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With the high price of gasoline, the temptation to fix the problem through government will be strong. It won’t work; it hasn’t ever worked. If all governments have to do to make us prosperous is to pass laws, why not get them to make us all rich? Socialism, as a political and economic system, continues to attract adherents around the world. America has its large share of operational socialists. Many of them are Christians. Avoid the temptation. Fixing the price of gasoline is only a first step to larger issues.
In the former Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, governmental control of the individual is nearly absolute. There is almost no freedom of movement. Chinese government officials inspect the wombs of woman to insure they are not carrying a child beyond the one-child policy instituted by the State. The former socialistic government of Germany built a wall around the city of Berlin to keep freedom loving East Germans from fleeing to the freedom offered in the West. Under full-blown socialism, the State interferes in the everyday affairs of the people, even in the transactions they make. The State determines what will be produced, how much of it will be produced, how it will be produced, where it will be produced, by whom it will be produced, what it will sell for, how people will get the product, and how it will be used. Under extreme forms of socialism, the individual is given little incentive to invent, produce a better product, or to be more efficient so a product can be sold at a lower price and thus benefit all of society. The State determines everything, since only the State is to benefit. There can be no individuality.
Milder forms of socialism allow for individual freedoms, but over time these freedoms are gradually taken away. Property rights are never absolute. The taxing power of the State increases in order to fund increased government programs always with the promise of creating a better society. Socialists claim that it is the duty of the State to implement laws to break down economic and social “inequities,” a form of class warfare, pitting the “rich” over against the “poor.” While some socialists have had good intentions, the effect of socialist policies has been disastrous. Rich and poor do reach parity under a socialist system—everybody becomes poor, except those implementing the laws.
One of the first attempts at a socialistic economy took place in colonial America at Jamestown (1607), hundreds of years before Karl Marx wrote the definitive work on socialistic economics, Das Kapital. For the first four years, all property was held in common. There were no individual property rights. The work was communal. All of what was harvested was put in a centralized storehouse. Since everybody got an equal share no matter how much work any individual performed, there was no incentive to work any harder than the next person. Historians record that after four years, no crops were planted, houses were falling apart, and the prime occupation of the men was bowling in the streets. The Jamestown Colony ultimately failed because the necessary incentives to work were taken away. Socialism begins with “interventionism,” the gradual manipulation of the economy through governmental decree. Again, it’s always with the promise that things will be better if the State steps in to “fix” things.
The history of the Plymouth Colony (1620) is a study in contrasts. Early attempts at a common storehouse were quickly abandoned. Every member of the colony was given his own plot of land to cultivate as he pleased. In just one year, even after losing half their members to death, the Pilgrims of Plymouth were so prosperous that they were able to celebrate a bountiful thanksgiving feast. In 1621, Edward Winslow wrote the following to those back in England: “I never in my life remember a more seasonable year than we have here enjoyed. We are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty. You might, on our behalf, give God thanks, who hath dealt so favorably with us.”