Skip to content

The Love Of Money Leads To Socialism

Most, with good reason, misremember the quotation. In entirety:

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. —1 Timothy 6:10

And since we have that much, it does no harm to recall the words immediately before: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”

Paul was speaking of the actions of individual men, but he could just have easily meant conglomerations—now corporations, entities which are at once alive, incorporate, and yet not alive. Which, it will be noticed, are the same words we use to describe zombies, the undead. Money itself, and the act of accumulating it, is harmless, neutral; but the love of it, and the concomitant lust for ever greater piles, is the start of pain.

It is here that my sympathies with the Left are strongest. Like them, I dislike the word “capitalism”: a society based on businesses amassing “capital” to create “products” which “consumers” consume. We are content to let these ugly, distasteful words define the foundation of our society?

It’s still worse. Corporations, and those people that temporarily imbue them with life, constantly swear allegiance to stock holders, not to society. They will sell just about anything that boosts the bottom line: televised wrestling, rap music, a movie in which Captain America is “not a flag-waver” (they must consider foreign audiences), “Wonder” bread (it’s a wonder it’s called bread), “designer” jeans, and on and on.

The Left sees all this and, taking the part of the Russian KGB officer from a Cold War spy flick, says “Americans are decadent.” These are fightin’ words, and are what forces some of the Right to say, “It’s not so!” Well, it is so. The charges are true.

Only they’re not true for all. But even if they were, it does not follow that the standard solution of the Left, government proscription, should be implemented. What the Left does not see is that deep inside their ideal of removing freedom and replacing it with top-down rule, lies the same tendencies of the right: to create and to have “consumers” consume. Corporations would still churn, but instead of figuring out for themselves what to produce, a mousy bureaucrat in a windowless office hundreds of miles away would decide for them.

As proof of the Left’s same-mindedness, we have their official organ giving us an article recently “on what makes consumers happy.” Not people, mind, but consumers. They Left knows no other vocabulary but the Right’s. Incidentally, the Times discovered—though they didn’t say so—that “consumers” are happiest when not consuming.

Central control does not work because those at the top are just as fallible and prone to ignorance, bad taste, and idiocy as those in charge at the local level, only centralized leaders are less likely to acknowledge their failings. Instead of lots of different mistakes spread all over in capitalism, proscription (a.k.a. socialism) insures that everybody everywhere makes the same mistakes, with the added benefit that the possibly of innovation is removed. Capitalism at least can make many people happy, but socialism, aiming to make The People happy, insures that only party leaders are.

And neither of these systems fix the fundamental problem, which is the decreasing understanding on what it means to live the good life. Which is to say, we now feel the effects of lack of a classical education.

This is hardly the first time this lack has been noticed. Russell Kirk wrote of it in 1957 in, of all places, Fortune magazine. Even then, Kirk said that businessmen were “largely ignorant of the humanities, which, in a word, comprise that body of great literature that records the wisdom of the ages, and in recording it instructs us in the nature of man. ”

It was about then that colleges began emphasizing the practical and eschewing the eternal. This had consequences. Kirk:

A people can live upon their moral and intellectual capital for a long time. Yet eventually, unless the capital is replenished, they arrive at cultural bankruptcy. The intellectual and political and industrial leaders of the older generation die, and their places are not filled….The result of such bankruptcy is a society of meaninglessness, or a social revolution that brings up radical and unscrupulous talents to turn society inside out.

People awake to the arguments of the Left and see their force. But in doing so, in lacking a fund of historical knowledge upon which to draw, they fall prey to the false dichotomy that “It’s either capitalism or socialism.”

But Paul taught us there is a third way, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. But having food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Update I’ve been away from the computer all day during which time the spam filter rank amok. All comments lost have been restored. Spam has been increasing dramatically of late (as have hits, and the two go together). I’ll work on it. Apologies to those who thought their comments lost.

21 thoughts on “The Love Of Money Leads To Socialism Leave a comment

  1. Very Interesting Post.

    Although the bible verse from the KJV is actually incomplete …’love of money is the root of all kinds of evil’…the NKJV and pretty much all modern translations have the extra word…(sorry…pedantic streak …I’m sure a statistician can understand that 😉

    I read a great quote the other day
    “Under capitalism man exploits man; under socialism the reverse is true”

    I’ve always thought that the left blamed the system, whilst the right blamed the man…I like the change of focus here to having the real issue being focused on hear and now rather than the eternal. That will be food for thought for quite a whilst so thanks…

  2. Your post reminds me of a passage from George Gilder’s “Recapturing the Spirit of Enterprise.”

    Greed is an appetite for unneeded and unearned wealth and power. The truly greedy seek comfort and security first. They seek goods and clout they have not earned. Because the best and safest way to gain unearned pay is to get the state to take it from others, greed leads, as by an invisible hand, toward even more government action — to socialism, not capitalism.

  3. I personally favor capitalism. The way you’ve summed it could be one description but it’s really a system where each to establish his/her own priorities and not have them dictated from the top.

    It’s also the epitome of democracy. With capitalism you vote with your wallet. One might think a company had a bigger wallet but a collective wallet is much larger. You don’t like what Microsoft is doing? Stop buying. If enough agree and do that, you’ll get your way. That’s perhaps why foreign markets seem to dictate policy. Their collective wallet is not inconsequential.

    The USSR 70-some year Socialist experiment was a rightful failure because we are all capitalists at heart. Unfortunately, socialism is good for government. Far easier to dictate than let the unwashed mob rule through their choices. Given the chance, governments move to greater control. Socialism is the preferred way of late because monarchy is currently out of fashion.

    Are you between jobs again?

  4. Most excellent observations, Mr. Briggs!

    Your Kirk quote describes what we are presently going through.

    Our friends on the left cannot see what you’ve just stated: That knocking down the “capitalist” order and replacing it with an “enlightened” one of government apparatchiks trying to be philosopher kings would just bring us more of the same, only worse.

    Imagine a world that disrespects the wisdom of the marketplace and its feedback mechanisms, where each consumer votes with her pocketbook. New Coke is the only choice, we’re all driving Edsels, the betamax still costs $1,000…

  5. Matt,

    I remember, while I was plugging away in finance and economics classes, talking to the future i-bankers and trying to discuss literature, film, anything but how to maximize profit through investments.

    Blank stares, sometimes derision. Most responses were along the lines of “how does that make me money?” Alas.

    However, I suggest to you that capitalism, at least as we experience it today, cannot make people happy in and of itself. It can only serve as a foundation upon which to build stable finances and then later happiness. Furthermore, I think we should be careful in assuming that the option to make the right or wrong choices necessarily leads to more people being happy.

    Hell, just look at education– the more freedom you give students, the less fulfilling and meaningful their overall education becomes. I’m not entirely convinced that more “freedom” is always going to lead to more happiness. The big mistake is to assume that this all a binary, either/or sort of situation. It’s not. It’s a spectrum. Just as no regulations can lead to unhappiness, too much regulation can as well.

    Balance, as Franklin so often stated, is necessary.

  6. Imho it’s not capitalism or socialism so much that’s the problem, it’s “monopolyism”. If socialists were smart enough to create several competing entities to provide identical services or products, and people had the freedom to choose and un-choose amongst them, their systems might succeed. But over-reliance on the principle of economy of scale, plus the natural desire to remain in “control”, blinds them to the benefits of competitive commerce.

    Where capitalism fails, too, is when it artificially encourages the formation of pseudo-monopolies that restrict or eliminate meaningful competition.

  7. Those who decry profit don’t.

    Even Stalinist thugs were capitalists. They aquired property and wealth, made investments at interest, and earned profits. And didn’t share them. The whole commie-capitalist dicotomy is a false one. Socialists are thieves – highway robbers – and worse.

  8. I am neither on the left nor on the right or for that matter in the center. I’m not religious but I’m not against religion. I’m for a public health care system as well as a private health care system. I’m for developing alternate energies, yet I’m not jumping on the AGW is catastrophic bandwagon.

    For me, it is not choice between socialism and capitalism since both system have their flaws and both systems have their wonders.

    People must be free to decide the best way how to live their life for themselves. Yet neither system permit to people to do this.

    In capitalism, the idea of choice is link to money. Those who have a lot of money can chose whatever they want while those who have little money have little choice. It is untrue that those who have little money have less because they are more lazy or are less deserving than those who have a lot of money.

    In socialism, the idea of choice is link to society, not the individual and not to the money. The rich though still have more choice than the poor, but not on everything.

    The ideal society would be very individualistic, which doesn’t prevent individuals to care for others.

    I can certainly agree with the last paragraph.

  9. All,

    Sorry about the spam filter everybody. I have no ready explanation for why it ate so many comments.

  10. This blog essay has a couple of implicit assumptions that I’ll argue are incorrect:

    “Capitalism” is an ECONOMIC, not social, approach — though it does have clear implications for the type of governence applied, all of which is derived from & founded upon some very basic values. Those being the right of individual freedom, which by extension includes property rights with government limited in how much it can infringe there.

    Property rights–their existence & maintenance–is ultimately the foundation, relative to government, that ensures individual freedom.

    Thus, when all factors are properly understood (and the above is a very superficial cursory summary) “capitalism” is a manifestation of a socio-political arrangement designed to safeguard individual freedom.

    Fundamentally socialism, or communism, is about giving the government control over private property up to & including the point of abolishing it.

    Where the LEFT goes astray, at least in part, is that they value comparisions of their lot in life with those around them. Hence the desire to make everybody equal — misery loves company. It all comes from individual psychology & those on the far LEFT tend to be neurotic, consistently. They, like this blog essay does implicity, equate consumption & possessions with factors affecting happiness in life.

    All of which misses the point. It was recognized long long ago (Aristotle perhaps) that one is happiest when pursing a worthy goal. Or, as the saying goes, the climb to the top of the mountain is much of what makes the view so great (someone riding a helicopter would enjoy it much less). Such insightful philosophical tidbits and many more are described by Earl Nightingale back in the 1950s on his radio show. His works are now available at/via:

    http://earlnightingale.com/

    http://www.nightingale.com/

  11. Under capitalism corporations make money by overcharging their customers and underpaying their employees. However, no one is holding a gun to the head of either group. Under Communism there is a gun to your head.

    In the great left / right divide, I see a split between the belief that the people need to be governed, and that the people are capable of taking care of themselves.

    Money will not make you happy, but poverty will make you miserable. If your neighbors apparent wealth makes you feel insecure, it leads to stuff you don’t need and can barely afford. And, you will stress over the bills. If we pull ahead of Mr. and Mrs. Jones, we will move next door to the Smiths and get back on the treadmill.

    You are entitled to the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You do not have the right to be happy.

  12. One more philisophical split in the left right divide. The left believes that resources are finite. You can have more only if I am have less. Zero-sum reasoning lead to the conclusion that the rich are taking food out of the mouths of the poor.

    The right believes that resources are elastic. With the proper incentives, the ingenious and the motivated figure out how create more with existing resources, creating wealth in the process. At the extreme, the wealthy have done us all service in enriching themselves.

  13. Doug,

    My biggest split with Declaration of Independence and Jefferson is the “right to the pursuit of happiness.” Such a meaningless statement in my opinion, and I’m glad that Madison et. al saw fit to replace it with property.

    Also, I disagree with the idea of “overcharging.” How does one determine “overcharge?” If, for example, I decide to buy a book at Barnes & Noble (while I still may) instead of The Strand or Amazon, and I pay more, was I overcharged?

    I don’t think so. I was simply unwilling to make the trip down to NYC to go to The Strand (or to deal with hipsters), and I didn’t want to wait for Amazon to deliver it to me.

    Underpaying… well… depends on how you determine the right wage. What is the right wage?

  14. 49er,

    But let’s not ignore the fact that not all monopolies are bad. One of the big failings of economic understanding amongst many (thanks to poor economic education in schools) is the ironclad belief that a monopoly is necessarily bad.

    It is not.

    Monopolies can actually be more socially efficient and impart greater social welfare than other systems. While they do tend to lead to higher producer surplus, they also can allow for better allocation of resources (ceteris paribus). It’s hard to imagine that we would have been better off with more competing standards in CPU architecture, for example. While Intel may be overpriced in many performance categories, their near-monopolistic powers have kept CPUs standardized. That’s a good thing for everyone.

    Mike,

    The same can be said of many “vaunted” capitalists.

  15. Doug M said:

    “Under capitalism corporations make money by overcharging their customers and underpaying their employees.

    In one respect that’s simplistic and jaded, imo. No denying that occasionally this is the case, but a capitalistic entity following that business plan is normally short lived. Entrepreneurs know to be successful in the long run – thus maximizing investments and earnings – one needs repeat customers – who by their very nature will not abide fleecing. Thus competition usually mitigates overcharging, and the marketplace “works”.

    The underpaying employees theme, however, is more often closer to the truth. Too many employers seriously undervalue the competitive contributions of their current workforce and in weak economic times arbitrarily make staff cuts they initially believe to be wise, only to have circumstances later prove them improvident. Twice during my productive years I experienced this first hand and afterward dearly enjoyed watching both businesses slowly twist on the gallows as they slipped into bankruptcy. And this was during “boom” times.

  16. Ari,

    My statement on overcharging and underpaying was a distilation of Marx. However, even if Marx was right about the evils of capitalism, capitalism does not depend on threats of violece, as communisim did.

    If my attempt at satire failed, then I’ll try better next time.

  17. Doug,

    No no, it was me being dense. You did fine.

    I think, however, that we should be careful to avoid the binaries. Communism, as it was practiced in Russia, sucked. However, some socialization of society and the economy can be a net good. Unions, despite their obvious failings, can at least provide workers with common platforms and fraternity. I can’t help but wonder if Foxconn might be a better place with some unionization.

    That’s not to say that I’m a huge fan of the UAW, for instance. However, having met quite a few auto workers, I get the feeling that the UAW members are glad to be unionized as opposed to their rather downtrodden brethren in some other countries where unionization is verboten.

    Again, I don’t think unionization is without its failings, but along the spectrum I think unions can be good for those who are in them. For society-at-large? Hard to say.

    I do, however, object to workplaces that require unionization or attack those who do not join. I was quite taken aback when, as a lowly grad student and TA, I was told that I had better join the union… or else. Sheesh. Or else what? You’ll take away my chalkboards?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *