In this article on the BBC website Will Self “assesses why politicians’ promises are like Trojan horses.”
“Having laid to rest as grotesquely unfeasible – and worse, flying in the face of human nature – the socialistic conceptions of equality of income and collective ownership…”
At this I took exception, because he seems to be asserting that people in general no longer believe in socialism.
You, a minority of others and I may have realised socialistic concepts like equality of income and collective ownership are infeasible and contrary to human nature, but the vast majority of people haven’t. This is evidenced by the fact that we still have a socialised healthcare system, a social security system, a socialised education system, socialised public transport and utilities (a system of government-granted franchises/monopolies is not a truly ‘privatised’ free-market solution), and a socialised infrastructure. Further evidence is that whenever those in authority propose to merely reduce the size and scope of any of these, which isn’t often, it is met with angry resistance and moral outrage by the public. Anyone who goes further and proposes the dismantling of such systems so that free market, non-coercive solutions may replace them is intellectually burned at the stake and not even allowed to sit at the mainstream debating table.
It’s clear that every member of every mainstream political party, from left to right, still believes in the feasibility and virtue of a degree of socialism because decade after decade the party in power has enacted interventionist policies, and every time their opponents have ‘opposed’ them with somewhat different interventionist policy proposals. This pattern shows no sign of stopping.
Socialism and interventionism are closely related as political/economic theories because they are both founded on the same false premise that capitalism is fundamentally flawed; in other words that individuals interacting freely with each other and disposing of their property as they wish is ultimately deleterious to producing the greatest good for the greatest number. The two theories only differ in their view as to what degree capitalism is flawed. Socialists believe capitalism and private property to be entirely flawed and immoral, and therefore that both must be prevented by force, whereas interventionists believe that capitalism is not entirely flawed and can go some way to achieving the greatest good for the greatest number but only in the presence of a coercive authority, which is required to control it in order to overcome its perceived flaws and excesses.
Interventionism, an offshoot of socialism and perhaps the result of an emotional unwillingness or inability of some to abandon the dream of the socialist utopia, has been rampant since the second world war and the man on the street has no idea.
The vast majority of people are entirely ignorant of the fact that they live in a society heavily sculpted by generations of subscribers to interventionism. Even Thatcher, who was perceived as the very embodiment of capitalism, privatisation and small government was an interventionist. People today believe they live in a ‘capitalist’ society, one quite distant from socialism, but they are mistaken. Our society is much further along the spectrum towards socialism than they realise, and it’s only likely to get closer as people continue to demand that the government be given more power to take from the rich in the wholly mistaken belief that this will arrest the downward spiral of their standard of living.