A number of years ago, when I was president of the Bozeman Symphony Society, a local citizen, who was a musician and music teacher in the local school system, came to interview me at my office, apparently believing that I was a person of some influence in the community. He wanted my help in obtaining a government grant to construct a performing arts center in Bozeman with a seating capacity of two to three thousand people. We already had a 400-seat auditorium in the Music Department of Montana State University, and our symphony concerts rarely attracted more than 600 people, as is still the case, and they were given in a local movie theater. This gentleman insisted that we needed a large center, so that we could stage operas, popular plays, and other extravaganzas which would be sure to attract many more people.
I asked him if he thought he had the right to extract, by force, tax money from other people in order to build a pet project, which would benefit a few music and theater lovers in the area. He replied, “How else can it be done?” I said that he should seek enough donations from interested citizens to finance such a project, just as had been done with our football field at Montana State University, paid for entirely by donations. “Oh,” he said, “There just aren’t enough music lovers around to pay for such a project, not nearly so many as there are sports lovers.” I replied that if there were not enough music lovers to pay for a performing arts center, then the community certainly didn’t deserve one, especially one paid for by the government through taxes. The gentleman left my office in a very disgruntled mood. I never saw him again.
This little story embodies what worries and frightens me the most about socialism. The dedicated socialist honestly believes that he and others of his persuasion are the elite who are intellectually superior to all the rest of us and who can spend our money more wisely than we can. Not only that, but they have been successful for many years in persuading a majority of the electorate that they are right. Most people just don’t realize that socialism is the same old tyranny mankind has experienced for thousands of years, with a few modern trappings to lure the unwary.
—Alan Iddles, M.D.
Pure socialism, as detailed by Marx, entails separate answers to the questions of production and consumption. The link between production and consumption in bourgeois society, namely that successful production gives one the means for successful consumption, is to he abolished under the pure socialist regime. Instead of trading one’s productive output for one’s consumption, production is forced and consumption is free. No trade is necessary, for production is guaranteed by the coercive powers of the state (and later is voluntarily performed by selfless men in a utopia) and consumption becomes a basic human right.
Of course, pure socialism is so far from consonance with human nature that it has never been tried. There never has been a regime that has totally abolished exchange and money, as prescribed by Marx. Free consumption simply creates shortages of scarce goods; forced production creates resentment, but not goods and services of quality. The variants of socialism that do exist—while impure—partake of the ideas of forced production and free consumption, which is why they invariably fail. Today, socialist regimes everywhere are coming to realize this, and they are injecting incentives—links between successful production and successful consumption—into their otherwise rigid economies. This is a move in the right direction.
—Joseph S. Fulda
Black and White
During a discussion session at a recent FEE seminar, a participant remarked: “You see things only in black and white and the world sometimes operates in shades of gray. For example, it was with a government grant that I was able to earn the doctorate which ultimately benefited my family, my students, and me. So, there are instances where the transfer society can be justified.”
My response: “Right and wrong can be viewed only in terms of black and white; there are never any grays. If you had held a gun to my head in order to coerce me into paying for your education, you surely would have recognized the immoral nature of your conduct. If you had combined with others to accomplish the same end, you still could not have legitimated your act. Your use of the political process to achieve your purpose did not convert your wrongful act into a rightful one. You simply used a more effective means to plunder what belonged to me. But whether stealing is committed individually, collectively, or through the political process, and despite any resulting benefits, it remains morally repugnant.
“Your doctorate may he considered valuable by your family, your students, and you. But had my money not been taken from me, I could have used it to earn my doctorate. Alternatively, I could have donated it to a worthy cause which might have used it to discover a cure for cancer. Some would argue that these results would have been more beneficial than your degree. Actually, it is impossible to measure the true cost of providing your education because no one will ever know what would have come into existence had I, and millions of other vic tims, been left free to dispose of our money in the manner that we, rather than you and the politicians, chose fit.”
Moral principles can never be compromised; they can only be abandoned.
—Jacob G. Hornberger