“I saw Duch kneel in front of the trees where Khmer Rouge soldiers smashed children to death,” a policeman told reporters after the four-hour tour…

About 14,000 people — including a few foreigners accused of being CIA spies — went into the jail to be tortured into confessing to working against a regime deemed responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million people…

Tuol Sleng is now a shrine to those killed by the Khmer Rouge, who also eradicated potential opponents of their back to “Year Zero” revolution to produce an agrarian utopia through overwork, starvation and disease… [source]

Irrational ideas will lead to failure in practice (by failure I mean anything that is anti-life such as death, misery, and suffering).

For example, if I said that my philosophy holds that one must drink poison everyday, would you be shocked if it led to death amongst its adherents? If my philosophy held that based on the writings of an ancient tribe, I believe that if someone is bleeding to death they must step on a cucumber and throw salt on a ram’s horns, would you be shocked if it led to death amongst its adherents? Would success or failure depend on who was in charge? In fact, doesn’t it follow that only to the extent that the ideas were not followed could you even continue living? If any philosophy is irrational, then mustn’t it lead to failure in practice just as in my examples? In fact, isn’t it true that an idea that is bad in theory should logically lead to a bad result and an idea that is good in theory should lead to success?

Yet, how many times have you heard the following arguments:

  • “Socialism is good in theory but bad in practice…” or a variant of this argument is “when Castro, Pol Pot, Stalin, etc. killed hundreds of millions of people, they weren’t really practicing true socialism…”
  • Those environmentalists who are quoted as calling for mass human death in order to save the ecosystem are just extremists who don’t represent the true environmentalists who just want to pick up cans and see pretty flowers in parks. The ones who call for human death or blow up science labs or spike trees, etc. are “well-intentioned idealists” but “impractical”
  • German’s who voted for the Nazis were shocked and appalled that the Nazi regime had been maintaining concentration camps where over 6 million people were systematically murdered insisting that the Nazi regime’s actions did not represent the goals of true National Socialism (Nazism)…
  • The imposition of oppressive theocracies over the past 2000 years resulting in the subjugation of independent thinking, misery and poverty for its subjects was made by those who misinterpreted or distorted the true word of God. If people understood and followed what the Bible truly says then we would live in a literal Garden of Eden” or a variant is “people are sinners and can not live up to perfection…

A more concrete example which is a sub-set of the socialism example might be:

  • “Government intervention in the economy (welfare, social security, universal health care, price controls, etc.) to redistribute the wealth of those who have earned it for the sake of those who have not doesn’t work in practice, results in catastrophe, and usually harms most the people it is intended to help but we’ll keep trying because egalitarianism is noble in theory…”

Note that in each case when people actually act on such ideas, mass death and misery result, yet the believers in such ideas simply assert that it wasn’t implemented correctly or that the idea is “good in theory” but man is inherently incapable of living up to such noble ideals. We are led to believe that if only the right people were to implement socialism, communism, environmentalism, theocracy, or if man could be “better” then these ideas when implemented would not lead to suffering and mass death. Yet, it always does lead to mass death and suffering. It is never questioned whether the idea really is “good in theory” nor is the “good” ever defined.

The success or failure of such philosophies in reality is not dependent on who implements it. If a philosophy is not true, then to the extent anyone actually tries to practice it then it must fail. Failure in practice is logically required of any philosophy that is untrue. For example, a policy upholding “sacrifice” of the productive to the unproductive is suicidal and has to lead to mass destruction and death. A philosophy based on the premise that it is virtuous for man to sacrifice himself will lead to people sacrificing themselves or to its leaders sacrificing its subjects which results in death and destruction. A philosophy that regards individual reason and the pursuit of knowledge as evil will result in ignorance and a society mired in superstition, primitivism, and the rule of brute force. There is no magic formula or dictator that will change these facts.

So, what makes these particular philosophies irrational? At their base, every ideology either explicitly or implicitly contains a view of man’s nature. This view gives rise to an explicit or implicit ethical theory and ultimately a political theory. One logically leads to the other. If any of these premises is false then the following premise must be invalid.

Take Socialism for example. What is Socialism? To quote Ayn Rand:

Socialism is the doctrine that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that his life and his work do not belong to him, but belong to society, that the only justification of his existence is his service to society, and that society may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good.

The essential characteristic of socialism is the denial of individual property rights; under socialism, the right to property (which is the right of use and disposal) is vested in “society as a whole,” i.e., in the collective, with production and distribution controlled by the state, i.e., by the government.

Socialism may be established by force, as in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—or by vote, as in Nazi (National Socialist) Germany. The degree of socialization may be total, as in Russia—or partial, as in England. Theoretically, the differences are superficial; practically, they are only a matter of time. The basic principle, in all cases, is the same. [source]

Now if this characterization of Socialism is accurate, which I believe it is, what in the hell is “good in theory” about it? One must produce in order to survive. If someone can take whatever you produce by force then you are a slave by definition and you would have no means to maintain your own survival. In what sense can a society of slaves be considered a “utopia” and those who pursue it labeled as “idealists”? Quoting Ayn Rand:

Ownership without control is a contradiction in terms: it means “property,” without the right to use it or to dispose of it. It means that the citizens retain the responsibility of holding property, without any of its advantages, while the government acquires all the advantages without any of the responsibility.

The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.
Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.

When you consider socialism, do not fool yourself about its nature. Remember that there is no such dichotomy as “human rights” versus “property rights.” No human rights can exist without property rights. Since material goods are produced by the mind and effort of individual men, and are needed to sustain their lives, if the producer does not own the result of his effort, he does not own his life. To deny property rights means to turn men into property owned by the state. Whoever claims the “right” to “redistribute” the wealth produced by others is claiming the “right” to treat human beings as chattel.

The essential ideas of socialism contradict man’s fundamental nature. Logically, because socialism denies property rights and therefore all rights, it must be imposed on individuals by force. So, to the extent one tries to practice “true” socialism it must lead to tyranny and suffering as witnessed in Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Castro’s Cuba, Mao’s China, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, etc.

The alleged goals of socialism were: the abolition of poverty, the achievement of general prosperity, progress, peace and human brotherhood. The results have been a terrifying failure—terrifying, that is, if one’s motive is men’s welfare.

Instead of prosperity, socialism has brought economic paralysis and/or collapse to every country that tried it. The degree of socialization has been the degree of disaster. The consequences have varied accordingly.

So why do people hold that Socialism is “good in theory”? Because it is consistent with the dominant morality of our culture: altruism. Altruism is the idea that self-sacrifice is the good and that one should live their life for the sake of others. This should not be confused with benevolence or generosity. Altruism is the idea that one is good to the extent that one gives up more than one gets. If one gets an equal value for helping a loved one that is not sacrifice but essentially a fair trade. If one let’s their loved one die in order to help someone they do not care about or even despise then it is a sacrifice.

The moral theory of altruism is the basis of the slogan “socialism is good in theory.” Altruism is literally a philosophy of death. Man must act in his self-interest to the extent he wishes to live. Breathing is a selfish act. Eating is a selfish act. Keeping and using the product of your work is selfish. Love is selfish unless you hate your spouse. To the extent you practice altruism you will tend to die. Therefore, upholding altruism as a moral ideal once again puts man at odds with his nature. Under altruism, to the extent you wish to live and be happy you are not moral, and to the extent you sacrifice and are miserable you are supposedly moral. Socialism is consistent with altruism as a moral ideal and that is why it is considered “good in theory” despite the practical arguments against it:

The socialists had a certain kind of logic on their side: if the collective sacrifice of all to all is the moral ideal, then they wanted to establish this ideal in practice, here and on this earth. The arguments that socialism would not and could not work, did not stop them: neither has altruism ever worked, but this has not caused men to stop and question it. Only reason can ask such questions—and reason, they were told on all sides, has nothing to do with morality, morality lies outside the realm of reason, no rational morality can ever be defined.

The fallacies and contradictions in the economic theories of socialism were exposed and refuted time and time again, in the Nineteenth Century as well as today. This did not and does not stop anyone: it is not an issue of economics, but of morality. The intellectuals and the so-called idealists were determined to make socialism work. How? By that magic means of all irrationalists: somehow.

The notion of sacrifice was put into practice quite explicitly by the Nazis (which stands for National Socialists in German). Quoting Dr. Leonard Peikoff (same link as above):

The Nazis defended their policies, and the country did not rebel; it accepted the Nazi argument. Selfish individuals may be unhappy, the Nazis said, but what we have established in Germany is the ideal system, socialism. In its Nazi usage this term is not restricted to a theory of economics; it is to be understood in a fundamental sense. “Socialism” for the Nazis denotes the principle of collectivism as such and its corollary, statism—in every field of human action, including but not limited to economics.

“To be a socialist,” says Goebbels, “is to submit the I to the thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.”

By this definition, the Nazis practiced what they preached. They practiced it at home and then abroad. No one can claim that they did not sacrifice enough individuals.

If altruism is antithetical to man’s nature and results in death, chaos, and misery then why is it upheld as the good? The key was alluded to in the quote above. Morality is considered to be beyond reason or put another way, human reason is not considered valid by modern philosophers or religionists. Modern philosophers tell us there is no truth or certainly no absolutes in the realm of morality and accept altruism by default. Religious thinkers tell us that morality can be defined absolutely but through faith not reason, i.e., by reference to sacred scriptures or commandments from God. In major religions, the good consists of sacrificing on behalf of God and therefore Jesus, the various saints, and priests are upheld as moral ideals or exemplars of sacrifice. Socialism tells us to sacrifice for the proletariat. Environmentalism tells us to sacrifice for the earth. Religionists tell us to sacrifice for God. In each case, the essential philosophy is the same. All that changes is the recipient of the sacrifice.

So if sacrifice is the good and selfishness is evil then what system can all of these philosophies agree is absolutely evil? What one system requires selfishness, rewards success, and punishes failure? What system results in wealth being obtained in proportion to an individual’s effort and not through sacrifice? What system demands rationality, independent thinking, and relies not on individual sacrifice but on trading to the mutual advantage of both parties? In other words, what system is most consistent with man’s nature? And what system over a brief period has produced wealth, prosperity, and happiness on a scale unparalleled in human history? Capitalism.

Let me finish with a series of quotes from Ayn Rand:

Since knowledge, thinking, and rational action are properties of the individual, since the choice to exercise his rational faculty or not depends on the individual, man’s survival requires that those who think be free of the interference of those who don’t. Since men are neither omniscient nor infallible, they must be free to agree or disagree, to cooperate or to pursue their own independent course, each according to his own rational judgment. Freedom is the fundamental requirement of man’s mind.

Individual rights is the only proper principle of human coexistence, because it rests on man’s nature, i.e., the nature and requirements of a conceptual consciousness. Man gains enormous values from dealing with other men; living in a human society is his proper way of life—but only on certain conditions. Man is not a lone wolf and he is not a social animal. He is a contractual animal. He has to plan his life long-range, make his own choices, and deal with other men by voluntary agreement (and he has to be able to rely on their observance of the agreements they entered).

The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational. Any group, any gang, any nation that attempts to negate man’s rights, is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.

A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

When individual rights are abrogated, there is no way to determine who is entitled to what; there is no way to determine the justice of anyone’s claims, desires, or interests. The criterion, therefore, reverts to the tribal concept of: one’s wishes are limited only by the power of one’s gang. In order to survive under such a system, men have no choice but to fear, hate, and destroy one another; it is a system of underground plotting, of secret conspiracies, of deals, favors, betrayals, and sudden, bloody coups. [source]

The following two tabs change content below.
Doug Reich blogs at the The Rational Capitalist with commentary, analysis, and links upholding reason, individualism, and capitalism.