consider the policy of ancient Sparta. Children were taken by law from their parents at birth, raised in state institutions, and released at about age eighteen. This is a form of totalitarianism that even the communists did not stoop to, although they did something similar by making all children go to communist schools.

Socialists do want to promote universal literacy. This may sound appealing; who could be against teaching every child to read and write? But what is the real motive of making all kids go to socialist-run schools?

To understand the motive for socialist education, we first must understand socialist politics. Socialism means that the government owns the means of production. (To this end, calling Sweden socialist is simply dishonest; it is a welfare state just like most free countries, though with a higher tax rate than some.) Socialism may occur as a result of a violent revolution or through initial elections. Socialists who first get elected do so under the promise that everyone will have some degree of political freedom and some sort of a guaranteed life, which includes a good standard of living.

But the economic promise cannot be met because socialism always causes and sustains mass poverty. When the voters see they have been deceived, they start to complain; this threatens the whole socialist state. To protect their power, socialists must start by limiting, controlling, or abolishing freedom of the press, the airwaves, public debate, and open Internet communication.

Socialist governments also work to fix subsequent elections. They limit who can run for office. They limit or abolish airtime for unapproved candidates. They take control over counting ballots. They may check on how people vote and can even make such necessities as food dependent on voting the right way.

Disillusioned people may oppose the government, so demonstrations are outlawed. Eventually, the government must set up a force of secret police to ferret out troublemakers. (Venezuela uses Cuban and Russian secret police to keep order.) The police are used to identify harass, threaten, torture, imprison, and kill dissidents. Some socialist states allow emigration—after all, there are fewer people to feed and to make trouble. One way or another, the best, most ambitious, and skilled people frequently get out as soon as they can.

Now let us go back to education. Ideally, education involves giving children basic skills, which include learning how to think. But just teaching people how to think is too risky under socialism. People must be taught to obey socialist dogma. Otherwise, people might start thinking for themselves. They might expose government failures, contradictions, lies and corruption. They might want more freedom.

More freedom cannot be allowed. So schooling, whatever else it does, must include large doses of socialist propaganda. As a “bonus,” students who complain can be immediately threatened and are readily targeted as possible future dissidents. In short, rather than encourage the development of the mind, socialist schools work to stultify or rigidify the mind in the realm of politics.

Independent thinking is discouraged or forbidden and replaced with orders to memorize and spout socialist (Marxist) propaganda. As noted, when emigration is allowed, millions of people, those who want freedom of thought and opportunity, move to countries where they have the right to live as human beings.

Socialists claim that they will bring people to a higher moral plane. But that plane is actually lower. Citizens must constantly look for “traitors” to the cause—those who expose corruption or want freedom—and inform on them, including on their neighbors and even family members who dare express dislike for the rulers. The failure to turn in so-called “traitors” could result in threats, prison terms, torture, or death.

People quickly learn to censor themselves when they see what the consequences of speaking openly will be. Integrity must be crushed at all costs.

Of course, socialist leaders themselves may be hypocrites by secretly accumulating millions of dollars in wealth, often through drug dealing, theft, or running quasi-capitalist businesses on the side. George Orwell’s Animal Farm illustrates the hypocrisy of socialism, but in the end, this book is not really a critique of socialism at all. The Pigs who take more than their fair share of the common food are only condemned because they take too much. By implication, things would have been fine if they all had shared equally. Hypocrisy is not socialism’s main failing. The collectivist morality, by which everyone must selflessly share rather than being in charge of their own farms and trading freely with others, is never questioned.

What about socialist health care? We know that in Venezuela, the whole system has collapsed because there is not enough money to fund it. Donors from outside the country heavily support the few medical resources that are available. As for Cuba, finding trustworthy data is impossible because the government manipulates data as it wishes. But isn’t Cuba praiseworthy for training medical professionals? No. Their main purpose for training professionals is to send them to other countries as indentured servants—with the government taking most of the salaries. (Many of these health workers defect.)

So, if creating wealth for all, political freedom, quality health care, and education that promote thinking are not what socialism is fundamentally about, what is the ultimate motive behind it? It is not just power for power’s sake: after all, lots of dictators of various political persuasions seek that.

The deepest motive of socialists is negative: it is to destroy capitalism, which means to destroy the process of wealth creation as such. The true socialist’s core agenda is to prevent anyone (except selected socialist rulers) from earning more money than anyone else, even at the cost of keeping everyone at the near subsistence level. Socialism is a doctrine based at root not on love for the poor but on hatred for the creators, meaning anyone who makes money. (For more on this subject see “The Age of Envy” in Rand, 1993, Ch. 9).

What is the evidence that destroying capitalism is the number-one priority? The giveaway is that socialists are indifferent to the poverty they create; they are fine with everyone being equally poor so long as capitalism is wiped out. The duty of each citizen is to obey, to sacrifice his own hopes, goals, and plans for the sake of the collective—to be selfless, to give up wanting anything for himself except what the state permits.

At the deepest level, socialism entails the destruction of the human soul—which means the destruction of the mind, of rights, of values, of hope, of freedom—the turning of helpless victims into frightened, selfless beggars hoping for a crust of bread. This is the deepest meaning and motive of socialist “idealism.” Socialism is nihilism.

Socialists claim they are for “social justice.” But what does that mean?

Economically, social justice for the left means that no one should do better than anyone else. Some people may work harder than others, but they should not be allowed to benefit. Everything goes in the collective pot, which means everyone gets what someone else earns.

Economically, this is social injustice.

Compare this to capitalism in the context of free society where everyone gets what is earned through voluntary trade. This is real justice. Socialists have twisted the concept of justice into its opposite: getting what you did not earn is justice; getting what you earned is social injustice.

Edwin A. Locke is Dean's Professor of Leadership and Motivation Emeritus at the R.H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. He is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial & Organizational Behavior, and the Academy of Management. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (Society for I/O Psychology), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Management (OB Division), the J. M. Cattell Award (APS) and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Academy of Management. He, with Gary Latham, has spent over 50 years developing Goal Setting Theory, ranked No. 1 in importance among 73 management theories. He has published over 320 chapters, articles, reviews and notes, and has authored or edited 13 books including (w. Kenner) The Selfish Path to Romance, (w. Latham) New Directions in Goal Setting and Task Performance, and The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators. He is internationally known for his research on motivation, job satisfaction, leadership, and other topics. His website is: EdwinLocke.com

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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