This week, Jeremy Corbyn launched his official campaign to remain as Labour leader by vowing to tackle the “five ills of 21st century Britain”. He said a future Labour government will confront the “injustices” of inequality, neglect, prejudice, insecurity and discrimination. The leftist media delighted in his stirring speech, naturally, but it just confirmed to me that Corbyn stands not against the current government, but beside it.
Corbyn too is promising a fantasy society that cannot exist in human reality, but which cannot fail to appeal to an increasingly panicky public. A future which, upon close scrutiny, isn’t much different to the one promised by newly installed Prime Minister Theresa May in her recent speech. A person who, supposedly, resides at the other end of the political spectrum and is principally opposed to Corbyn. But there is no spectrum in British politics anymore. There is democratic socialism and then there is a void of nothingness (where classical liberalism used to be).
All political parties in the UK today are democratic socialists in practice. They only differ in name and in flag colour. They disagree on technicalities, not fundamentals. They both believe in the virtue and efficacy of central planning. They both believe that it is possible to achieve an optimum mix of capitalism and socialism; of freedom and slavery. Theresa May probably sees a perfectly mixed and evenly rotating economy as the final aim. Corbyn, however, likely sees this as a necessary step towards the end goal of a fully socialist society.
There’s now a whole generation of Brits whose hearts and minds have never been touched by the mass starvation, death, suffering and economic ruin wrought by socialist central planning in Russia and Eastern Europe during the first half of the 20th century. To them, this chapter of the story of humanity is missing. As far as they know, Russia and other Eastern European nations have always been prosperous, capitalist societies. This generational naivety is propelling Jeremy Corbyn’s rise and a renewed interest in socialism.
A generation has no idea that Eastern Europe was once a socialist hell on earth. That a communist collective of centrally planned economies rendered a standard of living so measly and homogenous that people were desperate to escape. Tens of millions of people directed like puppets to fulfil the economic and social grand plans of a few central planners. They were told what to learn, what to do and who to listen to. It wasn’t just a higher standard of living people sought, but freedom from oppressive, brutal and murderous government, which is an inherent feature of any communist state.
Even though emigration was illegal, a staggering 19% of East Germany’s population fled (to West Germany and other places where there was more economic freedom) before a giant wall was built in 1961 to keep people from leaving the Eastern Bloc. On three occasions some people even resorted to hijacking airliners, such was the desire to escape. Some 75,000 people were caught and imprisoned for attempting to escape over the Berlin Wall alone.
When you have to make emigration illegal and build giant walls to physically stop people leaving, that’s a sign that your social system isn’t making people happier or more prosperous. I’m sure Jeremy Corbyn believes that his democratic socialism would succeed where 20th century socialism failed, but he’s deluding himself and his supporters.
Whether decisions are made by referendum or by a ruling elite the end results are the same when the state controls all the means of production: shortages and massive misallocation of resources continuously resulting in too much of stuff people want least and not enough of what people want most.
And, inevitably, extreme and deadly inequality. The poorest people in communist states starve to death because food shortages and famine is common. (the Russian famine of 1921 killed 5 million people alone). The poorest people in capitalist societies like Britain’s go to food banks, which exist at all because food is so abundant and cheap. And that’s because private ownership (and exchange) of the means of production is a far more productive economic system than government ownership and control of the means of production.
Corbyn’s core of fanatical supporters comes from the highly motivated yet highly ignorant among today’s middle class youth and young adults in Britain. I’ve seen their ilk interviewed on mainstream news. They speak eloquently of Corbyn and his socialist policies with a blind certainty and enthusiasm that only young minds innocent of the human horrors of 20th-century state socialism could.
I’m convinced that if Corbyn’s fanatical following could be transported back in time to sample life in any of the Eastern Bloc countries in the early 20th century, even just for a day, they would recoil in horror from the ideas their hero represents. And the difference in the standard of living between a capitalist society and a socialist society would shock them to their core.
These zealous Corbynites are itching to do something. They think all that need be done is to ‘share’ prosperity out evenly (via government decrees) and everyone will be better off forever more. Their ignorance of history leads them to believe what they advocate is radical, but it isn’t. Abdicating responsibility to government for ones survival and well-being has always been appealing to human beings, right back to people of the Roman Empire. They too wanted freedom from responsibility. Their rulers promised it to them just like ours promise it to us.
Corbyn’s fans believe we just need to let democratically elected socialists, who are the correct people to be in power because they have the best of intentions and know what’s best, take control of every industry and market that’s not working like it should and 21st-century society’s major ills will be cured. Equality achieved. Discrimination eradicated. Insecurity vanished. To Corbyn’s young fanatics, some of whom could easily become future Labour leaders and politicians themselves, the solution to society’s ills is a ‘no-brainer’.
And that’s the problem. They think there is no need for brain work, no need to use one’s reasoning mind because they believe socialism has the moral high ground. They don’t know that economics and ethics is a science and they don’t care. They see inequality, insecurity and discrimination as moral injustices, as bugs in the software of society. They don’t see them as they are: natural features of a society in which peaceful people are (largely) free to act peacefully according to their own will.
Where there is liberty there will always be inequality. It is the natural state of human affairs. Not all men are created equal when it comes to their ability to create value. Some are much better at creating value than others. When the historic Declaration of Independence declared that “all men are created equal” it meant in the eyes of the law and justice, not in the eyes of employers or as consumers.
Where there is economic freedom there is also insecurity and discrimination (of the unpleasant kind), but over time these problems shrink to as small as they can ever get. Where there is socialist central planning there is no liberty. Where there is no liberty there is no prosperity. And no prosperity means rampant insecurity and discrimination. There is equality, but only in the sense that everyone, except the ruling elite and their cronies, is equally poor. Living proof of this is Venezuela. Historical evidence form the 20th century is abundant.
Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May both essentially claim that everyone is entitled to economic/social equality and security, and to not be peacefully discriminated against. The key word here, which is being totally perverted by politicians, is ‘entitled’. In ethics, being entitled means being justified in using force. E.g. I must be entitled to protect my life and my property otherwise I have no right to life or to property (and thus free and peaceful society is impossible). Which means I must be entitled to use force in defence of them.
This is a proper and rational entitlement in the sense that it is a true principle, an ethic that is universaliz-able. All people can have this entitlement simultaneously. Maintaining this entitlement does not require violating anyone else’s person or property. It merely requires enforcing the boundaries between them.
The same cannot be said of the entitlements of which our political leaders speak. A perverse entitlement to equal pay with a man, for example, requires violating an employers’ proper entitlement to dispose of his property according to his or her will. A perverse entitlement to not be discriminated against by an employer can only be achieved by violating the proper entitlements of employers. In other words by coercively restricting the economic freedoms of innocent people through the brute force of the law.
This isn’t to argue that women are inferior to men or to argue in favour of bigoted or racial discrimination, but to acknowledge that these social problems are not ethically or practically within the remit of the law. Laws cannot solve them and the law should not be used to attempt to solve them in the first place. These and all such social problems shrink over time as people’s behaviour willingly or begrudgingly changes, prompted by economic and social pressure to do so. Using the law seems to be a shortcut to a solution, but it always has unintended consequences which cause more of the same undesirable behaviour or other, worse, behaviours.
We should think deeply on what kind of lives our children will have if politicians like Corbyn, May and their successors use political power to manifest a society of ethically perverse entitlements. If each time someone exercises their will (in the course of peacefully living their own lives) in a way that prevents someone else from having what the law says they’re entitled to, then the ‘victim’ has the right to use force against the ‘criminal’ in order to prevent that ‘injustice’ from happening. When the free and creative use of human energy is paralysed by such a perverse legal and moral framework there can be nothing like the prosperity and abundance we enjoy now.
The entitlements that today’s democratic socialists, from political Left to Right, wish to gift to the people are not only a straight jacket on wealth creation and progress, but also a cyanide pill for free society.