Socialism isn’t just a threat to individual liberty, it’s also a threat to people’s well being. In fact, the economist Ludwig von Mises believed that believing in socialism can actually make people miserable.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi Connor.
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: So, we talk a lot about socialism on this show, but there’s a very good reason for that. It’s terrifying and throughout history, it’s wreaked havoc on the world. I mean, made people poor, it’s even killed people. But there is something else about socialism I wanna talk about today, and that is that socialism can actually make you a miserable person. Connor, do you know any socialists personally?
Connor: Oh, maybe I need to be careful. Maybe they’re listening, but yeah. You know, I’ve gotten to know so many people over time that, I know, quite, I would say personally I know probably around a dozen people who outright say that they are socialists. There’s plenty more if you go beyond that, to people who just say they support, you know, democratic socialists.
Brittany: Bernie Sanders or something.
Connor: Yeah, yeah. But yeah, like, they’re, not my closest friends like that.
Brittany: Well, hopefully, they’re not listening, cuz the next question I’m gonna ask is, do they seem like particularly happy people to you?
Connor: No, you know, I’ve always defined socialism that like the simple way for kids I talk about it is, envy. it’s wanting other people’s stuff. Yep. Basically. And that’s, I don’t wanna hang out with people who just look at my, you know, book collection or like, I want half of that you know like that’s not enjoyable to be around. They, so no, these, the people I know, like, it’s not like they’re horrible, evil people.
Brittany: Yeah. of course.
Connor: I think they’re just more misguided and believe wrong things. But yeah. They often seem to have like, people who are envious don’t seem to be supportive of me and happy for my success and cheering me on. They kind of seem grumpy that, you know, they and others aren’t getting what’s theirs type of thing.
Brittany: Exactly. That’s kind of what I would talk about envy is a perfect way to say that. so Dan Sanchez and I, who we’ve had on the show before, we co-wrote an article about this years ago, and I’ll link it to it in the show notes. But I shared an experience from my college days and when I was in college. So there’s a lot of socialists in college I that’s like where it’s born cuz you have these radical professors that are always spouting off these ideas. Right? And the largest club on my college campus was called the Student Revolutionary Union, which was just a, I mean, that was just the socialist club, that’s just what they called themselves. But the thing that really struck me about them wasn’t their radical economic views or their scary, you know, views on the role of government. It was how unhappy they were. and in every class I had with them they were always fanning and yelling and arguing with everyone. And it honestly made me very sad for them. The thing I quickly realized about these students is they seem to blame all their problems or even all the world’s problems on everybody else. Right. It was never their fault. They could never do anything. And we talked about, you know, Booker T in another article and how he, Brugge Washington, and how he was born into literal slavery and was able to pick himself up at the bootstraps without ever blaming anybody else. But these people can’t seem to do that. Right? It’s capitalism’s fault that they didn’t have a better job or the teacher’s fault if their grades weren’t high enough. Or maybe the student who got a higher grade, it’s his fault cuz he had a richer family. But no one ever seemed to ask themselves how they contributed to their own problems or even how they could, you know, try to solve them. So I’m gonna quote my own article here. but by shifting the blame to others, so blaming other people for your problems, these students relieved themselves of their responsibility for their own problems. They wasted their time and energy complaining and wallowing and self-pity. Instead of taking ownership of their lives and fixing their lives up. As a result, their frustrations only got bigger. and this attitude also robbed them of the great pleasures of life, which is experiencing empathetic joy in the happiness of others. You know, Connor, you just brought this up. If I have a friend that gets, you know, a promotion or gets a raise, I don’t get angry at them. I’m like so excited for them just cheering ’em on.
Connor: It does seem to me that socialists buy into this idea that there is a fixed amount of, you know, wealth or a fixed amount of success. And that if you are successful, you are taking it away from someone else because you know you are successful than someone else is less successful. And when you view the world in that way, you start to resent anyone that’s more successful in you because you come to believe that they are the reason that you are, you know, less successful. You become preoccupied with almost dragging other people down. Right. That with this idea that maybe that buoys you up. if I can just knock other people down, the 1% tax the rich you know, that, oh, that’s gonna make me more prosperous. There’s the, I don’t even know if this is true. I’ve heard it’s true. I know people use this as like an analogy and motivational speeches and stuff like that. I’ve never verified if this is true, but have you ever heard of the concept of lobsters in a bucket?
Brittany: Is this like the frog in a water or is this different?
Connor: Well, it’s not quite, it’s similar in the sense that like the same people who talk about the frog in a pot of boiling water typically also talk about lobsters in a bucket. the way it works with lobsters in a bucket, theoretically, again, maybe this could actually be true, I just haven’t looked, is that if, let’s say you have a big bucket and you throw 10 lobsters in, as one lobster starts to climb out and grab onto the top and reach for freedom the other lobsters grab onto that lobster and pull it down.
Brittany: It’s like toy story with the claw.
Connor: Right, And so the lobsters stay in this bucket and aren’t able to go anywhere because none of the lobsters are willing to let any lobsters succeed and get out. They’re pulling, you know, that down. So whether that’s true, which it very well could be, or fake the principle is that this is how I see socialists. They are trying to pull other people down out of this idea that somehow that will pull them up. But when another lobster’s gone for, you know, freedom and you pull it down that’s not helping you, if anything, you should be learning from that one lobster. How did it succeed? Yeah. Right. How did it maneuver? What did it grab onto? And thereby replicate that success for yourself. If socialists wanted to be happy, they would look at what other people have done, how they have been able to accomplish, you know, success in their own life. Material, emotional, familial, you know, social whatever, and say, how can I pattern myself off of that? Like, if we had, if we were to implement socialist ideas, I just think we would have a miserable world. I mean like look at countries where socialism has been tried to degrees far further than our own because we have plenty of socialism in America. Like, everyone’s like, oh, Joe Biden, you know, the Democrats we’re gonna have socials on. Like, have you been watching half of what Trump has been doing? Like, like one half is great, there’s a lot of great things that have happened. But the other half, like, you know, we’ve got, we’ve printed more money in the, I what was that chart? I saw it on tv.
Brittany: Insane. The numbers are insane. I can’t remember what it is.
Connor: It’s like, well they’ve printed more money in the past year than like, in the past four decades. Yeah. Or something like absurd. Anyway, so the point is America has plenty of socialism right now. but if you look at countries that are went way further even towards, you know, communism, which is basically just like full-on socialism in a way. No one’s happy. Like no one like the people on the bottom end cuz they’re always as the bottom end, right? Everyone says socialism is equality and everyone, I’m sorry but no, that never happened. Cause when the people get to enforce socialism, they basically just extract wealth from all the poor and middle class and all the connected elite at the top run away with all the loot. And so no one is happy except the people at the top. But then because they’ve got all the wealth, then there’s, you know, coup attempts and assassinations and backstabbing and you know, like it’s just, I don’t know how anyone looks at anything remotely close to socialism and says, that is how we can build a thriving society. It just doesn’t make any sense.
Brittany: No, you’re absolutely right. And one interesting thing to know, and so I always like to use the hashtag sassy mises cuz I think Mises, who we’ve talked about in another episode, sometimes he had potential to just like, give these truth bombs that were so just mind-blowing. So one thing he said I wanna talk about a little bit, he said, and then Connor, I’m gonna read a quote and have you unpack it, but he didn’t even think it socialism was just a matter of economic illiteracy or which meant like, you know, not understanding economics, or just because, you know, socialism doesn’t work. He didn’t even think socialism was an intellectual error. He actually thought it was a psychological matter. He went as far meaning, so
Brittany: Yes. A pack like, I don’t wanna say crazy cuz I don’t wanna be little, you know, psychological stuff, but it’s literally insane. it was, you were a little bit crazy or neurotic if you believed in this. And he, so he said, and here’s a quote we’ll unpack after I read it, but the root to the opposition of liberalism. And that is to mean like not liberalism and the way it is today, but like libertarianism or you know, limited government, classical liberalism. it cannot be reached by resort to the method of reason. The opposition does not stem from reason. So from logic, but from pathological mental attitude from resentment, oh, I can’t even say this word, neurasthenic condition that one might call a Fourier complex. Fourier, just for side note, he was a famous French socialist, so that is why he called it that. But Connor, what does this mean to you?
Connor: So, this is kind of a sassy quote, right? it reminds me of, you know, Frederic Bastiat yet occasionally he’ll kind of like poke at his opponents and be like, oh, you’re crazy type of thing. And his, you know, French 1850 way of saying that. Okay, so you were right to point out liberalism is kind of like today’s libertarianism. It’s it’s classical liberalism, founding father’s property rights, freedom. So that’s what liberalism in its truest sense means. And that’s what Mises is describing. But then here he is talking about the opposition to liberalism. So this is socialism, it’s big government people, and he’s saying you can’t get to socialism by reason. He’s saying, you don’t work this out in your mind. No one sits down on paper and draws out what a good society looks like and says, ah, socialism, right? like the math just doesn’t work out. Reason will not lead you to that. So he is saying, what he’s really saying is, anyone with a brain understands that socialism won’t work.
Brittany: Sassy means this.
Connor: right, Because he’s saying that if people arrive at this idea of socialism, you know, he use that big word Neurasthenia condition. Neurasthenia is like this idea of like, you know, mental problems that lead to a lot of like headaches and you know, brain malfunction kind of thing. And so he is saying that like, yeah, this is interesting cuz like, yeah, you don’t wanna belittle people, you don’t wanna say that you’re crazy or whatever, but he’s, he’s just saying that like, if people are smart and rational and really think through these things, they will not arrive at socialism. And so the fact that so many people do suggests that they’re kind of turning their brain off. They’re just listening to what other people, tell them. They’re accepting what authority figures are saying they’re responding emotionally. In other words, oh, it feels good. It feels good that everyone should have a $15 minimum wage. You know, that sounds so much better than $7 and 85 cents, right? Like, of course, this stuff might feel good, right? But we’re not using our minds. We’re not actually thinking through kind of the implications for this. There’s another quote that it gave that is pretty profound. and so I’ll explain it after I read it in kind of the normal terms. So he says that resentment is at work when one hates somebody for his more favorable circumstances, that one is prepared to bear heavy losses if only the hated one might also come to harm. In other words, I’m willing to have hate and envy, right? For this successful person. if only he’s gonna be punished, like it’s the lobster in the bucket, he has to come down. He can’t have that, right? So he goes on to say, many of those who attack capitalism know very well that their situation under any other economic system will be less favorable. In other words, these socialists are using the tools of capitalism to promote socialism, right? You go to any of these socialist rallies and they’ve got their iPhones and they’re tweeting and they’ve got their fedora and their jeans and they’re, you know, like whatever sneakers. And so they’re not even called sneakers.
Brittany: They’re Fedoras.
Connor: Yeah. And so these people have used, they’re using the tools of capitalism to attack capitalism. It’s just so ironic. It’s like, we sent an email about this a couple months ago, how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is a self about socialist. she’s a congresswoman and she started selling apparel. Yeah. And apparel’s clothing, right? And so one of the sweatshirts, that she sells, it says, tax the rich on the front. And it’s like this $60 sweatshirt, So funny. You know? And it’s just silly to see socialist. Anyways, so back to Mises, right? He’s saying that like these socialists understand that under any other economic system other than capitalism, right, their lives would be way more awful. And so then he continues final sentence, he says, nevertheless, with full knowledge of this fact, they advocate a reform, in other words, socialism, because they hope that the rich whom they envy will suffer under it. And so this is envy, but it’s worse than envy. it’s worse than your neighbor saying, oh man, he has a boat. I wish I had a boat. it’s your neighbor coming over and letting the air out of your tires so you can’t transport the boat and keying the side too, you know, reduce all the paint and pouring, you know, paint thinner in the gasoline tank.
Brittany: Don’t make Connor angry.
Connor: I’m very creative. What can I say? and so that is the envy he’s talking about. It’s not just people who are jealous, it’s people who are so envious that they despise these people and they are willing to support a system of government, an economic system that brings those people harm. Cuz they want to see them suffer. That just seems cruel.
Brittany: It does. And we have to wrap up here in a minute, but I wanna read one more quote because my favorite guy, Jordan Peterson, we’ve talked about him a lot. He kind of echoed what Mises said, and he said the dark side of it, dark said it meaning socialism, is that wait, hold on, I gotta read this quote again. There is a dark side of it, which means everyone who has more than you got it. By stealing it from you. Everyone who was more than me got it in a manner that was corrupt and justifies not only my envy, but my actions to level the field, so to speak, and to look virtuous while doing it. And I like this. So it’s like the person destroying your car. But not only is he doesn’t think he’s doing a bad thing, right? He thinks he’s virtuous, he thinks he’s actually making mankind better by bringing you down. It’s the lobster again. So there’s so much resentment in this ideology.
Connor: That’s so true. So true. Very powerful. Okay, well let’s end there so much more to say. but yeah, you know, socialism is not good in many ways. And if you want happiness, then avoid socialism. We’ll leave it there. Brittany has always great conversation. Until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.