By Keith Nobles

The truth of the old saying that history may not repeat but it certainly rhymes is being manifested again.

The United States, and much of the world, is divided between those striving for socialism and those striving for various strains of populism.

It is not as though we have not been here before, we have. Those who have even the slightest awareness of history, economics and human nature are mindful of how all of this turns out. Sadly our education system is broken hence many are completely unaware that we have been here before and how it turns out.

Both socialism and populism directly or indirectly blame the same bogeyman for their grievances – capitalism and free markets.

That we have moved ever farther away from capitalism and free markets and embraced ever more government intervention and distortion of the markets never enters into the thinking of either the socialists or the populists. This takes us back to the broken education system – both socialist and populist often accurately identify problems (but propose horrific solutions for those problems) but obtusely ignore government intervention and distortions of the market as the root of those problems.

The gist of both socialism and populism comes down to proposing more government force in order to resolve issues that were caused by government force in the first place. It was Milton Friedman who once remarked that many of the arguments against the free market were rooted in a  lack of belief in freedom itself. The education system has failed to provide people the tools – particularly in terms of history, economics and human nature – that citizens require to put their experiences in context. Many people are not aware that the socialism vs. populism battle is a rerun. Many people have zero awareness of how the economy works or how their government works and into this void of knowledge they have created ideologically-driven fantasies centered on how they wish it worked, fantasies intended to support their political and social dreams.

The socialists and the populists are generally and obtusely unaware that they are doing nothing more than arguing for more of what they already have but in different ways.

Nothing revolutionary in that what so ever. If you don’t like the problems that we have now, why would you like even more of them?

“Anyone who says that economic security is a human right has been too much babied. While he babbles, other men are risking and losing their lives to protect him. They’re fighting the sea, fighting the land, fighting diseases and insects and weather and space and time, for him, while he chatters that all men have a right to security and that some pagan god—Society, The State, The Government, The Commune—must give it to them. Let the fighting men stop fighting this inhuman earth for one hour, and he’ll learn how much security there is.” – Rose Wilder Lane

The best a government can do is to protect individual rights and property rights and enforce laws against hurting people and stealing things. Whenever government has viewed their job as making things fair, they’ve entered a black hole of abuse that always institutionalizes unfairness. At that point it simply becomes a competition between factions fighting over who will profit from the unfairness and who will suffer from the unfairness. The basic problem with government-enforced fairness is that society loses elasticity. It becomes brittle. This is what has happened to us, and once government proclaims itself the arbiter of what is fair, it’s loath to ever alter its course—no matter how obviously wrong or unfair that course is—for fear of appearing unfair based on its own doctrine of what it’s already defined as fair. When a government has proclaimed that it’s empowered to determine what fair is, then it’s boxed itself in. Government will then heap bad ideas on top of bad ideas in order to comply with its own arbitrary definition of fair, which is actually just the outcome of factionalism, and stacks absurdities on top of absurdities. This is the great trap when you leave it up to politics rather than society to define what is fair. This stroll through the irrational always arrives at the same destination—government using force against the very people they claim to represent in the name of fairness.

The history of the last hundred years or so of humanity is that people are willing to kill in order to obtain that promised magical government elixir that doesn’t exist. The Lane quote above,”‘all men have a right to security and that some pagan god—Society, The State, The Government, The Commune—must give it to them’” goes to the point. Those who worship at the altar of the government are more than eager to provide their gods a human sacrifice in order to be satiated and blessed. It is always the lives of other humans, not themselves, that they offer. The nonbelievers if you will. In fact, the people who worship government and the state have no other sacrifice to offer their god aside from the lives and property of their neighbors. If they had anything else they were willing to offer they would not be worshipping that god in the first place.

When we talk about socialist it is becoming ever more difficult to distinguish ideology from theology.

Government is god to them.

“If we just sacrifice the right neighbors and the right property to the government-god, we will be granted all of our wishes!”

This story is as old as man-kind, but no one can maintain any intellectual honesty by calling it ‘progressive.’

The Satan in this twisted theology is freedom itself. People free to choose, free to prosper from their own labor, free to express their own creativity or declining to do so, free to follow their own conscience and not a state-mandated social correctness, free to choose how they will live their lives, this  is anathema to the socialists.

The essential problem with populism can be observed from its’ title – what is popular and not what is principled. What is popular is most often a reaction, and an emotional reaction, to events and not principled in justice or fairness.

Populism inevitably and ironically becomes extraordinarily unpopular.

The error made by both socialists and populists is that prosperity is a tree that blooms forever – and what ever political, cultural and economic system one adopts that tree will continue to bloom.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Prosperity only grows with freedom and as government has grown and interfered in the lives of people and commerce and government has increasingly distorted markets it has become more difficult for most people to attain prosperity.

Increasing government intervention will decrease prosperity and general happiness and contentment – not increase those things.

Choose wisely…