I find myself fascinated how similar people, with similar values, can feel so differently about social engineering.  This comes out in political discourse, and certainly is a hot topic today, with those more in favor of socialism, which I’ll refer to in this article as socialism inclined, having dramatically increased momentum for putting their more socialistic policies in place.

I’ve paid attention to this for a while, inquiring of people who feel differently that I (I believe in little or no socialism) why they felt the way that they did.  Over time, I’ve come up with a theory, which is that they generally perceive the effects of some socialism differently.

Fairly well all people, certainly capitalists and most socialism inclined, would agree that an entirely socialist system would result in a drastically smaller, less productive economy, so much so that everyone suffers.  Spectacular and catastrophic failures of socialism dot history.  The reason for this is human nature; take incentive away from those capable (for whatever reason) of producing and they stop producing, leading toward a subsistence like economy.  The reality is that people don’t produce to give; they produce to get.

Where those more vs. less socialism inclined begin to disagree is in the effect of a little bit of socialism, frequently referred to as social engineering.  The socialism inclined, in the United States generally considered to be most represented by The Democratic Party, believe that there is little if any effect of some socialism.  The anti socialism crowd, generally fiscal Republicans (some Republicans, as well as Democrats, vote based on other reasons such as their opinion on abortion, religion, gay rights, etc.,  and don’t care about or concern themselves with economic policy), instead believe that the effect of a little bit of socialism is immediate and significant.  The difference in this perception could be represented graphically as follows:

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Perception of Degree of Socialism vs. Effects On Economy

I personally believe more like the red line, that a little bit of socialism has an immediate and significantly negative impact, and that we would be better off over all with negligible socialism.  This is what I refer to as The Socialism Paradox.  In the process of trying to help those on the bottom, those in favor of socialism actually instead negatively affect them, as well as everybody else.  At least this is what I believe is likely the case. 

This is based in part on the way I find things tend to work.  In general, it seems that if a lot of something has a given effect, a little will have some, and the incremental effect actually tends to be greater early on than later.  This is frequently represented by the law of diminishing returns, but in this case might instead be called the law of diminishing diminishment (my lame attempt at being funny).

The good news is that we are on the same team, and have the same goal.  We all want to go the same direction, and as far as possible.  It is simply, to use a football analogy, that one person thinks we should throw a pass, while another thinks we should rush it up the middle; but we all want to get to the goal line.  Frankly, given some of the animosity over the past few years, believing this grants me some comfort.

A Plug For My Convictions

Nevertheless, I get the feeling that we are, as a society, losing track of the fact that stuff does not appear out of thin air.  You can't just give someone something without an effect somewhere else.  Stimulus, for example, is borrowing.  To use an analogy, if you max out your credit cards, you'll have more stuff in the short term, but you'll pay for it big time later.  Isn't this essentially the same thing? 

Worse yet, aren't we really simply borrowing money that we will not begin to start paying back, if ever, until those in grade school today are in the workforce?  Thus, instead of owning up to our failures and enduring some pain, are we not instead saddling these children with debt so that we can avoid pain ourselves (as if they will have no problems of their own to deal with)?  Is it not possible that the pendulum could swing too far?