We are not all the same. In fact, we differ in every measurable way. We measured the psychological leanings of people on the left and right sides of the political spectrum. What we have not done very well is map how those psychological traits translate into political reality. The Socialist fantasy doesn’t match what Socialists really are. Socialists claim one thing and then do the opposite.
In theory, people who claim to be politically liberal also have a psychological tendency towards inclusiveness and open-mindedness. The prevailing myth says the left wing embraces novel customs and new ideas. In theory, this means including those who are at the margins of our society. I understand the theory, but I don’t see that reality down here on the street.
Rather than being inclusive and welcoming, I see Socialist politicians legislating unnecessary categorization, demarcation, and exclusion. They do that by demanding business licenses, demanding operating permits, and by imposing excess regulation. Freedom of association is allowed for their connected friends, but not for the marginalized newcomers.
For example, you can’t braid hair without a year’s apprenticeship. You can’t bake cupcakes in your own kitchen and then sell them at a fundraiser. You’re not allowed to cut hair or sell lemonade from your home because you violated building codes and business ordinances. You might need a permit to invite friends to your house for a church meeting.
Those restrictions might seem like a slight inconvenience if you’re rich, but those are significant infringements if you live on the margins of society. The result of this restrictive legislation is that minorities and the underclass are denied the right to earn a living and support their families. They can’t worship as they please.
The politicians who promote these restrictions claim that licensing people who braid hair or cut the grass is “pro union” and “pro- worker”, but I don’t see that happening in fact. Socialists say they want to help the poor, but then Socialists stand in the way of the poor helping themselves.
Religious minorities can’t invite others to worship at their home, even though the politicians who put these regulations into place claim to be for tolerance and “diversity of opinion and diversity of expression”. The results I’ve seen don’t match the rhetoric I’ve heard.
It doesn’t seem pro-environment and “pro free speech” to require multiple permits and inspections to put a sign in the window of your store, your home, or your church. In reality, it promotes a large and corrupt government bureaucracy.
Socialists claim that bureaucracy is an unavoidable fault of regulation, but I think it is more than that. From what I’ve seen, bureaucracy is an essential feature of big government. You can’t produce the flood of political bribery and kickbacks we see in Socialist cities without the constant threat of regulation. You won’t generate political donations from the entrenched bureaucracy without the layers and layers of regulations.
Am I being too harsh and looking too closely at the reality of Socialism? These politicians say they are Socialists. They promised big-government and they delivered on their promises.
Perhaps I’m ignoring the big picture. Let’s look at socialism and communism in the largest possible scope. Look at what happened in the most Socialist and Communist countries in the world. Is there religious freedom in China, Cuba, North Korea or Venezuela? There is not. When the government feels threatened, simply having a Bible gets you thrown into jail. The “workers’ paradise” means you work for the state and had better shut up! That is the reality of the left wing. That is what we see rather than the myth we’re sold.
Some people claim that the left is open to new relationships, to innovation and entrepreneurship. I wish that were true, but that isn’t what I saw.
I have decades of experience in many high tech startup companies. I saw left-wing politicians crush entrepreneurship with rigid regulation, costly permits, and high taxes. In contrast, it was right wing “conservatives” who supported entrepreneurship. I hear the Socialists say that they support innovation and creativity. In California, one of our deeply Socialist states, I saw inflexible government bureaucracy crush invention and support dependency. A politician might claim that she “empathizes with the poor” but that doesn’t make it so.
Why do we see such a large divergence between Socialists claims and Socialists reality? Public choice is the academic field that looks at the incentives inside politics. Politics has the incentives it has, rather than the incentives that politicians claim. In fact, big-government often rewards corruption. To describe the problem of politics pragmatically, you can’t claim that a political action will lead to “justice” when all the incentives reward deeper corruption.
What should we do when words and actions don’t match? We have to judge politicians by what they do rather than by what they say; by what they accomplish rather than what they promise.
It is an old story but a true one: believe what you see, not what you hear.
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